The Bear

Working on this. It started as a memory and then evolved. I know there are errors, but that’s what writing is all about.

Above, the clouds parted and in the centre was blue sky. He glimpsed at it for only a millisecond before it was swallowed once more.

The rain fell intensely. He stood there in the middle of the dirt road in a green t-shirt and navy blue jeans. His clothes were heavy but he continued on his way back to the cottage.

Moments earlier, he was made frozen by the appearance of a black bear. It darted out suddenly, on a long stretch of road; on either side was farmland, but there were emerald green forests, too.

Only cottage owners, who on weekends made the long pilgrimage from the city to their lake front properties, used the road. This was a weekday.

He lived alone at the cottage, after a long winter in the city. During the early afternoons, he enjoyed the five-kilometer walk from his front door to the end of the road because it was, he thought, a clean, brisk march with plenty to inspect.

At times, he would cross paths with someone, and they would nod their heads at each other and carry on, but this was rare; people around these parts kept mostly to themselves.

This day was no different. He was out for a walk, before the rain began to fall, with his cigarettes. The morning had been muggy, and when he started out there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Now he is shaking from the chill brought on by the rain as he moves briskly. Maybe it is the bear.

Never before had a dangerous animal confronted him so quickly. He was midway on the grit road when like a shot the bear appeared from the shrubs.

When it reached the gravel, it looked up at the rain and then, they made eye contact. He couldn’t help but notice the bears wet fur, jet black.

He had read somewhere once about what to do if one encountered a black bear, who were common in this area of Ontario. He was supposed to make himself appear bigger. He was supposed to scream at the top of his lungs. On the other hand, maybe it was that he was to sing at the top of his lungs.

In years prior, when out on the road he thought about how he would react if he came face to face with one of these wild creatures. At night, when on the porch he could hear the coyotes croon. Sometimes he had visions of himself running away, of trying to jump a fence at one of the farms, and at times, he saw himself desperately climbing a tree as the bear, or coyotes, mercilessly dragged him down.

In any case, he did none of these things, for he was in shock. Usually when the bear activity in the area is higher than usual, the neighbours are on alert and warn one another. Sometimes they call the park rangers at the Balsam provincial park nearby to help locate and trap a particularly worrisome bear and relocate it.

Seeing as he kept mostly to himself these days he hadn’t thought of asking anyone on one of those weekends they were up. It is funny what one sees in times like these. His mother’s flaxen hair, as it drifted in a summer breeze. His father’s cracked hands, as they chopped wood.

Inside this moment, there are things he would now like to know. Things he had not bothered to ask before. Like his ring size, his mother’s ring size, the hour that he was born.

“My dad’s middle name, your favourite song,” he whispered, as droplets of rain fell from his lips.

Then he began to wonder what the bear thought of him, if anything, as they locked eyes. It was standing now, on four legs, calm, gently turning its head from side to side, observing its surroundings, before slowly walking back into the forest.

He watched as it returned to nature, restlessly passing through the flora, until it disappeared from his view.

His legs began to move again, forward, back home. He encountered no one so couldn’t explain what it was that he had experienced. The rain continued, blurring the path ahead and he could see, on the property near the bend in the road, some wild turkeys who upon hearing his footsteps ran and then flew away.

Eventually he reached his front door, the porch protecting him from the pellets that grew stronger, a thunderous rapture could be heard in a distance. A spark of lightning illuminated the darkened sky in the hue of a red grapefruit.

He thought about the bear. He wondered if the bear thought about him. Maybe unlike him the bear was alone, but not lonely.

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