MY MAMA HAS BEEN BAD AGAIN. I know because he’s yelling at her. She is always bad on Fridays and Saturdays, almost always. He’s gone those days, like he is every day. Don’t matter if he’s working or not, Mama says, he’s gone, just leaves. But it’s when he comes back on those nights, in the middle of the night, when I wake to the breaking things, thumps against the walls and him yelling and my mama screaming, that I know she has been bad again.
I know that my mama says he’s my father and I know that he sometimes, on good days, calls me son. I don’t think he likes me too much most days.

all day during the week for my granddad putting roofs on houses, comes home to my mama and me when he gets done. Red face from the sun, sweaty, his eyes almost shut like it’s hard for him to see.
Supper’s always ready when he walks in, it’s his rule for Mama. The house smells of fried pork chops or tomatoes and roast beef. I don’t talk. I just go to my room and shut the door when he walks in. That’s my rule.
I always wait in my room, almost always sit in the chair Dad bought for me when he went to Mexico. Chair’s little and made just for me. With my TV tray pulled up, I like to look out the window at the squirrels playing in the big oak tree or watch Mr. Sheppard next door working in his yard. Sometimes I can hear him talking to himself and sometimes he doesn’t walk too good. He doesn’t much care for me but I still like to watch him.
My mama always brings me my supper. She likes to pet the top of my head before she leaves. I eat by myself. She said I can’t eat with them because he’s tired and he wants quiet. Mama looked like something was wrong when she told me that, like she had been stung by a fire ant. I was lonely at first because I don’t see her again until she takes my plate away, then later when she kisses me goodnight and tucks me in.
Sometimes Mama watches me sleep. Well, she thinks I’m asleep but I’m just pretending. She’ll open the door real quiet and watch. But one time I half-opened my eyes and it wasn’t Mama but my father. He had a smile on his face and then he shut the door. I think he wants to be good to me sometimes but can’t. Don’t know why.
But then one day Mama brought Ben the bear and now I’m not so lonely.
He’s a big bear, almost as big as me. He’s got chocolate brown fur all over. Friendly round face and little furry ears. I was eating one day in my room when my mama brought him in. Eating and humming a song that I heard watching cartoons. That’s what I like to do in my room. Not just hum, but I’ll sing too. Songs Maw Maw sings to me when I’m over there, or songs from Mama’s records she plays when she gets home from work, which is way before he gets home.
She brought him in, hiding him behind her back but it didn’t work because I saw the brown fur sticking out. Ben is a big bear.
“Hey, baby, got a new friend for you.”
Ben the Bear continues...
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About Mike Hancock

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Mike Hancock is a former hunting guide and commercial fisherman. He spent seven years guiding elk, deer, and bear hunters in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and New Mexico. Prior to that he was a deckhand for two seasons aboard a factory trawler in Dutch Harbor, Alaska. Now living in Dallas, Texas, he is a high more English teacher and freelance writer. He holds a B.A. in English Literature and a M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Southern New Hampshire University. "Ben the Bear" is an excerpt from his forthcoming novel, "Fallen". This is a story of fathers and sons and of emotional bonds that transcend culture and time. Set in the looming mountains of Northwest Montana in 1870 and 1997, the novel chronicles the lives of Grey Bear, a distraught Piegan warrior in the aftermath of the Marias Massacre, and Calvin, a tortured young hunting guide, as they endure hardships and abuse, both seeking redemption in an untamed wilderness.
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