“Hey man, pull over wherever you can. You can’t see shit in this weather. Turn on those flashers and the strobe. Base, this here’s Steve; I’m with the rookie,” he said shielding the mike against his chest.
“What’s your name son?”
“William, but everyone calls me Billy Boy.”
(Cough) “Billy Boy… Visibility zero, squall winds, lightning striking trees everywhere.”
Then as if orchestrated, there was hostile stillness.
In an instant, it turned dead calm. Just like the eye of a hurricane. Eerie and chilling silence. Hell, you could almost hear the fish fart. No birds chirping, no crickets or love calls. No animals rustling along the leaf carpeted paths. Both the officers stepped out of the car, and to no surprise, Steve stepped into-…..”aw man, why the hell did you park right next to this freaking mud?”
By now Billy Boy knew to remain silent, give the man his elbow room and let him rant on. Both officers, like the tick tock of a clock, looked up along the tree line, while they slowly shuffled their feet into a full circle. Quizzically staring at each other, then determined….mud puddle or no mud puddle…they moved to re-enter the patrol car. Before shaking hands could reach the door handle, an ear deafening blast, not so different from a sonic boom, echoed through the trees like the spirits of yesteryear, followed by the chilling sounds of an animal’s insufferable convulsion.
“Pop the trunk boy, get out the heavy hardware, both flashlights, and a full belt of shot, and don’t forget the med rifle, and that box of tranquilizers. We’re going after that fat son-of-a-bitch. He’s been warned enough. Now his ass is going to jail for a long haul.” “
Billy Boy hopped to it. “Who…what? I mean…what are you talking about, Sir?”
“Otis, Otis Fudrucker. Been after that grizzly family and their baby cub, and worst of all been braggin’ in town every time he gets liquored up. Hear tell, he even set up one of them ol’ fashioned tooth-edged, pressure traps. I remember my daddy settin’ them up in these parts. They been outlawed for years now.”
Moments later, before they could get geared up, the bellowing of human suffering bounced off the tall pines like an orchestrated clash of cymbals. “Damn,” Sheriff Steve whispered to himself. He hadn’t heard anything like that since Vietnam. The thought created a stream down to his boots, which he consciously ignored.
Dusk was quickly settling in throughout the forest, rapidly depleting visibility in their search for the saboteur. “Which way, Sir?”
“Toward the ruckus, boy…and watch yer step and keep the safety on that double barrel. I don’t want you trippin’ and havin’ my lady pickin’ buckshot outa’ my ass.”
The crackling of leaves under each shuffle broke the normal tranquility of the landscape. Like claps of thunder, roaring echoes of the wounded bear bellowed sounds beyond one’s imagination. Our duo of rescuers was now subject to the most bizarre scene, one that would be damn hard to believe. The shotgun blasts splattered the Grizzly’s fur as if a five gallon can of scarlet paint had been splashed over the front of his entire body. Majestically standing upon his hind legs, with the grace of a high diver, he continued to leap forward on all fours, which is most uncharacteristic for this ancestral beast. Then in synchronized haste, he swiftly repeated the jaunt, with a ragged, blood-soaked human arm clenched tightly in his jaws.
In a whispered tone, Steve hissed, “He’s on a mission son. Keep our distance and let’s see how this plays out. Yer light be low to the ground. I suspect that the moon will be up in due time.”
Now all that was required was to follow the continuous rustling sounds of the enraged animal, knowing his scent would lead them to his destination. Luckily, their pathway was downwind from the direction of the pursuit. And thankfully, the enraged animal’s rambling opened a pretty wide swath through the underbrush, making it easier to follow his movements. Pure luck. Everything seemed to be in their favor.
As soon as the trail noise ceased, both men froze in their location, killed their lights, and listened to the sounds of the forest. It only took a few minutes for their eyes to adjust to the dim conditions. Relying on past experience, and aware of the animal’s poor eyesight, the boss man decided to move in closer to observe the situation. He had Junior stay put. He took the tranquilizer weapon and night goggles. Moving forward on all fours, while silently brushing the leaves to one side, his know-how allowed him to detect the scent of a rapidly decaying wound. His instincts told him it was too soon to be Poppa bear. After a few minutes that seemed like an hour, his eyes adjusted to his antiquated night vision goggles. He was proud that he had only sworn in silence throughout the ordeal.
An ugly display of bestiality confronted him. Momma Bear had been chewing on the fur, skin and the flesh of the Cub’s leg, just above the metal jaws of a spring-loaded bear trap. The Cub had lost consciousness. Between each bite, she would tenderly lick the inflicted wound. He was not certain, but it seemed that the Cub was already dead. He loaded the tranquilizers. Knowing that Momma was preoccupied, he nailed Poppa first, reloaded, and waited for the reactionary result. It worked, then he banged Momma, whistled for Junior, and once the specified reaction time was up, both men hustled to the scene. For safety’s sake, with a lower dose, he tranquilized the Cub. They had no tools that could release the spring-loaded trap. It took considerable physical effort using the butt of their weapons, and they felt more anxiety than any degree of comfort. They wrapped the Cub in Billy’s jacket. Despite labored, jagged breaths it was still alive. Frustrated, they worked to retrieve Otis’ jagged blood-soaked arm from the bear’s tightly frozen clenched jaws. They had to take a couple of cell phone pictures, for hell only knows when that scene would ever be relived. They returned to their vehicle, and placed the Cub in the trunk.
“Billy Boy, I’ve had it. You did a great job, son. You drop me off at Grymes’ place; I need a couple of tall ones. Here,” Steve said, as he unbuckled his ammo belt, “after you deliver the Cub to the Vets, take all our hardware and lock it up. Report to the desk sergeant to check out and tell him we’ll get the paperwork done tomorrow. Then come on over to meet me. I’ll buy, and you can help me figure out how to hang this here arm over the bar.”
Bruce Zimmerman was born and raised in New York City during the depression years. After graduating from the University of Rhode Island, he served in the Korean War. In 1957 he and his family moved to Tampa, where he started his own construction company that remains in existence. Bruce began taking OLLI writing classes with “Writing your Life Story” and is a current member of the Imaginative Writing “crew.”
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