Every, the Mountain Lion
“To leave this place, you or I must die,” the mountain lion said.
“Can I return by the way I came? Without the killing?”
“You may do so.”
“But to go on, to continue my route, you or I must die.”
“It is the natural order of this place and time.”
“What is this place?”
Madar looked about the place. It was a dusty clearing atop a sun-dried ridge. Pine trees skirted the edge of the clearing and stones kept the ground hard. Sweat came from his hair. Is it this damned sun or this beast, this magic lion? he wondered. Must be the sun.
“It is just as it has always been and will be. A simple point on a map where two trails meet. Nothing more.”
“Then why is the place special?”
“The place is not special without the time.”
“I haven’t the mind for riddles. I’m dreaming, I think, beast.”
“There will be no riddles and you are not dreaming. To go forward on your journey, you or I must die.”
“We must fight? I haven’t the energy. I will go back the route I came here.”
Madar rose from his seat across from the mountain lion, the mysterious cat which spoke man.
“You have no curiosity for why one of us must die if your journey were to continue?”
“What is your name, beast, that I may stop calling you ‘beast?’ ”
“You are fond of me?”
“I am curious of you; you say I am not dreaming, yet you are a mountain lion and we speak.”
“Have you never spoke to a mountain lion?”
Madar thought the cat laughed but he was not sure. Its whiskers flared and its eyes narrowed, and some hiss of a growl came from behind its long teeth.
“My name is Every, man.”
“Every,” Madar tipped his wet, brimmed hat, “I am Madar.”
“And why, Madar, did you come here?”
Madar sat on the dusty and comfortable chair. This chair does not belong here, Madar thought. And look at this great beast, this Every, this mountain lion, sitting on one the same.
“I am traversing this ridge on my journey to the heart of this country. I am exploring and breathing well and enjoying this place,” Madar said.
“The heart of this country?” Every asked with something of a smile, if a mountain lion could.
“The heart of it. The beauty and mystery and wonder and those things. The things poets write on.”
“You enjoy poetry?”
“Why must one of us die for me to go on my way?”
“Do you enjoy poetry?”
Madar sighed and leaned back in the chair. He removed his hat and mopped his face with it and pulled his long hair to the back of his head. The hat went to his knee and he pulled a marijuana cigarette from his brown vest.
“Not particularly,” Madar said.
“Smoking and no poetry.”
“Do you smoke?” Madar laughed, then caught himself and raised his eyebrows to this sitting cat, wondering if the animal would get high.
“No,” Every said.
Madar watched the whiskers and nose twitch and slipped the joint back into the vest.
“Please,” Every said.
“I will wait. I am high or dreaming now, I think. Smoking might obscure this whole thing. May I take your picture?”
Madar took his phone and captured what he could never explain. Without a cellular signal, he could not share this Every, this beast of muscle and fur, sitting on the dusty chair. It would not be believed, anyway, he thought.
“You do not like poetry, but you cite poetry in your purpose,” Every said.
“It’s not that,” Madar said. “Poets and writers and movies and all, really everyone, glamorize the wild. Old poets do it best. I came here like I go to other places and on other trails, to find myself and lose something else of myself. Or something.”
“What would you lose?”
Madar paused and pursed his lips, looking for a moment at the tallest of the pines. “Connection.”
“People. The internet. Anxiety.” Madar sighed and looked into the unblinking, gold eyes of the cat. They were not soft and warm, but Madar still felt comfort in them. He shook his head. Comfort? he wondered.
“You’ve anxiety?” Every asked.
“Not when I am here. That is why we come here, to lose our anxiety for a moment.”
“Have you lost it?”
“When I was alone walking, before I came upon you, I think I had.”
“What is it of? And I am sorry to have brought it back.”
“If I pass without you or I dying it might go away.”
“It is not my decree, Madar, oh! man, that you or I must die. It is yours.”
“You said it, not I.”
“And yet it is your decree. Your journey to the heart of this country is death; your knowledge of this place, the secrets of these trees and the wind and sun, executes. Do trees escape this place to your concrete and steel and plastic? Do I wander supermarkets to experience something I cannot find here?”
Madar looked intently at Every and, in the heat of the day, understood nothing of the cat’s meaning.
“You are a mountain lion. Trees cannot walk. I do not understand.”
“You’ve anxiety, so you come here. Why do you have anxiety? I do not have anxiety,” Every said.
“You’ve no anxiety because you are a cat. There is no rush and expectation in your life.”
“You’ve anxiety due to rush and expectation.”
“Yes. Rush and expectation of work.”
“What is your work?”
“I am a creator.”
“Does a creator not create at his whim? Where is the rush and expectation?”
“I create because I am good at it and, because I am good at it, it pays me. It pays me and my life goes on. If it stops paying me, life turns sour,” Madar said.
“You’ve an interesting life,” Every said.
“We come here to escape that for a few days every year.”
“What do you mean?”
“What when you are done?”
“We save enough money to come here more than a few days a year, whenever we might like.”
“Why come when you have saved enough money? Have you other anxiety?”
“No. We come when we retire because the world is beautiful, and it brings us joy. One ought to see it before he goes.”
“Death.” The cat’s eyes glowed with the word.
“As I said, Madar the man, if you go on, one of us must die. I wish not to die, nor do you. But it must be so because man is not meant to bring the anxiety of his rush and expectation to this place.”
“It is good for us. For men.”
“You think so.”
“You do not, I assume.”
“This place of sunlight will make you mad.”
“I feel well here.”
“But your return, Madar, will make you mad.”
“Your return to other men will make you mad, coming from a place like this. To return once you know the heart of the wild will be your end.”
“Tell me, mountain lion, what you know of the world.”
[End Chapter 1]