turns with the clawed, toothy dervish and underhands it onto a close
boulder with a flat top.
Less nimble than a housecat, the cub bounces, but its claws find
purchase and it scrabbles away. Sadie rockets by, aimed at the cub. The
looped end of the braided leash still circles Parrish’s wrist; he braces
himself, but the inertia jerks him around like a top. She comes up short
on the lead with a grunt and a yip. It seems to him that he hears the pop,
feels his leg fold, and strikes the boulder almost at once. On his back,
he watches retreating light draw a blue lid over the trees. He tries to sit
upright but can’t find the breath.
The pain is a white-hot flare, an electric wire, something deep rising
out of him. It burns in his leg and his ass and lower back; it is part of him
and hovering above him like birds. He clenches his eyes and feels tears
squeeze out and sweat pop on his scalp. The pain addles his thinking,
and for a moment his outcry—a sound he’s never made before in memory—is an opposing force that can tamp down the heat and pressure in
He feels sudden cold, and he’s panting. He remembers the special
breathing Julie’s mother, Karen, learned for childbirth, but he must be
doing it wrong. Parrish turns on his side, curls into a comma, and pushes
himself up with an arm. He struggles with the windbreaker and is slow
getting his arms into the sleeves. Sadie is still pulling, and he takes a grip
on the lead and reels her back until he can grab her collar. He takes her
into his arms and they watch the bear cub as it exits the rocky tongue
Sadie starts to rumble deep in her chest, and she squirms against
him. It’s something he has never heard from her. She stares downhill.
Parrish follows her gaze. “Of course,” he manages.
The sow bear has appeared at the bottom of the clearing, emerging
from standing trees. Sniffing, huffing, breathing like an angry bull. She
He struggles to keep the lanky animal, all screams and
windmilling legs, at arm’s length, but forty pounds of
terrified fur and muscle present a startling challenge.