When I got home from work, the black bear was in my living room, sitting on my green couch, one of those modern types with three metal legs and two rounded cushions for the arms. The bear’s 350 pounds of weight was bending the frame down in the middle. The apartment smelled like a cross between pine trees and a dumpster in the sun.
I’ve been waiting for you, the bear said. Its voice was deeper than I remembered. Its snout was red and patches of its thick black hair were matted.
Have you been drinking my milk? I asked. The gallon carton lay on the floor in a puddle of white, punctured by three claw marks.
Sorry, it said. I got thirsty.
How’d you get in?
The key under the mat, it said. Easier than busting in.
But I moved it from the last time.
Well, duh, the bear replied. I looked around.
I glanced at my hands and arms. The bruises from the last time were just healing, now a faint yellow, and no longer the harsh purple of a bruised plum.
Why’ve you come back again?
I have to come back, the bear said. You know why.
You didn’t do so well the last time, I replied.
I got tired. Even bears get tired. That hibernation thing doesn’t fix everything.
I have a date tonight, I said. I can’t spend all evening trying to fend you off again.
Is she nice?
Yeah, she’s really nice.
What does she do for a living?
She owns a vintage furniture store.
Sounds pleasant, the bear said. Wish I could do something like that but I’m the bear.
You can’t be on my mind while I’m on the date, I said. It’ll be distracting.
I’ve already come back a couple times, the bear said.
I know. I picked up my Louisville slugger baseball bat that was leaning in the corner of the room. I had just put it there a couple mornings ago just in case.
Really? the bear said, unimpressed.
I’m not going down without a fight, I said. Her name is Polly. I like her. I’ll do anything I can to stick around.
She know about me? the bear asked.
I’ve mentioned you. She’s concerned but still interested.
The bear sucked on its teeth, the color of rust and blood, and suddenly lunged at me, its body gracefully rippling as it silently soared at me, grazing my left arm as it skidded to the wall and turned. I raise the bat.
We stood there, a face-off.
Sorry, it said, sounding embarrassed. Sometimes I just can’t stop myself.
It towered above me, its body the size of a car turned on its rear bumper.
I’m ready for the fight, I replied.
Hmmph, it said. Okay then. I’ll let myself out then.
It dropped to all fours and went out the already-opened back door. As it vanished into the darkness, I heard it knock a planter over. The sounds eventually dissipated, leaving me with the quiet, knowing that the bear would, eventually, return.
* * *
Ron Burch’s fiction has been published in numerous literary journals including Mississippi Review, The Saint Ann’s Review, Eleven Eleven, Pank, and been nominated for The Pushcart Prize. Bliss Inc., his debut novel, was published by BlazeVOX Books; Aqueous Books is publishing his flash collection, Menagerie, later this year. He lives in Los Angeles. Please visit: www.ronburch.net.