That's what Andy had told Sylvia and the others a year ago as they sat around a campfire on their first weekend together in the woods. They were drinking, laughing, and telling ghost stories when Andy interrupted with this unexpected proclamation.
Sylvia looked around quickly, worried she would see a 400-pound mama bear waiting for dinner. Andy smiled and patted her back.
“The most sensitive part of the bear's anatomy is the nose,” Andy continued, and took Sylvia's hand and molded it into a fist. He told them that throwing the hardest punch one could manage right in the center of its nose would send a bear running away in pain. Sylvia laughed at the image, but Andy shook his head and looked somber. The others stared at their hands.
“I remember reading about this guy who saved his life that way,” Andy said while he stroked Sylvia's arm and stared at the fire.
“He described it like hitting a bag of thawed hamburger.”
No one said anything.
Andy looked up. “Okay, fine, let's talk about something else,” he said, and laughed as he lifted his hands in mock surrender.
“This round's on me.” He went to the cooler for more beer.
Now, after a year of many weekends spent in tents in the woods with Andy and their friends, Sylvia felt comfortable with the inconveniences - and joys - of camping. As usual, while Andy left for a last visit to the latrine, she spread out the double sleeping bag after packing for the drive home the next day. She was thinking about the appointments she needed to make back in the city when she became aware that the other campers were shouting. What she heard dried up her saliva and made her legs wobble.
“A bear! There's a bear!”
Not breathing properly, Sylvia pressed both hands across her mouth when she heard Andy's high-decibel cries of fear and pain, cries that ceased after a few moments. Pale and queasy, she could not stop her horrified shout of “No!” as her head turned toward the sounds of snorting and huffing outside their tent.
She regretted packing the cast iron skillet.
As she waited for what might come, Sylvia raised a trembling hand and made a firm fist, thinking of chopped meat.
© 2010 Marisa Birns