Big Cat Enterprises



Big Cat Enterprises



"Mr. Linkler, sir,” Tom Faubest began.  "I hope our meeting is still on for this morning."

Linkler was irritated at the very first word from his new assistant director.  No one used the formalities of “Mr." or "Sir".  They worked at a zoo for god's sake, not the pentagon!  Faubest was the only person there who addressed him so formally.  Now he had outdone himself, managing both Mr. and Sir in the same sentence.

"We can talk and walk, Tom,” Jerry Linkler replied coldly.  "I've got a bull elephant with a swollen left testicle and we need to get him restrained before the vet gets here."

"Well, as you know sir, I've been tasked by the board of supervisors to find ways to increase revenue and reduce costs."  Faubest began by stating the obvious, contentious as it was.

"Yes, I remember your last suggestion of reducing food costs for the tiger exhibit by feeding them pets from the SPCA!"   Linkler shot back.

"Actually sir, we may want to revisit that idea at a later date."  Faubest said, unaware that Linkler would never approve it.  "I've run some very interesting projected cost savings.”

Linkler suppressed the urge to grab his assistant by the lapels of his out of place suit jacket.  Take it easy Jerry, he reminded himself.  Three years to retirement!

"Make it quick Tom," Linkler repeated himself, trying to mask his exasperation.  "I have a zoo to run and an elephant with a swollen testicle is a serious problem.”

"Yes sir, yes sir,” Faubest shuddered.  "I'll try to be quick.  It's the tigers.  They’re our most popular exhibit and also our most expensive.  I'm trying to reconcile the huge expense with the projected deficit for the year."

"Tigers eat a lot Jerry," Linkler reminded him.  "Nothing we can do about that and the public isn't going to tolerate using Fido as a tiger treat."

"Exactly sir.  So, if we can't reduce costs maybe we can increase revenues.  Tigers are a great attraction but mostly they just lay around.  I was thinking of ways that we could make the exhibit more exciting, more interactive with our patrons."

"Tom, do you have any experience at all with animals?  Any animals?  Did you ever have pets as a child?"  The director asked.

"No sir, I can't say that I did," Faubest answered quite confused by such an irrelevant question.  "I've always been a numbers sort of person, even as a child."

God have mercy!  Linkler said to himself but out loud he tried to answer patiently.  "Well Jerry you will just have to take my word on this.  We don't want our tigers interacting with our patrons.  Tigers interact with people by eating them and while that might reduce our food bill but it wouldn't do much for our admissions."

Faubest appeared not to hear.  “Well sir, I think that can be managed within a cost benefit framework.  And I don't like to brag but marketing is also my area of expertise.  I have some ideas for managing the tiger exhibit that could get us national recognition.

“Risk doesn't have to be a deficit!  With the proper marketing, risk could be our greatest asset!"

The zoo director took a deep breath to bring his blood pressure back from possible stroke levels.

"Let me make sure I understand you correctly Tom."  He said slowly.  "You are cooking up a scheme for people and tigers to interact in a possible dangerous way that will be an asset to this zoo?"

"Exactly!  Yes sir!"  The young assistant replied with enthusiasm.  "I haven't worked out all the details of course, but this is a plan that could change zoos forever!  People are tired of seeing musty old animals sitting around half asleep!  This is an interactive age we live in and I want to bring that interaction to the zoo!"

Linkler had a sudden flash of inspiration. If he gave Faubest enough rope, perhaps he would hang himself, or at least give cause for dismissal.  At the very least it should keep him busy for a good long while.  The thought of not having to look at another of his assistant's spread sheets filled him with optimism.

"Tom, you may just be on to something there!"  Linkler said with a genuine smile of encouragement. "You're clearly a man with a lot of creative ideas!  I wish I had more time right now but there is that not so small matter of our elephant's left testicle that I need to attend to.  Draw up your plan and I promise I will look it over.  But cross all of your t's and dot all of your i's.  Take your time.  Spell out all the details and I promise I'll draw it to the board’s attention."

