By Paul Strickland
A fateful walk in the woods
It was late summer,
and the mosquitos had died down in Canada’s forests. DEET spoiled the whole
idea of going out into Nature for fresh air, so Joe tried to avoid using it.
After all, he and Sarah wanted to enjoy each other in a natural way…
Soon they paused
along the path and lost themselves in such a passionate kiss that passersby
stared, and one even muttered, “My word!”
This is the high point of my summer, thought Joe, even better than
that wedding reception a
few weeks ago.
A sonic boom
shattered the mood. A chill like late October followed, and a few crystals
floated down. The day had turned grey and austere, the air thin and nasty.
Sarah gasped and
pointed a shaking finger. A growling grey bear was slowly shambling their way!
Joe grabbed Sarah’s
hand and walked them both backwards, thinking crazily of who might at any
moment unleash the Russian Bear upon hikers in all the world’s forests.
Even as the great
beast paused and stood on its hind legs to sniff the air, Joe’s mind skidded past
Bear Markets, crashes, and the affordable housing bust. Her family and mine consider
me a failure because I never cashed in on
the housing boom. How could I when that new general manager came in and
threatened to lay off everyone?
Joe was relieved
to reach the car before the bear, which had, luckily, lost interest. So had
Sarah, who said quietly, “Please take me home now.”
To forestall any
uncomfortable exchanges, Joe turned on the radio. Instead of news, only
crackling static came through. He tried other stations. Nothing. They approached
a cluster of RCMP vehicles pulled over at the side of the road. Their doors
were open, and one had an engine running and lights flashing.
“I hope some
criminal hasn’t escaped.” Sarah’s worry broke their silent truce. “Don’t stop!
Don’t get out!”
Joe pulled over,
got out, and tried the radio in the patrol car with its engine running—no luck.
He sat in the vehicle and leaned against the dashboard, head in hands, wondering
what to do next.
The sound of a
door slamming and an engine revving startled Joe. He watched Sarah tear off
down the road. She was a terrible driver, and he feared just as much for his junker
car as for her.
Joe closed the
door to the RCMP vehicle, and, with lights still flashing, followed Sarah, but
at a safer speed. Before long, he came across a scene that caused him to slam
on his brakes. Ringed by fallen trees, what had once been the outskirts of
Prince George ended at the edge of a blackened gorge; whatever had caused the
crater had sucked out all the oxygen because nothing had burned. The choice to
dump Joe like all the others had was out of Sarah’s hands. Reconsidering the
bear, Joe turned the vehicle around, and went to meet his destiny in his own
Paul Strickland, firstname.lastname@example.org, of
Prince George, BC, Canada, wrote BP #81’s “Big Bear” (+ BP #80’s “Excision”; BP
#78’s “Clown Attack”; BP #77’s “Spider Line”; BP #73’s “Cold Surprise”;
#71’s “Lust” and “Washed Away”; BP #70’s “Stuck in the Past”; BP #69’s
Good-Bye”; BP #68’s “Rocking-Chair Ride”; BP #65’s “The Latter-Day Knight”; and
was featured in BP #56 with “Boxes” and the reprint of “No Free Lunch”). He is
a 60ish freelance writer in Prince George, BC, who was a newspaper
reporter for 32 years, 28 of them for Canadian dailies. Born in Los Angeles,
Strickland lived in Reno, Nevada for 20 years before moving permanently to
Canada in 1981 in connection with his journalistic career. He turned to
freelance writing and creative work in the spring of ‘09, and has since
published chapbooks of poetry, essays, stories, and columns.