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It was a small cinderblock shack at the intersection of Venice and La Brea. The asphalt around the building was cracked and peeled, with long ribbons of grass bordering the crazed surface. The shelves were simple, plywood and PVC, bleached and splintered by the sun. And then, there were the tigers. Plastic eyes glinting lazily in the sunlight and nylon coats blended into an unseen forest. There must have been fifty or sixty of them. They lay in neat rows on the shelves, one hundred paws, one thousand hidden teeth, and one strange sad stuffed Winnie-the-Pooh. No one ever left the shack, and no one entered it. The decaying blacktop was the tiger’s domain. Maybe someone stopped and purchased one, or an invisible storekeeper secreted new arrivals in their midst in the dead of night, but their ranks remained unchanged. The blue sign notwithstanding, that street corner wasn’t a human place. Some days, the tigers would vanish without a trace but the old blue sign. And they would always reappear, coats perfectly brushed and button-eyes gleaming in satisfaction at their polyester prey. Whatever enterprising human had decided to sell his tigers from the cinderblock shack had long since faded into the pavement, leaving behind one of those ageless anomalies constantly present in every city. The predators were an uncomfortable reminder that even the parts of the world that we’ve settled and broken and covered in black goo aren’t entirely our own. They are still subject to chaos, seeping through the cracks of our neat urban lives like grass growing through asphalt. Eventually, we take these things and incorporate them into the tangle of life around them. Still, L.A. Tigers was always there, and it was always unexpected. The ranks of tigers transcended mere commercialism, became more than stuffed animals abandoned in the citadel of the streets. Then, they were gone. This time, their absence had an feeling of finality to it. Even the sign disappeared. The decrepit almost-building was gutted, empty. Perhaps they resented the status of “institution.” They may have longed for the industrial jungle of their birth. Or maybe they were just bored. No one has reclaimed the cinderblock shack. It is not a human place.

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