The next week the plumber we’d hired finally arrived and installed our appliances. We set our dining table in front of the 8 ft. long windows of the living-dining room and invited close friends for our first try at entertaining in our new home. I had just put a casserole on the table when my friend Marian, who was facing the window, let out a piercing scream and pointed. I turned to see our mama bear had returned. She was standing on two legs, her front paws leaning on a protruding windowsill, peering in at us. Her head looked huge. The little ones were behind her busily munching the Cheerios we had put out for the raccoons. Years later my friend still reminds me of the shock she received that day.
From then on our garbage was frequently raided, but we never saw the bear or her cubs so close to the house again. We had to content ourselves with a possum who perched on a dogwood tree outside the window where it could see our TV screen and seemed always there for its favorite program. A skunk shared the dish of Cheerios with our raccoons on a regular basis, needing only to raise its tail to keep the ‘coons at a distance. And flying squirrels would perform their acrobatics for us by swooping down into the bird feeder, even though we had lights on in the back yard. There was also a tame deer who would lie down in front of our house close enough to pet, but the next time we were visited by unusual beasties occurred when we moved to Arizona—tomorrow’s story.
I’ve read that pets in romance novels attract readers, but that wasn’t on my mind when I included Oxy Moron, a pet lizard, into Taking the Tumble. He somehow landed there right from my subconscious and plays a small but significant part. Speaking of animals, however, I could tell a few stories.
We built our vacation house in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania several years ago and moved in before the plumbing arrived. A little chemical toilet was placed by the porch back stairs. One full moon night I went out to use the facilities. I had just pulled down my pajama bottoms when I heard a noise by the garbage can. A black bear was clawing at the heavy elastic that held down the cover. We stared at each other for a moment that felt like an hour. Then, to my surprise, she waved a paw at three little cubs I hadn’t noticed hiding behind her. They ran to a nearby tree and clambered up clumsily, the bottom one climbing right over the first two to get farthest away. It was like watching an old Keystone Kops routine.
Grabbing hold of my bottoms, I ran onto the porch and watched as the mother bear ripped off the garbage can cover and ate her messy meal before calling the cubs down for their share and then ambling away. The next time I saw her is tomorrow’s tale.