Life may be short but forgetting takes forever, especially when they leave something behind. It’ll be four years now since Bob walked out with nowhere in particular to go, just trying to make distance from me. He left a bobcat out by the lodge in a stout wooden box with good strong hinges and three clasps. I don’t think he meant it that way, just forgot he had a project going and left. It’s not airtight. The cats couldn’t leave him alone but they wouldn’t go near him either. I’d never seen one outside a book. Nobody sees a bobcat; they’re mythical like leprechauns except that they leave tracks after a rain and you can tell from the bones and fur in their scat whether they’ve eaten birds or mice. Or cats that got too curious. I got two clasps undone and the box came alive. If I’d opened the third one, he surely would have mauled my face and disappeared into the brush. Doesn’t mean they’re vicious. Doesn’t mean Bob planned it. Only means he didn’t expect to see me either. For days I put him out of my mind. I gave him nothing but neglect. Truth is, I had to see him alive. I tipped the box with a lodge pole and rolled it toward the bank above the access trail. It opened when it hit the river cobble and still I didn’t see him. I saw shadow flash and brush disturbed. I watched jays rattle up off the banks and screech out over the water. But no bobcat. Now at night I see his eyes sparkle in my flashlight. He prowls the yard. I see his tracks and hear him rustle his prey. In my imagination he’s magnificent. I want him gone. He threatens my cats.

Copyright © January 18, 2008 David Hodges