Around this time of year I always like to sit my friends down in front of a fire and tell them this story. This year, since I don’t have a woodstove, and I technically don’t have any friends, I’m going to tell you.
Kip took another bite. “I’m sick of eating fish,” he said.
“Huh?” Jeremy was puzzled. Sick of fish? A bear had never said, or even thought, that before.
“Especially trout.” Kip pushed the half-eaten fish corpse into the river.
“Shh…come on…you don’t mean that…Kip? Kip. Kip you don’t mean that.” Jeremy knew all about his friend’s…odd personality, but he didn’t want the bears downstream to hear what he was saying.
“No! I’m serious! I’m sick of it, Jeremy! I’m sick of eating fish, I’m sick of sleeping in damp, dark caves, and I’m so sick of walking around outside when it’s raining. Jeremy! I’m sick and tired,” Kip’s eyes softened, “I’m sick and tired of being a bear.”
“Kip! Quiet” Jeremy slipped on a rock and fell into the river. He poked his head out of the water. “Are you crazy, Kip!? You can’t say things like that!”
“Why not, Jeremy? Huh? Why not?”
“Because there are certain things bears just don’t––“
Kip turned his back to Jeremy and the river and sauntered off towards the forest.
Jeremy’s voice trailed off, “…say.”
The large brown bear ambled through dense underbrush and spruce stands. He stubbed his toe on a root and poked his eye on a dried up pine branch. Kip had had his off days just like any other bear, days when the water seems just a little too cold, days when every fish bone seems to get caught in his throat, but never had he felt like this.
Kip stopped and stared up at the forest canopy and whispered, “I can’t do this anymore. I’ve got to get out of this trap.” He didn’t realize the irony of what he said.
Kip stood still with his eyes closed and his neck bent backwards. Then he opened his eyes wide as though he had just had an idea. His best friend, Jeremy, who Kip had known since he was a cub, and who, even though they didn’t know it, was actually his half brother, knew what that look meant. It meant he was going to start building a home out of logs and underbrush, or that he would decide not to hibernate because he enjoyed the winter vistas. It was that sort of look that meant he was about to do something very uncharacteristic of Grizzly Bears. Usually, Jeremy was there to discourage Kip’s unusual impulses, but on this day, Kip was alone and fully intended to, finally, carry through with one of his ideas.
Later that afternoon, Jeremy decided to stop by Kip’s cave to apologize for what had happened during lunch. Jeremy knew that he was right but he decided to be the better bear. After all, he didn’t want a little dispute to affect their friendship.
When he entered Kip’s cave, though, there was no sign of his friend! All that was left was a note pinned to the cave wall. Jeremy walked over and pulled the note off the wall. The writing was washed out and runny because cave walls are naturally moist, but Jeremy did make out, “…needed some time… job application…try something new…”
Jeremy’s heart sank.
Kip was gone.
Over the next few months, Jeremy heard from Kip a couple of times by what Kip referred to as “snail mail.” He was living in Boulder, working for the Department of Transportation programming traffic lights. He was dating a real estate agent named Meadow (which to their annoyance was always a big joke at parties), and just bought a new Pontiac Sunfire. Kip seemed genuinely happy.
One day, Jeremy walked down to the river, just like he always did, to eat some breakfast. But this particular day was special. He wasn’t alone.
“KIP! You’re back!” Jeremy ran down to the river and tackled his friend into the water. “What are you doing back? I thought you had everything you ever wanted in Boulder?”
The two bears stared at each other, both dripping cold, glacial water.
“Jeremy, I came back because, this is where I belong. Because I’m a bear and I love that.”
Then Jeremy and Kip hugged in a way only bears can. “Plus Meadow broke up with me.