Tiger's Nuts by Jared Cappel

Friday, April 23, 2021
Jared Cappel's comedy about a book club full of colourful characters, meeting to discuss Naked Lunch by William S Burroughs.

The elevator wasn't working. Of course it wasn't. Someone would have to pay to get it fixed. A faded sign thanked the tenants for their patience. A twisted ribbon of caution tape sagged to the floor. Wallace couldn't help but laugh. Much had changed over the past decade, but Tiger's apartment was immutable.

Wallace found the stairwell and started upwards, sidestepping the vomit on the second-floor landing. By the fourth floor, he was out of breath, blaming his cigarettes while craving another. Through heavy breaths, he heard a clamoring overhead, like a man trying to force a couch into a hatchback. Right away he knew it was Tiger.

Tiger had a rusted bike over one shoulder and a precarious hold of the stairwell door with the other. He smelled of stale pot and cigarettes. Electronic music blared from an unseen speaker. In any other building, his very presence would have caused an uproar.

Wallace screamed overtop the beats. "Where are you going? The party's about to start."

It took Tiger a few seconds to process. "Oh, hey Wallace. What are you doing here?"

Wallace helped his friend lower the bike. "Dude, the book club. You begged to get back in, promised to host, any of this ring a bell?"

Tiger rang the bell on his bike, hoping but failing to draw a laugh. "Sorry bro, I got plans."

"Don't do this man. I vouched for you, swore you'd matured. No one believed me, but still." Wallace pulled a dogeared copy of Naked Lunch out of his pocket. "This book opened my eyes. You did read it, didn't you?"

"Read it? I lived it!"

"Then come host the crew for an hour or two. You can be late to your other plans."

Tiger looked down to his watch. "Okay, but I have to leave by four. Not a minute later."

Tiger let them into his unlocked apartment, kicking aside clutter so they had a path to walk. It looked like someone had come through with a leaf blower, sending all of his meagre possessions flying. There were plates under the couch, a broken lightbulb on the floor, a ratty scarf draped from the ceiling fan.

Tiger didn't seem to notice the mess. He rolled his bike out to the fire escape, then dug through the ashtray for a stray roach. Wallace did what he could to tidy up. He used a hockey stick as a broom to clear the larger of the debris, though what he really needed was a Zamboni. He filled the sink with soap and dropped in plates and glasses until the water turned black.

There was only so much he could do without a bottle of bleach, a few hours and perhaps a blowtorch. It was like putting makeup on a pig. One could get a sow to shine but could never hide its porcine roots. A pig would always be a pig, just as Tiger's den would always be Tiger's den.

Tiger stepped in from the fire escape, a fresh layer of pot masking the stale underbelly. He noticed Wallace stuffing a pizza box into a garbage bag. "I wasn't done with that!"

Wallace stomped down on the empty box with his foot. "You're done now. So please help me clear a sitting area before the crew shows."

"Too late." Mookie stood in the open doorway, surveying the space, a curious grin on his face. He wore a silk shirt, the top two buttons undone, his hair cropped to the temples. He looked directly at Wallace, his voice dripping with sarcasm. "Tiger, you sure have matured."

Wallace muttered under his breath. "He read the book. What more do you want?"

Tiger ran to see his old buddy. "Mook! So good to see you."

Mookie pulled away from the embrace. "Well that explains the smell."

Tiger didn't seem to notice. Words didn't faze him. They never had. He was who he was, the world be damned. He motioned for Mookie to follow. "Don't worry about your shoes. Come on in. Let's get started." Tiger plopped down onto the couch and threw his dirty feet onto the empty takeout boxes covering his coffee table.

Mookie started to sit then thought better of it. He flipped over a soiled couch cushion, then flipped it back when he saw the underside. "I think I'll stand." He shot a dirty look in Wallace's direction, but Wallace refused to meet his eyes.

Tiger flipped through the pages of Naked Lunch. "Ah, where to start? This book is such a trip. Like reading about my own misadventures. Each section its own tale connected only by the madness of his world."

Mookie laughed. "You actually read the book?"

"Read it? I lived it!"

Wallace stepped between the two men and lifted Tiger's feet off the coffee table. He pushed all the takeout boxes into a garbage bag with one giant swoop. "Guys, can we hold off on the book talk? Big Al's not even here yet."

Tiger looked down at his watch. "When's he coming? I gotta leave soon."

Mookie glanced towards the door. "He and his lady friends should be up any second. They were having a bit of a hard time with the stairs." He puffed his cheeks. "You know Big Al..."

Tiger sat up straight. "There are women coming?" His legs began to rattle.

Wallace threw the garbage bag into the closet and slammed the door. "Yes, you told us to bring friends, so why don't you pick up a mop and help me clean up?"

"I don't care about the mess, it's just..."

The front door flew open. Big Al burst in, a big smile on his big sweaty face. "Lookie here! The whole crew together again. How long has it been?" He kicked off his shoes and slid into the apartment to high five his buddies.

Mookie eyed the women at the door. He turned to Big Al. "Ain't you going to introduce your lady friends to the guys?"

"Oh shoot, my bad." He pulled the shorter of the two women towards him. "This here is Lorraine, my girl. And that lady quivering by the door is her sister Jeannette."

