by Matthew McGovern
I stepped down from the rattling bus into a foot of slush. From there, I hopped the brown snow embankment onto the lumpy, icy sidewalk, where I trudged along.
After about forty paces, I sensed some figures following me from a short distance, close enough that I could hear their chatter. As I brushed snow from my shoulder, I looked back to see who they were: jackals in leather jackets, whom I had seen on the bus in the back row, snickering. I had observed them eyeing me back there, hungry and sleep-deprived.
I was a big piece of prey, too slow to outrun them. I resorted to other means of getting the jackals off my trail, I veered from the sidewalk into a field of thick snow. After a few long strides, I was well away from the icy path. I turned back to see them hesitate, and paw at the ground nervously in their tattered, low-top shoes.
To my surprise and delight, they started leaping in the imprints my boots had left, with a grace unbecoming of predators like them. On the pads of their feet they leaped, and I decided to lead them in a dance through the white, unblemished snow.
Something in these hyenas’ movements made me forget my fear and revel in the chase. I accented my steps with curving arcs and swings. A long bound, ten rapid steps (which called for light feet,) interspersed with one-foot hopping, then a twirl. But as I looped all the way back to the sidewalk, I realized they had strayed from the steps I had been leading them in.
Underneath a leafless tree, one jackal produced a crisp, moving tune for the other two, who pranced and pirouetted in tandem, ignoring my imprints in the deep snow. One of them hoisted the other onto his shoulders, like figure skaters, and held the position as the song subsided.
On the hard sidewalk, I clomped the snow from my boots and observed my former pursuants, engrossed. Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t contain my applause. The three heads snapped towards me, self-conscious and irate at having been led on. They began inching towards me, with hunger in their eyes, so I turned and bolted away on the uneven sidewalk.