In de­fence of bears

The Borneo Post - Good English - - Short Story Section -

SNOW fell steadily in the wild woods of Siberia for three and a half weeks. Ev­ery day Py­otr’s win­dows were crusted with a thick new layer of frost; ev­ery day the snow­banks rose higher against the green door of the snug lit­tle cot­tage. There was no ques­tion, now, of Niko­lai go­ing any­where. Py­otr and the hunter learned three new har­mon­ica songs and im­pro­vised twenty vari­a­tions of ‘O Su­san­nah.’ Niko­lai learned how to make black bread and beans, and he taught Py­otr how to turn some of his blue­ber­ries into a dark, runny jam.

One evening af­ter the dishes were all done, Py­otr asked,

“Why do you hunt bears?”

Niko­lai thought about that, turn­ing his teacup around on its saucer.

When the first crane of spring flapped past Py­otr’s win­dow, its huge white wings as white as the melt­ing snow, Niko­lai knew that it was time to leave.

“Thanks,” he said, stand­ing awk­wardly in the

door­way. “I had a good time.”

“You don’t have to go,” Py­otr replied. He coughed gruffly. “I’ll miss you.”

“I know. I’ll miss you too. But I’m not a bear — I have a fam­ily, and friends in the vil­lage. I have to make tea for my wife, and tuck my chil­dren into bed, and play the har­mon­ica in the vil­lage band.”

Py­otr pon­dered these words. He wished he had a fam­ily, and friends, even though this wasn’t nor­mal for a bear. He won­dered if per­haps he wasn’t as much of a bear as he had thought he was.

“You can visit me,” Niko­lai con­tin­ued. “That will cer­tainly sur­prise the vil­lagers. We can pick blue­ber­ries — there’s a great patch just be­hind my house.”

Py­otr smiled as he thought of pick­ing blue­ber­ries: it had been a long time since he had sat in the sun, swip­ing the tiny ber­ries with his huge paw.

“I guess I could do that,” he said. “Maybe later we soak in the swim­ming pool.”

Niko­lai smiled.

So it was that Py­otr the Bear and Niko­lai the Hunter be­came friends, not just for a sea­son, but for the rest of their lives.

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