by David Reichart
Copyright 2012 David Reichart
All Rights Reserved
A car wound its way along a scenic highway in Pennsylvania’s Appalachian foothills on an unseasonably warm November day. It slowed abruptly when it approached a strange one-story wooden structure that seemed out of place in the pleasant wilderness setting. It was bright yellow, trimmed in red and littered with signs, many of them flashing furiously, demanding that no one pass by without stopping. It was Loony Larry's Roadside Fireworks Outlet and Souvenir Emporium, and it had snagged another car.
The driver, a man in his mid-30's, got out slowly and then paused by the front fender to stretch and roll his neck. His wife came around and kneaded his shoulders with both hands as they watched their 10-year-old daughter and five-year-old son run toward the building.
“Slow down!” the man yelled. He looked at his wife. “What's that by the door—a cage?”
The woman squinted. “Yeah, what is that?” It didn't take long to get an answer.
“Daddy, look!” the little girl yelled. “Cougars!”
“Don't get too close!” her mother shouted. She and her husband ran toward the building.
“Wow,” the father said. “I wonder where they got these.” A full-grown cougar and her cub lay panting on the straw floor.
The mother frowned. “They shouldn't be in a place like this...in a cage like that.” An old man was sweeping near the door, and she happened to catch his eye for a second. “They look pretty healthy, though,” she added.