Mrs. Bear stuck her nose out of the cave and sniffed the cold November air, redolent of squirrel scat, rotting leaves, and blue spruce. The morning sun was only now clearing the steep mountain peaks and a large "V" of honking geese flew high overhead. It was a pristine Thanksgiving morn, a time to give praise and thanks to the Great Bear above, but Mrs. Bear was worried.
With three babies in her womb and winter-sleep only days away, she was frighteningly lean. Not only had the year's unusually stormy weather caused prey to be scarce, a July lightning strike had toppled a tree onto Mr. Bear's leg, breaking it.
He'd only recently resumed hunting but had brought back precious little game, his efforts undermined by an abundance of fermented elderberries on the upper slopes. Though he'd been a wonderful mate and protector over the years, Mr. Bear had a weakness for drink. And right now he was sleeping off his latest binge, his snout stained elderberry blue.
My husband, with his big furry belly, will survive a long winter's nap, thought Mrs. Bear, scanning the tree-lined slope for the slightest movement. But my unborn cubs are at risk. All the acorns, beetles, and honey in the world won't suffice: I need meat, the fatter the better, and soon.
A scent from downhill caught Mrs. Bear's attention and she chuffed in surprise. It was a scent she'd never before encountered, an aroma so delectable that drool flowed from the crook of her mouth. She offered a silent prayer to the Great Bear and hurried down the hill.
"Hurry up, Dick-less," said Stick-less, so named because he eschewed the aid of hiking sticks, leaving his hands free to hold brewskis and joints.
"I'm going as fast as I can," whined Dick-less, a sobriquet that originated in the boy's shower room where Dick-less's pendulous gut obscured any sign of his sex. He'd recently started mountain-climbing to lose weight and his long-time chum had been glad to tag along, always open to new places to get wasted.
Dick-less finally caught up to Stick-less, a thick sheen of sweat on his florid face, and said, "Are we almost there?"
"That's a big negatory, El Pork-o," said Stick-less, squinting up-mountain through a haze of pot smoke, "I'd say another half-hour at least. So sit your fat ass down and catch your breath. And then you take the lead, in case we run into a bear." Stick-less cackled in a way that said "idiot" more than "idiosyncratic."
"Do you think there's any bears around here?" asked a tremulous Dick-less.
"Naah," said Stick-less. "I think they call it Bear Mountain 'cause of the shape, the way it looks from a distance." He took a huge hit on the joint and blew an Impressionistic smoke ring. "Besides, if I did see a bear, I'd just run away."
"You can't outrun a bear," said Dick-less, waving a hiking stick for emphasis.
"I don't have to," said Stick-less, downing half a can of beer in one gulp. "I just have to outrun you." He belched and grinned stupidly, as was his wont. "Wanna brew?"
"No thanks," said Dick-less, "these days, my body's a temple."
"A temple?" said his drug-addled pal. "More like a fucking apartment complex if you ask me."
Dick-less shook his head and resumed climbing, breathing heavily as he trudged up the trail. He wasn't about to waste all this hard-earned sweat by pounding down beers, that's for sure. One of his sticks slipped in something soft and stinky, and he looked down at a truly prodigious pile of poop.
"Do you think this is bear shit?" he said.
"Naah," said Stick-less, cracking open another Bud. "Prob'ly just some wide-load like you who took a dump."
"In the middle of the trail?" Dick-less wiped his stick on some leaves. "Maybe we should head back," he said, "just in case."
His shaggy friend pointed up at the rugged mountain peak and said, "Look, Dork-a-saurus, we're almost there. I say we go to the top, and besides, bears only attack if you bother their young."
"Are you sure?" said Dick-less.
"Yeah, I heard it on a 'Girls Gone Wild' video. This totally foxy chick goes to pet a bear cub and then the mother bear --"
"That's okay, spare me," said Dick-less hastily, "Let's just finish the climb, alright?" He set his somewhat-weak jaw and plodded onward, huffing, puffing and grunting, his hiking sticks showing amazing tensile strength and flexibility. A puffy-eyed Stick-less brought up the rear, empty beer cans clanging in his back-pack.
There was a snap-crack of breaking branches in a stand of Scotch pine to their left.
"W-what was that?" said Dick-less, eyes a-popping.
"I don't know," said Stick-less, grinning stupidly once again, "but I still only gotta outrun you. So get a move on, Blubber Boy."
They were now only a few hundred yards from the top and against his better judgment, Dick-less planted one of his sticks and gamely continued up the path.
Falling in behind his tired, sweaty friend, Stick-less picked up a twig and snapped it.
"Cut it out," said Dick-less without looking back.
Stick-less growled, throaty and low.
"I said cut it out," groused Dick-less.
There was another crack and a loud growl, this one even more authentic-sounding.
"Goddamn it, Stick-less," said Dick-less, twirling around, "I told you --"
"That wasn't me," said an ashen-faced Stick-less.
"Another splash of wine, dear?" asked Mr. Bear.
"Sure, darling," said Mrs. Bear, who was trying to remember when she'd ever felt so stuffed. Mr. Bear squeezed a paw-full of partially-turned raspberries over his wife's open maw, getting half of the purple-hued juice on her snout.
Mrs. Bear licked her nose with her long, pink tongue and patted her protuberant tummy. "Wasn't that new meat fantastic?" she said.
"It sure was," said her husband, "tender and succulent, and no real fur to worry about. If you closed your eyes, it tasted just like chicken. But let's not forget dessert."
Mr. Bear reached into the shadows and brought forth a big dripping slab of honeycomb. Then he pulled a toe off the nearly-bare carcass of their new favorite prey, dipped it in honey, and popped it in his wife's mouth.
"U-m-m, that's absolutely scrumptious," she said. "And I have a little surprise for you, darling. I actually hunted down a pair of those animals this morning, the second one almost twice as big as this one. I buried it above the frost line so it'll keep. We're going to eat quite well in the last few days before winter-sleep."
"I'm already set, dear -- trust me," said Mr. Bear, rubbing his considerable midsection. "You and the babies need that meat. But tell me, how'd you ever catch two animals at once?"
"The skinny one ran about two steps, tripped on a root, and knocked his brains out on a rock. And the fat one was pretty easy, although he almost poked my eye out with a pointed stick."
Mr. Bear laughed long and hard, his inch-long incisors gleaming in the fading light. He looked lovingly at his wife.
"I hope our cubs have your cute little ears," he said, smiling.
"And I hope they grow big and strong, and have their daddy's sense of humor," said Mrs. Bear, stroking her husband's furry head with her razor-sharp claws. "Darling, we should give thanks to the Great Bear for each other, our family to come, and our wonderful Thanksgiving dinner."
"Amen to that, dear," said Mr. Bear. He ripped a finger off the dead animal, dipped it in honey, and chewed it slowly, savoring all the texture and sweetness, and spitting out the small bones.
"That really is good," said Mr. Bear.
Originally appeared in Over My Dead Body.