I've always wondered what I would do if I stumbled into a bear's path, and now I know: I'd run like hell. I know, I know, we're not supposed to run with bears; we're supposed to play dead? Is that right? I really need to look that one up.
Behind our house is The Woods. In the woods we have a composting bin, and because I'm lazy I often end up dragging my sorry bum up the hill, full bucket o' scraps in hand, late, late at night.
Before I continue, let me just say that it's incredibly dark here at night. You know the kind of dark when you're camping, and you have to pee in the middle of the night, but it's so dark you can't see your feet, so you just decide to hold it 'til dawn? It's that dark.
I don't take a flashlight with me up the hill, though, because I'd have to get it out of the closet, and the bin's just that side of the trees, and I just dash in and dash out.
So tonight I head up the hill, squint into the darkness and see nothing, so I lift the compost lid, toss in a moldy watermelon, and turn toward the house. That's when I hear it: the giant growl of a big, hungry bear.
Oh, did I run. There was no thinking involved. Down the hill, down the steps, up the back porch, listen listen listening for the stomp of paws behind me, smack the screen door and in the house.
Inside, I was all a-flutter. My legs were wobbly, but I managed to zip to the window and turn on the stadium light R's parents installed for just this occasion, waiting for a glimpse of the beasty.
You're probably wondering about the storybook picture? It's one of Buckaroo's top five faves right now, and I've got the whole thing memorized. Buckaroo's favorite page is: "BOOM BOOM BOOM the Big Hungry Bear will stomp through the forest on his big hungry feet and SNIFF SNIFF SNIFF find the strawberry. . . " I have to read those lines to him at least ten times before I'm allowed to turn the page. I get to the sniffing, and he signs for more, more more.
The great thing about the story, if you don't know it, is that the bear doesn't really exist, and that's my favorite part. He's just a ploy to get the mouse to share his red, ripe strawberry. That's what I'm thinking about while I'm staring wide-eyed into the night from my bedroom window watching for the flash of eyeballs, and that's when it hits me: The sound I heard wasn't the growl of a bear at all; it was the sound of the lid on the compost bin closing slowly, dragging itself against the inside of the bin, pushing out the air as it shut-- very growly-like.
No bear, just like the story, but I couldn't convince my knees. They shook for ten minutes. So, I think I'll take a flashlight next time.