Bear Training

A year ago I was married with a young son. We had a little house on the edge of the woods. If you’d asked me, I would have told you I was happy. Then the bear came, nosing around the trash cans at dusk. My wife chased him off, and I watched him gallop back into the trees. After that, I started leaving fruit out for him.

In the evening and the early morning, I stayed outside to watch him feed. Always he was graceful, wary, light in his big body. His steps were soundless. One day, I followed him back into the forest. I told myself it would be just once. But when I watched him bend his furred shoulder to drink from a stream, I knew I would be back.

I told my wife I had taken up hiking. I even took a compass and a water bottle and left them at the edge of the woods. Once I reached the trees, I walked on all fours. I stayed 20 or 30 feet behind the bear. After he tore berries from a bush with his sharp teeth, I too lowered my head into the leaves and bit. After he scratched his furry back against a rough tree, I stood up on my hind legs and did the same. I was learning to move like him, to think of myself in parallel with the ground. In the forest, I stopped wearing clothes. After two weeks, I stopped going home.

The police tried to look for me. At first I hid behind trees when they came calling. But soon I found that even when I stood before them in plain sight, they only beat sticks together, and called out, and tried to shoo me away.

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