Cougar hunches stealthy between spruces, giant paws interlaced with melting snow.
Cougar breathes deeply, alert, watching. Belly rumbles. Airplane roars overhead. She makes herself small beneath wind-blown green branches. Chipmunk dashes across nearby maple; freezes as cougar-scent arises like steam from snow. Slowly now she dives higher to new branches, higher to new branches, escaping the big cat’s razor-eyes.
Cougar hears nearby laughter. Small ones, two-leggeds, arms waving wildly. She hunches and watches. Hunches and watches. They scream and one runs in her direction, snow splattering upwards as they enter the deeper forest.
Cougar tightens, belly rumbling. It’s been two long days since the deer-feast in green cedar swamp. Two long days. Too long…
The two-legged continues, screeching. Cougar shakes her head slightly, ears primed, body tense. Screeching too loud, too discordant. Too much an alert, too much a signal. Slowly she begins her retreat, backward, step by awkward snowy step.
Two-legged turns, runs back to other two-legged.
Cougar pivots, leaps toward chipmunk with a frenzy, a hungry fury, an unsated longing.
Forest quiet now. Later, the sound the chewing and licking and satisfied yawns fills midnight air. Children sleep, peaceful, in cedar-logged cabin. Cougar nestles in snowy hollow, satiated.
Owl hoots overhead. Death sings its life-bound song.
Children dream of snow angels, everywhere.
Mothers wrap their dreams around them, safe, secure, full.
Chipmunk trembles in sleep.
Cougar reaches toward furry tawny cub, licking, licking, celebrating another gift of earth, of God, of meat, of blood.
Cougar-baby peers upward, liquid love, life’s cycle full.