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Issue 23: 28 April 2024
Flash Fiction: 871 words
By Marianne Kipp

Something Big


The first time she was alone in the new house, a fucking bear came into the yard and the dog went bananas and Laura didn’t know what to do. Tommy was napping—though he woke up when Billie the dog went completely maniacal at the glass slider. She gnashed her teeth and threw herself into the glass and the bear in the yard paused, cocked his head, and just went on, bumbling around before disappearing through the expanse of pines at the edge of the property. Billie whined, looking up to Laura like, “Let me at him, please, let me at him,” and Laura breathed deep, listening to the shrieks of interrupted baby sleep on the monitor. “What are you going to do,” she said to the dog. “It’s a fucking bear.”

Now, on a walk at dusk, Laura’s neighbor Roger runs out of the house with his arms up. “Stop,” he says, “back inside. There’s a lion out.” And Laura backs away, pulling the stroller and Billie, while Roger’s hands are up like he’s stopping traffic. She goes back into the garage, pushes the button to close the door, and unhooks Billie from the leash. “Shit,” she says, and Tommy looks up at her. “Da,” he says, outstretching a mittened hand. “Da,” Laura agrees.


The one time Laura saw a mountain lion was at a big cat refuge in southern Colorado. Her name was Bernice, a name she came with, a surrendered pet. Most of the cats in the refuge were like that, wild animals that people thought they could keep only to discover how wild they really were.

Bernice stalked around her enclosure, staring right at Laura and her friends. They moved about the refuge, but every time Laura turned back, Bernice was looking right at her.


Back inside, Laura pretends there’s nothing to a lion roaming the neighborhood. “This happens all the time,” she says to Tommy and Billie, through a forced smile. “Da,” says Tommy. “Exactly,” Laura says.

She floats through the first floor, checking that every door and window is locked, and at the slider, she catches herself staring out into the yard, dreading and hoping at the same time. The guide at the big cat refuge had said that mountain lions see you long before you see them. “You just met Bernice,” she’d said, “but Bernice has known you this whole time.”

There’s nothing in the yard except the grass and the trees and the darkening air. Laura thinks to call her husband, but what will she tell him? “It’s possible there’s a mountain lion in the neighborhood now, just so you know.”

“It’s not a big deal,” Laura says to Tommy and Billie. “This kind of thing happens all the time.” The dog cocks her head. “Right,” says Laura.

And then Billie loses it, lurching toward the glass, barking, growling, jumping, slapping her claws against it, and it sounds like chimes that have gone dull, whipping in the wind. Laura grabs the baby and looks at the door, but she sees nothing. She flips on the flood light expecting to see a flash of fur, or maybe reflective eyes, but there’s nothing, and Tommy grabs at his ears, crying about the dog.

“Away from the door,” Laura tells the dog, sternly, reaching for her collar. But Billie digs in, making herself firmer and heavier than she could possibly be. Laura looks through the glass, her breath caught and her blood fast, and she sees nothing.

She calls her husband before she knows she’s called him and he answers and it’s loud, lots of voices and muffled music and clanking and she can just imagine him, squinting and poking his finger in one ear as he presses the phone against the other. “Hullo, Hullo,” he says, and Laura begins to cry. “Honey,” he says. “Hon?”

“There’s something in the yard,” she says, “I think it’s a lion.”

“What,” he says, “what, I can’t hear you.” He doesn’t offer to leave the bar so he can hear her and Laura just yells into the phone, “There’s something in the yard! Something big!”

“I’ll call you back,” he says, and the phone disconnects and she thinks he probably won’t. He’ll be back to the clients or whomever he’s with, and Laura wonders if the lion is out there, watching this human, crying, holding a smaller human who is also crying, next to an animal, crying too.

“I don’t know what we’re doing, baby,” she says to Tommy, and kisses his forehead. She presses her hand against the glass, condensation wrapping her handprint. When she pulls it off, the print lingers just for a couple of seconds, before it fades away.

Billie growls and Tommy relaxes his head against Laura’s shoulder, whimpering. Laura leans down, reaching for the dog, and catches her ear between her thumb and forefinger. “There,” she says, “it’s okay.” Billie acquiesces, leaning into Laura’s leg, letting out a sigh like a human.

Outside it’s dark and Tommy says, “Da,” and Laura says, “I know,” and the dog sinks down into the carpet. It’s dark out there and it’s just the three of them, enclosed, small things in the middle of it all.

Marianne Kipp
Issue 23 (April 2024)

is a Colorado writer with Massachusetts roots. She earned an MFA in Fiction from Colorado State University and has published her work in The Massachusetts Review, the Normal School, and PANK, amongst others.

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