I’m not known for making reasonable life choices. That’s why nobody outside was at all shocked when I entered a small, weathered barn one autumn morning to manually evict a bobcat.
It all started as we sat around a pile of Fourth Meal wrappers, engaged in the sort of philosophical discussion that only occurs when a group of undergrads stays out too late. After the nth Nirvana reference and upon the realization that, for the first time since starting college, we were about to see a sunrise, we loaded up in my ’86 Chrysler Fifth Avenue—everyone entering through the passenger’s door, since it was the only one that worked—and drove out to one of the guy’s parents’ farm.
Everyone clambered out, blinking and stretching, then stood around looking at stuff since we clearly hadn’t planned this out. His parents were out of town or at work (I don’t remember which) so, after a long three minutes, we got bored and started wandering around, throwing rocks at trees and picked the conversation back up where we left it—somewhere between Pennyroyal Tea and Negative Creep.
In the distance, across a pasture, we spotted an old barn that, to quote my friend, “isn’t a barn; it’s a bobcat den.”
In retrospect, he probably meant that to dissuade us from venturing further but it had the opposite effect. We were suddenly awake and alert, excited to go peek through the cracked-wood walls in hopes of spotting the glowing eyes of such a ferocious predator.
Someone made a joke about taking it back to the dorms. Another about dropping it off in the math department offices. Then, after a few seconds of silence as we peered fruitlessly through cracks and gaps into the darkness, someone made the not-so-bright suggestion to go inside.
Whether it was courage, curiosity, stupidity, bravado, or some combination thereof, I spoke one of the dumbest phrases my mouth could have possibly released at that moment—“I’ll go.” With that, it was settled.
My “friends” took up posts around the barn, each straining to observe, as closely as possible from a safe distance, the carnage that we were all anticipating.
I opened the door and stepped in.
There was some sort of dust floating through shafts of light that slid through the wall-cracks, only partially blocked by the muttonheads gawking outside. I took a step, then another, then my eyes started to adjust. There was a broken-down riding mower, an old farm implement, some other debris… and a bobcat.
Just for clarification, when I said “I’ll go,” I, deep in my heart, knew there wasn’t a bobcat inside that barn. You live and learn.
Someone outside, peeking through the wall behind the bobcat, must have made a noise because, all of a sudden, that thing came straight at me. Mustering my deepest lack of intelligence, I made a fist and dropped my finest haymaker on that big cat’s ear. Then I screamed like a little girl and retreated all the way to the car.