Young mans polar bear
Young mans polar bear
There is a weight to long winter nights. Once the radio was turned off
and the house went dark I could feel it pressing me down into my bed
pushing away sleep. Good thoughts faded quickly carried away by the
banshee wind that found new strength at night. Familiar trouble brewing in
the back of my mind. Unstoppable for a child. With no escape, dread
floods the room and once again the battle with "The Bear" begins.
I had no choice what form of beast visited my bedroom and invaded my dreams; in this town you couldn't get away from it. Polar Bears have always been here; the town was built where they live.
Churchill has been at war with the polar bear for hundreds of years. A
dangerous intruder who owns the night. This community of hunters and
trappers, railroad men and dock workers, soldiers from the war who looked
north to start new, seldom gave a second chance to a bear who found
itself caught amongst the snow banked houses and icy streets. Shoot them
before they get someone... before they get me.
Come morning and with the promise of a new day "The Bear" was all but
forgotten, there were games to play, a quick breakfast, a tussle over
the best set of mitts and out the door.
"Bear on James street last night so you boy's be careful" mom warned.
A side trip to look for tracks, then over to Sonnys' for road hockey.
"Mervin said he seen one the other day on Thompson street," says'
"Mervin is always seeing them, Mervin is full of crap," I say, anyway
day bears don't count, it's the one who visits in the night that worried
Daylight was precious, what little there was of it. Seemed you just got
into whatever you were doing, building forts, endless games of road
hockey or leaping off roof tops into fresh snow when it was dark again. No
street lights then. Luck would provide the moon on a rare night. We
would take advantage of it and stay out longer than we should, excuses
firmly in place before heading home.
It was one of those nights, clear, cold, with the wind slackened off
just enough. Bare bulbs lit over porch doors, moon, stars, a tinge of
colour in the northern sky was all we needed for the game. No one
remembered the score , we were playing for hours. It was late. My brother had
left for home long ago...I should have went with him. Mom will be
mad...I didn't care.. we were cooped up in the house for days during the
storm. Storms always brought "The Bear' to wrestle sleep away... didn't
they know that.
Johny Eleven decided he had enough and was on his way home, I could
walk with him halfway. We called him Johny Eleven because his nose was
Things were OK until Johny split off and disappeared into the
dark.That's when I heard the dogs acting up, they usually howled a little at
dusk and then quiet for the night unless something was going on.
They were really howling now...something was going on... better run!
Fear was starting to percolate in the back of my mind. The light in
moms' kitchen came into view as I rounded Allens' house... almost there.
The next instant an implosion of dread and panic washed through my body
almost bringing me to my knees as the reason for the dogs' dismay
materialized before my eyes, I was running straight towards my nightmare,
"The Bear" was on the road, the road I had to cross to get home. My short
life was over.
Although my mind yielded itself to the fact I was a goner the message
never reached my legs. They recovered from the shock and a
new found force, alien to me, lifted me up over the road, passing so
close in front of "The Bear" I felt I could touch him, depositing me
on the step leading into the porch of my house.
Not quite sure what just happened; flushed with joy and a love for all mankind I dared to
look back. "The Bear" hadn't moved, his massive head, slung low to the
ground, was turned my way, his weary eyes watching me. For a dozen
heartbeats our eyes locked then with a faint "huff "he turned away and started
down the road; a wisp of frozen breath caught by the moon and carried
by the wind trailed behind him. I was pardoned by The Bears
Mom opened the porch door and with a sternness that couldn't hide
the worry asked "where were you" , I bravely ignored her
question, pointed and said "Bear on Herne street."