I chased after Akelo, trying to catch him. I was on, and he was making the most of it. Zigzagging in and out of the tall trees, I zoomed after the blur of black and orange in front of me.
“Come on, keep up Mr Slow!” He called playfully. How little ones ever managed to keep on going, I would never know. It was like they had an infinite supply of energy that was full of jumpyness. Panting, I jogged after him.
“It’s hard work being a dad, you know,” I shouted back. “Especially the dad of you!” I paused to catch my fast escaping breath. Akelo giggled and trotted over to me, his small paws making hardly any noise on the leaf-covered forest floor. I collapsed and pretended to be dead as he came closer. The little rascal jumped on me, luckily with his claws retracted, and rolled around on my upturned stomach. Jumping up, I swiped his body softly off mine.
“Tig, you’re on!” I yelled at the bewildered cub. “Come and get me if you can!” I sped off into the distance, headed back to the den, when an incredible force collided with me from behind. Panicking, I twisted around to find Akelo wrestling with my tail. Typical. I let Akelo have his way for a bit before grasping him in my large paws and pulling him to my chest for a tiger hug.
“There’s no escape now, little tiger.” I growled in what was meant to be a menacing voice.
“I’m not little, witness my strength!” He growled back in his little voice. Struggling in my legs, he tried to wriggle out of my iron grip, squealing as he used all of his strength. I loosened my grip by a miniscule amount to let him think he was winning. Then I rolled back the right way and trapped him underneath my huge form. We did this all the time, it wasn’t going to hurt him. He yowled and suddenly went still. I laughed but when my son didn’t move, I began to worry. Leaping to the side to see if he was alright, I glanced down to see him lying still. I couldn’t hear or see him breathing.
“Akelo?” I poked him with my paw. “Akelo?” This time I said it with more worry. I placed my paw on his chest and shook him. “AKELO!” What had happened? I couldn’t have killed him... could I? It was then that I noticed a shaking in the cub’s body. I looked closer and realized that my kin was laughing. Swatting him with my tail, I growled and began plodding back to the den, hearing Akelo’s manic laughter behind me. Sometimes, my son could be SO annoying I could just...grr.
Akelo followed a couple of steps behind me, still trying to control his laughter but utterly failing to do so. We were nearly at the den now; I could see the dark hole that provided an entrance into our home and could hear Samba purring. She was probably curling up with her mother, Nicara, and having a peaceful nap whilst they both awaited Akelo’s and my return. Akelo finally got his laughter under control just before both of us arrived at the narrow opening. I decided to go first as I was ahead, but Akelo had other plans. Speeding to my side, the little devil wedged himself between me and the wall of the entrance just as I was squeezing inside. I let out a small, hopefully quiet yelp, feeling my ribs being crushed against the hard stone wall.
We were stuck. And really stuck too, as even the slightest movement would squish one of us further against the rock: including breathing.
“Now look what you’ve done, Akelo!” I hissed in his direction. “Your silliness got us into this mess, now get us out!” He mumbled something inaudible in reply before wriggling violently. I held back what would have been a deafening yowl and concentrated on manoeuvring my body as best I could to help Akelo get out. After many long and painful minutes of wriggling, the little tiger cub popped out of the enclosed space; leaving me panting and bruised all over but free to move through the rest of the tight space easily. Silly little cub.
My son zoomed away after that – probably to hide somewhere until I had cooled down. I padded through the dimly lit cave to where Nicara and Samba would probably be, and at last found them curled up together in a deep sleep. I rolled my eyes. At least my near death hadn’t woken them up. Yawning massively I slid down next to my daughter’s warm body and fell asleep among them, last hearing Akelo tentatively tiptoeing to join us.