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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