I live in my current apartment but instead of a U-shaped hallway around a stairwell, it has one long hallway to the back of the building with a single door leading to a back yard and patio. Some of the neighbors leave the door open, reasoning that the back yard is fairly secure. We let our pets out there.
My next-door neighbor is a movie buff who collects weird things that had belonged to the stars. She works in a law office or maybe some kind of political organization, and she isn’t home very much. I work at home so I can spend a lot of time outdoors during the day. Sometimes my cat takes walks with me.
A mountain lion had started hanging around the building. It is large and black. Sometimes it stretches out in the street or on the sidewalk outside the building. I wave my arms and yell whenever I see it. I stop letting my cat out. If he whines a lot when I go to the door, I tuck him into my shirt instead of letting him walk on his own. Soon, every outing involves seeing the mountain lion, and because we are in the middle of the city, the Park Service refuses to come and remove it.
I come home one day surprised not to see it in the street. When I get inside, I see it in the hallway, lying on the floor between my door and my neighbor’s. She is at work, and I go there to return her keys. She works in an office that circles around 2 sets of escalators and takes up several floors. She is avoiding me, and I keep catching little glimpses of her from the escalator well. The receptionist tries to track her down for me, but although she is extremely competent, my neighbor eludes her as well. Finally we speak. She says she doesn’t understand why there is a problem and repeatedly asks me to keep my voice down because she is at work. Whenever I start to give her the keys, she pushes my hand away. She talks to me for a few minutes at a time, then vanishes, then reappears, over and over.
I go back to our apartment building, still with her keys, and our hallway has been transformed into a garden courtyard. Another neighbor is crouching down, reaching out to the mountain lion, making kitty-kitty noises at it. I scream at the neighbor, grab him, and push him behind me. Then I wave my arms and yell at the mountain lion, walking toward it on tip toe. The mountain lion does not move.
I open the neighbor’s front door, and the mountain lion brushes past me, leaping into the apartment, where it finds a filthy life-size doll representing a child of about 6 years old, lying in the middle of a main room cluttered and stacked with memorabilia. The doll has human hair on its head, delicately painted features, and one remaining eye. The mountain lion rolls around in the small clear space with the doll and then drags it by an arm out of the building through the back yard and disappears.