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It always starts the same: I get out of the Jeep and throw away the key. It’s almost dark but I can still
see them. They’re scattered all around me, basking on a hillside that overlooks an endless plain. One
of the males struts over: I told you last time you couldn’t come back here. I won’t protect you anymore. This is the last time, Daniel. I mean it. Next time we’ll eat you. I can’t count how many times he’s said something similar, how many times he’s roared in my face then gone back to sleep. But this time I notice he’s missing teeth and his ribs are starting to show. The grass is gone. Bare bones are scattered across the cracked clay. I realize a lioness is circling me. She crouches and we lock eyes. It’s a good thing this is
the part where I wake up. Lightning cracks and rain curtains the sky. That’s my cue. I sit up panting
and drenched in sweat. My wife rolls over. Lions this time? She can always tell. You yell when it’s bears,
she says, which makes sense: They’re more afraid of us than we are of them. But not the lions.
They’re hungry, I tell her. I can’t go back empty-handed. They’ve already finished what I brought last week.
About Isaac Rankin
Isaac Rankin lives in Charlotte, NC, where he works as a financial adviser. His poems, creative nonfiction, and short stories have appeared in the Indianapolis Review, Potomac Review, William & Mary Review, and other places. His first collection of poetry, Wonderings, was published by Main Street Rag Publishing Company in 2022.