New Bear Scent – Just In

An acorn, hanging by a thread, let loose and fell swiftly to the ground, where it bounced off the dried oak leaves left over from spring.  It hit a rusty rim, and rolled to a stop. At the same time, at the local gas station with the green and yellow sign, a striking  woman of thirty years, with fire red hair, signed a form and paid a fee, walked across the street, and ordered a tap beer.  A convoy of three vehicles, two fishing boats, a pop-up trailer, and two couples celebrating their 20th wedding anniversaries, was driving north, leaving their city life behind.  The sisters in the minivan were giddy with the weekend that lay ahead, and laughed at the sign that read, “New Bear Scent - Just In,” as they passed through Lake Tomahawk. “Oh, I must have some of that.  It’s all the rage!” said the driver. “Oh, me too, me too.  Who doesn‘t have that?  I wouldn’t be caught dead without it daaahhling,” said the sister in the passenger seat, and batted her lashes. And a four and a half year-old black bear rolled over in a bed of pine needles, belched and then stretched, as he looked about his quiet surroundings deep in the north woods, on an uncharacteristically warm September evening. The convoy turned into its reserved campsite in the State Forest and the occupants  set up camp. They sat around the rusty rimmed fire pit, staring at the orange and blue flames, crackling in the night.  The blue cooler with the white lid creaked every time it opened. The couples toasted life, love, happiness, and peace on earth, several times. They peed in the woods, several times. They crawled into their screened in sleeping quarters, listened to the loons, and drifted to sleep.  An acorn fell.  It bounced off the roof of the pick-up truck, and rolled into the woods. The woman with the fire red hair rose to a sunny morning at her apartment above  the bar. She walked across the street to the gas station with the green and yellow sign, and, in the convenience store, poured a cup of coffee. The black bear was asleep in the shade of the pines.  His stomach full, after a prosperous night in the creek. A fire made of egg-stained paper plates and glowing coals smoldered, as loons called across the lake and coffee perked on the gas stove.  An eagle circled, then landed on the white pine above camp. He flapped his wings and flew away.  The campers pointed in awe. Two boats sped off, campers in tow.  The day was spent casting lures, casting lures with minnows, and then casting lures with leeches.  The fish lines arced out of the boats and hit the clear lake with soft ker-plunks. The woman with the fire red hair walked to Vince’s Sporting Goods. The black bear slumbered, snores muffled by the pine needles, barely moving to swat a pest of a fly. The couples were high above the lake, their fishing boats beached below. The sun was readying to set, as shish-kabobs sizzled on the gas grill. They flashed digital photos, and sent texts to anyone who cared. The loons called out, and the sisters peed on the perimeter of their site, in the nearly deserted campground. “Isn’t this fun?” one said as she squatted. “Yes,” the other one laughed, in the same position. It was black out when they went to bed.  The night sounded of snores, an owl hooting, loons calling, a crackle from the fire, another owl. An acorn fell and bounced off the camper.  It rolled down the steep embankment. There it lay with hundreds of others trapped in a pocket between two boulders. The woman with fire red hair stared in the mirror as she put on her black framed glasses.  She changed into her blaze orange vest and sat at the edge of her unmade bed to lace up her boots.  She took a drink of lukewarm coffee in the Styrofoam cup, set it on the dresser next to several empty cups, pulled her hair into a ponytail, twisted it, and stuck it under the blaze orange cap. The black bear sat up when his stomach growled. The woman’s uncle, whom she adored, with the scraggly beard and bloodshot eyes, picked her up at 10:30 P.M. “Here,” he said. “What is it?” “New Bear scent.  Just in.” She rubbed some on her wrists and behind her neck, and turned to tell the dogs in  the bed of the truck to shut-up. They drove down highway D and got out at the exit.  The two followed the dogs into the black woods, shot-guns at their sides. The fire snapped once in the deserted rusty rim.  A loon called.  An owl hooted.  A snorer in the camper was nudged.  He obediently rolled on his side.  An acorn fell.  It bounced off the gas grill and rolled under the picnic table. They heard barking dogs that barked, and barked, and barked.  The loons were quiet.  No owls hooted. The fire no longer crackled. The dogs barked, and barked, and barked.  The campers tossed and turned, and hit their pillows with their fists to fluff them. The dogs barked, and barked, and barked, as the campers wove in and out of dreams. There were three gun shots, silence, more barking.  The campers fell back to sleep as daylight broke. The men went fishing.  The sisters took hot showers in the building and arrived  in town wearing lip stick and skin that tingled from peppermint soap.  They purchased firewood, ice, and hot coffee at the gas station with the green and yellow sign. “Move over,” yelled a scruffy guy, covered in splashes of mud and blood.  “Let a man get a cup of coffee here.”  He winked a bloodshot eye and grinned with tobacco stained teeth. “It’s all yours,” said a sister, smiling as she stepped away from the carafe. “Hey, it’s empty!” he screeched. “Try the other one,” she said pretending anger. A girl with fire red hair adjusted her black-framed glasses as she signed a form at the counter, causing a bottle-neck of customers in a jagged line. The scraggly guy called out to anyone who would listen, “Finally after five years, she got her bear.  Just tagged him a couple of hours ago. Yep, he’s out in the pick-up. He’s about four and a half years old.  A big one.  Goes 268.” “I heard three shots,” said a sister to the man. “You did?  That was us.  Got him down off highway D, just before dawn.” The woman with the fire red hair spoke. “These were my favorite boots,” she announced, and looked down at her feet.  They were covered in mud, and one sole flopped loosely. “Congratulations,” said the old guy at the cash register, trying to navigate through the paperwork. He looked over his glasses at the gathering customers. The sisters paid, and went out the door into the sunshine. “Come and see,” the scruffy man waved to them.  He stood tall next to the still, black, furry beast, now a prize draped across the tailgate.  A large paw hung over the side.  A trickle of blood congealed on his mouth.  His eyes were closed, and his big black nose did not move. A crowd of gapers, including the sisters, came and went. They drove back to the campsite with their Styrofoam cups. The sister at the wheel said, “You don’t think those barking dogs had anything to do with that poor bear, do you?” “No,” replied the passenger.  “I think the dogs were on the other side of the lake.  You know how sound travels over lakes.” “Maybe.”  She turned on the blinker. “But I think those two had hunting dogs along and they chased that bear up a tree. They just stood there and shot him out of it. That’s what I think.  That bear is probably glad to finally be dead.” On that bright morning, with that vision clearly in their minds, they made bloody Mary’s, and painted their toenails pink, next to a smoldering fire of paper towels, some kindling, and leftover coals.  They went fishing, praying not to catch any. That night the blue cooler with the white lid creaked.  The campers went to bed and the loons called. On the way home the next morning, after a good night sleep, the convoy passed a gas station with a green and yellow sign. The woman with the fire red hair walked into a taxidermy shop where the owner let out a whistle.  “You’ve got a fine one, missy.” Deep in the woods, an acorn fell out of an oak.  It bounced off a bed of soft pine needles where a four and a half year old black bear used to sleep, and rolled to a stop.  

4 responses to “New Bear Scent – Just In

    1. It’s true you did have an advantage on knowing the outcome of the story but I couldn’t change the ending just to surprise you. It wouldn’t be fair to the others.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Send Millie a Message!

Inspired by the blog, a story, or an artwork? Don't hesitate to contact Millie to discuss a writing or creative work or just to have an enthusiastic conversation about the world!

Get in touch

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.