2—Road Trip

Something bad, I mean gnarly bad, has gone down, and I need Jimmy to help get out of it. I could get locked up. Everybody knows what happens to dudes like me—dudes that aren’t real big and bad—when they get stuffed into prison with a bunch of hardened criminals. Do I have to spell it out? They get it in the ass! I don’t even want to think about what that would be like. Some guys get off on it, I guess. Not me. I’d rather die. So I can’t let them lock me up.

I’d been hanging out in the Topsy-Turvy Club, a south of Market dive I happen to like, and by the time I got out of there, it was getting kind of late. I was pretty smashed, I have to admit, but I couldn’t have been too messed up because I found the van okay, right where I’d left it. Next thing I remember is I was behind the wheel, waiting for a light to change, when I looked at my phone and saw I had a call. It was from Rhonda. I hit “call back,” and she picked up right away.

You called?”

Yeah,” said she. “We’re out of milk. I thought maybe you could pick some up.”

What are you wearing right now? More than a towel?”

Charlie, please. You must be drunk.”

Ahh, a little. More like lost. Just going under the bridge. Whoa! What was that? Oh, shit!”

I’d hit something big and knocked it off to the side of the road. The impact killed the engine, but I got it started up again. Something wet and warm was trickling down my face. I must’ve smashed my head on the dash. A couple of bruins—big males, I think—came rushing up out of the dark. They hovered over the thing I’d hit, then one of them tried to get in front of me, but I was able to swerve around and gun the van the hell out of there. I couldn’t make out what that bear was roaring, but he didn’t seem any too pleased.

I kept an eye on the rearview until I’d put some blocks between them and me. It looked like there was no one following. Not on wheels anyway. I could barely see where I was going through the clouds of steam that were gushing out the front of the van. Besides its being so dark. Had the crash knocked out the lights? Damn, they weren’t even on! When the Giants’ stadium showed in front of me, I knew where I was. They must’ve been out of town, ‘cause it was dead around there. I drove around the stadium and along the water, where there were a few makeshift tents and lumps of homeless folks. Nothing else but a few dark buildings and a lot of scattered trash. I had to keep an eye out for the broken glass. When I got to a totally deserted spot, I parked next to the Bay and got out with a flashlight. The front of the van was all stove in. It was a wonder I’d made it this far. The fur and blood made me damn near puke.

I was pretty sobered up by then and wondered what the penalty was for killing a bear. Not manslaughter, I don’t think. But it wasn’t just that I’d hit the animal. I’d been DUI and left the scene. Not to mention driving while on my cell. That would be the least of it. I saw that Rhonda had phoned again. No doubt she wanted to find out what had happened to our call. But I had things to do. I wasn’t going to let the van point a finger at me. My hands were shaking like a motherfucker as I used a screwdriver to remove the plates. I sailed them out over the water as far as I could. Add trashing the environment to my list of crimes. Then I pulled as much of my stuff as I could carry out of the vehicle, everything that could be traced to me. I had to leave a shovel and some other gear. I let the air out of a couple of the tires, just to make it look more abandoned like. There was nothing I could do about the VIN, but I was hoping they would take the engine, too. I opened the hood and a cloud of steam came pouring out. I left it propped up. It didn’t feel right to ditch the van like that. We’d known some good times. I used the rearview to inspect my wound. It didn’t look like anything serious, and I used a rag to clean it up the best I could. Then I told the van good-bye with a pat on that window that was always getting stuck. Of course, if they’d got down my license number, I was fucked, but it’d been dark, and I didn’t think that there’d been time for that.

Then I had a long walk. It was kind of scary, slogging along past those abandoned piers and heaps of ancient parts. If something wanted to jump out at me—one of that poor fellow’s friends, let’s say—this would be the perfect place. But then I’d think of what it would be like to get busted on a bunch of felonies, and I was only too happy to be heading home in the dark. Did I say “happy?” It wasn’t really like that. I felt like a total scoundrel and the biggest fuckup in the world. I should’ve had Jimmy driving me. But hey, maybe it wasn’t too late. A plan was starting to hatch in my boozy brain. The only question was, would Jimmy go along. I sure as hell couldn’t tell him that I’d hit a bear.

It was late when I got into familiar parts, but not too late for me to grab a cab and shop around and buy the biggest non-commercial vehicle I could find, a Chevy Suburban, kind of greenish-brown. It had some miles on it, but except for some ugly scratches, it seemed to be in pretty good shape. So I drove it home, where for Jimmy, it was love at first sight. He climbed into the driver’s seat and put a paw out for the keys. I let everybody think I’d traded in the van.

