When Douglas Farnsworth was a boy hed been small, very
smart, wore glasses and liked to read books. Like many boys of this kind
hed had few friends. But he did have an imaginary playmate, a big tiger
named Rajah. Douglass favorite pastime was to read books like
Kidnapped and Treasure Island, sitting on the floor,
propped up against Rajah. Hed relate the details of the plots to Rajah,
whod listen gravely, nodding his head every now and then. Douglass
mother and father didnt like the idea of an imaginary tiger but Douglas
seemed to be so devoted to him that they finally gave in and accepted Rajah,
reasoning that this was just a phase. His father said, The way Douglas
talks to him I could almost swear he was actually there.
I know, said his mother. When I clean up his
bedroom, I sometimes think I see a tail disappearing around a corner.
Also, like many boys of his kind, Douglas had been a natural
target of school bullies but something in his manner, perhaps the assurance of
having a large tiger as his friend, put off potential bullies and hed had
a relatively pleasant childhood. Thered been one exception, when Douglas
was in third grade. A boy named Wilbur Scruggs, who lived with his aunt and
uncle in a trailer camp, began to pick on him and one day told Douglas to watch
it, he was going to catch him after school and beat him up. Douglas gave this
information to Rajah and said he planned to hit Wilbur first and at least get
in one good blow. He never got a chance to put his plan in action because the
next day Wilbur disappeared. A search was made but nothing was found except a
shoe that may or may not have belonged to Wilbur. The aunt and uncle
werent especially interested and the search was soon ended. Douglas never
saw Wilbur again.
As might be expected with someone who liked to read so much,
Douglas gravitated to literature in college and eventually became a professor
of English. Here too there was one obstacle, an older professor named Philip
Crenshaw whod taken a dislike to him and who was blocking Douglass
path to getting tenure. By this time Douglas had married and had two children,
a boy and a girl. The imaginary tiger had of course long since evaporated, but
the family did have a cat that Douglas had named Rajah II. On the eve of the
meeting that would decide whether or not Douglas would be granted tenure
Professor Crenshaw was found on campus, scratched and disheveled, his eyes
crazed and babbling about a monster that had attacked him. He was taken to a
sanitarium to recover. Without Crenshaws presence at the meeting, Douglas
was granted tenure. He sometimes wondered about what might have happened to
Crenshaw but eventually told himself that further speculation was pointless and
that some things should just be accepted.
As the years passed, Douglass life continued to be
pleasant but with the collapse of values and an increasingly permissive society
acts of violence increased and his college was not immune to them. A
disgruntled student invaded a classroom and shot and killed his teacher and
several other students before turning his gun on himself. A lab assistant
killed a co-worker, a woman whod broken up with him. Student protests
were common. Most recently, a series of robberies had taken place at homes on
and around the campus, young people on drugs who took whatever they could get
and routinely trashed everything else.
It was evening. Douglas was in his study writing. He heard the
sound of glass breaking and had just stood up behind his desk when two young
men in masks burst into the room. Both held guns. Douglas was glad that his
wife was away, visiting her mother. Hello, Professor, the smaller
one said. He held a gun. Thought wed pay you a little visit.
What do you want?
The young man looked around. Nice house, he said.
Where do you keep your money?
I have some in my wallet, but its not much.
You must have some more somewhere.
I really dont.
The larger one stepped forward and hit Douglas across the face
with his gun. Were not kidding around, he said.
All right. I do have a safe in my bedroom. Its
upstairs. Ill give you the combination. Youre welcome to take
whatever you want.
Thats the spirit, Professor, said the smaller
one. Keep your eye on him, he told his confederate. Ill
go up and take a look. He went up the stairs.
You have any drugs in the house? the larger one
Just the medicines I take. I
A loud crash came from upstairs, then a terrified scream.
What the hell? said the robber. He ran up the
stairs. Douglas heard more loud noises from above, then the two young men came
running down the stairs, ran through the study and out of the house. Douglas
picked up his phone and dialed 911.
It was late when the police finally left. First, they wanted to
know if Douglas was all right after being hit in the face. He assured them he
was fine and didnt have to go to the hospital. Then they wanted to know
if he had any idea what had so frightened the two robbers. Douglas told them he
didnt know. Well, said the lead policeman, they must
have been pretty scared because one of them dropped his gun. We should be able
to identify it and trace it to him. I think the crime wave weve been
having will be over soon.
Douglas was very tired when he finally went into his bedroom.
His cat, Rajah IV, was sitting on the bed. Well, that was quite a
night, Douglas said. The cat nodded. What do you think
happened? he asked. The cat appeared to contemplate this question for a
moment but then just gave him the complacent look that cats sometime assume and
said nothing. As in the case of Professor Crenshaws mysterious
monster, Douglas concluded that speculation was pointless and that
some things should just be accepted.