Saturday Short: Cougar Rock

photograph of a rock formation shaped like a cougar

“You can get him out, right?” Edith asked, tugging at Maryann’s skirt as they walked up the hill. “He looks so sad. You’ve got to, please, please, please!”

“Let go, sweetie.” Maryann removed Edith’s hand and held it as they turned up at the fork in the road. “Let’s get there and see what we can do.”

“But you have to fix him!” Edith squinted up against the brilliant noontime sun to look her in the eye. “You just have to.”

Against such pleading, Maryann had always been helpless to do anything but what Edith wanted, whether that was picking berries by starlight because she said they tasted better or trying to free a cougar that she insisted had been tricked into stone. It had been this way since Edith came into the world and Maryann knew it would be this way until she left the world.

Edith stopped walking, yanking on Maryann’s hand. “There he is! Doesn’t he look sad?”

Maryann shaded her eyes with her free hand. The rock formation hadn’t been there yesterday when she’d gone to the pass to trade goods with the caravan. She frowned. It wasn’t good. Not good at all. Someone mettling with her woods.

“You see him, right?”

“Clear as your nose,” Maryann said with a smile she didn’t feel. “Give me back my hand so I can help him.”

Edith let go as fast as she could and stepped back.

Maryann stepped off the path and walked around the rock formation, the shadows forming the poor beast’s face and haunches and even its tail. She came back to her starting point and laid her hand on the beast. “Please let this work,” she whispered too quiet for Edith to hear.

Edith paced back and forth on the path, her feet kicking up bits of rock, worrying her hands as Maryann worked. Just when both had almost given up hope as the sun sank behind the tallest trees on the mountain, Maryann felt a tremble beneath her hand and watched a pebble fall away from the cat’s head.