Copyright is held by the author.
IT IS funny how time quietly slips by and the world changes around you unnoticed. Like a stagnant stream, it’s not until the leaf falls on the surface that you realize it is slowly moving.
It only took a quick glance out my front window to bring me to a full stop. I left the house, door ajar, drawn to the curb like a moth to a flame. It sat there in the sun, its long boxy form in contrast to the sleek cars parked on either side. I walked around it slowly, trailing a finger along its dull white paint above the dark wood siding that was scuffed with age. It left a white dusting on my fingertip. It was an object from my past, nothing I had admired or particularly liked, but looking at the station wagon, the memories came rushing back in waves. It felt like only yesterday that I was piling in with my brother and sister for those Friday night outings so long ago.
I could still remember the feel of it, stretched out in the back of the car, lying on my stomach in a sleeping bag with my pillow bunched up under my chin so I could see out the back window. My brother was at my side. We would wrestle over the popcorn bowl. I would pull as hard as I could to try to get it from his grasp before my mother finally shushed us, drawing our attention out the back.
At first I could not see anything. Then there was movement at the forest edge and the darkness took form and came toward us. Their inky black fur rippled in the moonlight. They moved slowly on their stocky legs, quiet for the size of them. Their slow lumbering gait did not fool us as their power could be felt with each movement. Flashes of sharp teeth could be seen as they tossed the heavy bags off the pile with surprising ease. A gentle swipe and the bags shredded instantly filling the air with the smell of rotting food. We were so close, but it was still difficult to determine how many there were in the shadows, watching and waiting, drawn by the smell. Then a door shut nearby, and multiple pairs of eyes shone out of the darkness. Silence fell heavily and for a long moment nothing moved. The shadows had turned menacing and the silence deafening. A person in the car beside us got out and sat on their hood for a better view. The movement drew attention to our presence. The watched became the watchers and the distance between us seemed suddenly small. Although they looked slow and heavy, my father had warned me they could move with amazing speed. It wasn’t until the bears turned back to foraging for food, that I realized I had been holding my breath. The sounds of the night came flooding back and we continued to watch their powerful movements in silence so thick it was tangible.
“Mommy what are you doing? It’s movie night. We are all inside waiting.”
My thoughts came back to the present. I smiled at the thought of my kid’s reaction if I suggested such an outing, but it was a time that could not be recreated. A time before the small-town dumps were fenced in, when it was a viable option to go to the dump instead of going to the movies. Those Friday nights up north so long ago, watching the darkness take shape and become powerful.