Bear George was walking along the forest-covered hillside bending down from time to time to stir slightly the blackberry bushes. He stopped for a while by the pear-tree, touched the bark-cracked trunk by palm.
“It is a wild boar not a bear,” he vexed.
He leaned against a tree thoughtfully. He generally enjoyed hunting but not at that day. Lilly, his grand-daughter had come to the village to spend her holiday but caught cold and was in bed. Anna, his wife, was worried to death from helplessness because the doctor of the village didn’t have proper medicine to cure pneumonia.
He has been the chief accountant of the Farmers’ local company. His hair has already got grey but his mind has still stayed keen and versatile. How often he has already saved his company from unavoidable scandals. That is why he has still been on the same post. His job has been enviable and honorary for many others.
Yeah, he has done everything accurately and regularly, but his grad-daughter’s illness has messed everything like some calculation done late at night.
“Then you will say,” he stung himself fiercely, “It’s me, it’s me.” He lit a cigarette, puffed smoke thoughtfully.
“If there was bear fat, I should resist. What shall I say to her parents?” Troubling had drawn wrinkles on his forehead. He threw the cigarette butt on the ground, trampled it.
“Hey, motley flower. You marjorams,” he became deviled. “You stupid one. Is it possible to take a very young child to the mountains…?”
He put right the rifle leather sling in its place nervously and moved.
The air was filled by the fragrance of cornels, blackberries and medler. The late autumn sun had been housed in the sky for a long time but its rays being tangled among the foliage, slipped and spread over the path to illuminate it. Bear George was walking thoughtfully keeping his eyes on the road. He heard а voice and petrified. Nearby a wild boar was grunting nervously which was followed by the frightened scream of a bird. A bit later the croak of the movement of the wings stopped and the old accountant was still standing and pricking up his ears.
“The currant is ripe”, he grumbled for himself, “the bear will be nearby”. He went forward slowly paying no attention to the climbing a tree squirrel.
“Ah, chap, if it wasn’t Lilly’s problem. I shouldn’t come”, he became irritated.
He looked again in the direction of the path but all of a sudden, sadness came over him.
“Oh, young age”, and from memory he felt there had been a smile on the edge of his mouth”. What kind of kids we were”, he lit a cigarette and inhaled the smoke”. That time you beat me quite well but ,oh, I also myself did well”, he smiled evillessly.
He came out of the glade, approached the stream with his distinctive way, knelt, sank his face into the water current.
“Oh, how nice it is, I have become young”, he grumbled lightly.
He poured the water all over his face and neck, his eyes fell on the tree crashed by the storm, he came up to it unhurriedly and bending down he examined the destroyed ant-nest.
“Oh, it is just right what I want,” he puffed.
He crumbled a piece of soil with his fingers, his examining look turned round at the opposite side of the glade. The black currant had blackened just like olives. He went in that direction.
After sour ants, your heart longs something sweet,” he fell into thinking loudly.
He carefully stirred the thick bushes, picked up from the cluster juicy fruit and put them into his mouth.
“It tastes just like honey”, he touched it with his tongue, “I see bear brother, you know what to eat”.
He again turned round and went to the crashed tree.
“Sooner or later you will come to have water, then again you will go to the bushes.” He took out his gun and lying on the ground with wide-spread whimpering legs.
“That time, you will see who is who.”
He looked with half an eye at the hare which hopped to the brook then took a quick glance frightenedly, then only bowed to the water to drink it.
“It is your day,” he smiled, “we have another trouble,” and again his thoughts turned to bear.” Do you think I want… You will ask now – if not – then why have you appeared here?” His eyelids were warmed by the sun and were being closed. “I shall tell you if you know what a kid is; if your own cub needs your help, wouldn’t you mess the world?” He took out a cigarette and rubbed it with his fingers. “It’s the fact that is why I am in such wratched condition.” He didn’t feel but he started dozing. Mary was in his dream. She was his assistant. It was a summer night. They were in the office once more. Mary was sitting on the edge of the desk weighted with piles of paper. Hard and cold surface of the desk didn’t worry him. He was leaning against the desk with satisfaction on his face. His head was on the naked, uptaken-skirt thighs, he was humming while the woman’s fingers were curling and entangling his hair.
