When my father was a bear,
he was even more frightening when he growled, standing up tall, his small black eyes beedled onto me. The recliner no longer fit him, not even the couch, and my mother said he couldn’t get into their bed anymore, citing a problem with fleas. So he loped off into the deep mossy woods that spread green and white all the way to the polar circle, in search of the spawning coho. Before winter closed its jaw hard, he returned, his long curved claws hooked into a fine big net that he dragged behind him, at least 50 fat red fish lolling in it, ready for our freezer. He told us he had eaten to excess, gorged guts and all, and was ready to sleep. We put up the family tent in our backyard and he crawled in to the tune of a blizzard. In two days the tent was buried. We kept a little airhole dug out and waited, wondering, for spring. Wondering if he would always be a bear, forevermore, and what had caused the enchantment. I was nine, and spent the long winter nights dreaming of when my father hadn’t been a bear.