Halloween was just around the corner, and there wasn’t a person or critter in Town who didn’t love the spooky holiday. The people of Town assembled their fabulous costumes and bought candy and made treats for the children, and hung orange and black bunting from anything that didn’t move. The King was, however, forced to issue an edict requesting that Townsfolk made sure not to hang bunting from any of his Dim and Trembly Knights who might happen to be napping of an afternoon in Town Park.
On the fine afternoon the day before Halloween, when jack-o’lanterns grinned their yellow grins and the rust and yellow confetti of autumn leaves tumbled through the white bath of the sun, Gryphon and Tiger visited Town Zoological Gardens to see the animals. Being semi-beasts themselves, Gryphon and Tiger were admitted to Town Zoological Gardens for free, though they brought along meat to give to the big cats and birds of prey to show their love and appreciation.
A small cloud shadowed the day, as Gryphon and Tiger had had a little fight over their Halloween costumes that morning. Gryphon was going to be a big scary dragon, and he wanted Tiger to be a troll because trolls were “the ugliest things imaginable.” Tiger failed to see the humor in this, and the fight with Gryphon made him pout. Gryphon tried to explain that being an ugly troll was funny because Tiger was so cute and handsome, and besides it was just for Halloween and he didn’t mean anything by it. But Gryphon and Tiger were both fifteen, and boys, and of course their pride got in the way of their love.
Gryphon and Tiger approached the tiger habitat at the Zoo, and Tiger waved and chuffed at his walk-on-all-fours cousins. Suddenly Tiger was hit in the legs by a small, swift-moving black bundle of fur that wasn’t watching where it was going.
The black bundle of fur looked up with surprised eyes behind the black-frame glasses on his curious and round human face.
“I’m sorry,” the black bundle of fur cried, “but I have to get help!” And he almost ran away until Gryphon put his huge lion paw on the black bundle of fur’s shoulder.
“What’s all the fuss about,” Gryphon said to the black bundle of fur, “that you go rushing about bumping into my friend here?”
“I’m Black Cat Boy,” the black bundle of fur said, “although when I’m in my black catsuit I like to be a girl.”
This would have confused Gryphon and Tiger were they not already friends with such interesting people.
Black Cat Boy’s black catsuit covered all of his body with thick black fur, except for his face. Atop his head sat black triangle cat ears, and from his backside swept a fluffy black kitty-cat tail.
“I’m in a hurry,” Black Cat Boy said, “because I just heard a horrible thing!”
Tiger finished rubbing his knee where Black Cat Boy had run into him, and said, “What sort of horrible thing did you hear?”
Black Cat Boy talked while waving his arms and pointing with his fingers and twirling his body about in slinky girl-cat moves. “I was over there in the corner by the tiger fence,” Black Cat Boy said, “right beside those bushes. And I was talking to the tigers, arr-ROOM, arr-ROOM, and they were talking to me, arr-ROOM, arr-ROOM, and we were having a grand conversation about Halloween and how nice and cool autumn is, which is especially important to those of us who wear fur. And suddenly I heard an evil voice hidden in the bushes say, ‘Heh-heh-heh! Tomorrow night while everyone in Town is distracted with their trick-or-treating, I will kidnap these tigers and show everyone in Town that I’m the toughest guy of all!’ ”
Tiger was usually very placid, but when he heard the threat to his cousins he became angry. “Who,” Tiger said to Black Cat Boy, “swore to commit such a horrible deed?”
“I don’t know,” Black Cat Boy cried. “When I peeked into the bushes, the evil man was gone! I have to find the great Gryphon and Tiger for help, because I’m only eleven, and Gryphon and Tiger are the brave heroes who slew Gold Dragon and vanquished evil Wizard and rescued the children, and they even saved the silly shrieking Princess from the trolls!”
This announcement confused Gryphon and Tiger quite a bit, until Tiger bent down and poked Black Cat Boy’s glasses back into place atop the bridge of his nose.
