Page 68 - WCM Summer 2022
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  ascent, placing each foot carefully on wide or narrow jutting ledge. His sneakers clung to the rough stone. The sun’s heat on his back and a mild warmth from the granite felt good. Despite some mica glinting into his eyes, Gerry found crannies and ledges enough to haul himself halfway up.
“Yeah!” he exclaimed as he neared the top. Rising up another foot or so, his face came even with a dark, triangular nook. A green-striped snake sat inches in front of his nose.
Gerry pushed off the wall, plopped, and rolled to a quick stop beyond the base of the slope. He gasped, jigging up and away to the edge of nearby bushes. “Snakes! Stupid! I hate snakes!” He clutched his hands against his knees as he leaned over to breathe and soothe his pounding heart. This afternoon was getting worse and worse. “You’re OK,” he said to himself, straightening up, adjusting his cap. “You’ll find your way home. Nothing’s broken, so just . . . .”
A huffing noise beyond the bushes made Gerry whirl around, expecting to see Petey. His happy grin faded quickly. Davy Crockett he was not. What he saw was black all right, but much bigger than Petey. His mind raced. Bear! Stand still, very still! Look big, very big. Gerry felt his blood and breath drain into his knees. He felt his feet sprouting roots through his sneakers and wiggled his toes to stop it. The bear sat back on
its haunches, yawned, swaying its scruffy head. It eyed Gerry’s direction from about thirty feet away. Gerry knew that bears could not see well, but he did not want to take any chances. Bears could smell, run, climb, and this one looked able. Maybe he could wait it out.
The bear sniffed the air, waved a forepaw in front of
its snout, and made an odd sound. When it got up, it moved five feet closer, then sat again, Gerry felt like crying. All the advice his Dad had given him about bears clattered through his scrambling mind. Every muscle screamed Run! Instead, with arms outstretched, he held still then slowly, very slowly, inched backwards. If this bear was playing the bluffing game, Gerry did not want to join. Sweat trickled down his spine. The sun, now a red fireball, lit his focus on the bear.
When the bear rose again, Gerry’s feet flew, his
mind on fire. Downhill, downhill! Bears have trouble running downhill! shouted the voice inside his head and memory. He heard huffing behind. He veered
in a loop, heading for the granite slope, snakes or no snakes, and scrambled up the rocky slant to the top. Pebbles flew. The bear clambered after him, scattering leaves and stones, its size preventing an easy climb.
Frantic, Gerry moved fast! Grasses and leaves carpeted the top’s turf. Some trees spread out in an open stand. Tree, Gerry thought, panting. I need the right tree.
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