She drove down Cherry Hill Road, far enough away from the spot where some little girl’s body was found naked, dumped by a man who stole her from her bedroom. There was a bend in the road she liked, a turnout with a wide expanse of valley below. The boy in the passenger seat ran his hand down her thigh.
She pulled her mother’s ‘57 Corvette into the gravel. The gift a widow gives herself.
“Here?” he asked.
Earlier that day, a school assembly, rows of gawky teenagers seated on the gym floor. They walked a mountain lion onto the stage, chained, a wide metal collar around her neck. They said you had to be aware at all times when out in the hills. Mountain lions are silent killers, they said.
“Why don’t they have an assembly about men stealing girls from their bedrooms,” the girl next to her had whispered.
Female mountain lions are called queens, they said.
The queen yawned.
In the car, “Morning Dew” on the radio.
She straddled his lap.
“Did you know,” she said, “the Grateful Dead didn’t write this song? It was written by a woman. Bonnie Dobson. Everyone thinks it’s about lovers parting the morning after, but it’s not.”
She put her hand across his throat, dragged her fingertip from the hollow of his neck to his belt.
“What’s it about?”
“The morning after nuclear disaster. Sounds of the dying. Being the only man and woman left on the earth.”
Their parents thought they were studying.
The scent of eucalyptus trees in fire season. Movement in the gravel behind the car.
They said if you see a mountain lion, it’s already too late.
Kristin Bonilla is a fiction writer living in Houston, TX. Her work has appeared in Pithead Chapel, Hobart, and Smokelong Quarterly, among others, and was recently nominated for Best Microfictions. She is a flash fiction editor at jmww. Follow her @kbonilla and read more at www.kristinbonilla.com.
Lead image: “Young puma calling” (via Flickr user Tambako The Jaguar)
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