Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Unsubstantiated, Yet Worrisome by Jerome Berglund

        The creature got the raccoon in a split second. I was at the window brushing my teeth when I witnessed the nasty business, had been admiring the plucky little bandit burgling our compost bin when it was caught unawares from out of a blind spot. The thing which surprised it was unrecognizable to me, a retired veterinarian who thought she’d seen near every odd creature tucked around these out-of-the-way parts off the beaten path. The beasty has a certain shimmer surrounding it that made its anatomy harder to discern, or maybe I imagined that, eyes played rude tricks on me. 

        By the time I got our Remington out and filled it with buckshot, made my way onto the back porch, the pair had vanished from sight and only a few glaring signs of their altercation were left behind, as testament at least that I indeed had observed something strange and singular, of whatever precise character.  I hoped scientifically rational explanations could provide illumination and drag the incident out of the clouds of superstitious speculation, back into the empiric realm of facts and reason I so much more prefer to inhabit. But I startled my hubby and darn near gave him a stroke when I went for the shotgun, and boy did he try his darnedest to dissuade my venturing out any further once I’d explained what I had glimpsed momentarily. Mountain lion, or timber wolf, perhaps a coyote hybrid with large breed dog mixed in, or some variation of bear, wolverine or badger. But whatever had overcome and bested that sizable raccoon was worth steering right clear of, assiduously avoiding, leaving well enough alone.

        Still I felt a moral obligation, and strong calling then to at least try to lend the pitiful creature some sort of helping hand. My husband cowered at the threshold as I ventured out on Crocs just in time to perceive the slightest motion in the tall grasses at the very back of our yard, perhaps signifying where its exit had been swiftly enacted. I did not dare to go looking out there, even to quit my elevated deck to be perfectly honest, but surveyed the scene from above and afar with a powerful halogen flashlight, obtaining a better look the following morning when the sun had risen all the way up in the sky and I had a better sense of comfort, though it took a month before I got so bold as to venture out deep into the yard without bear spray or Bowie knife readily accessible, and I doubt I’ll go anywhere near the tall grass or again tarry across the dense, old growth forests which wilden the lots adjacent to us, whose naturalistic mystery I once cherished but now cannot help sensing a certain danger in. 

        I’m genuinely considering relocating presently, though my husband scoffs at, is at this point opposed to the notion, ostensibly, and cracks wise about the phonebook-sized cryptozoology tome of I spend a little time most evenings poring over, beside the window, binoculars dangling from my neck. But that raccoon, all I recovered of it was a gnawed-up paw. Specks of gore were spattered all over our green container, across the side of the carport… Hosing it up I found a large hunk of fur which had landed on the roof. I’ve thus been pricing places in the city of late.  There was once a mystique and intrigue, wellsprings of romance and glamor on tap with simple country living, for an adventuresome young lady, couple, mother, business owner. But suddenly I feel as though I’ve outgrown those childish feelings, and yearn for a bit more development, protection, a sense of security and activity, the hum of traffic and buzzing humanity constantly passing through hither and thither. 

        The sense of tension in the silence has begun to wear on me recently. I can’t help getting a creeping irrational concern that something is watching my every move when I venture out, leave the sanctuary of our domicile, is stalking me from a distance and intends to carry me off as it did that poor varmint. I just heard a telltale soft rustling behind me, not too far off at all. My mind could be conflating what it wants to detect, jumping to conclusions that aren’t there. Still, I seem to catch that distinctive swishing sound, a pitter patter of rough footsteps that I swear is getting a little closer, braver with each passing day. 

        I hope I’m just dreaming this whole paranoid fixation up; it’s the product of boredom and an overactive imagination, too much time on an old lady’s idling hands. On the other hand, quite possibly, something is in actuality out there. For all his scoffing and incredulity, I notice my spouse steers clear of the yard too predominantly, almost religiously, past nightfall. If there’s something he needs out there, he’ll fabricate a flimsy excuse and put it off until morning hours and the sun’s reemergence.  

        I get a feeling he’ll let me convince him to put this dump back on the market, make an offer somewhere less quiet; if the ornery coot has to get in some perfunctory balking in the process, make sure it’s on record he’s leaving unhappily under protest. If we can just stay inside, proceed with caution until that juncture, things should be all right. Nonetheless, I don’t like this situation one bit. I noticed some scratches on the sill the other afternoon, and at least two or three times this week, deep into the very early morning, some activity has been setting the motion sensor-activated flood lights off outside our bedroom window…

Jerome Berglund, recently nominated for the Touchstone awards and Pushcart Prize, has previously published stories in Grim & Gilded, Bright Flash, Quibble, Paragon Press, Stardust and the Watershed Review, a play in Iris Literary Journal, and haibun in Drifting Sands, the Other Bunny, and Babylon Sidedoor.