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Bear Illegal

by BJ Bourg

Rebecca Simms sat up in the dark. There it was again! She slid out of her sleeping bag and eased to her feet. She paused to listen. Curry’s breath was slow and steady — he hadn’t heard the noise. She peered through the skylight at the top of the tent. The faint glow from the fading fire cast shadows about the campsite and made it difficult to distinguish one object from another. Something moved at the edge of the tree line. It was a dark, looming figure that swayed as it moved along the outer edges of the light.

Rebecca held her breath. Her legs trembled. She squinted in order to get a better-

“What the hell are you doing?” boomed Curry’s voice.

Rebecca squealed and the figure bolted into the depths of darkness that surrounded the isolated campsite. She sank to the floor of the tent.

Curry Simms propped up on one elbow. “What is it?”

“I saw something. It was huge.”

“A deer?”

“No, bigger.”

“A bear?”

“No. I mean, maybe. It could’ve been a bear.” She glanced up at the skylight. A million stars peeked in from the expansive blackness. Her voice trembled when she asked, “Do you think it’ll come back?”

Curry leaned forward and grabbed Rebecca’s wrist with his thin hand. He gently pulled her to him. “Baby, I won’t let anything happen to you out here.”

She scurried into his sleeping bag and pressed against his warm, slim body. She wondered what he could do against a bear. She said as much.

“I won’t let anything happen to you. Trust me.”

Rebecca sighed. “Okay. I just can’t believe I let you talk me into coming to this remote wilderness area. It scares the crap out of me.”

Curry pulled back and stared with mouth agape. “It was your idea to come here!”

“Yeah — what the hell was I thinking?”

“Just try to sleep now. We have a big day ahead of us.”

* * *

With first light came confidence. Rebecca moved out into the crisp morning air and tossed more logs on the fire. When it was blazing again, she scrambled eggs while Curry changed into his fishing clothes.

“These clothes smell like crap!” Curry called from inside the tent. “Did you even wash it since my last fishing trip?”

Rebecca moved closer to the fire and sighed as it cloaked the front of her body in its warm breath. “Of course, I did. That must be from yesterday.”

Curry stumbled out of the tent and stared down at his loose jeans and over-sized fishing jacket. “I smell like a giant trout.”

Rebecca turned her flushed face from the unrelenting heat of the campfire. “Then you’ll blend.”

Curry grumbled and stomped over to the fire. He and Rebecca sat down to breakfast and ate without talking. When they were done, they gathered the fishing gear and set off on the long hike to the fishing hole.

A mile into their hike, Curry stopped and squatted to look at something on the ground. “Look here.”

Rebecca’s gaze followed his pointing finger. There was a large paw print in the soft sand. “What is it?”

Curry pursed his lips. “You were right about last night. This is a bear print.”

Rebecca’s head swiveled from side to side. “Are we in danger?”

“No. It’s probably just a black bear, and they’re usually not aggressive.”

“Unless there are cubs around.”

“Nothing to worry about, Baby. I told you — ”

“I know. You won’t let anything happen to me.”

Curry smiled. “That’s the spirit.”

The couple reached a spot where two trees formed a large “V” over the water. “Let’s fish here,” Rebecca offered.

Curry nodded and began setting up the gear. Rebecca took a seat on a rock near the water’s edge and watched him bait their hooks.

He handed her one of the fishing poles and pointed to an overhang of trees across the creek. “Cast your line over there.”

She did as he’d suggested and settled back against a tree. He moved twenty yards to her right and cast his line into the water. He looked back at her and smiled. She nodded and turned to watch her line. Throughout the morning, she cast an occasional glance over her shoulder at the thick forest behind them. Her heart lurched in her chest each time a twig snapped.

“Damn, you’re jumpy,” Curry said, as he hauled in another fish. He removed it from the hook and dropped it in his bucket. “That makes six for me and none for you. What gives? Why aren’t you trying harder?”

“I don’t want to die.”

Curry laughed. “Relax, nothing’s going to happen.”

“Have you forgotten about the bear?”

“Listen, the only bears in this area are black bears and they rarely attack humans.”

“Well, what do we do when it shows up here?”

“If you see a bear, just remain quiet and don’t move. If, for some strange reason, it did decide to attack, just lie still and pretend to be dead. He’ll sniff you and move on.”

“Isn’t that for grizzlies?”

“It works with all bears. Trust me.” Curry’s fishing pole bent in half. He gave it a jerk and began reeling in yet another fish.

Rebecca glanced up at the sun and then down at her wristwatch. It was noon. She opened her mouth to speak, but stopped when she heard a thunderous crash in the bushes off to her right, behind Curry. She watched in horror as Curry turned, fish in one hand, pole in the other, and stood facing a large black bear. The bear reared up on its hind legs. It made a popping sound with its jaw as it glared at Curry.

Rebecca stood slowly to her feet and let her fishing pole slide to the ground. She remained frozen and watched as the bear dropped to all fours and charged right at Curry.

Curry slid to the ground and didn’t move. The fish flopped beside him, still hooked to his line. When the bear reached Curry, it raked at his body with a huge paw and then bit him across the face. Curry let out a weak, muffled cry and blood spurted from a large gash in his neck.

He struck blindly at the bear with arms that moved in labored fashion, but it had no effect. The bear bit into Curry’s left shoulder and jerked its head violently, ripping chunks of flesh from Curry’s body.

Rebecca doubled over and vomited on the rocks. When she looked up, the bear was staring at her. Blood dripped from its snout. It reared up on its hind legs. Rebecca began to back away slowly. The bear dropped to all fours.

Suddenly, a gunshot rang out and echoed through the trees. The bear staggered slightly, but began to charge Rebecca. A second shot rang out and the bear crumbled forward on its face. It tried to stand, but a third bullet smashed through its head and put it down for the final count.

Rebecca turned and her grateful eyes fell on Bill Westman’s tall, muscular frame. He slung his rifle over his shoulder and sauntered over to her. She threw herself into his open arms and he squeezed her tight.

“How’d you know?” Rebecca’s voice was muffled against his chest.

“Lucky guess.”

Rebecca pushed back and stared up into Bill’s dark eyes. “No, really?”

“Over the past six months that bear’s killed two people and attacked a half dozen others.”

“But how’d you know it would be here at noon?”

“That’s his routine. I’ve been studying him ever since you told me you wanted out.”

“This was brilliant!”

“Why, thank you, ma’am.”

Rebecca looked back at Curry’s mangled body. She shivered. “That’s the grossest thing I’ve ever seen.”

Bill nodded and rubbed her back.

Rebecca was thoughtful for a moment and then cocked her head. “How’d you know it wouldn’t attack me?”

Bill smiled. “You weren’t wearing clothes soaked in fish juice. Besides, I was watching from the trees. Had that bear even spit in your direction I would’ve dropped him on his ass.”

Rebecca sighed. “What do we do now?”

“Stick to the plan. We’ll call the forest rangers and report the accident. You’ll collect the insurance money and — ”

“I’ll fall in love with the man who slew my husband’s killer and saved my life.”

Bill nodded. “And we’ll live happily and richly ever after.”

Copyright © 2007 by B J Bourg

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