Before breakfast I look out across my porch to enjoy the sunrise as is my custom. I am surprised to see an unruly shock of spiky yellow hair sprouting up from behind the lattice of my deck. “That’s odd,” I think to myself, and taking up my cup of coffee I go out onto the porch to see what it is.
As I cross over onto the porch my knees go weak. There, just beyond the railing of my porch, a full grown African lion devours his morning meal. His magnificent mane gleams in the sunlight. A small sheep hangs limp in his powerful jaws, dead eyes staring dully at the ground. The sheep, if that’s what it is, has a black face and feet, but the rest of his body is covered with white fleece. The lion, oblivious to me, snaps his head and tears a huge chunk of meat from the sheep’s midsection. There is a warm spray of blood and the lion gives a soft growl of contentment.
“Ugh…” I say involuntarily, and suddenly the lion looks directly at me. He stares at me with malevolent determination, sizing me up. There is about twenty feet between us. “I’m alright,” I think, “he has already eaten.” The silence is deafening. I can hear my heart pounding. “Be cool.” I tell myself, “he can sense fear.” A slight breeze whispers in the long grass. “Nice lion,” I say.
His forearms tense like steel springs and in a terrible flash he is over the railing and after me. I stumble backwards toward the door, my coffee cup clattering to the deck. For a moment everything seems to be happening in slow motion; I can see his gnashing teeth, the foam on his jowls, and the smell of hot blood on his breath. I fall backwards through the door and lock it with a snap. The lion looses a frustrated roar that stands my hair on end.
I crawl into the kitchen, shaking, helpless with fear. Natalie stands there, nonplussed, cheerfully stirring pancake mix with a wooden spoon.
“Good Morning!” she says with a smile. I attempt a reply.
“Ahhh….ahhh….” I sputter, breathless. Tears blur my vision.
“There, there.” she says gently, and puts her arms around me. I fall to my knees and clasp her waist with all my strength. She smells of butter and flour, breakfasts and motherhood, sunlight and all good things. “Shhh…. It’s alright,” she whispers. I realize that I cannot let go of her. Not now, not ever. In this moment, she is everything. I bury my face in her apron, paralyzed with distress. She strokes the back of my neck and smiles.
“He cannot hurt you now,” she promises; but from outside come the sounds of the feeding lion, the cracking of bone and the slavering of his great maw.