“Grrr!” Cindy bounded into our trailer, letting the screen door slam.
“No, mama!” Cindy stomped her foot. “Grrr!”
OK, what’s this all about? "Grrr!”
“Cindy, what are we doing?”
“We’re bears, Mama.”
“Oh, I see.”
“Yeah, I’m Baby Bear and you’re Mama Bear.”
“Yeah, I’m outside in the yard licking little girls and I guess you must still be in the woods.”
“I mostly lick little girls in the face, but sometimes I lick their shirts. See?” Cindy stretched out her damp shirt as evidence.
Cindy’s shift from her alter ego, Baby Bear, back to herself caught me off guard momentarily, but when the fog lifted, a jolt of adrenaline worked its magic. I bolted across the room; fumbled with the screen door latch, releasing it just before my forward momentum hurled me through the screen; leapt down the stairs; sprinted across the yard; turned the corner of the trailer; and skidded to a stop like Bo Luke standing up on the General Lee’s brake pedal.
There sat a bear cub that under different circumstances would have been “Awwww!” inspiring, but that under these circumstances was awe-inspiring. As in “shock and awe.” The petrifying shock only lasted a moment. Just long enough for the thought to flash: Well that’s maternal instinct for ya! I hope my crazy charge towards Baby Bear doesn’t make Mama Bear’s maternal instinct kick in! Then awe took over—in the form of a mad dash back to the trailer.
Mrs. Jamison, who saw the whole thing, later said I jumped back like a little boy peeing on an electric fence and tore back to the trailer like Lassie legging it back to Timmy. Maybe so, but living through it, my retreat felt like an ant slogging through syrup in slow motion. At the door, I fear-fumbled with the thumb latch while visions of bear claws ripping my back danced in my head.
Inside, I leaned against the wall, panting. Cindy looked up at me: “Grrr!”
Her “Grrr!” shook me from my bear-infested fantasyland, and with shaking hands and voice, I called Animal Control. The automated phone system didn’t have an option for “Bears,” so I chose “Other.” After assuring the young lady that she was not hearing incorrectly, I received her assurance that I should expect bear removal services in about two hours.
Two hours, thirty-seven minutes, and forty-three seconds later a white pickup with an incredibly small—for King Kong-ette/bear purposes—cage in the bed screeched to a halt. Which was a relief. And not just because they were about to set us hostages free. No, it turns out that the only way to keep Cindy from pitching a temper tantrum because she couldn’t play with the real Baby Bear was to switch roles. Instead of Mama Bear, I was now a little girl … who was licked in the face by Baby Bear. Over and over again.
Does it make me a bad mother that at the two hour mark, I snuck into the bathroom and slapped on a heavy layer of powder? Cindy spent the last thirty-seven minutes and forty-three seconds pulling on her tongue.
Still, I was so relieved to be free from Cindy Baby Bear that I ran right out—despite the unknown whereabouts of Mama Bear.
The driver tipped his hat, mumbled “Ma’am,” reached inside the truck, and pulled a tranquilizer gun off the rack. The officer who had gotten out of the driver’s side was as scrawny as Barney Fife—and hitched his pants up just as high—and as old as Methuselah. Bent over nearly double, he looked like a poster child for mandatory retirement.
We made our way to the scene of the bear as fast as Barney could hobble. It was digging up the garden. Barney scooped up Baby Bear and hobbled back to the truck. The driver, as designated shooter, scanned the tree line. We didn’t have long to wait. Mama Bear apparently didn’t like Baby Bear hanging out with older men. She roared out of the woods. Daktari hoisted his gun, sighted his shot, and hit his mark, oblivious to my screaming and Cindy’s squealing.
I wasn’t really sure what proper bear tranquilizing etiquette was, but after King Kong-ette was hoisted into the cage, lemonade was offered and accepted. Two glasses later, Daktari and Poster Child Barney waved as they drove off into the sunset.
Cindy squeezed my leg tight, looked up beaming, and shouted “Grrr!”
Author’s Note: Based very loosely on a true story.
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