Cougar

The Iowa Review - - NEWS - Maria an­der­son

Our trailer sat on cin­der blocks in a half-acre lot a four-cig­a­rette drive out­side of town. There wasn’t much else around ex­cept Jenny’s trailer and for­est that started at the end of the lot and went on for as far as you could see, dim and im­pen­e­tra­ble. Dad kept pink heal­ing quartz on the porch steps, rocks he’d found in the deep­est parts of forests, back when there was still old-growth for­est to be logged. He was a sad, quiet guy. Never ar­gued with me or knocked me around like dads of guys I used to know. We played cards with his old log­ging friends when they came through town. Sum­mers we shot coy­otes in the Rat­tlesnakes. Slept out­side with­out tents or bear spray. I never felt safer. We hunted elk and deer. I loved hav­ing my hands deep in­side some­thing just barely dead, see­ing what or­gans and mus­cles and fat looked like from the in­side. Bet­ter than any sci­ence class. We had a de­cent, quiet life in that trailer. Dad’s log­ging op­er­a­tion went un­der. He got even qui­eter. When he wasn’t sleep­ing, he would drink Heinekens and sit in the liv­ing room, which was re­ally just a wide hall­way be­tween the bed­rooms and kitchen, and watch the for­est through the win­dow. Most dads I knew drank Bud, but mine liked Heineken and was okay with pay­ing more for it. Koda would sit pro­tec­tively next to him. She was a mute Pyre­nees, who like my father was parted from her nat­u­ral vo­ca­tion—her an­ces­tral du­ties were keep­ing live­stock alive—and so cared for us in­stead, herd­ing our trucks out of the drive­way and guid­ing them back in when­ever we re­turned, that kind of thing. What was Dad think­ing about when he sat like this? Just go­ing over things in his head? All the trees he’d run chain­saws through with crews of guys from all over, the few women he’d slept with, wob­bly nights driv­ing back from Bon­ner bars with old log­ging bud­dies. Dad loved the woods, and, I think, for him, felling the old­est trees in the old­est forests didn’t mean he loved them any less. Maybe he was think­ing about my mother, who left when I was two. Maybe he was just watch­ing the trees and not think­ing about any­thing at all. Maybe he was hop­ing to spot the cougar I’d seen a few times now, the one folks were say­ing killed Shively’s new colt and came back for the rest of her be­fore they could get her buried.

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