The Path of Curiosity
by DAMON D. BREWER
The cold north wind blew the snow into our house, when the the door came open that winter night a couple of years ago. I got up to close the door and saw the ground was covered with snow except for a narrow winding path leading away from the door–leading toward who knew what. Shawn and Tuane, my two boys and I each have a bit of a curious nature; therefore, we knew immediately that we would have to find out where that path led and if it held any excitement for us. Excitedly we grabbed flashlights and were off to see what we could find. First one of us would lead the way and then another would. We were looking for fun and excitement.
We thought surely there would be excitement of some sort along that path as it led us into the woods and out of sight of the house. We were right; it held much excitement, but we did not yet know that. We saw some fresh ‘coon tracks and a couple of deer tracks as well. We had not planned to do any hunting, so we had brought neither gun nor dog with us. We all carried pocketknives–not that we expected to need them that night, but we always carried them with us. We decided to try and get a closer look at the deer. We could tell by the size of the tracks that it was a big one, and we wanted to know if it was a buck that we could hunt when the season opened in a couple of weeks. We quit talking and walked on in complete silence hoping to catch it still grazing in the meadow just ahead.
As we walked along, we suddenly heard what sounded like a woman screaming–we stopped and listened closely. The deer had been forgotten now. There were no houses in the direction that the scream came from, so we had an idea that it might be a panther. We were not too worried about it, because we had not heard of anyone seeing a mountain lion in that area for years. Naturally, we thought that they had all been killed or driven away.
I reached into my pocket and felt my knife and as I did, I noticed the boys reaching into their pockets as well. The blade on my knife was only about two inches long, which is about the length of the boys knives too. Really, they were not long enough to do any real damage if it was a mountain lion and it should attack–not that it was likely too, because even if it was a panther it was still a long way off. As I felt the knife in my pocket, I heard the scream again, and my fingers instinctively closed around the steel and pulled it from my pocket. I saw the boys open their knives at the same time that I opened mine. When I saw them open theirs, it made me feel kind of foolish, so I started to close the knife and put it back in my pocket. Before I could get it closed, however, a really loud piercing scream almost deafened all of us as the panther came rushing straight at us with its fangs bared and snarling its contempt for us, and its hatred for all mankind in general.
We all saw the cat at the same time, and we first thought we have to run for our lives. I am not as young as I used to be and am not very fast anymore–not that any of us thought we could outrun a panther, but we had to try. Shawn is long legged and would have had the best chance. Tuane is shorter, but he is 30 years younger than I am; therefore, he would have a much better chance of getting away than I would. I ran a short distance then felt a swipe of the panther’s claws across my back. I turned and swung for all I was worth. It was a wild swing of the knife, and I really did not expect it to hit anything. I was surprised to feel a thud, as I hit the cat in the side. The panther gave another fierce scream and came at me again. I quickly raised my left arm to protect my throat and face as I swung once again. That swing caught nothing but air, so I was surprised to hear the cat scream again as it turned away from me and toward some new threat.
I turned to see why the cat had turned away from me. I saw that Shawn and Tuane both had attacked the cat. Now, I waded into the fight alongside the boys. The ones being attacked were now doing the attacking. All three of us were attacking the cat at the same time. The cat was letting go its blood curdling screams, but it would be hard to tell whose screams were louder the cats or ours. I am happy to say that Shawn and Tuane came out with no deep cuts that left any scars before the panther turned tail and slunk away–not because we were winning the fight, but I suspect because one of us got lucky and plucked out an eyeball. We saw the eyeball laying there on the ground as we started back to the house. The three of us are still a curious bunch, but our curiosity had been satisfied for that night. We did not know or care where that path of curiosity led; we only wanted to go home and tell our wives of our adventures, while we licked our wounds.
A note from the author:
About this piece: I wrote this fictional story a couple of years ago. I do have boys with those names, but other than that the story is mostly fiction.