The sun was already set and the moon had not yet risen above the treetops, but a single candle was enough to illuminate a washtub half-full of dirty dishes.
I poured hot water over them and added soap. Music played on the radio as I swabbed out the first coffee mug, but it wasn’t loud enough to mask the sound of a tarp rustling outside the cabin.
Odd, I thought as I washed a second mug.
There wasn’t any wind. I peered out the window into the dusk and saw the back end of a bear sticking out from under the flap of my storage tent.
I knew this bear.
He’s made at least one previous visit, but we had not yet met face to face.
He looked the right size to have been the one who broke into my cabin last spring by squeezing between two narrow-set wall studs.
I could see the bear’s rear, barely three metres away, so I knew where his front was: stuck deep into my food barrel. The lid had been on, but not sealed.
Even if it had been it wouldn’t have mattered much. This bear knew this barrel.
In fact, the lid was already well-perforated by his teeth — holes he’d bitten into it a few months ago during a foiled attempt to get at meat I’d carelessly forgotten and left to rot.
He’d been forced to abandon the barrel unopened that time, despite the odours that must have tortured his hunger, but now he was finally inside it.
I had to spoil the moment. But how? I could have shot and killed him. After all, he’s just an animal and the strong likelihood that this was his second visit could classify him as a nuisance, as a problem bear, a danger to me and my property.
Since the federal government threw out the long-gun registry, it shouldn’t be too difficult for me to get any kind of firearm I might fancy for the job — something that could blast a big hole through anything, preferably.
I’ll call that Plan B.
I’ve learned that if I’m facing a dangerous opponent, it’s smarter for me to not show or use a weapon. If I’m being mugged, for instance, I won’t take out a knife, since my assailant could be an expert knife-fighter and I’d only be providing him with a blade to use against me.
The same here: since almost everybody in Labrador must know more about firearms than I do, if I confront this bear with a gun he’d likely just take it away from me. I wouldn’t only be facing a hungry bear, but an armed one. Before I knew it, I’d be stripped to my skivvies, duct-taped wrist and ankle and missing every drop of honey I own.
However, I still had this bear’s moment to spoil and I had to do it fast. I grabbed the three nearest weapons: a small cooking pot, a large frying pan and my own very big mouth. I banged pot against pan as hard and fast as I could while shouting at the top of my voice.
“Go on! Get away bear! Get away!”
The noise broke the silence so suddenly the bear jolted backwards and scurried to the edge of the bush. He stopped to look back and I saw the dying sunset glow reflected in his eyes. I had to press my attack or he’d come right back. I stepped towards him, making myself as large as possible, banging and yelling all the while.
“Go on bear! Get away!”
He went, disappearing into the darkness to flee noisily through the forest.
He’ll return one day, sooner or later. I just have to make sure he never finds the food he wants. Also, the barrel has to go. He knows it too well. I’d give it to him to let him have the joy of it, but I don’t think he’d understand the gesture.
So, in the meantime, in case he plucks up his courage sooner rather than later, I’m feeling very alert. Awake or asleep, I’m ready with weapons to hand: my trusty, but now somewhat dented pots and pans.
Michael Johansen is a writer
living in Labrador.