Paul explained that turning into a bear was not something a man did lightly. Charles must have been thinking about it for a long time, his wife dying was just the last step. Bears don’t need venture capital, internet connections or shoelaces. Paul’s eyes got a little narrower, and he said,

“Giving up being human isn’t hard for some. Charles saw no reason to continue as a man.” He spoke with a voice that knew of change. As for me? I was freaked out. This was not a Disney movie, and I’d had no more beer than usual, I wasn’t dreaming this shit. I was sitting in an empty white painted bar owned by a homeless guy while a couple of bears waited outside for me. Who dreams shit like that?

“What’s with the cub?”

“That’s a good question,” Paul seemed reluctant to answer, like he didn’t want to give voice to his fears. “I think the cub is the last of Charles’s hope, he didn’t need it anymore, he set it free. He was already a bear, so the hope became a bear too.”

I had to go to work then, across the street, Charles followed me over to the mini mart. I was still concerned about the cops, so I took him behind the building and whispered he should wait up in the eucalyptus tree, he scampered up. I had to laugh at the cub, he was cute and playful, he kept swatting at Charles, who seemed more interested in taking a nap.

“Hope: must be nice. The only thing I hope for is that old bitch dying on a day I’m in the will,” I said, almost out loud, while I cleaned the men’s room.

Hope, I set mine free a long time ago.

 

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