Our son-in-law Bridger* whose family is currently staying in our home, he heard a mountain lion around here about 1:30 a.m… Just a heads up for your children and pets.
I read the message in our neighborhood chat, knowing my son wouldn’t take the news well. He’d been sleeping outside most weekends in a small canvas tent.
Still, it was my job to keep him alive. “I don’t think you should sleep outside tonight,” I told him.
He gave me the Teenage Look; the what stupid worry that couldn’t possibly exist do you have now, Mom? look.
I glared back. Lovingly. “One of the neighbors said there’s a mountain lion. It’s not safe.”
“I’ll be fine.”
Now it was my turn for a Look. I whipped up the oh no you don’t talk back to your mother look. “You’re not. It’s not safe and I won’t have you doing it.”
-Not that I didn’t intend for him to return, once safe.
We heard nothing. We saw nothing. The deer filtered into the back acres, eating beneath our fruit trees. They stood calmly, dipping their heads now and then to sample last year’s windfall. The only concern in those deep, soft eyes was for the humans staring at them from the windows.
And so, I granted my son permission to camp. He gathered his thick socks, his beanie, and his sleeping bag. He shoveled the starlit snow from the tent’s door and beat it from the tent’s outsides. Zip zip zup and he was inside, snug for the night.
Two a.m. is a rotten time to awaken -an opinion my two-year-old did not share. I calmed him, watered him, and tucked him back in. Then, I tucked myself back in.
I could not sleep.
An anxiety seized me. My neighbor’s message slunk around my brain: he heard a mountain lion around here. ‘What if it’s out there?’ my mind imagined. I peered through the back windows at my son’s tent. It sat, serene and silent in the shadowed snow. I heard nothing. I saw nothing.
‘It is nothing,’ I told my brain.
‘And even if it isn’t,’ a quiet voice reminded, ‘What would you do? Walk out there?’
I finally fell to sleep.
The next morning dawned frigid and overcast. I walked out to awaken my eldest. I’ll admit to looking warily about; when no wild cat appeared, I scanned for his prints. But all was smooth and undisturbed. I knocked at the tent as best I could. “It’s time to get up.”
The tent shook and stretched. “Okay,” huffed a deep teen voice. A moment later, the zipper opened –Zup zip zip! and two large feet in half-shod sneakers emerged. A lanky form followed, till my son stood before me. He closed up and we headed to the house.
“How’d you sleep?” I tried a casual tone.
“Not bad.” Crunch crunch “I heard a deer scream around 3 a.m.”
I allowed for silence as I considered his statement.
“Son,” I said carefully, as we walked, “I don’t think deer scream.”
He looked thoughtful.
I phrased my next words in a calm, level tone. “But I’ve heard that mountain lions do.”
We walked inside. I headed straight for a bathroom. He headed straight for a computer. We met up at breakfast.
“So, I looked it up,” he began, “Aaaaand, the noise I heard sounds just like a mountain lion.”
©2022 Chel Owens