‘I’m going out there. I have to move that potato.’
‘Ok,’ I whisper, thinking you are on your own buddy.
John disappears through the canvas flap.
He is gone a long time. I hear rustling. Then I hear gallumping, paw-pounding sounds. Right near my head.
Then I hear John breathlessly re-entering the tent.
‘Did you get the potato?’ I say.
‘There’s a great big fucking bear outside,’ he replies. ‘I need you to come outside with me.’
I sit up in bed. ‘Are you fucking kidding me?’ I hiss, ‘You just said there’s a great big fucking bear outside.’
Not even the fear of a $5000 fine can persuade me outta that bed and through those canvas flaps.
‘But it’s our fault,’ John says, ‘The bear is going to keep coming back until it gets the potato.’
I open and shut my mouth.
‘Fuck Fuck Fuck,’ John repeats like a prayer.
‘What? What is it?’ a frightened little voice pipes up from the darkness on the other side of the tent.
‘Nothing darling, go back to sleep,’ we whisper.
‘But what is it?’ Lula asks shrilly, ‘is it a bear?’
‘No, No, it’s just daddy, he needs a wee. Go back to sleep.’
She flops down on the bed and consents.
‘Look, come with me,’ John says again.
I have to go. I cannot stay in the tent clutching my knees, my ears pricked for the sounds of growls and shrieks and leg bones snapping like twigs. It’s like the Blair Witch is outside and John wants me to leave the tent with him. I am caught between a rock and a bear.
I am not dressed for facing down bears. I’m in t-shirt, knickers and flip flops. When am I ever dressed right for the occasion? I think in some recess of my mind which isn’t processing BEAR.
‘Turn on the outside light,’ I tell John.
We tiptoe outside the tent. I stand guard, my eyes telling me that every boulder is a bear. John rescues the glowing potatoes from the embers of the fire. Well one. The other three have mysteriously vanished.
John puts the potato into the metal container. The one that says on it in big, bold letters: ‘PLEASE PUT ALL YOUR FOOD INSIDE. FAILURE TO COMPLY WILL RESULT IN A $5000 FINE. DON’T BE RESPONSIBLE FOR KILLING A BEAR.’
We skitter back inside the tent and grip each other under the sheets.
‘Well you’re not getting your Junior Ranger Badge,’ I tell John. ‘You’re supposed to yell ‘NO BEAR GO BEAR,’ not run away from it.’
John is proud of his cowering technique however.
‘Anyway,’ he says, ‘whose bright idea was it to leave the potatoes in the fire to cook overnight?’