Write Derek at drksmart @ gmail.com
Write Phil at phil.bencomo @ gmail.com
by Derek Smart
Sometimes you get the bear, and sometimes the bear gets you.
And sometimes the bear looks all cute and cuddly and mews and scrunches its nose and waves its paw in the air so you think, "Hey, he's waving at me! He's saying, 'Hi!'" - because, of course, all animals after prolonged exposure to humans adopt their physical signals and modes of communication, doncha know? - so you get closer because there's no reason to think the little half-ton munchkin would be anything other than friendly, what with the cuteness and the gestures and the general feeling of warmness his presence inspires.
Closer and closer, until you can almost touch him, and he you, and the nearer you come the more comfortable you feel, the greater the ambiance of friendship and familial affinity. Now you can see his eyes - ooooo! They're all wet and shimmery, like the wistful orbs of a romantic comedy heroine at the climactic moment of ardor - Conflict resolved! I do love you! Rob Lowe will never come between us again!
Yet you pause, because something in your lizard brain is telling you that bears are dangerous, wild animals, prone to acts of violence that would easily destroy beasts less fragile than yourself. You look even closer, searching for some final signal of either danger or invitation that would send you to scurry or ease your mind. And after a moment, maybe two, you see what you needed to see: his mouth open, his teeth bared, he is smiling at you! He wants you to come be his friend, and who are you to say "no" to such a noble creature. Forward you go, nose to nose, so you can smell his breath and touch his fur, and for a moment you know what it must have been like to be connected to the planet the way your ancestors were, human and animal walking as one on the pristine earth of yore, at peace with nature, and most of all, with yourself.
It is during this romantic reverie, this basking in a n'er extant ideal, that you notice something previously unobserved: a wasp, flying about the bear's gob. You see your new friend's nose curl as the wasp's wings tickle his nostrils, his paw wave as he bats the pest away, his eyes water as the stinger pierces his proboscis, his teeth bare as he snaps at his enemy. It is now, in this moment between contemplation and comprehension, that the winged antagonist departs, and your newfound friend, freshly irritated, turns his attention to the misty-eyed oddity standing inches from his maw.
One can imagine the rest. In fact, we are living it, day by day, for we are Cub fans, lured into the clutches of the bear by our own misguided interpretations of his natural kinesis, fooled into his unforgiving grasp by our dreams of the world as we would wish it. We are trapped, left with two choices, neither of which appeal: attempt escape and suffer certain doom (to where does a Cub fan turn for baseball solace? The White Sox?), or stay and, as best you can, make friendly with the critter. Distract it until rescue can come, perhaps from another bear, who unlike his predecessor, will really, truly smile and wave, will really, truly be your friend.