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“Concerning Knives, Bears, Drawers, Sharpness and Shitting” by Scott O’Neill

Does a Bear shit in the woods? Sometimes. Usually, even; but not today and not this Bear.

I’m going to break into this cabin and shit in a drawer.

I might shit upon the sharpest knife in there. I might also shit upon a knife that is not the sharpest. Once you’ve accepted this drawer-shitting conceit, said drawer’s contents (let alone the relative sharpness of utensils therein) fade into the vague peripheries of interest and relevance.

Let's be honest. It’s going to be a Bear shit apocalypse for the contents of this drawer. I will pollute spoons, forks, spatulas, and garlic presses along with any knives in there. I’ve been holding it for half the day, and I’ll be leaving the cabin a few pounds lighter than when I entered. Half measures are for lesser beasts.

The Hunter who lived in this cabin had much in common with the least-sharp knife in the drawer. He had a low cunning that made him periodically effective in his travails, but nothing more. The Hunter’s mate had complained of his dullness, at great length and at great volume, when she departed months ago. Her viperous shouts had filled the valley and brought many animals around to spy on the drama of her leaving. I know a Squirrel that does a passable imitation of her infamous rant, chittering away and stalking back and forth.

In contrast to The Hunter, I am smarter than the average Bear. However, gaining stealthy access to the cabin (let alone opening a drawer with a smooth plastic handle) were daunting tasks for a shaggy beast with no opposable thumbs. I had tried and failed to gain entrance on my own; the battered brass doorknob resisted the efforts of my paws and teeth, forcing a haunch-clenching retreat to consider my options.

For such a jape, a Bear needs an accomplice.

Fortunately, I am on good terms with a Raccoon whose name I can’t pronounce but who owes me a favor. I made a point of eating a Coyote that was giving his family trouble; as a result, this Raccoon is rather well disposed towards me. He speaks passable Bear and we chat occasionally about the weather and how to find the finest garbage for scavenging. He’s more acquaintance than friend, but close relationships are scarce when you’re an apex predator.

I located my neighbor the Raccoon and explained the jape; he agreed to put his clever paws to work on my behalf. In a trice, we were in the cabin with the cutlery drawer opened. There were indeed many knives (both sharp and less so) in there. My excitement at the thought of a successful caper layered upon the ongoing, overpowering urge to void.

Imagine an eight hundred pound Bear climbing onto a narrow countertop in a tiny kitchen. Then, envision the geometry of aligning said Bear’s posterior above a drawer. Several minutes of careful clambering were required. After three false starts and much Bearish grunting, I got into position.

Nothing happened.

I put forth considerable effort, straining and pushing.

Still nothing.

I bore down harder, a basso growl escaping my throat. The Raccoon wisely fled.

Anxious thoughts chased one another through my mind. What if I couldn’t go? What if the Hunter came back early? What if I slipped and fell?

Crouched awkwardly on the counter, I tried to relax. I envisioned the first fat Fish of the season, knocked out of the creek while I stood belly-deep in icy spring runoff. My favorite knotty pine tree beckoned to me with its coarse bark, perfect for an itchy back. I imagined the serene heaviness of head and limb that descends as you begin hibernation.

That did it.

I trembled for a solid minute and then enjoyed a gloriously powerful loosening of my sphincter. I struggled to hold still over the open drawer. This was better than fishing. Better than an epic back scratching. Better even than covering a willing female after defeating her other suitors.

Afterwards, I was lighter both in body and in spirit. I shuffled sideways and began another awkward climb to get down. With a gentle paw, I eased shut the (very) full drawer. I had not felt such pride since my first kill as a yearling.

Raccoons are gossipy at the best of times and the news of a Bear invading The Hunter’s home for comedic defecatory purposes was far too juicy a morsel. By the time I ambled up to my intended observation point overlooking the cabin, the valley was teeming with hidden wildlife. Despite his incompetence, most animals had lost a friend or a family member to the man’s traps, baits, and (less commonly) to his indifferent aim with the rifle.

When The Hunter returned home and discovered my gift, his cries and antics provided fodder for generations of clever Squirrel mimicry. He cursed and ranted and shot at stumps he thought were lurking Bears. Scores of hidden animals watched him run back and forth across the valley; their quiet laughter warmed my heart.

The Hunter stumbled on the porch steps while carrying the full and still-steaming drawer out for disposal. Don’t let the Squirrels embellish the tale; he did not land face-first in the drawer. He did, however, trip and spill it all over his porch. His slung rifle scraped against a wooden porch-post and bit deeply into the weathered pine, leaving a bright gouge in the gray wood. Eventually the scar faded, but now and then I go look at the grooved wood post that bears mute witness to my jape, and I smile.

My shenanigans bought me a measure of goodwill among the other animals. Still no close friends for this apex predator, of course, but more Squirrels and Marmots and even the odd brave Rabbit are apt to greet me while I roam. When they’d ask me why I did it, I took to replying, “Well, sometimes a turd in the drawer is worth two in the bush.”

Scott O'Neill works hard, plays hard, and writes speculative fiction in Canada. He once saw a real bear in a real house having a bowel movement. Not in a drawer, though. Just like, on the floor. Then he ran (Scott, not the bear). He tweets as @wererooster. (Scott, not the bear)

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