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The Beast
by collette mcfarland 
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Man, being cooped up all winter long with a two year old is not my idea of fun. Iím so glad the snow has melted and I can get out of the house for a while. Junior was having a fantastic time as he explored the meadow while I just relaxed and enjoyed the balmy breezes and the fresh open air, provided free of charge by God. Well, I relaxed as much as I could while being vigilant of our surroundings. We lived miles from civilization but we had to be careful. Weíd had friends living nearby for a while but they wanted to put even more separation between themselves and the encroaching suburbs and moved further out where they felt they could be closer to God. We might follow them soon.

Being as far out in the wilderness as we were anything could pop up on us from nowhere and occasionally did. Most of nature avoided us but there was still the occasional unbalanced creature that thought it might be an adventure to tangle with us. We were pretty close to the top of the food chain, one scent of us and most of the forest animals scurried away. This was reassuring yet at the same time an inconvenience when we needed to hunt for food. This spring I was going to teach Junior to fish and track dinner, after all the things you learn while young stay with you for a long time. He was getting old enough to be useful and the forest creatures needed to be thinned since they were becoming so numerous that the regional food supply was diminishing endangering the ecosystem.

The birds in the trees above me went quiet. Not a good sign. That usually meant something uninvited was nearby. Darn and I was getting such pleasure from their God inspired songs. I looked about. Nothing. The wind blew from behind me so whatever was nearby was down wind. One scent of me and it would run. No need to worry. Junior trotted up and grabbed hold of my leg. I gave him some berries God planted nearby for us and wrapped a protective reassuring arm around him to diminish his concerns. Berries in his mouth gave him a sense of security. Why would I feed him if we were in danger? I needed him to stay calm. All I needed was to have to run in two directions, after an infant or towards danger, when I could just run with the infant away from danger.

Leaves rustled nearby. Whatever was coming was not worrying about being heard. And it certainly didnít have a good sense of smell. Remember I was cooped up all winter long in a home without running water, bathing wasnít a priority. And what bathing I did do was in the stream nearby. We lived pretty frugally here in the wilderness. Close to God and nature. Leaves rustled, twigs snapped, birds in the trees scattered. What a careless creature this must be. Junior started to shake while I consoled him. I was well prepared to attack, weapons in hand. I motioned for him to take cover in some nearby bushes. The sounds stopped. Nothing. I stretched up slowly, exploring the area behind the bushes.

Yikes! Eye to eye. Face to face. It was horrifying. The beast was just as frightened as I was and it smelled even more rank than we did which I hardly thought was possible. It was covered in bird droppings and dirt. Itís scant hair was awfully matted and its limbs were etched with minor scratches. It needed a good dip in the river.

I stretched my arms high above my head and roared threats out of my mouth just as I had been taught in survival classes attempting to look as intimating as imaginable. Junior stiffened; the beast dropped the berries in its hand and fled in the opposite direction the same way it had come: without caution. I snatched Junior and went in the other opposite direction as speedily as I could.

Finally when I had put what I assumed was adequate distance between us and danger I stopped to catch my breath, thank God for our narrow escape and let Junior ramble. I sat down and heaved in fresh air as I let my lungs recover. What a fright. That could have ended badly. Wilderness is definitely not for the faint of heart or non-athletic.

Out of the blue I heard Junior cry, I had let my guard down and he had wandered out of sight, and apparently into trouble. I followed the sound of his wails till I came to the edge of a cliff and there he was, on another level than I was. Down below, just out of reach on another ledge he looked up at me, not appearing injured just badly shaken. He stopped bawling at the first glimpse of me convinced that I, his mother, could solve this dilemma. Well right now I was not sharing his optimism. I sprawled out on my surface area, belly to dirt, and reached down for him but of course, just as I thought, he was just out of reach no matter how strenuously I stretched. Looking upward I prayed, "God, I need some help here".

Oh no. Down below I could see the previously mentioned beast as it stomped through the forest in our direction, again. Where did it get its wilderness training from? You could hear it for miles, wasnít it the least bit afraid of hunters? Well, at least it alerted me to the danger of its presence. I started making a racket, and lots of it to scare it away. No good. The hideous thing kept right on coming. It stopped at the base of what was now our cliff. It seemed to be evaluating the situation. Was it considering Junior as dinner? I paced back and forth on my upper level making as many threatening sounds as I could. It didnít deter Beast, as it pulled itself up a few feet to another ledge where it could reach Junior. I was frantic as I faced every motherís fear of losing a child.

