Monday, March 7, 2016

Death of a Bear at the End of the Second Mile

The Bear, having escaped from the odious Prior William, has begun his return journey home. However, he meets an unexpected reminder of Father Corbinian in the person of Brother Gunther from the abbey. He is on an unexplained mission to Rome of his own. But more important to the Bear, he is leading a string of horses. The Bear takes one, and the others scatter. Brother Gunther asks the Bear to accompany him, but the Bear refuses. He does agree, however, to go one mile with him, then the "extra mile."


"We've surely gone two miles, Bear," said Brother Gunther. It was still night, and the moonlight was brighter than ever. The clouds had disappeared and a beautiful, star-filled winter night arched over them.

"If you say," said the Bear.

"Will you stay for Vigils?"

"You are harder to get off Bear's paws than honey!"

Brother Gunther laughed. "Did St. Corbinian ever slip off to visit you at night?"

"Sometimes," said the Bear. "He would always return to the abbey for the Opus Dei, though. He said it was the rule."

"The Rule, indeed. Father Benedict's Rule. And now do we have a Bear who speaks Latin?"

"No. Bear learned that the last time he saw Father Corbinian. He was going to teach Bear Latin, though," he said proudly, and a little sadly. "He said monks had to learn all of the psalms by heart."

"And so we do, Bear. We pray all of them during the course of a week," Brother Gunther said. "We are weak, though. In the old days, they said all of them every single day! You are welcome to stay or go, my friend. Thank you for the mile, and the next one. I have enjoyed your company."

"The pack," the Bear reminded him.

"Ah, yes," Brother Gunther said. "I will pray for your safe return for as long as I am able. Well, then, peace to --"

"Quiet!" the Bear whispered. "Quickly with the pack!"

"What is it?" asked Brother Gunther, his usual amiable calm disturbed.

"Bear," the Bear said.

"I am sorry?" Brother Gunther responded, confused.

"A bear," said the Bear. "Another bear. See that shape before us? He will have smelled us long ago. He will also have smelled the horse carcass."

"So, what will he do?" Brother Gunther whispered. "Should we run, or hide?"

"Be still and don't look at him," the Bear commanded. "Running or hiding will not do you any good. As for what he will do... that depends on what kind of bear he is."

"Well, then," said Brother Gunther, "as I said, it is time for Vigils. I shall pray for the right kind of bear." He smiled at the Bear and then turned away and began praying.

As the animal drew close, the Bear saw he was a monster brown bear, his face heavily scarred. Eyes as dead and cold as the space between the stars overhead looked back at him. "So that's what kind of a bear you are," the Bear sighed. "A killer." Whether he went for the horseflesh or not, he would not forget the Bear and Brother Gunther, and would not stop until Prior William and his men were slaughtered as well. At least he was unbloodied, so that had not already happened.

Killer's challenging roar drowned out Brother Gunther's prayers for a moment, and the Bear saw him flinch. A bear fight was choreographed into their bones. They would grapple jaw against jaw until one achieved an advantage. Most of the time, the loser would be allowed to slink away. But Killer didn't have that in him, the Bear knew.

He could not beat this enemy. But he might outrun him, especially if the horse carcass two miles up the path distracted him. Brother Gunther might distract him, too.

"Blessed be the Lord, who did not give us a prey to their teeth," the Bear whispered.

Killer looked at him with uncurious eyes, and roared again. The Bear would roar back, and then it would begin, and it would end with the deaths of everyone, first of all, the Bear's.

"I don't suppose we can talk about this," the Bear said distinctly. Killer cocked his head to one side. Then the Bear delivered a teeth-rattling blow to the side of Killer's head with his left paw, and to the other side with his right, putting his entire weight into each. Killer staggered back a step.

"You did not see that coming did you?" he said, almost sadly. Then he took advantage of Killer's confusion to clamp his jaws on the end of his muzzle and hug Killer as tight as he could, pinning his arms. Brother Gunther's prayers were a strange accompaniment to Killer's grunts as he tried desperately to breathe through his sealed off nose and shake himself free of the Bear's merciless jaws. Gradually, the Bear began to feel his struggles weaken. The strength left Killer's hind legs and he began to sag. The Bear followed him down, with deadly patience, waiting until he saw the life finally go out of the devil's eyes.

The Bear staggered to his feet and looked down at his foe with pity. He was just being a mighty bear. He had no choice.

Brother Gunther's prayers lifted up into the silent night, and the Bear sat and rested. When the monk was finished, he looked at the dead animal, then examined the Bear. "How is this that neither one of you have a mark on you and no blood is spilled?" he asked in astonishment.

"He thought he was fighting a bear," the Bear said. "Brother Gunther, you've got what's left of your lame horse two miles back. The biggest bear Bear has ever seen here at your feet. Ahead, whatever your other horses are carrying, if you can catch them. Let us be optimistic, and get those oats on Bear's back."

"You see a bear," said Brother Gunther with a broad smile. "I see a great fish."

The Bear snorted. "Just like Father Corbinian with your riddles. Must Bear listen to them all the way to Rome?"

"And back, God willing."

7 comments:

  1. Tremendous!!

    A Magnus Opus unfolds....

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  2. The tension is unbearable!

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  3. Loving this story!
    You got me on "dead bear"!

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  4. I've been having trouble going the extra mile. Thank you, Bear.

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  5. I like these stories. Thank you Bear.

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  6. Thank you all once more. I hope everyone has as much fun reading them as I do writing them. I try to pack a lot under the hood, so to speak, e.g. Bear's changes of heart go along with whether he is heading away from Rome, or towards Rome. Killer is both the "great fish" that took the unwilling prophet to Nineveh, and the Bear's animal self that he must defeat or die; he must decide whether he is more like a human or more like a bear.

    Brother Gunther is an important new character, both for plot, but also the counterpoint to Prior William. In essence, he is a new St. Corbinian.

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  7. Ahhhhhhhhh....so St. Corbinian has 'returned'. :)

    Seriously Bear, these are absolutely outstanding!...you have NO idea how much you have been helping me thru a very difficult Lent; and if that's the case for me, multiply it by many others. Can't wait to buy the book....will be the first one to place an order (for 20...to start)...will be giving them out like p-nuts.

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