EATS LIKE A BEAR by Nathan Willis

My dad calls to congratulate us on the baby. He saw the pictures on social media. He says he’s going to cut down the trees in our yard to make us a table and chairs. He’s sure there will be enough wood. He has seen our house. He has surveyed the trees. 

The next day, he is in the backyard. There is an assortment of hand saws, chainsaws, and axes on the ground around him. This is only a fraction of his reserve. His car is in the driveway. It is full of blades and sharpeners and small engines. 

Erin gets the baby and we watch from the upstairs bathroom. I shake my head and say, What makes him think he can get away with this? Erin tells me to stop. She says this is fine. Neither of us asked for this. In the meantime, I should think about the example I’m setting for our son. 

Dad cut down one tree and left. He took his tools with him so I know he isn’t coming back. 

It wasn’t even one of the big trees.

 

The next day, the trunk and branches were in smaller pieces. The day after that, the pieces formed the shape of a bear. The day after that, the shape had fur. It got up on its hind legs and it came into the house using its own key. 

We didn’t do a thing to stop it and it didn’t even happen that fast. 

 

The bear went to the kitchen and took out the pots and pans. It made us dinner, and then breakfast, and then every meal after that. 

The bear is friendly with the neighbors. The bear looks up the school the baby will one day attend and leaves messages for the administrator, asking how soon is too soon to start the admissions process. 

 I ask the bear to bite a door frame. To swipe at the drywall. To throw a plate against the wall. I examine the damage and ask the bear if it is a mother bear. 

That night, there is no dinner. The bear is gone, along with all of our cookware and groceries.

I cut down the rest of our trees. I tell Erin it’s for a table, but she knows what I’m doing. I chuck all of the pieces into a pile. When I’m done it’s taller than the house. I think that this will be enough, that this pile could be my mother, that this could soon be our new mother bear.

But in the morning, there is no bear. The woodpile is just a woodpile. 

We get in the car and drive to my dad’s. He doesn’t know that I know where he lives. He lives in an apartment building by the airport. There are no trees there. 

We watch his windows to see if there is a bear. To see his furniture. To see how he lives. We watch until we are so hungry that we can’t stand it anymore. 

We go through a drive-thru and eat in the parking lot. We offer the baby pieces of burgers and fries. We dip everything in sauce. It’s a joke, but he takes it, so we give him some more. Then we give him all of it. This is his first solid food.


Nathan Willis is a writer from Ohio. His stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Split Lip, Passages North, Necessary Fiction, Cotton Xenomorph, and Lost Balloon, among others. He can be found online at nathan-willis.com and on Twitter @Nathan1280.

Art by Bob Schofield @anothertower

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