photo credit: DJMatticus
The bear loomed large in his scope. It ambled up to the river and rose up on her hind legs, ears twitching and nostrils flaring. It couldn’t sense him; he was too far away. It dropped back down and a long pink tongue started lapping at the water.
Billy breathed, just as dad instructed. He ran it as a mantra in his mind. Inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale. Line up the shot. Inhale, exhale. Squeeze on the exhale.
Billy’s finger tightened on the trigger, but loosened as he saw the cub join his mother.
“What’s wrong, Billy?” Dad asked. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance.”
“It’s a mama-bear, Dad. I can’t kill her.” Billy’s twelve-year old eyes filled with tears. “I know what it’s like to lose a mother.”
His father’s face flushed with shame, but his eyes shone with love and pride. “I understand, son. You’re going to grow up to be a fine man. Your mother would be as proud of you as I am, right now.”
Dad ran a quick finger under his eyes. “Must be allergic to something out here. What do you say we go home?”
Billy nodded his agreement and slung his rifle over his shoulder. He turned to leave, but halted as he stared into the green eyes of a tawny-furred ball of muscle, teeth, and claw.
Dad quick-aimed and fired off a shot at the cougar that winged by it, hitting a tree. “Run, Billy!” The cougar growled deep in its chest and leaped at Billy’s father, claws rending and tearing. “Run!”
Billy ran away from the battle, toward the river. He heard another shot and his father’s shout, “It’s coming, Billy!”
His feet splashed in the water, drops flying into his face and clothes. He looked over his shoulder and tripped over one of the rocks in the shallows. A growl sounded over him.
Billy whimpered and looked up into the brown eyes of the mama bear he had spared.
She sniffled and chuffed all over his prone body, but her head snapped up when she heard the cougar’s cry. She roared and reared up on her hind legs. The cougar skidded to a stop, muscles bunched and fangs flashing. It swiped the air in front of it with its paw a few times, crying out.
The mama bear dropped down and charged the cougar, chasing it off. She trundled over to Billy and nudged him with her snout. He looked her in the eyes again. Her head cocked as if contemplating him. She gave him what he would swear was a human-like nod of acceptance and ambled off back into the forest, her cub trailing behind her.
Billy started to shake from the cold of the water and the dying adrenaline. He stood and breathed. Eventually, his body responded and settled into a slight shiver. He ran back to where he and Dad had made their site. His father lay on the ground, bleeding from several deep gashes.
Billy grabbed the emergency kit his father insisted on bringing on every camping trip. His small hands swiftly wrapped his dad’s wounds.
“What happened, Billy?” Pain, mixed with relief, roughened Dad’s voice.
“The mama protected her cub.”
Dad nodded. “Mom’s do that.”
This is my contribution to Cognitive Reflection’s Picture Writing Challenge. The only “rule” is to use the picture provided to tell your story or poem. Thanks to DJMatticus for this week’s photo. It is a beauty. Head on over to Cognitive Reflection and enter your story!
Happy reading and writing!