Charlie was playing near the edge of the forest while Gina knelt in the small garden. She glanced occasionally toward the log cabin at the other end of the clearing. Charles would return soon. The setting sun sent shadows across the grass. Charlie poked at the brown earth with a stick.
A cougar slunk forward between scrub oak branches and watched carefully, ears forward. Her tail twitched.
As the cougar crouched into position to spring, Gina’s head snapped up. Her hand reached for a thick stick lying nearby. As the cat sprang, so did she; the woman was faster.
“No!” she shrieked as the animal lunged toward the child. “No!” The stick flew through the air, hitting the cat’s side. It arched away in mid-spring, missing its quarry. Charlie let out a cry and the cougar snarled. Then it was gone.
“Mamá?” the child whimpered.
She reached for him wordlessly.
Copyright © 2014 Loretta Miles Tollefson