Category: Family

Baby Bear

I’ve been here since I was eight months old. I can remember mom saying the men on her side of the family lived for twenty six or twenty seven years. The bears here make it to twenty, they say it’s a hard life, hard on the bones with these cold stone floors. I know what that means now. I feel tired all the time, aches and pains everywhere.

When they brought me here what really struck me was the smell, disgusting toilet stench mixed with rotten meat. I got used to it, sometimes I hardly think about it. I have dreams about walking among the pine trees, the sweet air, soft ground, it’s a different world. I wonder if it’s still there.

They say I was captured in the wild but that’s not the whole picture. Sure, we lived in the woods, but we had a place, I had my own bedroom. I played in the yard while Mom and Dad searched for food, other bears would visit. We knew that if we ever had contact with humans we would have to move, all the animals talked about it. When the people start poking around it’s bad news, just get as far away as you can.

One day we got our breakfast ready and went off into the woods to take a dump. When we got back we found this blond girl asleep in mom’s bed. She woke up and panicked. We didn’t hurt her, she ran out of the house. They say that people are just as scared of us as we are of them, or is that spiders? I don’t know, anyway after she went Dad said we all had to leave, get out quick. Mom was all upset and crying, I didn’t know what was going on. It didn’t seem long enough but suddenly a whole bunch of people appeared from nowhere.

We were surrounded, so dad lashed out. That’s the bit they always show on “When Bears Attack”. It’s so unfair, for years this guy sits around minding his own business raising his family and then a bunch of people come around with guns and it’s all our fault. Dad was shot, I think mom was too, I couldn’t tell, there was so much blood. I assume dad died on the spot, mom was sobbing and poking at him. That’s my last memory of my parents, I haven’t seen them since. I’ve been stuck in this prison zoo. People staring at me, I know they’re thinking that’s the one from When Bears Attack, but what did I do? I was a cub. The blond girl should be the one in jail, she caused all the trouble.

They call me Boo-Boo, like the sound a baby makes. I suppose I was a baby when I came in, it’s just embarrassing now. Fozzy ribs me all the time, Betty Boo-Boo, Boo-Boop-Be-Doo happy birthday Mr President, he’s just joking around. It’s a defence mechanism. They caught him raiding bins behind a 7-11 in Beaver Creek, Montana. He was 4 years old, been here 11 years. He says anything’s better than life in Montana, people hide in bushes and shoot at you from miles away, for sport. You don’t stand a chance, out there I would have been dead by now, they did me a favour here. I think he just says that, he misses the open air more than me but he’s afraid of those high-powered rifles. He could make it, he’s lived out there for real and he’s still strong. Stronger than me.

I share this cell and exercise yard with Yogi – dumb name for a bear, but he’s as happy as a clam. He was born in here, it’s all he knows. He loves hearing about salmon fishing and pine forests, poor kid, real life is a fairy story to him. I’ve tried to be more positive like him, but every time I go to sleep I’m walking in the forest with the fresh mountain breeze. Then I wake up on this concrete floor. Fozzy and Yogi do tricks to get extra food from the visitors, mostly swaying their heads and yawning, we’re not supposed to do that. One time Yogi freaked out and had to be sedated when someone gave him the wrong sort of mushrooms. They do it on purpose. A wild bear would’ve known not to eat those. Fozzy should have told him, but he had dropped his guard. You get in the habit of eating whatever people throw. Everything they say sounds the same, we can’t tell what we’re supposed to do and what we’re getting punished for. The voices have the same warbling quality of a turkey. I wonder if turkeys and humans can talk to each other, I had an uncle who said he could talk to racoons, no-one believed him.

I know I’ll die here. I’ll never see our house again. I don’t know if I want to, unless mom’s there. I often wonder why? Why did she come to our house? You don’t do that do you? Just walk into someone’s house and take stuff, we could have had a normal life. Sometimes I wish they’d shot me too on that day, but then I think about mom, she might be alive somewhere. I wish I could just see her once. She would still call me Baby Bear, and not in that stupid embarrassing way.

I heard the guards shot a lion, he attacked them because he just couldn’t take it anymore. I could do that, but I won’t give them the satisfaction. All those people that come to stare, they want me to attack a guard and get shot so they can take pictures. Not me, I’ll just sit here and wait, they won’t take any more from me.


30 September 2021

Hits and Misses

Ian fiddled with his watch, he couldn’t get the step counter to synchronise with his smartphone. Mike teased him that the watch couldn’t handle any more connections while his wife was using it to track his whereabouts. Mike knew Ian was worried about his wife leaving him, they had been arguing a lot – more than usual. He had bought the watch to get in shape, for her. Mike also knew that Ian was distracting himself with the watch, telling himself he was making an effort. The effort he needed to make was to talk to her. Mike also knew she was having an affair, everyone knew. Was she hoping that Mike would tell his friend that his marriage was over? Mike didn’t like that idea. He didn’t like Ian that much, they weren’t proper friends, they were colleagues. After seven years working and drinking together, people just assumed they were the best of friends. Mike had never once asked Ian to join him for a drink. The concerts, the films, the football matches, all Ian’s ideas.

Mike had a frightening thought If Lisa kicks him out, I’m all he’s got. This boiled potato could turn up at my house one night, looking for a place to stay. He had to do something. The first step would be to find out who Lisa was having an affair with.

It was a dark and stormy night, Mike opened their wheelie bin, took a bag home and opened it in his garage. The flickering blueish light exposed the contents and smell of his friend’s domestic routine. Junk mail, credit card bills, a mouldy orange, a brand-new book entitled “Wait. The useful Art of Procrastination”, receipts, and a business card; Charles Thornton, Redmill Publishing. Lisa was a small business advisor at a high street bank, why would she throw away a business card? Something to hide? Then he found the bank statements, two withdrawals of seven thousand, one of six thousand. She’s moving money before springing the divorce. I suppose that’s how it goes; she must have seen a lawyer already.

