by Meg Pokrass
Often, I waited too long to see him. He was already gone. I was standing in a patch of forest, calling out his name, saying ‘don’t pretend anymore.’ Often, I could hear a snap of twig. I always knew it was him. I woke up too late remembering who we had been. I woke up thinking about our old cats and how much we loved to sit next to them on the sofa. That time I forgot about all the rest. That’s why I was late. I woke up confused about how things became so damaged. I wandered into the trees and by the time I called, he was gone. I could see the broken branches and the stain of his footprints on dry, sad leaves.
That time we bought a house that wasn’t falling apart. We were the luckiest people we knew. We got a great deal on that house, because the realtor stated in writing that it was a place where the beast was sometimes sighted. They had to warn buyers or there could be trouble. We signed a contract forgiving the possibility of activity in the woods. They don’t really even know what it is, she said. They don’t want to know what it is, my husband said.
Our first year in the cottage, we made love every night. When we heard a far off moaning, there was a different kind of moaning coming out of our bodies and it matched. That beast is just plain horny, I said. We loved making love but not when we heard the twigs snapping, the cries of a distant animal growing dim.
My husband envied that creature. He said he woke up thinking about how he had never been fierce. He wanted to see the beast for himself. I’ll bet he’s a pussy close up, he said. My husband had a mother who made him feel fragile. I know now that this is why he needed to see the monster up close.
That time, he disappeared overnight and returned in the morning perkier. ‘I was actually on time,’ he said. ‘I didn’t have a camera, but believe me, I found him.’ We ate blueberry pancakes in the bright yellow kitchen. His face weirdly secure and new. His other face reminded me of happier times, when we first fell in love and rescued two very old cats. I wanted to believe they were going to protect us.
And then we decided it was magic. It can’t be a hoax, we said. We knew that its footsteps were lonely. We took highballs outside in the early evening and we sat together sipping them, listening for sounds. One time, the creaking branches reminded us of the way aging bones will change. You will creak, just like that, someday, he laughed. I can already hear it!
And so will you, I reminded him. I was only three years older than him. But sometimes I reminded him of his mother.
‘Don’t give up on the idea of magic,’ I said, the day he fell off the roof. Our shingles had been popping off in the wind. They could land on someone, he said. He was up there patching them with putty, humming a tune. He was up there looking for the beast from a higher vantage point. He was hoping for one more look at its pussy-ish face while helping our house to stay safe. That year, we had Bigfoot calendars all over the house. On one of the calendars, it looked like a devil. In another calendar, its face was wise and sweet. He wasn’t sure about which one to believe. He stared at them both in the morning, trying to figure it out. That was the time he climbed up to the roof to work with the shingles.
My body became a moan. Waiting for an ambulance, I heard the sounds of snapping twigs and thought of his aging bones. There was something of a smile on his blood smeared mouth. I could see that he was somewhere else, a much better place, deep in our woods.
I find myself being too late to see him, again and again. I find myself waking up late but sure it is early. By mid-morning, the beast has gone back in its cave. I don’t think it has a pussy-ish face, and I’m sure that my husband was wrong. I believe my beast is fierce, and these days, he is sated. This bothers me not at all. I think my husband would have been pleased that things have progressed so well. Probably, he saw our lives together as a symbol of something else.
Meg Pokrass is the author of seven flash fiction collections, an award-winning collection of prose poetry, two novellas-in-flash and a forthcoming collection of microfiction, Spinning to Mars recipient of the Blue Light Book Award in 2020. Her work has appeared in Electric Literature, Washington Square Review, Wigleaf, Waxwing and McSweeney’s. She is the Series Founder and Co-Editor of Best Microfiction.