Bears Don’t Walk Like That
With no particular destination, we strolled toward the forest, and I took her hand. She seemed pleased, so I again congratulated myself on a job well-done. “It feels good to have nothing we have to do…and just to walk and hold hands with you again.”
Phoebe glanced at me. “I’ve missed this,” she said. “Me too.”
We continued walking, our feet crunching on dead leaves. Though it was chilly, the sun was shining, and its warmth on my face made me forget the cool breeze.
Suddenly, Phoebe stopped.
She blinked. “I think I forgot to plug in the crock pot.”
It was one of those romantic comedy movie-moments, where the sound effect is a record player needle scratching across vinyl.
Clinging to what was left of that idyllic moment, I suggested, “You can do it when we get back.”
“Yeah…but I also forgot to leave the chicken out to thaw for the Divan. We’re going to be hungry by the time we get back and the pot roast won’t be ready until tomorrow.”
I sighed and turned around.
“No, you wait, I’ll just run back and take care of it.”
“Okay,” I said, thankful for one less trip up the stairs. Mostly because the possibilities for a trip down were still a little fresh in my mind. I reached around to rub at my neck. It seemed to have healed perfectly fine. Phoebe had skittered off, doing a half-jog with both hands in her coat pockets, which made her sort of look like she had no arms.
Soon, she was out of sight, and I stood there, acknowledging the very real void her absence left. Even when she was only going to be gone a few minutes, I noticed I had this sort of yearning for her. It was disconcerting at times, and at other times, I enjoyed it. It was scary to need someone that much, but then, it was also pretty damn awesome to feel that way about someone. Phoebe had changed me so much. I used to want my alone-time more than anything, except when I wanted my sex-time. I’m sure I pissed off more than a few women by abruptly leaving them once the dirty deed was over. No cuddling for me, no siree. But with Phoebe, I was rapt. I loved to just listen to her speak, and in fact, I often didn’t hear what she was saying, because all I could do was listen to the cadence and silky tone of her voice and watch her lips move. I loved the feel of her skin, the taste of her kisses. Once I’d been with her a few times, I didn’t want to be anywhere else, with any other woman. And that was a fact that defied logic, considering my history of lusty liaisons.
But we’d gone way past that, now. We were a couple, and I was pleased it was so. I wouldn’t want it any other way, in fact.
I heard a fluffy sound and looked over into the brambles. A small white rabbit hopped along, seemingly oblivious to my presence. I watched it for a few seconds, thinking about how its fur looked so soft. It reminded me of the adopted cats we left in the care of Phoebe’s friend, Ponzi, back at home. I missed those cats–Monkey, Biscuit and Shoes. I didn’t think I even wanted them at first, but they’d managed to endear themselves to me, each with their own distinct personality.
I heard another movement, and expected to see a second bunny. Or a raccoon. But the movement was farther away. And as I located its source, I saw that the figure was quite a bit larger than Peter Cottontail. It wasn’t fluffy and it wasn’t white, either.
I blinked to help my eyes focus. It was far enough away, that I had trouble defining it. It was like those paintings that seemed to be just a collection of dots, but when you relaxed your eyes, a form emerged. And it was something that gave me a chill unrelated to the weather. Tingles spread out on my skin, not unlike an oncoming orgasm, but these tingles were born of shock and fear.
In the hovering trees of the forest edge, a swath of sunshine glinted just right, and caused a flash of it; dark and imposing, moving between the trees beyond the field. It was black and seemed hairy. A bear. Oh crap, what was all that stuff about staying downwind? What if it caught my scent? Was I about to be one of those unfortunate people running from a bear?
I could just see myself running up the stairs to the treehouse, my feet slipping out from under me and taking another fast trip to the bottom.
Watching the dark, hairy form now, I tried to remember what it was I was supposed to do. Climb a tree? Run uphill? No, their front legs were short, which meant I should run downhill. My eyes rolled around me and I was fresh out of downhills. Did I wave my arms and yell at it? Or…wasn’t there something about standing completely still? I liked that idea, mostly because it was the only thing I seemed capable of doing at the moment. I hadn’t moved anything but eye muscles since I saw it.
The beast was rummaging, and then stretching, and now seemed too tall to be a bear. Unless it was a big bear. Great. I’d heard that bears mark their territory by scratching at trees. Maybe that’s what it was doing.
But as the beast moved away, its gait seemed too fluid, somehow. And besides, I knew enough about wild animals to know that bears only walked around on their back feet in a circus, and when trained to do so.
