by Lonnye Sue Sims Pearson
Itís 5:30 A.M., 37 degrees, and dark. There is no moon and the stars are hidden behind a thick layer of clouds. The old streetlights have turned yellow with age and barely emit enough light to reach the earth around the pole. In another hour the sun will peek over the horizon, but for now our end of the street is shrouded in blackness that is deepened by the many old pines, magnolias and oaks that blanket the neighborhood.
I'm standing on the wide front porch of the house where we live, trying to keep an eye on Siggy, our dachshund, who is attempting to find the perfect spot to relieve himself. I canít see him, but once in a while I can hear the tinkle of his ID tag as he flits from place to place.
This morning ritual takes longer than Iíd like, especially on chilly days; but Siggy insists on taking his own sweet time. I realize I no longer hear the tinkle and know that he has sneaked across the street to my right under cover of darkness to one of his favorite spots. There is a streetlight that barely bathes the driveway of the neighbor and the little patch of ground that the Sig-Man has claimed as his. As I strain to find the dog, I hear the telltale sound to my left and turn toward it. Siggy is hidden behind a tree, but I know he is there.
As I peer into the darkness, a large, black hulk to my right catches my attention. At the same time, Siggy charges across the yard, barking ferociouslyÖwell, almost. He does charge and bark. My attention turns to Siggy and I command him to stay. He stops running but continues to bark. I look to my right, expecting to see a cat or our neighbor with his new puppy. Instead I see a huge shape turn toward the neighborís driveway across the street. I think to myself, Thatís the biggest dog I have ever seen!
I call Siggy to the porch beside me and watch as the mysterious hulk lumbers up the driveway into the backyard of the neighbor. The hulking animal is black, the sky is black, the yard is black. But I manage to adjust my vision in time to see it rear upright and turn around facing the streetlight. Actually, all I can make out is an arm and a paw, but it looks oddly out of place.
And then something dawns on me.
I rush inside with Siggy in tow to grab the telephone. Suddenly I remember that I had logged on to the Internet before taking Siggy outside. I quickly log off, punch the three numbers, and run back to the porch. I am just in time to see the creature calmly plod down the street in front of our house.
"9-1-1, what is your emergency?"
"I'm sorry, but I didnít know who else to call. I just want someone to know that there is a bear loose in town."
"And where are you?"
"Iím on East Pine Street Öthe cul-de-sac end. Iím watching a bear walking toward Linwood on Pine. It's too dark to tell whether he's turning on Linwood or staying on Pine, but he's here."
"All right, ma'am. I'll let the police know."
As the day progresses I begin to doubt what I had seen. I keep telling myself the animal was too big to be anything but a bear. I got a good look at it as it moved under the streetlight at the end of our drive, but who would believe a bear was wandering around Goldsboro in the pre-dawn hours? The 9-1-1 dispatcher sounds skeptical at best.
However, my doubts are unwarranted. The local afternoon paper carries the story on the front page. The police chase the two hundred fifty pound bear for an hour and a half but never catch it. The officer interviewed said it was at least six feet tall upright. The bear found a deeply wooded area near Stoney Creek in which to hide. It is gone for now, but what about tomorrow morning? Will I find it wandering around the neighborhood again?
I think somebody other than this cowardly writer will have to take Siggy outside for a few dark mornings -- just to be on the safe side.
Lonnye Sue writes: "Bio, huh? Hmmm . . . let's see. I teach eighth grade English in Wayne County Public School near Goldsboro, NC. I enjoy recording my memories because someday (evidently in the not too distant future) I won't be able to remember my name, much less what happened fifty years ago. I have two fabulous grandsons who light up my day each time I see them. And I enjoy hearing from old friends with whom I have lost contact. I was born and reared in Cleveland, Mississippi, and still find it a charming place. It's like comfort food--I am refreshed and satisfied after every visit."
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