The Lord is Close (Part 5)

The big cat’s ears went forward and his lips pulled back to show his gleaming white teeth. He stood up and stretched out his long, slender frame. Walking up to the tree, he put his large front paws up on the rough tree trunk. His reach was just below the limb that the little girl was sitting on.

She remembered what her grandfather had taught her a long time ago. “When you see a big cat, look directly at him. Don’t look away. Don’t run. Try to make yourself look bigger and louder than you are so that they will run away…hopefully,” he always added “hopefully” at the end.

Her own eyes couldn’t get any bigger as she stared into his. He was probably four feet from her face but it felt much, much closer. He pawed at the bottom limb like a little house cat. Only his strength was such that it swayed the entire tree. He looked as if he was tiring of playing with his food. He let out a low rumbling growl and then a fierce roar that frightened her to her very core.

She just couldn’t bring herself to make any noise at all. She couldn’t stand it any longer. She closed her eyes and started praying. A humming noise began getting louder and louder. At first she thought it was only in her head but then it became clearer. It was the familiar sound of a crop duster. As it flew closer and closer, she opened her eyes just a little. The lion looked distracted and annoyed. She closed her eyes again and kept praying. Finally, it was upon them and as it dipped directly over the tree, it flew so low, she felt the wind from its wings move the tree.

When she opened her eyes, the lion was gone. Without thinking or waiting another minute, she dropped to the ground with a thud and ran back towards her house as fast as her legs could carry her. She slid under the barbed wire fence and ran through the dark forest. She did not let herself think about the lion hiding in the bushes or the small animals that scurried out of her path, she just ran as hard and as fast as she could, eating up the ground with her bare feet. She didn’t stop until she got all the way into the house.

The screen door was still bouncing back and forth on its hinges when she realized that she had run into the middle of a situation that had escalated in her absence. Her father was holding her mother down on the recliner with his knee on her stomach. He was grasping her around the throat and her face was a funny shade of blue.

The little girl ran across the room and jumped on his back, kicking and screaming until he let go of her mother and threw her across the room like a dirty rag. Her mother was gasping for air and the little girl sat there on the floor waiting to see what he was going to do next. Her adrenaline was pumping so hard that she thought she might really kill him if he got too close. She stared at him impudently.

He looked at them both in disgust, picked up his keys and wallet and walked out the door, slamming it behind him as hard as he could. The sound echoed in the room. Her mother put her hands to her injured throat and they both looked at each other as the sound of gravel flying against the house from his spinning tires let them know he was gone.

“Well?” her mother said with a raspy voice. “Look what you’ve done now. If he doesn’t come back, it’s all your fault.”

“Where’s Ricky?” the girl asked.

“In his room,” she answered with a snarl. “He knows better than to act all disrespectful like you do.”

The little girl stood up, her knees shaking beneath her and walked out the front door. The dust from her dad’s truck was still in the air. She could taste it in her mouth. She started walking up the road and no one followed her.

To be continued…

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