"Thank you, sir, Thank you!"  Faubest fairly glowed with appreciation.  His exuberance almost made Linkler feel guilty but then he heard the elephant bellow and forgot Faubest entirely.


For the next few weeks, the director had numerous occasions to congratulate himself for the ploy with his assistant.  For every morning and afternoon that passed without seeing Faubest, Director Linkler had a private cause of quiet celebration and self-congratulations.  A week passed and then two weeks without a single appearance from the irritating assistant.  Linkler wondered vaguely from time-to-time what Faubest was up to.  By week six, Faubest was only a dim memory in the back of Linkler’s subconscious. 

His revere came to an end one morning when he arrived at work to find his half-forgotten assistant seated outside his door waiting.  The man was positively glowing with self-satisfaction.

"Good morning, Tom.” the director said in a matter-of-fact way.  "What can I do for you today?"

"I've got it sir!"  Faubest beamed.

"Got what?"  Linkler asked, dreading the answer. 

"Big Cat Enterprises sir!"

“What exactly is Big Cat Enterprises?"  Linkler asked.

"Why, the solution to our budget problems!  The tiger enterprise you asked me to write up?"  Faubest answered.

God help me!  Thought Linkler, I hope he doesn't try to put my name onto his boondoggle!

"Oh yes.  The tiger enterprise.  Of course.” He feigned interest.  "Why don't you come in and explain it to me?"

"I have it all right here sir!"  Faubest exclaimed, handing the director a notebook of well over a hundred pages of material.

Linkler sat down slowly and opened the thick folder without saying a word.

"A stock prospectus?"  he finally asked.  "What's this for"

"Primarily for liability avoidance sir.  We will have to spin off the tiger enclosure as a separate corporation.  If you like it, I thought we could officially name it Big Cat Enterprises.  The prospectus is for the IPO.  I've taken the liberty of lining up a brokerage to sponsor it and do an initial placement of ten million shares at five dollars a share.  I still have to work out the details for the warrants and preferred stock."

"Whoa!"  said Linkler.  "Just exactly what do you have in mind for this company to do?"

"That's the part you'll love!"  said Faubest.  "That's the interactive part.  We're going to give people the opportunity to run through the tiger enclosure!  We're going to turn this into a major entertainment event.  We'll offer prizes for the best time and the longest time.  I've even thought of a way to handicap the betting on the tigers so we can compensate for the lazy ones or the old ones.  I'm still working on a plan to involve Vegas in odds making.  They love the idea!  We would get our cut of course."

Linkler shut his eyes and shook his head from side to side.

"You're never going to find anyone damned fool enough to run through a tiger enclosure!”  He said.

Faubest's smile grew broader.  "I'm not anticipating any problems there at all sir.  All we have to do is set up a camera and issue a press release.  The media will get us more than enough people.  We'll offer prize money of course and line up advertisers like any TV show.  I'm sure beer companies and pet food manufacturers will want to buy a lot of time."

"You can't think people will actually go through with something like this?  Just to get on TV?"  Linkler said, not quite believing what he was hearing.

"Absolutely sir, absolutely.”  Faubest replied.  “Not just to get on TV of course but to impress their girlfriends, win money, show off to their buddies, any number of reasons.  With the right marketing that is no problem at all.  Marketing convinces people to do things that violate common sense all the time!

"Just look at the number of people without health care insurance who vote against health care legislation.  Many of those same people will say that this country has the best health care system in the world, even though they have no access to it!  Believe me sir, we will have no trouble getting people to test their bravery by running through a tiger enclosure!"

Linkler could not believe what he was hearing.  "And the zoo will not be liable for people getting killed?"  He asked.

"Absolutely not sir.  The tiger enclosure would be a separate corporation and I have air tight liability waivers.  Unfortunately, accidents happen in any sport but Big Cat Enterprises will not be held legally accountable.  Not even any personal liability, that's the beauty of a corporation."

