The bear stood beside the water.
The bear on the small island of the northern sea stood beside the water and looked out to sea. The bear saw nothing unusual.
The bear walked along the path at the water’s edge and looked at fallen trees for signs of food. Grubs. The bear liked grubs. Somewhere was that one tree under which the bear always found a whole feast of grubs. Always found when the bear could find the tree. The bear could not always find the tree, but when he did, he always found a feast of grubs.
The bear stepped off the path and approached the sea. The bear put his front paws in the water and sniffed the water. It was not the kind of water the bear could drink. The bear looked out to sea once more and saw nothing unusual once more.
The bear stepped back on the path and continued his search for the tree with the feast of grubs. The bear searched for any fallen tree that had a promise of grubs, but particularly he looked for the fallen tree that always had a feast of grubs. Whenever he could find the tree.
The low, gray sky comforted the bear as he walked down the path in search of his morning meal. The bear hoped it would rain that day. The bear liked the rain. The rain softened the ground and made it easier to look for grubs.
The bear wondered why it always came down to grubs.
The path turned inland, into the brush and away from the sea. The bear stopped and looked out to sea once more to find nothing unusual once more before he ambled into the brush.
The bear did not mind walking in the brush, but he preferred walking in the brush at the end of summer. At the end of summer, the brush had berries that made the bear forget about grubs. A feast of berries that made the bear forget even about the feast of grubs he always found under the tree that he sometimes found. But late summer had yet to arrive so the brush did not have any berries as the bear walked through the brush. But the bear still did not mind walking through the brush.
The bear thought about berries as he walked through the brush. He thought about a feast of berries and then realized it didn’t always come down to grubs. Sometimes it came down to berries too. And sometimes it came down to—but the bear did not like thinking about the more gruesome meals he had enjoyed. The bear preferred grubs and berries, but when he was hungry in the extreme, he could devour a large living beast. Never premeditated, but sometimes it just happened. If he was hungry. If the large, living beast appeared, he would devoured it without a second thought. But when he had had his fill, he always felt remorse. Remorse and a measure of repugnance that he could do such a thing. But then he would reflect that he was no longer hungry and would likely make it through another long winter of sleep. So his guilt would lessen, although his repugnance never did.
The bear did like to eat the smaller living beasts that he found in the stream on the far side of the island. The bear thought of those creatures as very big grubs, so the bear had no qualms about eating those delicious creatures that tasted even better than the grubs and berries. But the stream on the far side of the island was not yet teeming with those large, delicious grubs. The bear had checked earlier that morning.
So the bear walked down the path along the sea on his favorite part of the island, and he walked through the brush on the part of the path that went inland away from the sea.
When the bear came out of the brush, he was in a small clearing. The bear stood at the edge of the clearing and looked into the sky, high above the trees. The opening in the trees above the clearing made a circle. A circle filled with gray sky. The bear imagined that if he were in the sky, the clearing would look like a circle. A circle with high walls made by the tall trees. Tall trees all around the clearing except where the brush led off to the sea.
The bear looked around the clearing, and it seemed familiar to him. He had been on the island long enough so that every part of it seemed familiar to him, but this clearing was especially familiar to him.
The bear stepped into the clearing. The bear walked along the path that cut through the clearing, and in the middle of the clearing, the bear found a tree. A fallen tree. And the fallen tree was especially familiar to the bear.
The bear smelled grubs.
The bear pounced on the tree and found his favorite part of the tree, and the bear enjoyed his feast of grubs. The bear did not mind that it had not rained in awhile making it a little difficult to get at the grubs. The bear did not mind because each time he succeeded at turning over a piece of ground under the tree, he found mouthfuls of grubs waiting to appease his hunger. His especially familiar hunger. His especially familiar hunger that always disappeared when he found the fallen tree and its feast of grubs.
The bear had nearly eaten his fill when he smelled something awful.
The bear rose on his hind legs and sniffed the air around him.
The sea. The awful smell came from the sea.
The bear was afraid. The bear moved away from the tree toward the far side of the clearing. Far from the smell.
The bear stepped into the trees on the far side of the clearing, away from the brush that led to the sea. The bear hid in the trees on the far side of the clearing and waited for something unusual to appear through the brush that led to the sea.
The bear waited a long time, and then he entered the clearing once more. He could still smell the smell, but it was not as strong as before.
The bear’s heart beat faster as he approached the brush that led to the sea. He was certain some monster was about to jump out of the brush that led to the sea. Some dreadful sea monster he’d had nightmares about since he was a cub.
The bear’s curiosity got the better of his fears, and he stepped into the brush. Into the brush and through the brush. Step by fearful step, the bear pushed through the brush toward the fading but still awful smell.
When the bear broke through the brush near the sea, he closed his eyes. He closed his eyes and listened. He didn’t hear anything unusual. He didn’t hear anything unusual, but he still smelled the smell.
The bear peeked open one eye. He saw nothing unusual with that eye. So the bear opened the other eye, and he still saw nothing unusual. Not with that eye and not with both eyes together. But he still smelled the awful smell.
The bear stepped out of the brush along the path. Along the path toward the water. Toward the water of the sea.
The awful smell grew stronger as the bear walked along the path along the sea. The smell came from around the rocks up ahead near the bend in the path along the sea.
The bear walked up to the rocks and looked around.
On the other side of the rocks along the path along the sea, a narrow strip of sand led into the sea. And on this narrow strip of sand lay one of the large living beasts the bear sometimes ate when he was hungry in the extreme. The bear had almost had his fill of grubs, so he had no impulse to eat this large, living, awful-smelling beast.
The large, smelly beast had no fur, and the fur it sometimes wore lay in a heap on the sand beside it. The bear could not understand what kind of magical creature could take its fur off whenever it wanted.
The bear wished it would rain. The bear could not imagine such a beast lying on the sand without any fur in the rain.
The bear wondered if the large, smelly beast would smell better if it wore its fur, but then the bear remembered his past experiences with such creatures, and he remembered they smelled even worse when they wore their fur.
The bear made a slight movement that brushed a rock, causing it to fall.
The noise alerted the smelly creature, and the smelly creature looked at the bear. The smelly creature yelled at the bear. It told the bear to go away and stop staring. It asked the bear if it had any decency then it would leave the smelly creature alone. The bear did not understand anything that the smelly beast yelled at him, because the bear did not know the language of the smelly beasts, but the bear interpreted the message from what he remembered another bear saying to him once when he had found her lying on the sand near the sea long ago and he had stared at her a little too long.
The smelly beast motioned sharply for the bear to leave.
The bear thought about the grubs. He had not yet had his fill. So the bear returned to the clearing and finished his feast of grubs.
The bear left the clearing through the trees on the far side of the clearing opposite the brush that led to the sea. That led to the smell from that smelly creature.
The bear returned to his den on other side of the island thinking about the female bear he had surprised long ago while she lay on the sand beside the sea. The way she wore her fur. The pose of her head and her hips. The angry spark of recognition in her eyes when she discovered she was being watched. And her heated words. The bear was surprised to find he enjoyed this memory.
And the bear wondered why it always came down to females. Females and grubs. Oh, the difficult life of a bear.
To read more stories in the series, see the Becomes One Hundred Stories page.