Instead of the usual how-do-you-do, we’d like to tell a story.
There once were two bears. Both were young and happy; both led pleasant and fulfilling lives.
Or so they thought.
The first bear–we’ll call him Barry–liked to wake early in the morning. He would stretch and make his way to the creek, where he’d sit above the smoothed rocks and wait for salmon. Oh how the day would break through the clouds as he waited! Those heavenly streaks of green and orange, those sun-dappled leaves curlicuing across the otherwise frothy surface of the rivulet. He would wait and wait. He would scratch himself and scratch himself. He would listen. When a salmon finally leaped into view–and it always did, a salmon; it always leaped into view, though perhaps not for hours–Barry would snap to at once, pawing the fish from the creek and drawing it smartly to his maw.
He would chew and chew.
He would gulp and gulp.
He would smile, sated.
The second bear–we’ll call him Carey–did not enjoy such bear-y things. He was studious and shy. When most bears had gamboled to the local dance, he would slink off to his favorite tree and read. When female bears attempted to court him–for bear society had loosened its strictures somewhat; the girls were doing the asking as much as the guys, I mean–he would laugh nervously into his neck-fur. He did not enjoy fishing. He did not enjoy shaking trees in search of delicious foods. He did not enjoy skirting the encampments along the creek in search of human-smelling clothing items and feminine products.
And so he would read and read.
He would annotate and annotate, dutifully, the margins of his books.
He would look up the words he did not know, and the words he recognized but could not comfortably define, like ‘palimpsest.’
One night, after a particularly rowdy bear gathering in which much Bear Beer was consumed, Barry met Carey on a path near the bear village. Carey had been reading a rousing survey of the flamenco tradition, and Barry had been rubbing against potential mates. Barry was warm and drunk. Carey was sober as tree bark. Walking in opposite directions, they bumped into each other.
They stared and stared.
They glared and glared.
Barry made the first move. He pushed Carey–gently at first, then harder–and claimed the latter was not a real bear. ‘You are not a real bear,’ he exclaimed besottedly, ‘you’re a human dressed in bear clothing. An embarrassment to our kind,’ he sneered.
Carey was incensed.
He threw down his wonderful first-run monograph on flamenco dancing (Myers, J., Flamenco: Tradition and Form, Yale UP, 1997) and picked up a stone. Barry picked up a stone. They glared some more.
In a flash, they were at each other’s throats. Claw on flesh, flesh on flesh, teeth gnashing. They tumbled into the creek near Barry’s fishing spot. The water was cool. They clawed and clawed. They drifted swiftly downstream and into the night.
They approached the waterfall.
‘Stop!’ came a cry from the black of the woods. ‘Stop doing this to yourselves! You’re different, sure,’ the voice–a female voice–implored, ‘but you’re not so different. You both scratch yourselves in the same places! You both like the smell of an autumn morning! You both love the forest and all who dwell here!’
And it was true. They did both love the forest and all who dwell there. But this night–oh reader, this night was something different entire, something awful. They approached the waterfall, a twenty-foot drop to a pile of rocks.
Barry and Carey continued to claw at each other, aware perhaps of their impending doom but nevertheless unwilling to abandon the fight.
The slipped farther along. They washed over the crest of the waterfall. They disappeared among the rocks at its bed.
They were never seen again. And though all appeared normal among the bears of the forest, all did not feel normal. Something was missing. The mornings were never so bright as before.
* * *
This story is in many ways a delightful, humorous allegory for reading The Nassau Weekly, as you can well see. We will not insult your intelligence by making things too explicit. But we’ll give you a hint: Barry the Bear represents Barack Obama.
Enjoy the issue, enjoy the start of the semester, and be kind to one another.