"And if people object?  What then?"  Linkler asked.

"Yes,” Faubest admitted.  "Some will object.  Women, mothers, bleeding heart types.  Some people can't accept anything new.  We make it a personal freedom issue.  For the right money we can even enlist some radio personalities who would make it a constitutional issue.  That would give us even more publicity!  Freedom of choice, just like freedom of religion and speech!  For extra measure we can add a private enterprise and employment issue!"

He was clearly excited by the possibilities.  Linkler, by contrast, sat stone faced.

"Tom, have you given much thought to what these cameras are going to record when a tiger catches one of these imbeciles?  You're not going to be able to show a man being eaten and dismembered on nationwide television!" 

"No sir,” Faubest agreed.  "We certainly wouldn't want to show that on public airways.  For that we would go with pay per view.  That would be a big money maker."

"And would you be comfortable with leaving someone in a tiger enclosure to be eaten?"  Linkler asker without expression.

"Well assuming their paperwork was in order and the waivers and releases were all properly documented, there shouldn't be any liability issues.  I address all of those questions in the folder sir.  There is even a plan outlined to release hunting dogs into the enclosure if a man goes down.  The dogs can drive the tigers into a safe area while the body is retrieved."

"Good lord, Faubest, this isn't any housecat we're talking about here!  The big male weighs all of six hundred pounds!  Dogs won't drive him anywhere!  He'll kill and eat every last one of them and probably take his sweet time about doing it!'

Faubest seemed pleased with the Director’s scenario.

"More film footage then and more advertising time!"  He said.  “The dogs aren't expected to do anything except add dramatic effect and make it look like we're attempting rescue.  Perhaps we can have the runners wear some kind of harness and rope so we can pull them out."

"It won't work," Linkler said even as he was beginning to wonder if it just might.  "No one will be damned fool enough to run through a tiger enclosure."

"Of course, they will!  Of course!"  Faubest reassured him.  "Advertising sir!  We could run something to the effect; ‘Are you man enough....'.  We’ll be besieged with applicants.  Believe me sir, many people are only slightly smarter that the animals in these cages!  People who are jobless will jump at the money.  Some young Romeo whose Juliette has just dumped him will want a chance to impress her! Money, notoriety; people kill for less every day!

"Once we get started, it will be almost impossible to shut us down.  Court cases take months that can be stretched to years and if we get any adverse decisions we can appeal indefinitely while we keep operating!"

It was becoming more apparent to Linkler that his assistant really intended to go through with his Big Cat Productions.  Perhaps it was for the best.  The board of supervisors would undoubtly fire him as soon as they saw his proposal.

"Perhaps it's worth a try at that," Linkley said to Faubest.  "You certainly seem to have thought of all the details.  I'll pass everything on to the board but give you full credit."

Linkler did exactly that, making sure that his name did not appear on any page.  He expected to receive outraged phone calls immediately, if not from the board members then certainly from the press when it was leaked.  But after a week there was still no reply. Nothing.  He had expected angry messages or disbelieving questions, instead, there was only silence.  By the end of the second week, he received a letter from the board saying that Big Cat Enterprises was tentatively approved pending final word from the city attorney.

Linkler stared in disbelief at the letter.

How can this be?  He asked himself. Has everyone lost their minds?  He had planned for Faubest to be fired in disgrace and out of his hair forever.  Instead, it seemed that the whole sordid proposal was being taken seriously.

Events of the next few weeks became even more surreal.  Director Linkler kept to a strict routine of zoo business, letting his assistant manage the thriving new enterprise of Big Cat Enterprises.  With a speed that astonished his boss, Faubest became an organizational machine.  The Kafkaesque scene unfolded as he had planned.  The press releases preceded the initial price offering of the stock sale.  The sheer audacity of the plan captured world media attention.  Reporters showed up in droves and Linkler made sure they paid full admission, even if all they wanted to see was the tiger enclosure. 

