Shadow of the Grizzly Excerpt 2

Excerpt 2

Shadow of the GrizzlyTwo toes worked his way north in the low foothills, then, feeling much stronger, climbed high and followed a long ridge of blue granite until the weather cooled with the elevation and the deep shade of pines. He rested in a patch of Manzanita, dozing and watching his back trail, his stomach heavy with meat.

He lay with his head on his forepaws, the view of the canyon below slowly getting better as the sun rose. A doe with twin fawns walked into a meadow, but hardly attracted Twotoes’ interest as the gnats began to buzz around his eyes. He closed them, content for the first time in two weeks. The pain in his stomach was almost gone and his right foreleg felt close to normal.

Finally, he sensed something and opened his eyes. Rising to a sitting position, his forelegs extended, his rear legs still tucked under him, he eyed the meadow.

A cinnamon-colored sow grizzly with a dark cub wandered into the meadow; the doe and her fawns bolted away. Something deep in his small brain told him this sow was familiar, but he knew better than to approach her now. Even if he had no evil intent toward the cub, she would meet him with a full charge to protect the little miniature of herself.

No, he would be content to lie in the shade of the Manzanita and watch. The gnats pestered him again, and again he closed his eyes.

When he was not much larger than the cub below, a big boar grizzly he recognized as Scarlip, the largest and most aggressive of the many bears in the high country, wandered near where he and his mother browsed. At first she paid the big boar little attention. But his mother did not hesitate when Scarlip moved into the berry patch where she and Twotoes foraged. Though much smaller, she charged him in a roaring run, and to both their surprise, knocked the bigger Scarlip rolling.

Pride injured, the bigger bear responded with a vengeance, and the female was no match for him. Fight as she may, teeth and claws making desperate cuts at the big boar, soon he had turned her and found the fatal grip on the back of her neck. Little Twotoes was standing on his hind legs, trying to see over the berry bushes, when Scarlip shook his head one final time. He turned the sow loose – and she fell unmoving into the meadow grass. Scarlip did not hesitate. He spun and charged into the berry bush after the small cub. Twotoes turned and ran as he had never run before. Out of the berry patch, over a small creek. Scarlip was on him. A powerful swipe of a forepaw sent him rolling up against a rock pile.

The panicked cub turned to run again, and found himself deep in a rock cleft. The big bear, his lips badly healed from a former fight – thus his name – made a fearful sight as he tried his best to reach Twotoes, who cowered as deeply in the cool dark cleft as he could retreat. Scarlip swung paws with claws like two-inch razors, flinging dirt, but not reaching him.

Trembling, his pounding heart yearning for his mother, the cub stayed in the cool protective haven of the rocks long after the big boar tired of the chase and left.

Finally, in the dark of a cold moonless night, he made his way out of the crack, across the berry patch, and into the meadow. He stopped and lapped water from a trickle and fed on some fresh clover, then continued. At last, he came upon the great brown heap of unmoving fur that smelled like his mother, but didn’t respond.

He curled against her and slept.

He was awakened by the yipping of coyotes. He watched them circle, catching their smell more than the actual sight of them in the darkness. Surprised that his mother did not rise and send them scattering with one of her low growls, he tried himself. But his meager effort did little, and soon the boldest of the pack charged in. The little bear scampered around to the other side where another coyote was snarling and tearing at his mother’s hind leg. Twotoes drove the animal away. But another charged in and nipped at his hocks, and when he spun to face that one, another raced forward.

Eventually, he found himself again being chased over the berry patch and into the fissure in the rocks.

He stayed there until morning, then ventured out again. This time, a mountain lion stood over the carcass of his mother, and, trembling, Twotoes immediately retreated to the cleft.

By nightfall, his stomach gnawed at him. He found his way back to the berry patch and fed there. He stayed in the crack of the rocks off and on for weeks until he could no longer fit. Then he wandered away, seeking another source of food other than the diminishing berries. Nothing but the larger bones of his mother remained in the meadow.

That had been five seasons ago. Now he ran from no animals, not even other boar grizzly.

Twotoes stirred, hungry again, his foreleg bothering him, and began to work his way down the mountainside. The valley below had provided him sustenance – meat – and he would seek it there again.

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