Home Invasion, fiction by Timothy Gager

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.

Don’t run.”

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.

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