The door was opened unexpectedly. Anna appeared there with insulted expression on her face and right palm on the breast where her heart could be.
“I curse you. It is a great shame. You have nothing with morals.” He was frightened seeing confused Anna standing above him. He was upset and poor Mary ran out buttoning her shirt.
“You haven’t become full after fornicating with Hellen, you go on with this barren one!”
The old accountant was turning round and round in his sleep but the roaring from the mountains or something like it made him wake up. He didn’t realize when his dream stopped. He sat down, stretched himself. The day was going to die down. The twilight was on the top of the mountains. He stood up, put his gun on his shoulder and he again heard the familiar roaring.
“Let your ration be poison for you,” unexpectedly he raged,” he cursed himself for being a hunter. He put his hand on his forehead and looked far away. The bear had gone to the mountains. He had lain unperturbed dreaming. His ears were in the direction of the sound but it didn’t repeat. ”Oh, I wish somebody see your half-asleep face and laugh heartily.”
He walked fast and nervously, passed the glade and got into the forest. There was quietness.
The fire-like sky was no more seen. He was in a hurry making fun of himself.
“See, the bear skinner. He is lying and sleeping. Go and shoot at the quails and partridges”.
Bear George came out of the path and now was going forward among the trees. It became dark. The branches were rustling under his shoes. It was quiet which was interrupted from time to time by the rustles heard among the branches.
“If I find the paw marks,” he was thinking about the bottom of the opposite mountain from where he heard the roaring. ”I shall find at dawn (he was sure that he was going in the right direction). “It is all the same, the day has failed”.
He was going forward looking down, breathlessly and he heard clearly his heart beats. There, in front of him the small beast’s eyes flickered and George caught the sight of the escaping beast and its paw marks.
“No, it is impossible to go on in this way. I shall get exhausted,” he got annoyed. “I shall have a rest.”
He didn’t stop. He went on walking. Something slipped out from under his feet. It was a fox or something like it. George didn’t slow his steps and stopped only when he got to the hill top. He held the fir-tree trunk and looked at the opposite mountain. It was twilight and the same dark forest.
“Eh, oh, where are you?” he shouted. A lone wolf howled in reply.
The old accountant spat in the direction of howling and while desceding his foot touched the root sprung from the ground and fell down.
“You, George lad, you have nothing to lose, but to become lame,” he moaned in pain. After getting to the bottom of the mountain, he passed the couch field in full-moon light, he directed his steps to the plateau. He had almost got to the beforehand planned night lodging place when owls with big bodies made noise with their powerful wings passing over his head.
The old man stopped for a moment, he looked at the dissolved big shades then he began to gather sticks to fire.
He brought a bundle of dry leaves and sticks and fired. The leap flamed. The burning sticks cracked joyfully and its flames tearing the breast of darkness began to rise up and up.
The cool wind was blowing from the mountains and whistling crept into the forest, howling through the trees and in the respiration of the deep forest, the constant moaning of the old oaks’ wail was heard.
The fire was burning lively. Bear George lay down moaningly facing the fire.
“Never think,” he was with his granddaughter, his hand on his heart-burn breast. “What you say! Haven’t I hunted such beasts?”
He took out of the knapsack a snack and began to chew it with his toothless gums.
“Oh, Anna, if there were some milk of your cow-Flowers, my heart would be satisfied.” He opened the water-pot which was on his side and drank.
The lone wolf howled monochordly and a group of wolves answered polyphonically.
“Curse on you,” he crossed with his ears in the direction of the voice of the pack. “It seems you have come earlier than usual, again you want to interrupt me.”
“The world has been filled with rodents,” he grumbled, but in front of his look appeared the face of Rat Shone.
“Oh, you scoundrel. There is no house you haven’t destroyed it then we call the same to Michael.
