I Was the More Deceived*

I put the bear in the trunk of my car for his own safety. The animal shelter wanted him, but I knew better. The animal shelter was just another bureaucracy pretending to have a handle on things. “We see this stuff all the time,” they said. No, the bear would have a happy life with me.

I didn’t mean the bear was in my trunk, exactly; it was a hatchback. That arrangement was temporary, of course, until I took my parents to a performance of Hamlet. The hatchback was no worse than a cage at the shelter, and my intentions for long-term care were superior to anything the shelter had in mind. With me, euthanasia wasn’t in the picture. Not that I expected the bear to know that, but I felt we shared a certain sympathy, a deepening comradeship.

My parents made a huge fuss about getting to Hamlet on time. It took forever to get them organized, and I felt like Ophelia by the time we got there. On the way home, Mom started talking about living wills. “We don’t want to linger,” she told me for about the hundredth time. She always included my father in her wishes, though, for all I knew, he wanted to linger as long as possible. “Just tell them to pull the plug,” Mom said. Here she made the usual gleeful jerking motion with her fist.
      “I don’t think there’s actually a plug they pull, Mom.”
      “Just make it quick,” she said.

I didn’t tell them the bear was in the trunk. I hadn’t mentioned the bear, though he was still back there, sleeping. “Did you like the play, Dad?” I asked, catching his glance in the rearview mirror.
      “I liked the ghost,” he said.

Back at their house, Mom and Dad hurried inside to put frozen entrées in the microwave. I realized with regret that the bear had been cooped up for way too long. I wanted to let him out for some exercise. I assumed he would co-operate. But when I opened the hatchback, the bear fled in a blur of brown fur. He made his escape, clawing and pawing over a cinder-block wall behind the house. The same cinder-block wall I climbed when I was five and tried to run away.

* Hamlet Act III, Scene 1

Andrea Lewis lives on Vashon Island in Washington State. Her stories, essays and prose poems have appeared in many lit mags, including Harpur Palate, Cold Mountain Review, and The MacGuffin. Two of her stories have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and she was the winner of Thin Air Magazine’s 2011 Genre Blur Contest. Andrea is a founding member of Richard Hugo House, Seattle’s community center for literary arts.