“He doesn’t scare me.” Marky bragged. He took in a big breath that swelled his little chest. He looked at the classmates clustered around him and continued, “I’m not afraid of that old bear!”
Matt, Marky’s best friend, began to nod his head, hesitantly at first, then with naive confidence. “I’m not either,” he said. “Me and Mark, we’re not afraid.”
The other kids looked with admiration at these two very brave buddies in their first-grade class.
Sara wasn’t too sure and timidly asked, “You’re not? Even if it caught you and, and it was ...hungry or something?” She stood wide-eyed, tightly clutching her bag in front of her.
“Well, I used to be when I was little, but now I found out I’m not,” Marky told her, standing as tall as he could.
“How did you find out?” Sara asked with great curiosity, but hoped the story wouldn’t be scary.
Marky was very pleased to tell his story and hoped to impress all his classmates.
“Well, my dad showed me that sign near the park over there.” He pointed toward the woods beyond the school building. The sign tells everybody there’s a bear that lives there. Did you ever see it?”
The other kids, especially Sara, followed Marky’s finger with their eyes. Some nodded ‘yes’, some nodded ‘no’ and some weren’t sure what they were supposed to have seen.
“I saw the sign,” Leah spoke up. “My mom told me it says a bear was spotted there and to be careful.”
Marky was impatient to get to the meat of his story.“Yeah, it was spotted there because that’s were it lives!” He put his hands out palms up, exasperated.
“It does?” came Sara’s timid voice.
“Of course. It’s in the woods where there are probably caves and trees with honey,” Marky reasoned.
“And rivers with fish.” Matt added.
“Yeah,” Marky agreed, but he looked doubtful. He didn’t know of any rivers in their woods.
The kids continued to listen, but there were some foot shifting going on.
“Well one time my sister took me to that park and I heard a noise that sounded like a bear growling. I wanted my sister to be safe so I walked over to the sign to see if the bear was there.” Marky continued.
“Was he?” Sara feared he was.
No one moved or spoke.
“Yep.” Matt assured.
Marky continued, “When I saw him he was sitting as still as a big rock. I threw my apple to him that my sister made me bring and I figured he would want it. I got ready to run and when I heard him make his first move I started. I ran and ran real fast and I ran away from my sister where she was reading her book and...”
He took a big breath before his voice took off running again. “And away from the place where the little kids play. I ran as fast as I could.”
“Once I thought I could hear him catch up to me, but then Matt came up and we ran together. All the way to there.” Marky pointed at the baseball diamond. Matt patted Marky on the back like he’d seen baseball players do to each other.
“I was scared because right there was a fence,” Marky admitted. (The fence they could all see from where they stood.)
“I told Matt, ‘don’t look back’. I didn’t want him to see it and be scared. But then I was going to be stuck, so, I had to look.”
“What happened?” It took all of Sara’s remaining strength to ask the question.
“Well,” Marky swaggered a bit with pride. “We must be really fast at running because when we turned around, the bear was gone.”
“Ohhh!” Sara was quite pale, but very relieved.
“So, we know we’re not afraid of that old bear.” The boys finished their story arm in arm.
Years later, Mark became a teacher and writer. His students loved his exciting stories of his childhood.
Sara became a flight nurse so that she would always be able to take care of her adventure-seeking husband, Mark.
And Matt? Matt became the Pastor of their local church. He always had the kind of faith to give people the benefit of doubt and to believe even when he didn’t see.
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