He bent, threw some sticks into the fire. He won’t be able to forgive Michael, the director of the company, sold his son’s piece of land. His son was living in the town, but the land was formally his. Where was his hounour?
“If the rats grew so rapidly,” he gave vent to his bill, “the mice will pray for the cats existence…”
He folded his elbows and leaned his head on his calf.
“Oh”, he cried from the heart audibly, “with every passing day we lose something but again we quarrel with the world.”
Bear George woke up from the outburst a very high sound. The midnight had already passed, the fire was burning faintly. He sat shivering with cold rubbing his arms. The horrible roaring repeated, then followed by the dead roaring of the wild boar.
“Wouldn’t they get together?”
He stood up and looked steadily at the outlined forest edge in the milky dawn. “Oh, yes.”
He took his gun into his hands, he overheard impatiently and this time he heard the victorious roaring of the bear.
“Maybe, you have overcome.” He put off the faintly burning fire. “Now, we are alone.”
The sky was becoming white, the sleeping forest was waiting for the arrival of the sunrise but in the misty dawn hasn’t melted the night memory.
“Eh, you guy, make a noise, otherwise you have fallen on that corpse and become deaf.” When the old accountant was entering the forest, he again heard the wolf howling. He listened to it with great anger. He was sure that it was not the full-moon making them howl but the irritating hunger. The thicket was over and there were only few trees here and there, the surrounding became visible.
Bear George kept the gun in his hands readily. Every moment he was waiting to meet the bear but he got confused when he saw the grey-head bear at the other side of the glade. He moved back, he leaned the gun against his shoulder and the crooked-paw bear was going to and fro forgetfully. He got ready his double-barreled gun, put his hand on the trigger of it but one couldn’t realize why he was lingering.
“Why is it so angry?” He fell into his thoughts. “What had made it be in such despair?”
The bear turned round approached the blackberry bush softly stretching his neck up and started to roar. There was pain in his voice; great suffering but Bear George didn’t time to decide anything. His sober and accounting mind calculated in a moment the distance between the beast and him and then followed a shot of the gun. The wounded beast roared sharply, it stood on his hind paws but the second firing followed immediately. The beast was steady while the hunter was refilling the gun, the footfall was heard. The bear had already passed the half distance.
“If I don’t touch its forehead,” he began to shiver with all his body,” every thing will be over.”
He took the aim carefully and shot. His hand shook at the last moment and he felt the bear’s breath at the short distance.
“Keep quiet George. Now we shall see who is who,” he tried to encourage himself.
He pulled the second trigger. He heard the painful roaring but the bear was going forward wildly. He stood terribly, went back and back, his leg touched something hard and fell down. He rose up leaning on his knees and without looking back, he ran to the forest. It seemed to him that the bear was after him at a very short distance, he felt the approaching death. He was escaping and the leaves were making a noire under his feet. He fell down several times but for fear he got on his feet and went on running.
He got to the thicket of the forest but for a while he still heard the imagining breath of the bear. Then everything became silent, remained only his heart beating in his temples. He stopped, leaned the thick oak, vomited but he didn’t feel well.
He went away from the tree, cheeked himself and found out that his gun was missing.
“What a failure. The joy of getting rid of death was mixed with the grief of the loss.” What shall I do?”
Half-bent-sitting he put his head between his hands and everything became mixed in his mind. If he went back without his gun and bear fat, he will be the spot of the speech for villagers, firstly and secondly, he can’t help his Lilly? His granddaughter is burning in fever. He was the only hope but…
“Well, curse on it…”
He didn’t pay any attention to the crookedly running hare and the hedgehog which was crossing the pathway quietly.
“Why did he change his mind?” that unsolved question troubled him. He was about to get to the place.
He approached the beginning of the glade after a short time. He hid himself behind the trunk of the tree. The bear didn’t appear but distinctly he felt that the bear was nearby. He heard the whine then the monotonous long howling of the wolf. His eyes were watering of the unusual tension. He got irritated but couldn’t decide what to do. All of a sudden, he stared steadily at the blonde-maned wolf which moved thievishly going forward to the glade and after him the first, the second, the third…
The hunter counted to ten and get horrified.
