August. Time to sit back, drink some lemonade, and enjoy the dog days of summer. This month, we have an assortment of subjects and styles, a great mix of flash fiction certain to entertain. Enjoy.
I Saw a Bear Today
By Sean Sweeney
I had never seen a bear in all the long years I had lived in this sleepy British Columbian town. It had turned into something of a running joke. Wherever I went, whether it be the supermarket or even to Town Hall, people snickered behind my back.
"There she goes," they would all say, "the only person here who has never seen a bear. God pity her."
It's true. It's all true. I usually bristle whenever the hands cover the mouths and the voices carry a lot further than they should, but after about thirty years, I started to let it roll off my back.
That is, until my five-year-old started in on it.
"Mama, you haven't seen a bear? You're kidding me!" he would say at the dinner table. When your five-year-old starts ribbing you about this, you know it's a problem, one that needs to be corrected at the earliest opportunity.
Before I continue any further, let me explain certain criteria as to what "seeing" a bear entails. It has to be in the wild. Going to the zoo and taking a peep at a bear doesn't count with these people. Even though they are about the same consistency, frost heaves are a yes, damp cement a no. I had to see the bear in person, and because of my status as the only resident not to see a bear — my five-year-old saw a baby bear near his preschool, so we let it slide — I needed photographic evidence to confirm my sighting. Simply couldn't say, "I've seen a bear!" because these people would see through the bullshit right away. They're sly fuckers like that, don't you know.
I decided that tonight would be the end of my bear-less days. After the five-year-old was tucked into bed and a story told to him — he's been keen on Imogen Rose's Portal Chronicles lately — I steeled my nerve when Pau, my white Bichon Frise, readied himself for his nightly walk. I bundled up, leashed Pau, then headed out with a camera around my neck.
I have nicknamed Pau the Great Grizzly Hunter. I don't know why, but the name just sticks. Maybe it's because he pulls me along as if he's caught the scent of a bear, and he wants his mama to see it so the derision will stop. He's such a good boy, even though he's a fraidy cat sometimes.
We walked on.
I could see my breath unfurling from my mouth, a curtain of gray rising upward to the sky. Pau's head was low to the ground, and his tail wagged away. I could hear the telltale signs of sniffing. Late at night in this town, in the dead of winter, one could hear the snow tinkling off the ground. The air smelled pure, untouched by pollution from below the international border. I shivered. This heavy coat wasn't doing its job. Pau freaked. He started barking his little bark, then began pulling me further and further away from my house. The sounds of my booted feet crunching snow came rapidly.
"Pau, hold on, boy!" I said. The force he used to pull me along had the collar straining around his throat, and his breath came in labored gasps. "Heel, Pau. Heel!"
He paid me no heed. He continued. I was running by this point. I knew that when I got home, I'd be a shivering, sweaty mess, while Pau would curl up in his doggy bed in front of the TV.
Soon, we entered a long grove of pine trees. While I tripped and fell flat on my face, Pau skidded to a halt, one that kicked up snow and sent it flying toward two large tree trunks.
Only they weren't tree trunks.
I looked up, snow falling from my face in huge clumps. Looking down at me, I could see from my worm's eye view, was the largest bear that I've ever seen.
Well, you get the idea.
My breath, along with my voice, were lodged in my throat, even though my mouth was open. I tried to form words. The bear, too, tried to form words in its bear language. It think Pau and I startled it.
I tried to get up so that I could get a picture of this behemoth, but my body couldn't move. I was as close to petrified as one can get.
Then Pau started barking. He's a pain in the ass, but he's mine. At this point, I didn't want anything to do with him.
That set the bear off. A deep roar came out its gut. I felt the breeze ripple my hair.
I found my body could move now. I got up as fast as I could, and with a quick tug of the leash, Pau ran ahead of me.
I didn't look back. I didn't want to know if there were several hundred pounds of scary bear flesh coming after me. I ran as if my life were about to end, and I was pretty sure that it would had the bear taken up the pursuit.
But it didn't. Thankfully, it didn't. I don't know why-after all, here I was, a free meal for him or her and the cubs, but I didn't ask questions. I just did what any normal person would do in my situation. I quickly high-tailed it out of there, kicking up snow as I tried to save my skin.
I hoped I hadn't peed my pants.
By the time I got home, my heart rate had skyrocketed. I could feel the sweat sliding down my back. My clothes were sodden. And I was shaking. Let's not forget that part. Shaking was a part of this.
Yet I had seen my bear. After so many years of not seeing a bear, I happened to come across the biggest bastard in British Columbia.
I couldn't help but grin.
Wait until the gals at the poker emporium hear about this, I thought.
Sean Sweeney is the author of fourteen novels, including his latest, Cold Altar. Born and raised in North Central Massachusetts, Sweeney has written for several newspapers and radio stations. When he is not writing, he enjoys playing golf, reading, watching movies, enjoying the Boston Red Sox, the New England Revolution, Arsenal F.C., Gold Coast F.C., and playing with Caramel the Wonder Cat. For more information about Sean, visit his website.