Mr. Bear

   “There was a very large black bear on the porch just now,” says Tim as I flail up the hill, back from a jog. “Sniffing at the crate of food. Much bigger than the last bears.”

I’d heard heavy movement while I was sitting inside earlier. I’d thought it was Tim stopping by while he carried out the daily water tests. More likely it was my new neighbour, Mr. Bear. “About 350lbs, I’d say. I was scrambling for the digital camera, but he’d gone by the time I found it. Just ambled up shitter path and into the woods.” (Up here, people say “shitter”, not “outhouse”. It took weeks for my delicate sensibilities to adjust. I swear like Colin Farrell, but such frankness is a different thing entirely.)

We carried all the dry food over to the staff pantry. The wooden dumpster outside the kitchen door was hacked and splintered–bear damage, new since the morning. It was my pungent, fermenting squid guts that drew him, and I felt slightly guilty. It wasn’t the season for problem bears, though, right?
   “Depends. Berries are gone. The campground is empty, no more garbage. Things are starting to get harder, and that sometimes makes for a problem bear. He seemed pretty shy, though, scooted pretty much as soon as he saw me.”
I quizzed Tim. Could he get into the cabin? Under what circumstances would he find me irresistible enough to want to? What should I do if he came back? What about walking back from the kitchen at night? What kind of doors can he open? How tall was he? Taller than me? Taller than you? Where do bears sleep at night? How big is his territory?
   “Just look left and right before you stroll out onto the porch,” said Tim. “And don’t keep food or dirty dishes in there.”

Now I shout “Hello Mr. Bear,” whenever I step outside. I hope I’ll see him. I hope he won’t be the last thing I see.

2 thoughts on “Mr. Bear”

  1. A conversation had during a field-geology camp in Montana:

    “Yeah, a senior student came around one of these ridges a few years back, face to face with a bear. She screamed, turned around, and ran.”

    “What’d the bear do?”

    “Screamed, turned around, and ran.”


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