Then another one entered the glade keeping a distance from the pack. Its tail was cut and it was hairless. He was running trembling with fear. It sometimes was putting forward his ugly face.
The pack approached the blackberry bushes, smelt the air, the fair-fun leader losing his carefulness went forward. Bear George saw how the bear stood up on his hind feet and came down, then the blond-wolf was lost under the body of hairy bear. The wolf fangs made much noise and the bear bones were broken and the body was torn into pieces. The wolf nervous growl became unhearable in the bear horrible roar. The pack went back for a while, wrinkled and then again started to approach.
The old man, all of a sudden, made a decision. The wind was blowing from the blackberry bushes so the beasts hadn’t taken his smell yet. If he crept and went forward softly, maybe he would get to his gun. There was no doubt that had lost the gun when he fell down.
He was walking bending down from time to time looking at the fighters who rolled themselves up into a ball. There was no need to search the double-barreled gun which had fallen behind the stump struck by lightening. He took it, pressed to his breast tenderly then he put his hand into his pocket and became pale. There were no bullets. He knelt, searched the grass and found one of them. He loaded the gun and went on searching but in vain. He crawled to the burnt trunk, he took his stand. The bear didn’t appear and alive moving ball was rolling and rolling along the glade.
Suddenly the old man felt that he was sorry for the bear. If he had had bullets he would have killed all the wolves without any hesitation but using the only one it meant to sentence his own life to inevitable death.
The pack of the wolves vanished for a moment and the hunter saw the torn bear clearly. He was half-sat with his front paws, was beating continuously the attacked pack. His wool was tattered. He was bleeding all over. It seemed that he was terribly tired and felt his coming end but he didn’t want to be defeated.
The blood-washed leader of the pack was driven aside and was making an effert to spit from his throat the scraping wool.
Suddenly the bobtail lone wolf appeared of the old accountant at the sight. Since then he had been following the fight from afar. He carefully approached the fighting place and unexpectedly went to the back of the bear. The crooked paw bear roared nervously and in no time turning round he put the wolf under him. The wolf howled heart-beatingly. The bear was in range. He pressed the wolf’s throat and with hind powerful paws was tearing the wolf. The pack attacked the bear again and like the most reachable wave they took the bear among them. Bear George moaned hopelessly and there was no doubt that it was the last hopeless outburst.
“I knew they would come and spoil everything,” opening the ammunition belt he looked at the only bullet and was sorry for the lost ones. “If I only had had I would have shown them.”
The vultures were already flying in the sky when they stopped rolling heads over heels. The pack saw in the sunrise with harmonious sounds of fangs.
The old man went back to the forest.
“They will be gobbling up and leave nothing,” he said in pain. He hid behind a tree keeping his sight on the glade.
The wolves had a nightlong feast. Then in rows they disappeared in the bluish forest. At last Bear George moved. During that horrible scene, he was standing still and confused. He put his gun on his shoulder and thoughtfully walked towards bushes. The vultures got together with fighting cries were cutting and tearing the rest of the bear’s body.
“Go away,” he cried from afar waving his hands and the birds flew away displeased. He approached the bleeding part of the glade beating his hips with his hands.
“Get dry, you,” he said in range,” what the head is, you have bitten it off, too.”
He looked left and right and saw the poptail wolf bleeding and blue-turned tongue out. “Oh, my God what shall I say now to Anna who is waiting impatiently?”
He knelt down and covered his head with his palms. The mixed thoughts weren’t purified and they let the groan like wounded beast link the suffering of the bleeding wound.
“You come to gain your aim but everything becomes the wolf share,” he shook his bead sadly.
He got up, went forward to the bushes, he stretched his hands and he became surprised of the scene. There were lying side by side the wild boar dead with broken back-bone and bloody fang and the bear-cub in blood.
“I say why it doesn’t go away from the bushes,” he took his sharp dagger from his waist, ”Oh, my God. We are safe. We have been saved.”
By Eduard Khachikyan from Armenia