By Dewey Gillespie
He found the red rubber tube inside the flat tire on a mangled bicycle rim at
the Public Dump. He had no idea what he would find scattered among the garbage
after the two hour walk it took to get there.
It was always exciting to go to the dump. People threw out all kinds of interesting stuff. The old saying is, "One man's junk is another man's treasure." But, in this case it was, "One kids junk was Gusbur Glaspie's treasure." That it was, because a red rubber tube is the top of the line material if you're going to make a real good slingshot. Gus had been looking for a red rubber tube for a long time and now he had it. This was his lucky day.
It was mid afternoon on that Saturday in early October. As Gus continued circling the edge of the dump, turning over boxes, bags and old pieces of lumber in search of anything, he picked up on an awful smell. He knew right away it was something rotting and within a minute he spotted the small black form of a little dead bear. "Now I wonder what killed that little bear," he thought. As he got closer he saw that the upper front part of the little bears head was gone. He knew immediately that someone had shot it and left it where it dropped. He picked up a broken piece of broom handle nearby and gave the lifeless carcass a poke. "Why would anyone want ta kill a little baby bear," thought Gus. "It musta been a runt, cause he's awful small for this time a year. I wonder where his Mumma is?"
He slowly walked away from the carcass and continued to glance about for whatever else he could find of some value. As he moved along he kept thinking about the little dead bear. "Whoever shot 'em could have at least took 'em and used the hair for tyin flies. At least he wouldana been a waste," he complained.
Gus couldn't see the rusty board-nail stuck through a stick covered by the piece of cardboard. As the weight of his worn soled sneaker landed firmly on the cardboard, the nail pierced everything and buried itself an inch and a half into the middle of the bottom of Gus's foot. With lightning speed his foot snapped upward taking the cardboard, nail and stick with it. Instinctively, and before he had a chance to react to the pain, he reached down and jerked the projectile out. Crying with pain he hobbled to a clearing where he sat on the ground and began unlacing his sneaker. As he pulled the sneaker away from his foot he could see a dark wetness oozing over the sole of his dark brown sock. Hoping he was wrong in what he thought he was seeing he decided to get a second opinion by letting his fingers check the area. There was no doubt about it; the red wetness on the end of his fingers confirmed his worse fear, blood.
He forced his bleeding foot back into the sneaker, laced it tightly and tied the laces off. With the help of the broken broomstick, taking some of his weight, he stood up. With the cuff of his plaid flannel shirt he wiped his tear filled eyes and as quickly as he could hurriedly hobbled toward the alder lined exit road leading from the dump. "Fine fix I'm in, probably bleed ta death 'fore I'm half way home. Maybe if I ignore the pain and bleedin and run real fast I can make it ta Glornie MacGlaggan's house at the head of the settlement," he worried.
Tossing away the broken broomstick he began running as fast as his skinny legs would allow. Adrenaline and fear consumed the pain, but nothing could take away the feeling of his blood soaked foot inside his sneaker. The two little vent holes near the sole on the side of his sneaker emitted a tiny spray of crimson on the dusty road each time the injured foot touched down. "I darcent panic. If I do I won't ever make it," worried Gus. "Everything will be okay. I'll pray, that's what I'll do."
As much as Gus prayed, it did not get any better, he came to an old fence at the end of the alder road where he found a cedar pole to sit on and check his foot again. The bleeding was stopping but the pain was still bothering him. Luckily he had found an old liquor bottle at the dump which he had put in his back pocket. With a little thought he wiped the bleeding foot in some wet moss, to clear the dried blood. He then took the bottle, which still had several drops of spirits in it, and poured it on the wound. The sting of the alcohol was almost unbearable but it meant it was reaching the right spot. Gus then wiped out his sneaker with some more moss, and then broke the bottle on the old fence. He took a piece of the glass and cut a piece of his pants to put on the wound, between his sneaker and foot. He got up, feeling much better, and headed towards Mrs. MacGlaggan's house, not running this time.
Everyone has instinct; trouble is, most people won't follow it.
As he slowly continued his trek toward the settlement he instinctively felt a need to look back over his shoulder to see how much ground he had covered. What he didn't expect to see were people behind him. The sight stopped him dead in his tracks. "Help," he thought. "Oh! Thank God." He was about to call out to them when his instinct triggered him again to take a second look. As he strained to identify who was standing on the road he soon realized that it wasn't who, but what was there. His eyes, now focused, confirmed he was staring at two large bears standing on their hind legs with their snouts pointed high into the air searching for a scent on the wind. As near as Gus could tell they hadn't yet noticed him standing in the wide open middle of the road, but sure as anything they had picked up on the smell of something they were eager to check out. Simultaneously both bears dropped down onto all fours and turned toward Gus. The bear, which was on the same side of the dirt road where Gus had sprinted minutes earlier, stopped and quickly lowered its nose to the dusty road surface. Immediately its head jerked upward and it quickly reared onto its hind legs again and began inhaling and exhaling huge amounts of air. The second bear immediately stood and mimicked the first bear, but the second bear was more anxious and agitated at not being able to identify what the partner bear had captured on the wind. The bear, which now had the scent, dropped to all fours and began following the blood trail. "Holy Jeezus!" exclaimed Gus. "They're after me!" There was no need for him to study his situation further. There was only one thing to do; run like Hell.
