We were walking on a road near the quarry, above Lithia Park. I saw some deer up ahead and called back for you to take a look. You were collecting flowers or rocks somewhere behind and did not answer.
I approached the deer and saw that there were two of them. Focusing a bit more intently, I noticed that the second deer was actually a cougar, stalking the deer. I was shocked at the sight of a cougar on the edge of town like this and didn’t know what to do. I watched for a few seconds, my body tight and tense, as the cougar closed in on the deer.
I crouched and gestured to you, turning my torso around to try to spot you. You were right there, in the nearby gravel and weeds, staring past me and stock still. Suddenly, you gasped and pointed up the hill with a sturdy stick.
As I turned back, the cougar lunged towards the deer. Just then, a tall, thin, naked man jumped between the deer and the cougar and tried to chase off the deer. The cougar loped after the man, who was still running behind the deer. They crashed through the bushes above the road, zigging and zagging and finally toppling downward, straight towards us.
I closed my eyes and when I open them, we’re outside a ranch style house, similar to the house I grew up in, but very different from anyplace we ever lived. Large drooping trees, bushy ferns, and a verdant garden surround the house. The chirping of insects and frogs envelopes us.
We run inside and slam the door behind us. It is around dusk now, whereas before it had been high noon. No time seems to have passed, though, as our clothes are still dusty and warm from the road and the sun. We let loose with short frantic barks of laughter, unexpected relief at our escape. A growling and scuffling sound at our feet cuts that short.
Our cat is wrestling with something under the dining room table. I kneel down and see a small, bloodied squirrel, somewhat disoriented, trying to hold its attacker at bay. I grab the cat as she makes an accurate pounce onto the squirrel.
The cat’s muscles are hard and her body seems unusually dense. With some difficulty, I separate the back of the squirrel’s neck from our pet’s mouth. I take a newspaper from the table, slip it under the squirrel, and walk to the back door to set the thing free.
I open the door and am about to release the squirrel onto the porch when I spot the cougar pacing along a line of fruit trees by the fence. Slowly, cautiously, I turn around and go back inside, still holding the squirrel. I close the door and lock it, then call to you, who have disappeared upstairs, to close all the windows and make sure the doors are latched.
I don’t see our cat so I set the squirrel down on the kitchen floor. I notice now, for the first time, that it has been totally disemboweled. The entrails are not even visible inside the vacant abdominal cavity, behind the shredded skin flaps. I am sort of mesmerized by this and, for the next spend ten seconds or so, I peer at it and wonder how it is even breathing, moving around.
You come down the steps from the hallway to the bedrooms, tell me that the house is secure and cross your arms. I tell you that this squirrel is going to die. We’re looking at it, wondering how to get rid of it, when the cougar starts scratching at the sliding glass door in the dining room.
The glass bows under its weight, so we close the curtains on it. We back into the living room, then turn together towards the sound of a custom-built cat door swinging back and forth above the couch. We catch a glimpse of two tails, one twitching orange and the other limp and gray, as they exit the house.
The cougar has stopped pawing at the glass door. You walk over and slide it open.
The cougar jumps inside.