Lorraine was short, squat, with bugeyes that peeked out from beneath her bleached bangs. She looked across the apartment like a tourist at a museum. "This is the perfect place to discuss Naked Lunch. It's like we're at a theme party! I can smell the despair." She bit her lip. "Oops, sorry." She looked down at her feet. "I'm just excited is all."

Jeannette was a tall woman, made taller by her heels. She stepped carefully through the apartment like a rock climber mapping out each foothold. "Which one of y'all lives here?"

Tiger studied Jeannette's features. She had the angular body of a model. She was too pretty for his apartment. His words caught in his throat. "That would be me. I'm Tiger."

Jeannette laughed. "That your birth name?"

"No, they call me that cause my last name is Woods."

Mookie playfully punched Tiger in the arms. "He's just being modest. We call him that cause he's always on the prowl."

Big Al laughed. "Nah, it's cause he's always eating Frosted Flakes."

Tiger laughed nervously, looking again at his watch. "They're grrrreeeaaaat!"

The women stood awkwardly at the entrance to the den. Tiger sensed their discomfort. He rose and offered them seats on the couch. If he were wearing his fedora, he would have tipped it.

The women froze, staring at the various stains marring the fabric. Big Al jumped in, ripping off his overshirt and laying it down on the couch like a tarp. Both women fit on the single shirt, their backs arched away from the soiled couch.

Wallace joined the crew in the living room, sliding his glasses up the bridge of his nose. "Welcome all and special thanks to Tiger for hosting. This marks the eightieth meeting of our little book club, started way back in high school for extra credit and continued every month since. It's so nice to see the whole crew together again. Ladies and gentlemen, tonight's book is Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs."

Big Al started clapping then stopped when he realized he was the only one. "We don't clap no more?"

Lorraine looked around. "Where the snacks at?"

Tiger glanced to the kitchen. "I think I've got some nuts lying around."

Jeannette smacked her sister. "You want to eat? Here?"

Big Al brought a finger to his lips, motioning towards Tiger. "Ladies, come on now."

Tiger headed for the kitchen. "Let me see what I can rustle up." The nuts were gone, the Frosted Flakes box down to crumbs. He had nothing more to offer than an old jar of mustard. If only Wallace hadn't thrown out the leftover pizza.

Wallace lifted his copy of Naked Lunch off the coffee table and flipped to a passage he'd underlined. He began to read it, continually raising his voice to speak over Tiger's rummaging. No one was listening. All eyes were on Wallace, but all ears were on Tiger and his elusive search through the kitchen.

Cars outside began to honk en masse. Wallace couldn't believe his luck. It felt like every time he tried to open discussion he was interrupted. He set down the novel. What was the point? How many of them had even read it?

Mookie sidled over to the window to see about the commotion. He let out a shriek. "Y'all ain't gonna believe this." He exploded with laughter. "A bunch of naked fools cycling past the window."

Lorraine jumped to her feet. "Oh, is that today? I was just reading about it on my phone. It's the annual World Naked Bike Ride!"

Tiger sprinted in from the kitchen. "They started?" He ripped off his shirt like a lifeguard about to dive into the sea. "I knew I'd be late!"

The two women looked at each other and began to laugh.

Wallace grabbed hold of Tiger's pimpled shoulder. "What has gotten into you?"

"My plans. I gotta go." Tiger undid his belt and dropped his pants. He wasn't wearing underwear. He never did.

Jeannette covered her eyes. "Are you kidding me right now?"

Tiger bent down to tie his shoes, giving the room a full view of his gaping unwashed anus.

Big Al laughed so hard he could barely breathe. He began to sing: "It's the eye of the Tiger..."

Mookie spoke through tears. "I thought we were going to discuss Naked Lunch. Didn't know we were going to act it out."

Tiger opened the door to the fire escape. He turned back to his guests. "Thanks for coming. I guess just let yourselves out when you're done. Sorry I have to split so soon. See you next month?" Without waiting for an answer, he lifted the bike over his shoulder and started down the narrow steps.

The crew spilled onto the fire escape to watch Tiger's clumsy exit. They roared with laughter, shoving each other playfully.

"What you staring at?"

"Not much."

"It's like a penis only smaller."

Wallace shook his head. "Say what you want but he's got big nuts." Wallace stepped back into the apartment and collected his copy of Naked Lunch. He flipped to his favourite passage, hoping he'd get the chance to discuss it. Maybe even one day with Tiger, who'd not just read the book but lived it.


  1. A fun read. We get a good glimpse (maybe too good!) of Tiger in the space of only a few words.

  2. Sophomoric fun! Hard to believe these people would be in a book club, but Naked Lunch would fit, although no-one appears to be on psychedelics. I like the description of the apartment...sounds familiar.

  3. My favorite lines: "It's like we're at a theme party. I can smell the despair."

  4. Thank you everyone for reading and your kind words, and thank you to Charlie and the team at Fiction on the Web for publishing. I made a blog post about this story if you want to read some of my thoughts on this story: https://jaredcappel.com/2021/04/26/tigers-nuts/

  5. This was fun...Tiger is a memorable character, a lovable loser with a slight air of mystery...and I feel Wallace's pain, hardest part of book club is getting everyone to focus on book club!

  6. I loved the character of Wallace. I could feel his frustration and disbelief with Tiger. All in all, a very fun read. Thanks for sharing it with us.