Running didn't help the sore foot, but Gus knew he'd have to keep it up, the bears were gaining ground on him. He had no idea what kind of stamina a bear had, but he could feel himself tiring. He tried not to cry, but the fear was overwhelming. He didn't know how he was going to get out of the mess he was in. He refused to look back; he didn't have to because he could hear the growled breathing of the bears and the sound of claw and foot on the dusty gravel road as they outpaced him.
"Mummy warned me not ta go ta the dump alone, but would I listen? No! I wouldn't listen. I'm to smart ta listen ta anyone else. I swear God, if ya get me outta this I'll be sure 'n listen forever 'n ever. I ain't a bad boy. I don't hate bears. I ain't done nothin to them bears. Why, it was me that felt sorry for that baby bear. I wouldn't shoot a bear. Well, maybe I would right now, but I wouldn't bother a bear if it didn't bother me. I mean it Lord," prayed Gus.
In the distance Gus could hear the sound of a vehicle rumbling on the gravel road. He could see in the distance the black hood of a truck heading his way with a big plume of dust trailing behind. "That looks like Lew's truck," Gus thought to himself. The sound of the bears was drowned out with by truck which had no muffler. "Holy Moses, I'm saved," thought Gus.
He stopped running just short of the truck reaching him. The afternoon silence was broken by the loud shrill of the truck horn as the vehicle sped past in a cloud of dust. "Now you jeezlis bears are gonna know what it feels like ta get chased and have the shit scared outta ya." said Gus to himself. You're gonna get a taste of your own jeezlis medicine now." On those words Gus quickly turned to enjoy his revenge. What he expected to see were bears being chased by the truck, but what he saw instead were the great bears standing on their hind legs all but inches from him. Behind him there was no cloud of dust, no truck, not Lew, nothing. His mind had played a trick on him. What he thought was the help he needed so desperately must have been a figment of his imagination, a mirage of some sort. He'd been fooled, suckered and in a lot of trouble. The bears towered over him like black mountains. Their stinking breath and faces told all. "Gusbur Glaspie, you're all ours now."
As quick as it takes to draw a breath a massive paw reach out, struck Gus across the legs, just above the tops of his sneakers. It knocked his feet out from under him and instantly he hit the ground with a sickening thud. The second bear immediately pounced on him and commenced to gather up his body with its strong muscular front legs and massive paws. It rolled him into position and commenced to apply the bear hug, a hold which meant immanent death. With the last bit of energy he could muster he called a final farewell to the one and only person he loved in life, now on his mind in this, his final moment. "Muuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuummmmmm!, screamed Gus.
He could feel himself being shaken and tossed about violently. He rolled, tumbled and bounced about like a dead leaf in a strong late fall wind. As his end neared and his life light grew dimmer by the second, he caught the faint far away call of his darling mother. "Guuus! Guuus! Guuus! The sound of her voice was all empowering. He found renewed strength and determination to try and hold on just a little bit longer in order to see her one last time. As his last breath ebbed he saw the faint image of his mother's face. He desperately held on while her image grew stronger and stronger while at the same time the darkness of despair became a more brightening glimmer of hope. Suddenly, there in the light before him was his mother. She looked like an angel. "Oh Mum, I'm so glad ya come ta save me," he said. "Save ya, wake up, your havin a nightmare. Let me get ya unraveled outta that bed sheet, and stop struggling with me," she said.
"Ya mean I'm not bein eat by a bear," he asked. "Not likely. There ain't enough meat on ya ta feed a bird let alone a bear. Why would ya be dreamin something like that," she asked. "I don't know. This ain't the first time I dreamed a dream like this. I keep getting chased, but this is the first time I ever got caught," said Gus. Loretta walked Gus to the kitchen sink where she dipped a clean dish towel into cold water, wrung it out and began whipping his sweat drenched face and neck. "Can I tell ya bout my nightmare Mum? Ya ain't gonna believe how scared I was till I tell ya everything what happened," he said. "Go ahead," answered Loretta.
Gus took Loretta through minute detail of his encounter with the bears. He relived the rollercoaster ride of the ordeal with the successes and disappointments throughout the journey. When he was finished telling her he was shaking like a leaf. Whataya spose it means Mum," he asked.
"Probably means it was time ta get up," she laughed. It could mean a lot of things, but more than likely it don't mean nothin. Maybe it means ya shouldn't be alone when ya go to the dump, but ta me it sounds like ya got something on your mind, something ya gotta get resolved with a friend, or someone close. If ya can deal with whatever the problem is the nightmares should go away for good.
Loretta could see that Gus was having some deep thoughts. "I'm kinda worried it could mean something more serious," said Gus. "Maybe it means Lew ain't always gonna be 'round ta help. Maybe its warnin me of things ta come." "Well, I wouldn't worry much about it Gus, 'cause a lot a times nightmares have solved problems. The sun will be comin up soon, so you go back ta bed and get back that rest the bears took from ya," said his mother. "If ya wouldn't mind Mum, maybe I can curl up on the end a your bed for the rest a the morning, that is if ya don't mind," said Gus. "I don't mind Gus, if it makes ya more content then that's fine with me," she answered. Loretta was concerned about what was goin on in her little boy's mind.
Loretta's assessment of her son's dream was all but dead on for a bear in a person's dream is most often a sign of an oppressive person in their life, especially if it's a large black bear. Gus's bears represented the bully, the dominant influence over him that was getting into his dream. There would be no place for him to hide, no escape. Before long he would need to deal with it before the nightmare would go away. They had no way of knowing what lay ahead.