The children listened intently to the storyteller in front of them, eyes bulging, ears thirsty for more adrenaline-packed words. Their breath was still, like a humid day; they were both in awe and terrified.
Mr. Patterson continued his tale.
“I looked up, over the hedge which I hid behind, into the small clearing where the tracks that I had been following led, and there I saw her – the biggest, most ferocious, wild-looking Grizzly Bear I had ever seen. There she stood tall on her two massive back paws, watching me with eyes the size of baseballs, breathing silently at me. She made no noise, not even the softest growl, and for a moment she seemed peaceful. But when our eyes locked, my neck hairs raised and every muscle in my body went tense with fear.
We just looked at each other for a while – she was magnificent, the most beautiful animal I had ever laid eyes on. I knew I was defenseless against such a monster and she could tear me to brisket if she chose to do so, but I didn’t move; I just stared, refusing to flinch or blink. Until she did. And that’s when I knew I had to act.
I knew what I had to do. In my head, I jumped to my feet, raised my arms high above my head, and yelled so loud my deaf grandfather heard me. But that was in my head. In reality, I made a mistake. I froze.
And that’s when she chose to attack. She raised up higher on her haunches than I knew she could, growled with the force of a hurricane wind, and like that she was off. Straight for me.
The rest of that encounter is fuzzy in my head. All I remember is running, feeling the bear close behind me, and slamming into the ground unexpectedly. She had overtaken me, as you would expect, and when I woke from unconsciousness, I was weak from blood loss. But somehow I made it back home safely and slowly recovered back to health. But the bear not only left behind a distinct memory in my head, she left this.”
Mr. Patterson turned around and lifted the back of his shirt, revealing four massive streaks of darkened scars running diagonally across his spine. The crowd of children gasped in unison.
“I learned a valuable lesson: never underestimate a six hundred pound hunk of muscle and fur in its natural habitat. You will lose. I’m just thankful that Grizzly chose to spare my life.”
The children returned to their homes, imaginations soaring with their newfound input of fear mixed with knowledge.
That night, Timothy, an especially curious ten year-old who had listened to Mr. Patterson’s story, lay in bed, eyelids refusing to close around his eyeballs, mind humming and buzzing. The topic of his imagination: Grizzly Bears.
It was especially late, the latest Timothy had ever stayed up, when he sneaked out of the house and wandered through the misty blackness with only his flashlight to make a path for his feet. When he came to the edge of the woods he did not hesitate but ran between the trees. There was not a stroke of fear in his body, only excitement and wonder, with his only goal to see the big Grizzly for himself.