“Oh!” Black Cat Boy blinked at Gryphon and Tiger. “You’re Gryphon and Tiger! I can’t see well with my glasses out of place because I have very bad eyes. Will you help me, Mr. Gryphon and Tiger?”
Tiger looked at Gryphon and said, “We must do something.”
Gryphon shrugged and sulked like fifteen-year-old boys sometimes do, except his shrugs and sulks were much bigger because he was a gryphon.
“But Tiger,” Gryphon said, “tomorrow’s Halloween!”
Though Tiger was also fifteen, he was usually more sensible than his best friend Gryphon, and Tiger said to Gryphon, “So?”
“I was gonna be a dragon tomorrow night,” Gryphon said, “and I’ve always wanted to be a dragon for Halloween. But I was always too shy.”
“He’s right,” Black Cat Boy said. “When I’m not wearing my catsuit, I hardly ever say a word. And the Dean of Polytechnic Academy won’t let me wear my catsuit to school, so everyone there thinks I’m shy.”
Gryphon gently patted Black Cat Boy on the head, but his paw was so huge that he nearly knocked Black Cat Boy out.
“But,” Gryphon said to Tiger, “now that I’ve met you I can relax and have fun and be myself.”
Tiger stamped his big foot-paw, which made Black Cat Boy jump.
“But Gryphon,” Tiger said, “some evil man wants to kidnap my cousins!”
All of the tigers at home in the Zoological Gardens’ tiger habitat roared.
Gryphon, being part lion and having Tiger for a boyfriend, was not fazed by tiger roars.
“They’re tigers,” Gryphon said to Tiger. “They’ll eat the evil man up!”
“Maybe not,” Black Cat Boy said. “The evil man chuckled and said he had a magic potion to put the tigers to sleep.”
“Yeah,” Gryphon said, “but…still…it’s Halloween.”
Tiger folded his arms across his chest. “Well,” he said to Gryphon, “first you wanted me to be an ugly troll, and now you want to let my cousins get kidnapped.”
Gryphon said, “But, Tiger — ”
“Just so you can go trick-or-treating,” Tiger said. “Well, go on! Be your silly dragon or whatever. Black Cat Boy and I will save my cousins.” And Tiger put his paw on Black Cat Boy’s shoulder, and led him away from Gryphon.
Gryphon watched Tiger walk away and he felt so bad he couldn’t think of anything to say. But his gryphon-pride overcame him, and made him turn and walk in the other direction, though one furtive tear did roll from his right eye down the feathers of his face.
For Halloween, Tiger decided to be something much better than a troll, and instead he was — a tiger!
It was Halloween night and Town Zoological Gardens were closed, and the only creatures in the Zoo who didn’t live there were Tiger and Black Cat Boy. Tiger had taken off all of his fine clothes, which is all he needed to do to look like his cousins. Black Cat Boy carried a long rope and walked very close to Tiger, because from over the park walls came ghostly moans and sinister chuckling, and sometimes even a blood-curdling scream, followed by the laughter and wails of small children.
Tiger made his cousins promise not to eat him, which they did with chuffs and moans since they couldn’t talk like Tiger. Then Tiger climbed over the fence into the tigers’ home.
“Don’t ever do this,” Tiger said to Black Cat Boy, “since you’re not a tiger.”
Black Cat Boy nodded, and hid in the bushes to wait. Tiger got down on all fours and sniffed at things on the ground, like his cousin-tigers would. He was still sad about his fight with Gryphon, but there was no time to think about that right then.
Suddenly there was a rustling in the bushes, and Black Cat Boy screamed. A big man came out of the bushes, and he was as ugly as a troll, but didn’t have the excuse for it. He held Black Cat Boy over his head, and laughed. Black Cat Boy dropped his rope.
“It’s Town Tough Guy,” Black Cat Boy cried. “Let me go!”
