Muriel and the Lion’s Den – Amy Fant
It wasn’t that Muriel wanted to be in the lion’s cage so much as she simply wanted to feel the lion—to wrap her arms around his giant neck and smash her face into his downy mane.
She’d tried other ways. When she was eight, she convinced her parents to buy her the plumpest yellow tabby she had ever seen. Luna would follow her around, sleep on her stomach until dawn, when she would purr Muriel awake. Muriel brushed and squeezed her, pushing her nose under Luna’s chin to smell her dry feline-ness. Once, when Muriel gave a presentation on lions in seventh grade, she studied Luna for two hours as she plodded around the yard and napped on the steps. Carnivorous, she wrote in her notebook margins. Rodent, sparrow, crickets. Until the dusty afternoon when she was seventeen and buried Luna behind the rusting station wagon, it was a conciliation of sorts.
The August of her first year at college, Muriel decorated her dorm-room walls with pictures of Luna, fattened her bed with a four-foot velveteen Asiatic lion. When she heard that the Bronx zoo welcomed three new cubs, Muriel wrote them letters, sending pictures of herself and signing each, From your pal, Muriel.
But soon she needed more. When she got her own apartment, Muriel drove 300 miles to pick up two eight-week-old Maine Coons. On the way home, Muriel gave them free reign to bumble over the car seats and nip sweetly at her elbows. They ravaged her tiny apartment, left hair on the love seat and bite marks on the table’s plastic corners. Muriel would put on jazz and dance the cats around the room one at a time, two feet on hers, paws in her hands. She would plop on the floor, cooing, and they would pounce atop her lap, stretching their long blonde bodies until she was covered with them.
And that was that.
Until today, when Muriel stood outside the lion’s cage, fingers whitening as she gripped the fence. The morning visitors and children whose parents’ hands were too slow to cover their eyes described it in colors: black and yellow and hectic red. But also in a sort of grace—the way Muriel had recovered from the jump from the fence, pushed her blouse sleeves to her elbows, and walked forward towards the lion, two arms extended.