To Dine with Lions

by Thomas Dunn II

How the autumn rapes Mother Earth. It strips her of her leaves, her warmth, and her dignity. It leaves her to die in the dead of winter, leaving her to suffer in cold months. And yet, we allow this to happen every year, for we are not quite sure how to stop it. Because in the depths of our memory we know this has always happened. And we are afraid there is nothing we can do but endure these cold, challenging winter months…

As if we had a choice. As if we could see the summer sun smile the same like it did last year and the year before it. We endure this heart-wrenching, dastardly thing because when Mother Earth recovers—it is simply beautiful. When her leaves have grown back in, and when her warm smile returns, it is all worth it. It is worth the pain of watching her grow near to death to see the lion run free again, to be untamed to live life carefree. Yes—it is all worth it to see the lion grin after its fur has all grown back in after it was shaved off. It is truly worth the wait.

It was January in a Midwestern state. The snow was piled on the sides of the road, on the river banks, and anywhere else they could think to pile it. It was cold as winter usually was. He sat with his legs crossed down by his ankles, tapping a tune with his fingernails in a busy coffee shop which only meant one thing... No one could hear the tune he was tapping. His orange hat was distinctly placed to cover the fact that he had received a haircut only hours before. He was black but yet he was not proud. His flannel and straight legged jeans said it all.

 He looked about the room as a young couple walked up to the cash register. A woman whose apron looked to have no dirt or grime from a hard day’s work on it at. It wasn’t as though his motives for being here were any different than theirs. Though he told himself he was looking for something deeper, something more than just a lustful experience, he knew that in all actuality there was no difference in their motives. As they ordered two coffees, one latte, one black, he realized what he was looking for was companionship.

As they walked away from the counter, for a moment, he opened his mouth to say something. Not to them, but to the beautiful woman who was in front of him. For some reason he second-guessed himself, thinking it would be considered dull. He simply closed his mouth and didn’t say anything at all, and he waited for her to break the silence after a short laugh.

“So, where are you going to school next year?” she asked, whirling her blond hair around her fingertips. Her blue eyes focused on her cup of coffee in front of her as if she were debating whether to take a sip or not.

The door opened and the bell rang. All eyes instinctively looked toward the door, but it was no one in particular any of the people inside the shop knew, and so without a second thought, they continued their conversation. It was a dreaded question for him, though he could see the question coming. The honest-to-God truth was that he had no intention of going to college and furthering his education. But he couldn’t let her, a female he was trying to impress, know that. So he did what any normal eighteen-year-old boy does when confronted with a sticky situation… He lied.

“Well, I think I’m going to go to a community college, you know, just for a couple years. Just until I figure out what I want to do.”

 He had gotten her attention now. She stopped playing with her hair, and now her light blue eyes met his at the table. He continued, “Like I want to go to college, but I don’t know what I’m going to do, so I’m just waiting to get a good head on my shoulders before I spend a whole bunch of money.”

She laughed. It wasn’t a loud obnoxious laugh but more of a chuckle to herself, just loud enough so that she could be heard above the crowd. He smiled, thinking he had dodged the bullet. He felt a feeling of relief and so thinking he was in the clear, he asked the next logical question, “So where do you plan on going?”

She smiled softly. Her smile always killed him. Sometimes he felt as though it was the most beautiful smile on the face of the planet. He felt as though it was his duty to make her smile. As if God had put him on the planet for one reason and one reason alone. At night he would ponder this, and as his eyes moved slightly from her lips back to her eyes, he knew she knew he felt this way. She replied softly, just loud enough so he could hear her, “I plan on going to Tech for biochemical engineering. I actually went up there last weekend to look at the campus and all that. So what do you want to go into?”

The question could’ve stumped him; the question should have made him fold. You see that’s the problem with lies. If you tell one, you have to tell maybe fifteen to make the one believable. And for many that’s too much to bear. He wasn’t a good liar, though he thought himself to be. Honestly, he was a below par liar. But for a below par liar he knew what the good liars knew, that it’s important to mix a lie with some truth, so he simply told her something that was true in hopes of making the lie believable. Something that maybe he did plan on doing, something to whet her appetite so to speak, to make her swoon.

“I want to do something English related. I don’t know what though.” He had her eating out of his hand now. “I mean, I’ve always liked it. Plus I think it would be cool to write for a living.”

“Like what kind of writing do you like to do? Like do you like journalism? Or do you want to be like a linguistics writer? What interests you?”

Now in all honesty he probably should’ve came out and told her what was really on his heart. That he really wasn’t planning on going to college and all that jazz. This was the moment he should’ve clawed his way out, but he thought he was in too deep. 

A woman walked out of the coffee shop, her black coat buttoned up to the throat, her scarf wrapped neatly around her neck.

He looked at her across the table, and after a brief pause he told another lie, “Well I don’t know yet, like I know I want to write. But that’s as far as I got. I mean all those things sound interesting, but like I said, I just don’t know yet.”

“Oh I see.” Her mouth and face moved to a soft smile, and he could feel his heart stop beating. Just for a second. There was so much he wanted to say, so much he wanted to tell her. Why he was lying, for example, but he feared there wasn’t enough time to do it. He knew college was a commitment, a commitment he wasn’t ready for. But she was something he could commit to. She was beautiful, smart, and had a mind of her own, and that’s all he ever wanted in a woman. Something he could see himself committing to for the rest of his life.

“Life moves by so quickly,” he began as he looked out the window of the coffee shop onto the busy, snowy scene. The people seemed to hurry wherever they were going, and the cars seemed to be doing the opposite. “It seems like just yesterday I was crawling on the floor, eating Cheerios from a stroller, and now I’m starting the rest of my life… Going off to college… It’s crazy.”

Her smile continued to shine. Her eyes now looked out at the beautiful scene. It was as if she too wanted to feel what he was feeling. As if she too wanted to get into the same mood he was in. “Yeah, I know what you mean. It’s a good crazy though. I mean, if it weren’t crazy, then would we still do it?”

Now it was his turn to smile, but all he could do was continue to look out the window, out at the busy street.

Thomas Dunn II recently graduated from Midland High. Along with writing, he enjoys music and reading.

© Thomas Earl Dunn II, 2011