The Circus and the Wood

 As per the schedule I posted, I am supposed to have written something fictional today. I’ve taken on new responsiblities this week and wasn’t able to write anything fresh. I wrote this a year or so ago. I feel this story is quality enough and that most of my readers haven’t stumbled across it before. I hope you enjoy.
Jack London is a huge influence and I love forests.

The goal of this is atmosphere. I feel that atmosphere has its own value.


The bears danced.

I am the wolf and I watched.

The bears danced and ate honey.

I hunted hares and kept the pack in check.

Every fortnight I’d come by the circus tent.

To see the bears loafing about.

On one such occasion I finally spoke. “Hey, bear. Hey. Why are you there? Aren’t you bored? I miss stealing your kills”

The bear rolled one way than another. Then with a grunt of much effort roused himself up. It seems that riding a unicycle had wrecked his natural motion. Swaying to and fro he pressed his face against the bars.

“O it’s the thief. There’s no moose here. Go away.”

I laughed.

“So bear why don’t you answer my question. Why are you here?”

“Don’t you see these bars?”

“Sure. But bars can’t make you ride a unicycle.”

“Still unpleasant I see.”

“Not true. I am as pleasant as the frozen wood, as kind as a bright moon, and as lovely as a spring meadow. It is you brother bear that is unpleasant like iron bars, unappetizing as rotten fish, and as sickening as stale honey.”

“The winter kills, and your kind robs my cubs of meat, here I know that I will live.”

“You call this living? Complain as you may about me feeding my pack with your spoils but I see no cubs here. You have no legacy. There are no young bears for me to teach the art of watchfulness. The winter and I have made you strong and clever. Yet here you are abandoning a million moons of sorrow paid wisdom.”

“You call baying at the moon a wisdom and dying in scarceness strength?”

“I do not bay brother bear. I sing songs of raising myself from the inert earth to move triumphant over her surface. If the cool mist of morning brings no game and I return to inertness than others will run over me. Young pines will grow from my body and bless the earth with air. Yet here in this gaudy place you are inert before the earth has swallowed you. You have become an abomination. A living death.”

“I disagree strongly I’m afraid. Here is water, here is food, here is shelter.”

“This may be so but here also is slavery here also is castration. Listen, this spring has not born me many sons. I tire of hares and foxes. The numbers of my pack are not sufficient to bring down a delicious moose.”

“What business is it of mine, gray thief?”

“Your cousins can not sustain themselves either. The men on the floating pines have taken much of the salmon. I sat outside many dens. The she bears fear for the future. Your cousins offspring is scrawny and the chance of enough fill for hibernation scarce. Mighty moose is great in number. It is odd that mankind does not consider him to be toothsome meat. But herein lies the point brother bear. We can thrive again on the gallons of red nectar that run through moose. Let me break you from these bonds and return you to your kin.”

“You want to release me so that you can steal from me?” The bear chuckled.

“For a spell yes. When my pack grows strong we will take our own moose. This is the way it has always been.”

“No not always thief.” The bear continued chuckling. “But though you are a thief at the least you are an honest thief.”

“So you will come with me?”

“What would one old bear add? Are you not as you have described a mighty force of nature? Why not use your clever nose and your quick jaw to snag your own game?”

“Here there are three bears. You know that. You know also that even as you sit in iron confines so I too follow the iron laws of the wild. But the difference brother bear is that one iron sharpens while the other dulls. One brings strength and the other decay.”

“Your tongue is as silver as your coat, thief. And for my cousins sake I may leave this place. But I give no guarantee that I will not return here. Me and the others here are no longer accustomed to that life which you describe. And why should we trust ourselves again to wild winters and gray ghosts?”

“You know why brother bear. Deep in the caverns of your chest the beating of your heart is pulsing with our common earth. But words are cheap. Let me show you a wolfs cleverness.”

With these words I disappeared as silently as I had come.

Over the past month I’d been dividing my time between my own pack and the huskies in the town.

Some of these dogs were part wolf. So my appearance shocked none. After several members of these serfs had been dispatched in the wood just beyond their fence a fear spread among them. I doubted that in this isolation the men would bring new dogs soon. Without an alpha, and with few sufficient males, the advent of spring made sure that the bitches were in heat. I filled the niche of alpha here as well as in my own pack especially since I had the great good fortune of the men being especially inattentive. They even petted my head, fed me fish and called me “Stump” just as if I were the dog that I had killed.

Now the providence of mother earth knew no bounds. She wanted me, her priest, to bring balance. For my great good fortune went even further than what I’ve so far described.

There was a boy. Who was very soft with the bears. He was as gentle with us dogs as were the women folk. This boy who the men called “Charlie” had wide eyes and a weak chin like his mother.

He was nothing like his father the trainer of the bears who himself was more akin to bears than to mankind. However ill-fitting the son was to the task of managing these lumbering beasts it seemed that the father was set that he follow in his footsteps.

This as I have said was a great boon for me. For as the night after my conversation with brother bear wore on and Charlie came coo cooing softly to open the cage and dote on the bears I rushed him. None of the other dogs dared to intervene. I’d taught them not only fear but love.

He fell to the ground with a startled squeal.

“Wat ‘r ya doin, Stump! Git!”

I sat on my haunches wagging my tail.

“Brother bear, now is your chance.” I said as the beasts were lazily rising to see what the commotion was all about.

“Hrr..hmmm…” Said brother bear.

Charlie was getting agitated by the motion of the bears. Somewhere in the back of his mind a primal fear had been awoken. He was not in control of adorable friends. He was at the mercy of beasts and without a club.

I read all these things in his quivering voice when he tried in a vain attempt at authority, “Stump! Git! Get outta here!” He was walking towards me clapping his hands.

There was no sport in wounding him grievously. But I wanted to impart a gift of the wood. I ran up to him as if to play then leapt back.

He laughed.

I rushed again and delivered my gift to his calf which was as soft as the underbelly of a baby rabbit.

He howled such a plaintive and pitiable cry that I actually halted mid slide and cocked my head.

This unnatural sound was loathsome to all free beasts. It roused the bears. All three dashed from the cage as well as their decadence allowed them to dash.

Calmly I started to walk towards the door myself. Just before I made my exit I turned to look at poor Charlie as he sat on the dirt bleeding and whimpering.

“You…you’re…you’re not Stump at all.” He said as realization filled his eyes.

I took off at a light trot.

‘No, I am not Stump. I am not a stump at all.’

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