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The Bear is Copyright © 1999 by Ralph Robert Moore. All Rights Reserved. The Bear was first published in the May, 2000 issue of the Australian magazine Redsine.
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background on the story
The Bear was my second attempt at writing a narrative that followed the illogic of a daydream. It was with this story that it began to dawn on me the freedom this form of writing has, in that you can freely play with character, description, and narrative to a degree not possible in traditional story-telling.
The "mechanical" part of this story came from a dream I had. The bed the main character falls out of belongs to Mary and me.
a short story by ralph robert moore
You wake up in the middle of the night.
Huh. The moon and stars are pressed against the squares in your black windows like gold and silver cut-outs. Is this a worknight? The weekend? It drifts to you. Thursday night/Friday morning. Not so bad then. You sit up in darkness, comforter dropping off your chest, doubling on your legs. Curled-down fingers grope sideways in the darkness over the flat top of the alarm clock, tapping towards your water glass.
Gulp, gulp, gulp.
That's better. Why'd you wake up? Don't think about it; lay back down in darkness. Side of your face nestling back into the soft pillow, side of your nose nestling into the smells, feeling the weight of the comforter on your shoulder, your hip, your ankle. Don't think about it. Going under again, everything soft and in your nostrils again, roll over, roll over, you roll off the bed. Thump! You're on the floor beside your bed. No, in the floor. Looking up, you see up past the jagged brown edges of the flooring to the grey shadows on your ceiling. But how can you be in the floor? Your bedroom is on ground level, nothing under the plush white carpet but the cement pad. Right? No, you forgot about this space under the floor, under the cement, white angles of pc pipes above your forehead. You look around, it's very clean, it's very, very clean, no cobwebs or dust, just undersides of boards with nail points hanging down, and the elbows of the clean white pc pipes above you. Everything under the floor is infused like the yellow glow of a flashlight under a blanket, white pc elbow angles above you. Where is the light source coming from? You roll over onto your stomach, then suddenly remember all you have to do to travel under floors is criss-cross your hands behind the base of your spine, then criss-cross your ankles. How could you have forgotten this method of travel under floors? Hands and ankles criss-crossed, like starting an engine, you sail under the floor on your pajama-buttoned belly towards the source of the light, which mushrooms up out of a wide hole. Once you reach the source, you curl over the rim, look down. Below, a bed, a dark-haired, dark-eyed woman laying on her back in a white silk nightgown. How could you have forgotten she lived down there? Dropping down into the iridescence, wind whistling in your ears, you plop onto the bed, alongside the woman in the white nightgown, bouncing her up. She lands back on the mattress, looks over at you, laughing, dark-haired, dark-eyed.
--I knew you'd come back. I knew you'd remember.
--I got so caught up with work…
--I know, but now you're back, here.
You look around at the white walls, the white ceiling, the white floor, the white nightgown, the white light, of this room under the world. --I can't believe I forgot all this! --But now you're back. For how long, this time? I wait so long for you. You're so happy you start crying. (They say people cry when they're happy because then they feel safe enough to feel all the pain they've accumulated since the last time they felt happy). She kisses the tears on your cheeks; tastes the tears in your eyes. Her tongue wet and triangular over your eye lids, on your eyes, like tasting what you've seen: buildings and highways and restaurant tables and bosses' dismissing hands behind big desks. Left hand clasped behind your neck, looking you straight in the eye like no one else can look that straight into your eyes, her right hand reaches into the buttoned flap of your pajama bottom, into, onto your genitals, fingers sinking easily into your genitals, into your center, into the ooh! and ahh! you thought you lost in the thinness of your youth. Your right hand disappears up under the frill of her short white nightgown, fingers tapping over bare thigh, spidering up to the sparse fur surrounding her cunt, poking up inside the wet warmth, fingerpad and fingernail immersed, joint by articulated joint, finding the slick, gripping tunnel, and suddenly we're at the sounding shore, limbs wrapped muscularly around each other atop the white, white sand; big pearl of moon sinking its iridescence into the darkness of ocean under the starry, emerald night; marble pillars with square tops in the near curve of cove; fingering each other, mouths open sucking in the sour ocean air, and the kaboom! comes to both of us simultaneously, hips bouncing against hips, our heads lolling back on our necks, heads taking in death in gulps, then heads rolling forward, grinning like skulls, faces like schoolchildren with perfect flesh.
You and she lay on your white backs on the perfect white bed, sweaty and smelly and happy, crushing the comforter's white frills, staring up at the white ceiling. You close your eyes in contentment, smelling the absolutely best smell there is in this world, the sharp smell of snuffed candle wicks. As the twang between your thighs echoes off, as the sense of ruling the world rises in your thoughts, you feel a weight add itself to the foot of the bed. Your eyes open. Something big and brown lumbers over the foot-pushed-down coverlet, black claws raying the bottom of the bed, square nose sniffing wetly at your toes. Is that a dog? What is that? Too big, too shouldery. --Oh, here he is. Here he is. You reach down and pet him, noticing how far the snout extends out from the face, far beyond anything household. What is it you're petting? --That's a good boy. That's a good, good boy. --Do you like him? Do you really like him? You find yourself petting him, petting and petting him, putting your hand down on his rough fur, petting and petting him. --Do you like him? Do you really like him? He raises his protruding snout, and you realize he's a bear. You scratch your fingers across the flatness of his snout, he seems to like that, but when you dig your fingers into the side of his shoulder, something you think he would like, his snout comes up and he bares his fangs towards you in warning displeasure. You're frightened. You don't want to lift your hand out of the fur because you don't know if that lift would cause the long head to snap up and gulp down your fingers. Its eyes are so small, so black and beady. Not a lot of intelligence. You keep petting and petting him to keep him from biting you. Inside, in your fear, you know that as soon as you stop petting him, he's going turn his awful weight against you and gore a long, crimson, ever-lasting line through you. --Part of him is mechanical, she says off-handedly, putting tissue paper around her cuticles to paint her nails with a tiny wet brush holding the color of Rembrandt. You feel the huge purr vibrating underneath your petting fingernails. --Really? Which part? But she's focused on what she's doing.
You keep petting the bear. Laying in her bed, naked, white, you keep petting and petting him. Feeling through your fingertips his irritation rise, sensing that he's about to not like the petting anymore, that he's about to snap his head up and turn like a big dog does. But what else can you do but keep petting him? Petting and petting him? You look across at her as she paints her fourth nail. --Which part? But she's absorbed now, long-haired head bent forward, back of her right hand raised, fingers curled down as if palsied. The sharp black claws, bigger than your fingers, spread across on the white sheet, getting ready. They start curling inwards, big and brutal, getting ready to sweep. You keep petting and petting him. Keep petting and petting him. You keep petting and petting and petting and petting and petting and petting and petting him.