Diane Payne’s most recent publications include: Obra/Artiface, Map Literary Review, Watershed Review, Tishman Review, Whiskey Island, Kudzu House Quarterly, Superstition Review, Blue Lyra Press, Fourth River, Cheat River Review.,The Offing, Elke: A little Journal, Souvenir Literary Journal, Madcap Review and Outpost 19. Diane is the author of Burning Tulips (Red Hen Press) and co-author of Delphi Series 5 chapbook. She is the MFA Director at University of Arkansas at Monticello.
The dogs take off running toward the lake while the woman cranks her head upward, determined to find an eagle. Any eagle. An eagle in a nest. An eagle sitting on a branch. An eagle diving into the water. Maybe Arkansas is just too damn warm to attract eagles this winter. She curses global warming. Ponders El Niño. Never considers carrying binoculars.
She remembers the dogs, then sees them by the lake fixated on something. Probably an eagle.
She heads over and sees a furry head. Definitely not an eagle. Whatever Furry Head is, she wants the dogs to leave the animal alone. She runs down the road certain the dogs will follow. They aren’t budging. The dogs know she wouldn’t take off running if she finally spotted an eagle.
She walks toward the dogs, slowly, since she’s not sure who belongs to that furry head, and the last thing she wants is for a fight to break out between the dogs and Furry Head. The woman does a little yippy-do-dah dance when she’s certain Furry Head is a bobcat. She forgets about her quest to spot an eagle, and realizes it’s the first time she’s seen a bobcat. She’s not sure if a bobcat will attack her dogs or if her dogs will attack the bobcat. They’re still engaged in the stare down.
She wants harmony.
She calls the dogs. They refuse to move. She walks closer and the larger dog starts barking at the bobcat. Then the smaller dog joins in and she realizes it’s not a bobcat, but a Cat Cat, like the four cats she has at home. She’s hysterical, begging the dogs to leave the cat alone. The cat swats at the dogs and the dogs force her off the rock and into the frigid water. Then the dogs take off swimming after the unfortunate cat who was probably trying to snag a minnow, never expecting two dogs to ruin her day. The woman has never seen a cat swim, and this cat can swim faster than her dogs. The woman steps into the frigid lake and begs the dogs to return.
The larger dog returns to shore because:
- He likes cats.
- The water is cold.
- The woman is upset.
The other dog keeps swimming after the cat, and when she tries to grab the cat with her front paws, the cat turns around and bites her on the ear. The woman is rooting for the cat. She’s awed by the cat’s tenacity.
Defeated, the dog returns to shore.
“Come back, Cat! We’re leaving. Please come back,” she screams.
She puts leashes on the dogs and drags them away from the lake. She stops, looks back, hopes to see Cat returning, but she sees nothing, just the waves gently stroking the shore, the waves she’s hoping Cat is riding. She imagines the cat standing like a surfer, and imagining this vision gives her comfort, and she’s hoping the power of imagination will make the cat appear riding a wave to shore.
The eagles remain in the trees.
The dog with the bloody ear pulls the leash hard, determined to be with the cat. The woman stops, one final look for the cat, then walks onward with a sickening feeling, no longer worrying about global warming, El Niño, the evaporating lake, the absence of eagles.
Her only thought is about the role she has played in why the unfortunate cat is out in the lake, just swimming and swimming and swimming.