“Ha-ha-ha!” said Town Tough Guy to his captive. “Let you go? I am going to take all of these tigers away to my home, and put on my very own tiger Tough Guy show! Every night I will charge Townsfolk to come see me beat up these eight…er, nine tigers! And everyone will know I really am the toughest guy in Town!”
“Tiger,” Black Cat Boy cried, “help me!”
But Tiger was still on all fours, and dared not give away who he really was before he could think up a way to beat Town Tough Guy. Tiger would have simply leaped on Town Tough Guy, but he didn’t want Black Cat Boy to get hurt.
“Ha-ha-ha!” Town Tough Guy held Black Cat Boy up even higher. “Those tigers won’t help you! But I think I will let you go, pesky boy…to be the tigers’ dinner!”
And Town Tough Guy threw Black Cat Boy over the fence into the tigers’ home.
The four-footed tigers roared when Black Cat Boy hit the grassy ground, but Tiger scampered over and grabbed hold of him.
Then Town Tough Guy pulled out an ugly gun, which he thought showed everyone how brave and tough he was. He said, “This is my magic spell! I have potions in my gun to make the big kitties sleep! Heh-heh-heh!”
Tiger stood up, holding Black Cat Boy tight in his arms. He cried out to Town Tough Guy, “I won’t let you hurt these tigers!”
“Oh,” said Town Tough Guy, “no wonder I counted an extra tiger. It is the famous hero Tiger who rescues children from evil wizards and ugly trolls! But not this time, Mr. Tiger! I will cut off your head and mount it on my wall! Then no one can deny that I, defeater of wicked tigers, is truly the toughest guy in Town!” Town Tough Guy laughed, raised his gun, and pointed it right at Tiger.
Black Cat Boy sniffled and said to Tiger, “Thank you for helping the tigers, even though we failed.”
Tiger hugged Black Cat Boy and said, “I wish Gryphon were here.”
Then the night air was ripped by a huge, terrifying squawk-roar, just like a gryphon would make. But a dragon appeared instead, diving out of the night sky. The dragon shimmered in bronze and dark blue, and swept out of sky on blue and gold wings, and headed straight for Town Tough Guy. Yellow streaks like fire shot from the dragon’s snout, and there was another ear-splitting squawk-roar, and then the dragon shrieked, “Let those kitty-cats go!”
Town Tough Guy, who was deathly afraid of dragons, fainted.
Then the dragon landed next to Tiger and Black Cat Boy, and even Tiger was scared for a moment until he saw the dragon’s eyes.
“Gryphon!” Tiger cried. “You didn’t leave us!”
“Of course not,” Gryphon said. “Look, isn’t this the best costume ever? My mom sewed all of this satiny stuff and made the streamers to go on my wings! And look, see how I rigged this yellow fabric so it shoots out from my dragon-snout like fire, and…and…”
A few low growls were heard, and Gryphon, Tiger, and Black Cat Boy turned slowly to see eight quizzical and hungry tigers watching them.
“Maybe,” Black Cat Boy said, “we’d better go.”
Gryphon flew his friends out of the tigers’ home and landed on the ground outside the fence. Tiger made Gryphon take off his dragon-mask so they could share a very, very long kiss. Black Cat Boy giggled because Tiger forgot to put him down, and Black Cat Boy liked getting squished between the two bigger boys while they kissed.
Then all three of them went trick-or-treating, and Gryphon and Tiger let Black Cat Boy keep all of the candy they received. And the very next day they took fresh meat to Town Zoological Gardens for the tigers to eat.
Gryphon and Tiger were usually obedient students, but this time they stood up to the Dean of Polytechnic Academy, and Black Cat Boy got to wear his black catsuit to school every single day, where he slinked like a girl-cat and was very, very happy.
Wise Judge sentenced Town Tough Guy to a year of cleaning up animal poo at Town Zoological Gardens. The tigers always made sure to leave the greenest and stickiest poo just for Town Tough Guy to pick up.
And, believe me; it is very, very easy for tigers to make green and sticky poo.