BEAR IN A MOOSE HOUSE
There are bears in the house of the moose. In the bedroom, climbing the walls. Two of them this morning, two yesterday. If they crawl in through the door and over the threshold, their claws sometimes get caught in the carpet. Then they die. Sometimes they are stepped on quite by accident. They are very soft, but heavy. Their insides are red. Their insides do not easily scrub out of a beige carpet, nor do they look good on a pair of brand new Altelier washable stretch pants with a suggested retail value of $98.00.
There are more bears outside. Many more. They crawl into places a busy moose does not expect. They lie in wait, half hopeful, half in anger. They are hungry. They can smell the steaks on the grill and the leftover bar-b-que pork sandwiches in the refrigerator. They want inside but they don't know how to ask. So they sneak, but they are loud. They growl and scratch their claws on the bedpost in the early morning. They paw and scratch at the grasses and bulbs and seeds the moose bought at The Home Depot and planted so carefully. They stain their mouths with the purple berries that hang from the veranda.
When a bear is sleeping it looks quite harmless. If a bear is put into a glass jar it will seem like a pet. For a few days. Then it will escape into the house because a ten-year-old moose daughter forgot to put the lid on the jar. Or it will die. Because a ten-year-old moose daughter forgot to poke holes in the lid of the glass jar. This will make the moose daughter cry. She will miss the bear. She will try and catch another. She will feed it insects and fish and small mammals. The mother moose will remind her that brown bears have developed predatory practices on large animals. The mother moose will remind the daughter this includes caribou, elk, and moose.
Sometimes bears will become semi-domesticated and find a place they like and stay, without dying, and without being forced into a jar. Like the corner of a ceiling, the inside of a sock, or in a stack of mail. And there they will build a den. There they will congregate peacefully in places where food is plentiful such as garbage dumps and salmon streams. They will sleep during the cold winter and dream of flying.
Ten-year-old moose daughters like the idea of metamorphosis. They like to think of the bears becoming something beautiful, like a butterfly. Or a moth. With white wings and furry black spots that look like the eyes of an Egyptian cat. Sometimes ten-year-old moose daughters like to pretend that a chrysalis built by a green caterpillar in the corner of the bathroom is a bear that has done just that. "The chrysalis looks like a tiny leathery pouch," she says. She will look for them underneath the leaves that have gathered at the foot of the mother's bed while she is putting away the groceries.
Sometimes mothers agree what a lovely idea. But a mother might have second thoughts about the ramifications of reintroducing such an animal into her environment, even if it is now only a butterfly, as in it's heart, it will always be a bear. Then the mother moose may strip the chrysalis from the bathroom while the ten-year-old moose daughter is asleep. The mother moose may then find that the insides of the chrysalis are sticky and clear, and not at all soft and brown like the bear. Then a mother moose may find that the insides of the cocoon are a little harder to wash away from the palms of her hands and she will daydream of her own metamorphosis as she scrubs, a beautiful moose who spins a chrysalis and emerges a balsa wood airplane, light and gently floating through the air.