On my way over here, a boy howled at me. I saw two boys in the distance, walking towards me on the other side of the road, and the older one started howling. Like a boy mimicking a wolf howling at the moon. It wasn’t a full moon. The moon wasn’t even up yet. The sun was still there in the sky — just to the side of a state housing block, like the building and the sun might be having a conversation. The boys stopped in their tracks and looked at me from across the road, waiting for a reaction. I felt self-conscious even though the boys looked like they weren’t even ten years old. I didn’t stop walking. But I looked at them as I passed them and I laughed nervously. I was glad I was walking on the other side of the road. Then the boys started laughing too. I couldn’t decide whether they were laughing with me or at me. But I laughed again anyway. So the three of us were laughing, really laughing, together, from opposite sides of the road, like it had been scripted that way. I heard one of the boys say, ‘So can I’ve a smoke?’ And the other one said, ‘I’ve only got one left, you can have a drag.’
When I got here you’d forgotten I was coming over. So I sat on your front step, waiting, watching the sun going down behind the apartments, and a man delivering junk mail struggling to get the junk mail into your letterbox. He pretended he didn’t see me sitting there on the front step, watching him. He could probably tell I didn’t live here by the way I was sitting — too casually, pretending like I did.
Tonight on the news there was another story about bears and global warming. The bears were in America. I don’t recall any other bears ever having been mentioned — just American bears. But the stories were framed in such a way, that as a member of the human race I felt as responsible for those bears as the people who have to deal with them on a day-to-day basis — the Americans. I felt the weight of responsibility as much as the next person.
The science of the situation wasn’t made entirely clear, but because of global warming, the bears aren’t able to find enough food. It’s too warm. Their food isn’t growing as plentiful. Or maybe they’re not hibernating. Something’s not right anyway.
Because the bears are so hungry, they’re leaving their forests and walking into town, hungry as hell, and hunting out any food sources they can. They’re ransacking picnics, breaking into people’s houses.
The news item showed a montage of photographs, of houses that had been broken into by bears.
‘Now this is what your kitchen will look like if a bear’s been through it,’ said a woman, one of the people whose house had been broken into by a bear.
The kitchen was turned inside out. Every cupboard had been opened and emptied of its contents. There were boxes, empty packets and plates and pots, and bits of doors scattered all over the floor. The fridge was hanging wide open.
Another woman mentioned something about bears being particularly fond of ice-cream.
Then the news item cut to a picture of a bear sitting in a tree. The bear looked like a young bear, at least young enough to still look like it would be good to hug, and not frightening at all. The bear was up this tree in the middle of a popular picnicking area. Local authorities had gathered beneath the tree, already in agreement that the bear needed to be dealt to, that it couldn’t stay sitting up there in that tree.
A bunch of locals gathered up a lot of cardboard boxes and stacked them around the base of the tree. This was to soften the bear’s fall when he was shot out of the tree, a man explained. Then they cut to an image of another man holding a big tranquilliser gun. The man aimed it at the bear and shot. The bear fell from its branch and to the ground, just to the side of the mound of cardboard boxes, onto the hard dry earth. You could tell that everyone was thinking, Well, at least we tried, by the way they all winced and said, ‘Oh no’.
The next image was of the tranquillised bear lying in the back of a truck. And there was a different man again sitting next to it looking pleased with himself, like he’d done good today. The man made a joke that the bear would wake up in a few hours, he hoped!
When the bear woke up, the locals set some dogs onto it and fired guns in its direction. Just to let it know it wasn’t welcome in this picnicking area, and to stay in its forest.
Some months ago there was a similar news item, but about polar bears. The polar bears weren’t breaking into houses, just walking into towns. They were just walking down the street, too hungry to do much else, because their ice-caps were melting and this meant they couldn’t go fishing or hunting where they usually went fishing or hunting. So they started walking in the other direction. When the polar bears were tranquillised they were carried by helicopter to an ice landscape miles away, dropped down with a stack of raw meat for them to eat when they woke up. The polar bears had walked much further than the regular bears to get into town, so dropping them back out into the wilderness by helicopter was the easiest way to do it.
The polar bears were left to wake up on their own — left lying on a bed of ice, next to a stack of raw meat. And they would probably, I imagine, wake up thinking they were in heaven.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chloe Lane is a writer currently living in Wellington. She was a student in the 2007 MA class at the IIML, and is also founder and editor of the new art and literary publication Hue & Cry Journal.