Bear Walker

I often wondered what the littermates thought of me, their odd, “runt” sibling. —Terry D. DeBruyn, Walking With Bears

This hairless cub, skinny & slow as he may be, seems determined to learn. Nothing is too small for his quick eyes, big as a squirrel’s: which types of ants have the choicest grubs, where the tastiest wild calla & jack-in-the-pulpit grow, how to walk down a juneberry bush or shell a hazelnut with the teeth & lips. Though he brings his own food, & thinks we don’t notice when he eats a stray pawful of berries. Always in the rear, he stumbles on river stones & flounders loudly through the fens & thickets. He employs his claws not to dig or to climb but to make scent marks on odd objects, & he will not go up a refuge tree or run from hounds, however loudly our mother urges. He cannot be enticed to play; he’s as bland as the rain. Unlike those others whose shape and scent he shares, he is at least quiet — easy to forget about. He leaves in the evening & returns in the morning. If he were here all night, we might forget what keeps us apart.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave’s writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

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