Podcast: Play in new window Download. Author spotlight. Published in Jan. Reprinted by permission of the author. It was Sunday night and we had been to visit Mother at the Home. We were in my car.
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Podcast: Play in new window Download. Author spotlight. Published in Jan. Reprinted by permission of the author. It was Sunday night and we had been to visit Mother at the Home.
We were in my car. The flat caused what you might call knowing groans since, as the old-fashioned one in my family so they tell me , I fix my own tires, and my brother is always telling me to get radials and quit buying old tires. Since it was a left rear tire, I pulled over to the left, onto the median grass.
The way my Caddy stumbled to a stop, I figured the tire was ruined. An old Caddy has a big trunk that tends to fill up like a shed. The spare looked a little soft. It went back on. I had been meaning to drop them at the dump. The light went off again before I had the wheel off the ground.
I was surprised at how dark the night was already. It was late October and beginning to get cool. It was about gone. I spun the lugs off into the hubcap and pulled the wheel. The tire had blown out along the sidewall. Not that I cared. I have a pile as tall as a man out by the barn. The light went out again, then came back better than ever as I was fitting the spare over the lugs. There was a flood of dim orange flickery light.
But when I turned to find the lug nuts, I was surprised to see that the flashlight the boy was holding was dead. The light was coming from two bears at the edge of the trees, holding torches. They were big, three hundred pounders, standing about five feet tall. Wallace Jr. I fished the lug nuts out of the hubcap and spun them on. I usually like to put a little oil on them, but this time I let it go. I reached under the car and let the jack down and pulled it out. I was relieved to see that the spare was high enough to drive on.
I put the jack and the lug wrench and the flat into the trunk. Instead of replacing the hubcap, I put it in there too.
All this time, the bears never made a move. They just held the torches, whether out of curiosity or helpfulness, there was no way of knowing. It looked like there may have been more bears behind them, in the trees. Opening three doors at once, we got into the car and drove off. Wallace was the first to speak. When we first took Mother to the Home almost four years forty-seven months ago, she told Wallace and me she was ready to die.
Later, after Wallace left, she told me about her dream. A bunch of doctors were sitting around in a circle discussing her case. In addition to taking Wallace and Wallace Jr. The nurses keep it on all the time. They say the old folks like the flickering.
It soothes them down. People were seeing bears all over the state, and in Virginia as well. They had quit hibernating, and were apparently planning to spend the winter in the medians of the interstates. There have always been bears in the mountains of Virginia, but not here in western Kentucky, not for almost a hundred years. The last one was killed when Mother was a girl.
The theory in the Courier-Journal was that they were following down from the forests of Michigan and Canada, but one old man from Allen County interviewed on nationwide TV said that there had always been a few bears left back in the hills, and they had come out to join the others now that they had discovered fire.
Every October, Wallace Jr. I realize how backward that sounds, but there it is. My brother is a Minister House of the Righteous Way, Reformed but he makes two-thirds of his living in real estate. He and Elizabeth go to a Christian Success Retreat in South Carolina, where people from all over the country practice selling things to one another.
The school bus let Wallace Jr. He has his own room here. As the eldest of our family, I hung onto the old home place near Smiths Grove. He has his own room in Bowling Green, too, but since Wallace and Elizabeth move to a different house every year part of the Plan , he keeps his.
I found him sitting on the back porch that overlooks the interstate when I got home from work. I sell crop insurance. After I changed clothes I showed him how to break the bead on a tire two ways, with a hammer, and by backing a car over it.
Like making sorghum, fixing tires by hand is a dying art. The boy caught on fast, though. He was looking across the field to I, where the northbound lanes cut off the corner of our field. From the house at night, sometimes the traffic sounds like a waterfall. There have always been bears in Virginia. Some characters there were even talking about hunting them.
A scientist said they were heading into the states where there is some snow but not too much, and where there is enough timber in the medians for firewood. He had gone in with a video camera, but his shots were just blurry figures sitting around a fire. Another scientist said the bears were attracted by the berries on a new bush that grew only in the medians of the interstates.
He claimed this berry was the first new species in recent history, brought about by the mixing of seeds along the highway. The TV showed more guys talking about bears than it showed bears, and Wallace Jr.
After the supper dishes were done I took the boy out behind the house and down to our fence. The only trick to mounting a tire by hand, once you have beaten or pried it onto the rim, is setting the bead. You do this by setting the tire upright, sitting on it, and bouncing it up and down between your legs while the air goes in.
Then we climbed our fence and crossed the field to get a look at the bears. In northern Virginia, according to Good Morning America, the bears were keeping their fires going all day long.
Here in western Kentucky, though, it was still warm for late October and they only stayed around the fires at night. Maybe they were watching from the newberry bushes as Wallace Jr. I carried an axe and Wallace Jr. The median was all tangled with brush and vines under the maples, oaks and sycamores.
Even though we were only a hundred yards from the house, I had never been there, and neither had anyone else that I knew of. It was like a created country. We found a path in the center and followed it down across a slow, short stream that flowed out of one grate and into another. The tracks in the gray mud were the first bear signs we saw.
There was a musty, but not really unpleasant smell. In a clearing under a big hollow beech, where the fire had been, we found nothing but ashes. Logs were drawn up in a rough circle and the smell was stronger. I stirred the ashes and found enough coals to start a new flame, so I banked them back the way they had been left. Maybe the bears were watching us from the bushes even then.
I tasted one of the newberries and spit it out. It was so sweet it was sour, just the sort of thing you would imagine a bear would like. That evening after supper I asked Wallace Jr. We found her sitting on the concrete front porch of the Home, watching the cars go by on I The nurse said she had been agitated all day.
Every Fall as the leaves change, she gets restless, maybe the word is hopeful, again. I brought her into the dayroom and combed her long white hair. She blamed the bears. I thought that was a pretty liberal view for a state commissioner.
Bears Discover Fire
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Science Fiction & Fantasy