Robley Wilson

Driving to work on a Friday morning, Griffin Mears noticed a white pickup coming toward him along Maple Street. He recognized the man at the wheel, a young fellow who worked part-time at the filling station on the corner across from the fire station, and noted that he wore a baseball cap—Cubs—and was resting his left elbow on the sill of the vehicle's open window. The man—was his name Jeff?—was alone in the cab, but in the bed of the truck sat a large black bear. Griffin wondered where Jeff was taking the bear.

After the pickup had passed, Griffin U-turned and followed—out Maple to Cypress, which turned on the outskirts into Timber Ridge Road.

A couple of miles out of town, the pickup left the main road and took a sandy, two-track spur into the woods, Griffin trailing at a respectful distance. A mile or so deep, the truck pulled off into a clearing and stopped beside a log cabin about the size of a one-car garage. The driver got out and lowered the tailgate. The bear climbed to the ground. The pair walked to the cabin door and went inside.

Griffin parked his car well away and trotted toward the cabin. Sidling around the building, he stopped—on his hands and knees by this time—and raised himself to a window. Inside the cabin, a single room sparsely furnished, a pretty girl—honey-blonde hair, twentyish—sat at a bare table. Around the table with her sat two brown bears and the black bear that had recently ridden the truck from town. The pickup driver was leaning against a woodstove, smoking a cigarette.

"I'll be damned," Griffin Mears said to himself.


Back in town, Griffin met resistance from Sheriff Brad Carey, elected barely two months earlier to a second term of office.

"What I hear," Sheriff Carey said, "is that you've been having some weird kind of dream. Like a nightmare from something you ate."

"I know when I'm dreaming, and I know when I'm not," Griffin told him. "And what I'm telling you, wide, staring awake, is that this young girl is in some kind of strange difficulty."

"And you think she's been kidnapped by bears. Is that what you're

"Not 'kidnapped' exactly." He ransacked his mind for an appropriate word. "She's held against her will. Or so I believe."

Sheriff Carey swiveled in his chair so that he was looking out the window onto Pioneer Avenue. He laid his heels on the sill and heaved a sigh consistent with the breadth of his chest under its khaki blouse. He laced the fingers of both hands behind his head, his elbows like the tips of clumsy wings.

"Damn it all," he said.

"I'm not lying," Griffin said.

Carey brought his arms down. He kicked his heels against the wall under the sill, hard enough to spin the desk chair half around, so he once more faced Griffin.

"So you want me to go out to that place..."

"The bear place," Griffin said, intending to narrow down the matter at issue.

"To that bear place," the Sheriff amended.

"Yessir," Griffin said.

"Where some NRA type will greet me with a thirty-aught-six, and try to shove it up my you-know-where." Carey shook his head, slowly, as if picturing that greeting. "No way," he said.

"I'll do it," Griffin said. "I'll knock on the door myself. Just come along with me."

"Backup," Carey said.


"You want me to be your backup."

Griffin nodded. "If that's what you call it."

Sheriff Carey sighed again. "That's what we call it."


Timber Ridge Road began at the end of Cypress and meandered its way up Fauna Mountain through a series of switchbacks, which the sheriff negotiated with practiced skill.

"I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt," Carey was saying. "I can't tell you what grief the county'll give me if this is some kind of wild-goose chase on their dime."

"Trust me," Griffin said. Now he pointed: "Turn here."

Carey turned—no bubble-gum light, no siren—and came to a stop behind the white pickup. "Your show," he told Griffin.

Griffin hopped out, gave the sheriff a small salute, and headed toward the cabin. Sheriff Carey waited in his official vehicle, watching Griffin pause only a moment, then pound on the cabin door.

"By God," Carey told himself, "there'd damned well better be porridge on that table, or every last one of us is in serious trouble."

Robley Wilson is the author of Terrible Kisses and seven other works of fiction.

To link to this story directly:

Detail of ink drawing on main page courtesy of Andrea Joseph.

w i g · l e a F               05-04-10                                [home]