Faubest held court at announced intervals outside the tiger enclosure, explaining where the running paths were marked and how the prize money would be distributed.  The tigers watched imperiously, half asleep, never suspecting that they would soon be moving from a zoo to a circus.  Linkler sequestered himself in his office and counted the days to his retirement.

The week before the first running, Linkler paid his assistant a visit. 

"I've got to hand it to you Tom,” he said appreciatively.  "I didn't think you could pull it all together but you did.  You're really going to put this place on the map!  This has to be one of the most creative ideas in the history of business.  PT Barnum himself would have been proud to have thought of it!  You know it's too bad you aren't getting more credit for all of this.  I've been reading the news stories and press releases and they hardly ever mention your name."

Linkler watched a cloud cross his assistants face as he spoke.

"Damned board of supervisors censors everything I put out,” Faubest said.  "They're afraid the zoo won't get enough credit."

"I thought that might be the case," Linkler said.  "These reporters keep coming to me, even though I tell them I don't have anything to do with it.  I tell them not to mention my name but they still do.  The whole idea of Big Cats was your idea and that's what I tell them but they usually leave that part out.  Damned shame if you ask me.  You're the one who deserves the credit, not the zoo and not me and not the board of supervisors." 

"I'll be there at the first running," Faubest said.  "They won't be able to ignore me then."

"Unless they're more interested in the runner," Linkler said slowly.  "They'll all be pointing their cameras at the runner, that's for sure." 

"Yea, probably so," Faubest agreed dismally.  "Nothing I can do about it though."

"You ever think of running the enclosure?"  Linkler asked his assistant.  "You get to choose the runners.  Anything say you can't choose yourself?"

Faubest thought about that suggestion as if it occurred to him for the first time.  

"No, not a thing says I can't pick myself!"  He answered.  "Now that would be quite the coup wouldn't it?  I would be the first!"

"You look like you'd be a natural,” He said with encouragement.  "You ever run track when you were in school?"

"Ran cross country in high school,” Faubest said with pride.  "I was good too!  I used to set the pace for the team."

"Yea, I'll bet you were good,” Linkler said.  "You look like a natural runner."

"Course I didn't weigh as much then but I bet I haven't lost a step.  That tiger enclosure's a lot shorter that some of the distances I used to run."

"Being the first to run with the tigers, now that will be a real honor!  Almost a shame to let someone else do it.  Some stranger who had nothing to do with the idea,” Linkler said.

"You've given me a good idea!"  Faubest said enthusiastically.  "I should be first.  The whole thing was my idea.  But let's keep this just between us until the first day of the running."

"There's nobody else I would rather see on the news,” Linkler said.  "You truly deserve the honor!"

"Thank you, sir,” Faubest said.

"You know you're going to have to stop calling me sir now that we're partners and all,” Linkler said, his voice taking on a tone of sincerity.  "Call me Jerry from now on."

"Well thank you sir," Faubest said.  "I'll try to remember that."


Linkler had a call waiting for him when he arrived back in his office.  It was Roy Overmire, the zoo dietician.

"Jerry, what do I do about the damned tigers?"  Overmire began.

"Well, I've been informed we can't do anything with them,” Linkler answered.  "They're not our property anymore.  They belong to Big Cat Enterprises."

"I know,” Overmire said.  "But they're not getting fed on a regular basis.  When I told Faubest, he just said they would have to wait until there was more money in the account.  Food's expensive he said.  But this can’t wait.  Those tigers' getting' feisty and nasty like.  They want something to eat!"

"Well Roy, I wouldn't worry about it,” Linkler said calmly.  "I just finished talking with Mr. Big Cat himself and he said he was going to take care of the food issue himself.”



Brad Dalton


Brad Dalton is a former teacher who is commercially unpublished. This is his first publishing credit.

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