Mike went onto an office networking website and found Redmill, eighteen staff were on the website and he had second degree contacts with two of them. He sent off a jovial email claiming he was trying to reconnect with his old friend Charles Thornton. They had never heard of him. A google search found thousands of Charles Thorntons, that was no help. He called the number from the business card, Charles answered, Mike panicked and hung up the phone. He had a feeling that he might have made a mistake.

Charles Thornton looked at the number on his phone screen, he called his contact at the phone company and got a name for 25 pounds, Michael Thompson. A few minutes on the internet and he had Mike’s address and social media pages. He made the connection with Ian and called Lisa. Charles demanded another twelve thousand, he said he would have to get rid of Mike too. Lisa argued that Mike was Charles’s problem, it wouldn’t come back to her. Things got heated, she agreed to five thousand more if he would get a move on. Lisa cursed Mike, five thousand pounds for that useless lump of lard. I could have had a spa weekend with that money; I could have had a week.

The last Friday of the month was always casual Friday at work followed by drinks at the pub. Lisa would join Ian and Mike and their colleagues and then the three would share a taxi to Ian and Lisa’s house for a nightcap. Mike would then walk home, it was a familiar pattern, this time there was a difference. Charles Thornton had been watching them. Lisa had forgotten most of what she had told Charles in their one meeting. Charles habitually extended conversations long after he had what he needed, Lisa would naturally only remember the parts that were most interesting for her. He sat opposite the pub and ate a ham and mustard sandwich. When he was finished, he left them to finish their evening and went to their house. He let himself in and waited.

Inspector Hartley arrived once the scene had been secured. He would be the lead investigator. The Constables on the scene filled him in; a classic love triangle, husband shoots the lovers and turns the gun on himself. The gun was there, in the Ian’s cold dead hand, which was still a bit warm. The neighbour confirmed that Lisa was having an affair. They did the routine forensic checks and went back to the station. By the end of the following week Hartley was in Superintendent Robertson’s office with the draft report. There were a few loose ends. The missing money from Lisa’s bank account, the neighbour’s claim that Mike was not the man having the affair with Lisa, and the business card in Mike’s pocket from the untraceable Charles Thornton.

Superintendent Robertson took the view that the neighbour was mistaken, as witnesses often are, and the money must be stashed away in preparation for a divorce. He concluded that only Mike could have told them who Charles Thornton was, there was no reason think he was connected to the case, and every case has a red herring or two. Hartley thought that Thornton was the secret lover, and he must have staged the whole scene, Mike was just visiting his best friend. Why would Thornton kill Lisa? Why did Thompson have Thornton’s business card? asked Robertson, citing William of Ockham – the simpler answer is the usually the correct answer; it’s a love triangle, plain and simple. On top of that, 95% of all murders are domestic, the victim knows the killer, it all adds up.

They agreed to leave these little musings of the final report, it looked like a job well done. The business card and bank statements were filed and archived. The town Mayor commended all of the brave officers and constables involved.

19 July 2021

Marla’s Legacy

08 June 2021

The will was read, she had left everything to Carmen, her nurse. The nurse didn’t appear at the reading, she knew this would be difficult. She had talked it over with her husband, her idea was to divide everything between Marla’s children and maybe keep a share for herself. Her husband convinced her to keep everything, Marla must have had very good reason to cut her children off. It was the right thing to do, it was Marla’s decision.

Marla’s children were 5, 6, and 9 when her husband abandoned them. She started making marmalade at home and supplying a stall at the farmer’s market. She soon needed to increase production. When Marla’s Marmalade was mentioned in a tv news segment on local produce, everything changed. In a few short years the Marmalade business became a Marmalade Empire. The children went to the ivy league schools and were given houses and various business loans when they came out. Eventually Marla’s Marmalade was sold to a food conglomerate for a fortune. Marla had no desire to see her children in Marmalade.

Damien, Tiffany and Eric were in shock. Damien and Eric started planning legal action to retrieve their legacy. Tiffany thought it best to let the boys fight this one, the only certainty at this stage was lawyer’s bills. She had her mother’s instinct for self-preservation and was the only one to understand that the Marmalade Empire was about self-preservation, not Marmalade. Damien and Eric, on the other hand, had obsessed over cost cutting and rival products. Now, Tiffany puzzled over her mother’s motives while Damien and Eric stomped and growled about treachery, revenge, and that damned nurse.

Marla had instructed her lawyers to defend Carmen. When Damien found out Marla had left a deposition with Damien’s own firm of lawyers confirming her instructions, he fired them. The new lawyers assured Damien that the deposition would never see the light of day.

The case came to court, Damien’s firm attempted a character assassination of Carmen. There were several immigration cases pending against alleged family members, one had a drugs conviction, another one had been fired recently for alcohol abuse. They capped it by alleging Carmen’s citizenship was under question and that she had associated with prostitutes and drug dealers when she first came to America, 20 years ago. Carmen was deeply troubled by having these things said about her in court. But she didn’t respond as the attackers had anticipated, she did not engage with these fabrications, and she did not crumble. In her mind she was back in the slums where they lived when they first came to America. Abuse was commonplace, she had learned to tough it out, she told herself they would stop when they had had enough.

The judge ruled that the will was sound and that Damien’s firm were lucky not to be held in contempt for their cowardly attack on Carmen. Damien vowed to appeal, with Eric behind him. Tiffany understood now. No matter what their mother did, Damien would have fought it. This way, Damien was still fighting but he wasn’t fighting his siblings. Tiffany looked at Carmen.