The Beast was now on the same protuberance as Jun[or. I felt faint and wished I could close my eyes. The thing and Junior struggled for a few seconds till Beast got a good hold of Juniorís body and then itóit lifted Junior up towards me. You could have knocked me over with a feather. Help from God had certainly come in and unexpectedly hideous form. I quickly grabbed Junior by the scruff of his neck and took off again before Beast ascended to our summit and had us both for dinner altering my present opinion of God's mediation.

Once again after I put what I thought was a safe expanse between me and danger I plopped down to catch my breath, and thank God again. I wish I was safely back home, but wishing doesnít make things so. Now whatís that commotion? I got up on a boulder and scanned the area below me. There was yet another beast screeching incomprehensibly into the air. What ever happened to stealth? From my vantage point I also saw beast number one stumbling around, tripping over rocks and tree roots, about three miles due east of the second interloper into my space. It now occurred to me that beast number one might perchance be lost and helpless, possibly even stupid. Great. In my territory. I sat down to think this mess through. It now occurred to me that Beast actually tried to help Junior. Oh, thatís impossible, as a rule those beast donít help, but thenÖ.every rule has an exception.

Okay, I have to come up with a plan. If I am right and I donít help Beast get home Iíll never get any peace not to mention Iím getting too old for all this running. And after all, one good turn deserves another. I grabbed Junior and headed down hill towards Beast. Once I came up behind it I started a hullabaloo of epic proportions getting Junior to join in with me. Beast started running in the correct direction: away from us and towards beast number two, which it almost collided with as it rounded a smaller hill.

The two beasts seemed ecstatic to see each other, as I judged from their prolonged hugging. What emotional creatures. Then Beast number two took Beastís hand and led her away. They kept going on and on through the trees, making a racket I could hear from here, further and further till they were mercifully out of my sight. Beast number two seemed to know where he was headed. Problem solved at last. Thank you God.

No, the problem wasnít solved. These beasts know where I live now. They are expert hunters, okay, maybe not these two but some of their breed are. What if they divulged our existence to others? Theyíre the reason my friends are gone on to more isolated areas.

I scrutinized Junior and examined the facts. God had sent me a message in this lovely little get-together with the Beasts. It was time to move on. Junior deserved a chance to live to a ripe old age and that wouldnít be likely the closer civilization came, and this encounter was close enough for me right now. The only weapons I carry are my claws and tremendous weight, weapons used for contact defense: to kill food to sustain our existence and protection. These creatures carry uncanny sticks that cause death from great distances, and, at times, for no apparent purpose. What an unfair advantage they have!

I got to my feet, all four, and nudged Junior ahead of me. The birds had restarted singing now that the beasts with all their clamoring had left the region. As I enjoyed natureís symphony, provided by God Almighty, I aimed Junior onward and sniffed the wind hoping to catch a familiar scent. I guess its time to find my friends, endure their ďI told you soísĒ and end the loneliness of another winter hibernating in a cold cave with just a two year old. I prayed out loud so Junior could learn good habits and know who to trust, "God just be my guide, wherever you lead I will go."

Tune: HE LEADETH ME, Meter: LM with Refrain
1. He leadeth me: O blessed thought!
O words with heavenly comfort fraught!
Whate'er I do, where'er I be,
still 'tis God's hand that leadeth me.

He leadeth me, he leadeth me,
by his own hand he leadeth me;
his faithful follower I would be,
for by his hand he leadeth me.

2. Sometimes mid scenes of deepest gloom,
sometimes where Eden's bowers bloom,
by waters still, o'er troubled sea,
still 'tis his hand that leadeth me.

3. Lord, I would place my hand in thine,
nor ever murmur nor repine;
content, whatever lot I see,
since 'tis my God that leadeth me.

4. And when my task on earth is done,
when by thy grace the victory's won,
e'en death's cold wave I will not flee,
since God through Jordan leadeth me.

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