That’s when the realization hit me.
I could see it now. Humanoid, apelike, but upright. The image popped out, and defined itself like one of those dotted optical illusion paintings, coming to fruition.
Swallowing my heart which had somehow pumped its way into my throat and was now trying to crawl out of my mouth, I remained still. The beast turned and walked toward me.
Oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck.
Was it looking at me? I think it’s looking at me. Holy mother of—it’s real. It’s a Bigfoot. The stories were true. I could see its monkeyish face, long, dangly arms. And all that black fur. What do I do? What do I do?
At that moment, the creature stopped, as if noticing me standing there.
But then it turned and strode back toward the trees, as my knees began to wobble like a marionette on a string. Tingles spread through me again, and the hair on my arms and the back of my neck stood at attention, like that evil impending orgasm, but there was no pleasure in it. I thought I would collapse on the ground. I would have fared better if some guy had come out of the woods with an M-16 locked and loaded, and started spraying bullets. At least then I would know what to do. Guy with a gun. Okay. Dive to the ground and crawl until I got behind something. If this big monkey got close to me, I’d be forced into hand-to-hand combat. And I wasn’t an idiot. He’d rip my hands off. Along with my arms. And then maybe eat my elbows right in front of me.
As the dark figure disappeared back into the forest, I took a calming breath.
I just saw Bigfoot. I just saw Bigfoot.
I drew another breath, determined to ward off the fainting spell that was about to descend upon me. A dry swallow told me there was no moisture in my mouth. I totally needed a drink. Like whiskey or moonshine. Something with bite that would immediately make my nerve endings good and drunk.
I took tentative steps around in a circle, shaking out my legs, until I learned to move my limbs again properly, and started watching for Phoebe to return.
A buzzing in my pants pocket startled me, and I tripped on a branch that jutted out of the ground, aware that the vibration was my phone. I pulled it out of my pocket and saw that it was some kind of reminder alarm. What had I set that for? Don’t forget to tell everyone you saw Bigfoot? Technology could be intuitive, but I knew it wasn’t psychic.
As I stared at the alarm, and minimized it to my home screen, where my camera app was, I realized that I could’ve taken a picture. No one would have believed me without evidence, and no one ever seemed to have enough of that, no matter how popular the idea was that this mysterious human-ape hybrid actually existed. Damn.
Releasing a disgusted breath, I poked the phone back in my pocket and turned to look for Phoebe again, my muscles suddenly very fatigued; and we hadn’t even had our walk yet.
In a few more seconds, I saw her rounding the bend, headed my way. Did I tell her what I saw? She’d laugh at me. She’d say I was just paranoid, and imagining things. She could be irritatingly rational sometimes.
She smiled as she approached, and took my hand, and we started walking again.
“I didn’t leave the stove on, but I was right about the crock pot, it wasn’t plugged in.” She glanced at me. “What’s wrong?”
“You look–” she studied me again. “You look a little spooked.”
“Oh…I saw–” Don’t tell her, she’ll laugh. “I saw another cougar. It gave me a fright.”
“Should we be walking out here?” She stopped and looked around.
“No, it’s okay. It ran away. Hattie said they would run away when they see humans.”
Same is true, apparently, for Bigfeet. Bigfoots. Bigfoot.
She clenched my hand again, and we started walking. “I also saw a bunny rabbit,” I said, afraid my stunned silence would have her asking questions again.
“Aw, I wish I’d seen that.”
“I’m sure there are packs of them out here, we’ll see another one.”
“Do bunnies run in packs?” Phoebe asked. “I suddenly pictured them in leather jackets on tiny Harley’s.” She laughed.
“I’m not sure what you call a bunch of bunnies. Herds?” I couldn’t stop thinking about the Bigfoot. I had a sudden, disturbing image of it snatching a cute little bunny off the ground and taking a bite. I closed my eyes.
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah. I’m fine.”
“That cougar really freaked you out, huh?”
“Well, it’s one thing to see pictures, another to see it in real life, that close.” Of course, I wasn’t thinking about a cougar at all, but she didn’t need to know that.
As I talked myself down into relative calm, I listened to our feet crunching leaves, and focused on her hand in mine. I noticed again, how we were walking together. Our hands seemed to fit together perfectly, and our steps were always in sync. A lover’s march.
“We should do this every year,” Phoebe mused.
“I think so, too.” Except without the Bigfoot.