Inspired by the magical rock shelters and cliff dwellings of Sycamore Canyon Wilderness in Arizona I wrote a legend. My challenge to myself was to write a narrative legend, using as few words as possible, that could bring to life the story of one of these mysterious caves perched high in the rocky cliffs. I was also listening to the song “Hello My Old Heart” by the Oh Hellos a lot at the time so, if it pleases you, you can imagine that song accompanying The Legend Of The Lion’s Cave.
THE LEGEND OF THE LION’S CAVE
Mother placed the babies in a barrel under the evergreen to sleep. In the night growls and screams woke the two who cried and clung each to a small body. The barrel heaved against the trunk. The branches shook moonlight into their downy curls. Then only sounds of fur rolling in soft sand and purr of sated cats. The babies huddled together in the barrel and looked into each others eyes.
Fur tickled her nose as dappled morning light tickled her eyelids. A clumsy paw reached through a knothole and touched. A wet nose sniffed at the hole. She giggled at the nostril and it scurried off on paws in dirt.
The babies made games in the barrel with shadows of branches. Berry vines grew over the barrel and each day two plump berries fell from the vine into the babies’ mouths. The babies grew and the barrel stays bent to form. The growing cat curled up by the knothole and purred through the days. He slunk away to stalk with his pride at night.
Soon the babies were tall enough to peek out of the barrel, hungry for four berries. The shaded vine stretched from its roots in the sun where a profusion of fruit burdened its branches. Guarding the bush was a pride of sleeping lions.
Too hungry, one climbed out of the barrel and spirited to the sunny brambles, filling her pockets with berries. Her skirt clung to briars that dragged along the flank of a beast. It ate her beating heart. The baby in the barrel crouched low and quiet. She was alone with two berries.
Each day the baby quieted her heartbeat and watched the branches make games with the shadows. She ate one berry and put the other through the knothole for her baby outside. It fell on the grown lion sleeping in the sun. He awoke and walked to the canyon with the berry on his back.
One night it rained and the barrel filled with water. The baby put her nose to the knothole, but the flood overwhelmed her. The barrel tipped onto the sleeping lion and the pride circled. Teeth and tongues were naked and glinting. The lion sniffed the baby and gathered her scruff. He dragged her out of the pride and toward the canyon.
When the rocks made her arms bleed he lay down and rolled her onto his back. She clung to the fur and buried her face from the enormous sky.
At the canyon’s mouth he dug her a cave. He placed her inside and spread his body against the wind.
Fur tickled her nose as morning light tickled her eyelids. A monstrous paw reached into the cave and touched. She screamed and the lion scurried off on paws in dirt.
She peeked from the cave. The canyon overflowed with ripe berries. The lion put his head low and closed his eyes.
She ate in the sun while the lion slept. She slept in the night while the lion stalked. Her one heartbeat echoed loudly.
On the coldest day he shivered. She walked across the dirt. She gathered his scruff and led him to the cave. They made games with the shadows.
A new pride had plenty.