Thursday 15 December 2016

Day 15: The Bear by L. F. Roth

The idea for this story came from an email I received from a friend in the US, with a photo of a bear, taken in his garden. I wondered how to respond—“wow”, garnished with a few exclamation marks, seemed inadequate. Should I send him a shot of one of the animals in the neighbourhood? A close-up of a Jersey bullock, say, with my dog?

Or one of a ewe?

A herd of Highland cattle?

Wildlife would be more appropriate, but the foxes, hares, deer, badgers and marten I run into off and on are camera-shy. “Don’t shoot me,” they plead and go into hiding. I decided that a fictional response would be a lot easier. In time, as with most of my writing, a scene came to mind, which developed into a 300-word story. And that was it, until I saw the instructions, months later, from Bridge House, for the type of material they were looking for, and put the central character on a bus to see what would happen after the, now introductory, dialogue. I enjoyed the ride. I hope you will, too.

Like many of my stories—of which a dozen or so have appeared in anthologies—“No Bear” is in the seriocomic vein.

And yes, of course I know the exact number, but after “a handful”, “a dozen” and “a baker’s dozen”, there is no casual notch that is serviceable until one arrives at “a score”. And I’m not there yet. I write slowly. I take long walks. I talk to the animals I meet. “This is a dog,” I tell them. “What he is doing is a sort of tackle, inviting you to play. Don’t be afraid; he won’t bite. Now, say cheese, please. Please?”

Did I hear the word quirky? Well, if I were, I’d hardly be aware of it, now, would I?

Extract from Day 15: The Bear by L. F. Roth


Lynn shakes her head. “Not that I envy him.”

“Your father?”

“Well, him neither. But it was my brother I was talking about. Hugh.”

“So you were.”

“Things have always fallen into his lap.”

“I know what you mean.”

Both raise their glasses, regarding the half-empty room – Mondays are quiet in this part of town. Colleagues rather than friends, they have reached the stage where they begin to exchange confidences.

“I hadn’t heard from him for ages. Then he sent me this photo.”

“Of himself?”

“That would have made more sense. No. His son had given him some sort of fancy camera.”

“His son? You didn’t tell me he had a son. How old is he?”

“What difference does it make? Anyway, the camera had an infrared sensor, to take pictures in the dark. He fixed it up outside his weekend place in North Carolina.”

A gesture from Sue indicates that this is going too fast.

“Your brother has a house in the States?”

“Two. He moved there… oh, years ago. Best place to get ahead, he claimed. A whole other thing than here.”

“What does he do?”

“Something related to finance. He never said. I never asked. I bet you can’t guess what the picture showed.”

“Was this by a lake?”

“No. Why?”

“I just wondered.”

“The cabin’s on a mountainside. He goes there to relax.”

There is a long pause. The people at the table next to theirs get up to leave. Chairs scrape against the floor. They both watch them.

“Indians?” Sue suggests



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