The mountain lion that could kill you in the woods, instead races past, leaps over a rock and devours a small dog in the scenic yard you’re squatting behind. You feel like Dwight Gooden sitting on a dirty old sofa of his drug dealer, watching the ticker tape parade on television after the Mets won it all in 1986. Gooden had the disease, he said. He had overslept.
It’s a sick sort of entertainment, until a woman in a quilted apron runs out to save her dog. The mountain lion drops the small dog, in a mess that looks like a brain and zeroes in on the screaming woman.
You’ve dreamed about this woman, imagined that she would open her door and feed you warm pie and a hot cup of coffee. You’d sit on her couch and pet that muzzy mongrel of a dog until his tail shakes off. Now, she back peddles, eyes the side door over her shoulder, legs tensed about to spring, as the mountain lion slinks down low.
You find yourself shouting, “Don’t run! It’ll pursue you and kill you like it killed your dog.”
“Rufus is dead?” she says.
You’re about twenty yards away from the dead dog, thirty from the lion and forty from the woman and these distances are decreasing. The big cat is locked in on the woman and you can tiptoe almost to the dog, until a stick snaps under your boot. The mountain lion turns with stink eyes and starts walking toward you.
The woman does not listen and turns to run, but the cat is no longer interested in her. It has begun to survey you, as if it wonders how you got here and why you were in the woods in the first place. You refuse to show it any fear and you’re not afraid to die; you’ve thought about it every day but you quickly review your options here on earth. You already know not to run and standing still will most likely not work either. You guess you could get to the dog before the mountain lion can harm you and flip him the carcass the way a lion trainer folks over a hunk of meat. You step toward the dog’s body.
After two steps, the dead thing jerks and it tries to stand. The mountain lion jolts toward the suffering animal. You’re almost an arms length away but the mountain lion moves at a great rate of speed and reaches the dog before you can and runs off toward the woods. You feel the breeze from it against your leg.
A gunshot whizzes past your cheek and you can see the woman standing erect a foot from her door. When she pulls back again, you hit the ground but she misses once more and you hear her cry out angrily.
When the police come you’re on the front steps drinking coffee out of a cup that says “Sea World”. The woman gives up her story, that you are a hero and not an intruder she was trying to shoot. You don’t have any identification but you tell them everything you know. “My name is Jake,” you say.
Timothy Gager is the author of eight books of short fiction and poetry. He has hosted the successful Dire Literary Series in Cambridge, Massachusetts every month for the past ten years and is the co-founder of Somerville News Writers Festival.
Timothy's work has appeared widely in print and on-line He has had over 250 works of fiction and poetry published since 2007 and of which eight have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.