This story is also set in East Belfast, where I moved following my marriage.
We bought a three-storey terrace house which was quite up-market of its kind – in that at the front it had about four feet of concrete and a small wall separating our space from the pavement, rather than a door opening straight onto the street, as houses around the corner did. At the back it had a traditional yard, possibly about 12 feet by 6, which opened onto a cinder lane. (Handy for taking out the bins.)
The story opens with the phrase It was a headline in the paper, and it actually was a headline that first gave me the idea. At that time in Northern Ireland dogs had to be licenced, yet there was no provision for exotic pets, however large or dangerous. And, famously, there was a precedent for someone keeping a big cat, though I’ve no idea what happened in that real-life case.
Looking out at our yard it was a very small step to speculating about who might want a tiger, and what the consequences might be. It wasn’t hard to imagine that it mightn’t end well…
At one stage I submitted this story to Radio Ulster for the 15 minute short story slot. The response was interesting – the editor who’d read it loved it but said that it wouldn’t get past the top person in London unless I cared to change the ending. I declined, so sadly what might have been my radio debut never happened and this story lay in the proverbial ‘desk drawer’ waiting for an opportunity to be used. This was the first story I’d written in the 1st person and the first time I attempted a very distinctive voice. It remains for the reader to decide whether I succeeded or failed.
It is now part of my new collection Dust Blowing and Other Stories, more information / signed copies are available here.