Page 69 - WCM Summer 2022
P. 69

  He streaked for the nearest one that seemed big enough to hold him, with few lower branches. Desperation drove his shinnying up the trunk into the upper limbs. He sucked air in hard wheezes as the black bear lumbered to the base of his unsteady perch. It two-stepped below him, grunting and puffing. Dead leaves cracked under its paws. Rearing, it grasped the tree trunk and shook it. It tried to climb but dropped down to the ground on all fours, looking up at him. All cautions melting away, Gerry bobbed in the branches and shrieked, “Get away! Get out of here!” Distant gunshots answered. He hung on tightly, shouting. “Somebody, help me!” Maybe the hunters were close enough to hear.
The bear tried to push the tree over. “Hey!” Gerry hollered, and the bear sat down, still gazing up. Their eyes met. It seemed to growl “hey” right back at him, but Gerry was not amused. For about the tenth time that day, his cap lay on the ground. He just wanted to go home. From up here, he could see scattered roofs and plumes of chimney smoke in close distance. He saw the route he needed to go. The sun was sinking toward the horizon. More gunshots popped, closer now. Snuffling and digging at the ground, the bear reared one more time. It reached toward him with a paw swipe, and rattled the tree trunk again. Gerry snapped off dead twigs from his perch and threw them at the bear. He ferreted a peanut butter cracker pack out of his pocket to throw next. He knew he should stay motionless, but his fear told him to react. Distract. He could be here a long time.
Sudden breaking, splitting sounds scared Gerry into thinking his branch was snapping off until he saw the antlered buck rushing through nearby trees and swerving down a side path off the hill. The bear shifted, smushing his cap. It snorted, grumped, and loped off in the direction of the buck.
Gerry gulped air, afraid to think that he was actually out of danger. He knew he should wait awhile, but his heart was not in it. Sliding and jumping off his perch, he scooped up his cap and hightailed it in the opposite direction, the right direction. His legs pumped him over roots, logs, stones and leaves. He ran and leaped like the buck. When he vaulted a ditch onto a dirt road, he slowed down enough to breathe better. He had his bearings now. He was on the next lane over from his house, and could shortcut through crabby Mrs. Henderson’s yard.
He lagged along the lane awhile for the rest it gave him after all that running; his adventures, getting home for dinner and confronting Richie rattled around his mind. How could he have been so afraid
of a little snake? he laughed at himself. When he passed their neighbor’s apple orchard, it was still light, 69

   67   68   69   70   71