by Jake Christie

BEAR.
a story.

You're supposed to do something if you encounter a bear, but Tim could not for the life of him remember what it was. He thought he remembered being told in Boy Scouts that you should curl up in a ball and play dead, but he also thought he saw on a nature show that you should make yourself as tall as possible and hoot and holler and bang together pots and pans. He knew that one of these was definitely a better idea than the other, but the giant black bear towering over him on his hind legs, paws raised high, fangs bared, was making it very hard to decide which one.

Necessity being the mother of invention, Tim decided to go with a radical third choice, a choice that he was sure hadn't been recommended by anybody, ever.

“Please don't eat me, bear,” he said.

The bear roared and raised himself up taller, if that we even possible. Tim could smell his breath, the much and mud matted in his fur. Tim clenched his fists, dug his fingernails into his own palms, and stood still.

“I'd really rather not be eaten, bear,” he said. He tried to keep his voice calm, reasonable. “Please don't eat me. I wouldn't eat you.”

The bear took a step backward, which Tim thought was a good sign, then stepped forward and came down on his front paws, his nose four or five inches from Tim's face. Tim reconsidered his stance on signs.

The bear raised a mighty paw. Tim closed his eyes. His life didn't flash before his eyes, so he made up something more heroic, involving valor in combat and sexual conquest. The bear roared and heat washed over Tim's face, and the heavy paw came down on his shoulder.

Tim waited for his knees to give way, to collapse under the weight of the bear's animal force, but the paw just rested there. He opened his eyes.

“Buddy,” said the bear, “nobody's ever asked before.”


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