The Wrestling Bear
Look at the sun gleaming off of that bear's fur. It's warming her as
she sleeps. Inside of her is a cub that is tiny and hasn't yet
developed any fur. Outside of her is a circular cage and a sign that
invites any and all takers to come fight the bear. Winners make 100
dollars. Winning means lasting seven minutes in the bear cage.
She is a little bit ragged and the concrete floor beneath her is
cracking and starting to grow weeds. To make the fighting fair, her
claws and teeth have been removed. The only thing she eats is fish and
berry slop from a bucket, slurping it into her mouth with her long
tongue. Her paws ache and her gums tend to bleed and the course of her
bleeding leaves dry and matted streaks on her cheeks that give her a
more savage appearance.
She was outside not so very long before now, and she had loveless sex
with a larger and younger male bear and that is why she is pregnant.
Her handler doesn't know that his bear is pregnant or even a girl. He
calls her Thunder Bolt and tells people that she killed two consecutive
Comanche Indian chiefs and that after that the Comanche people regarded
her as a god and sacrificed their sick and weak in order to appease her
anger and to secure a bountiful harvest. He says that he captured her
by cunning in the dead of the night and that now she fights like a
demon out of her desire to eat more human flesh. Except, of course, he
says 'he' instead of 'she' when referring to the bear.
In fact, he caught her with a steel trap and she fights like she does
because he underfeeds her and prods her with sticks to make her angry.
She's sleeping now, but soon the prodding will happen and then the
bravest of men will pay 20 dollars each for a chance at out-wrestling
her. Her handler will make sure things don't get too out of hand and
the bravest of men will leave with only a few bruises and maybe a small
broken bone and 20 fewer dollars each. Mostly, they'll be happy to have
the story of surviving even a minute or two against the bear-god
But today she will face off against a powerful man with a huge red
beard and a handlebar mustache and a faded red singlet from his college
wrestling days. His wife will be wearing a pale yellow jumper and she
will hold the hand of their toddler and watch as the red-bearded man
hurls himself at the bear's mid-section. He will not reach her though.
She will catch him in her de-clawed paws and lift him swiftly above her
head and hold him there. Her handler will prod and prod and try to
force her to drop the man, but she will hold him up and all of his
exertions will do nothing to loosen her grasp. She will wait like that
until the cage is opened for the other men to try to bring her down,
but she will wade through them and into the fairgrounds and she will
not release the red-bearded man. She will walk with him to the ferris
wheel and cut right to the front of the line and take her seat in the
little metal carriage. As the wheel brings them upward, the bear will
pull the man to her chest and hold him tightly against her and wait
like that to reach the ferris wheel's highest point. Then, she knows,
she will have to decide whether to jump.
Ben Segal is the author of '78 Stories' (No Record Press, 2008). His
short work has appeared in elimae, Word Riot, Acappella Zoo, and others. He
helps run Leisure Class Records.
To link to this story directly: http://wigleaf.com/200902bear.htm
Photo detail on main page courtesy
w i g · l e a F