It’s about time you got rid of that old wreck,” said Rhonda. “I thought you were attached to it by an umbilical cord.”

It seems the van was not the mother of the man,” cracked Mollie, who was visiting us again.


Are you okay with giving up your job?” I asked when we were by ourselves.

Jimmy said that he could always get a job like that. I couldn’t argue with that. The region’s economy was starting to bubble up, and there were lots of crummy jobs around. Jimmy liked to say that if they wanted to see a real economic take-off, they should put some money in the paws of bears, who would quickly put it back in circulation by buying stuff. Whether they needed it or not, just like us. He fancied himself a kind of economic sage. Anyway, he was more than game for going on a road trip.

But what’s the rush?” he asked me when I said we had to leave next day.

I just told him I was feeling super antsy. “This is a chance to put everything I’ve taught you about driving to the test. I want us to get into that vehicle and just head east.”

Destination what?”

Let’s just find out where the big car wants to go.”

Wow,” he howled. “We are such a free spirit!”

I hardly slept that night. I kept listening for a knock on the door, primed to hurdle down the back stairs. But then I started thinking, maybe I’m like . . . overreacting. If the cops were after me, wouldn’t I know it by now? Maybe or maybe I was only at the bottom of their list. It’s not like I could call them up and ask. But maybe I didn’t really need to take off. I didn’t want to disappoint Jimmy, but . . . . Such thoughts were percolating in my brain and I was marching round my room, when I happened to look outside. What I saw made my mind up quick as gin. It was two big male bears, one black and one kind of blonde, standing under the street light. They seemed to be testing the air. I had no idea how they could have found their way to me so soon, but it sure looked like they had. Then, for some reason, they started up the stairs that go to Coit Tower. But they’ll be back, I thought. The clock said 4:46.

I hated to do it, but I had to get Jimmy up.

What?” he said, when I’d busted through his wall of sleep. “It’s the middle of the night.”

Yeah, but if we leave now, we can beat the morning commute.”

I’d somehow managed to find a parking spot right in front of the building the night before, so it was easy to load the SUV with all our stuff. I couldn’t get it in fast enough, what with those night bears on the prowl. I had on a disguise.

Why are you wearing those dark-tinted glasses, Charlie?” Jimmy asked. “It’s still dark outside.”

Then I got nothing to lose by sporting shades.”

Rhonda and Ursula came down to see us off, just as it was getting light. Rhonda said she’d miss me. She even gave me a kiss. It wasn’t juicy like her old-time kisses used to be, but it was a nice little way to say goodbye. She gave Jimmy a smack, as well. How big a smack I don’t know, because I had my head in a map. Ursula told Jimmy not to do anything stupid—“and you, too,” she said, meaning me. I didn’t tell her it was kind of late for that. They must’ve been glad to have the house to themselves for a change. Jimmy thought so, too.

We’ll be back,” I promised. But I wondered about that.

We got under way, and it was good to be on the road, starting to put some distance between me and the scene of my crime. I told Jimmy where to go, which was east on state roads.

Say, Charlie,” he asked me after fifty miles or so, “why have we gotten off the Interstate? We’re not going to make very good time on this two-lane country road.”

Well, I thought it might be nice to take some long, slow country drives.”

But you were in such a hurry to leave.”

Yeah, I was.”

Charlie, are you running away from something?”

Yeah, I kind of am. And with your help.”

Shouldn’t you be telling me what you’ve done and what we’re running from?” He was starting to do that soft growling thing he did when there was something he didn’t like.

Yeah, I should. And later on, I will. But for now, the less you know, the better off you are.”

What if I were to turn us around and take us back the way we came?”

Jimmy, I’d really appreciate it if you didn’t do that. I know it’s not fair, but what the hell, we’re on the road. We go back there, we’d just be getting into a big old traffic jam. Here there’s hardly any other cars, and just look at those yellow fields going by.”

Charlie, I’m not your cub chauffeur, and if you get me deported to the wilderness, I am going to be one angry, starving, and vindictive bear, and you will no longer be my friend.”

Dude, I totally understand, but I really need you now to help me out. If I don’t explain, it’s ‘cause I don’t want you to get in trouble.”

Hmm. I must admit that I like the idea of a long-distance drive. Perhaps I can do some eyewitness research on the American heartland.”

Just don’t break any traffic laws and everything is going to be okay.”

He didn’t say anything for a long time after that, and he didn’t turn the car around.


Taking country roads meant we had to stay in cheap motels, as neither of us wanted to camp. It meant small towns where people had never even seen an assimilated bear, much less got up close to one. Some of them would turn out to be friendly, some of them would act like Jimmy wasn’t really a bear, but a lot of the looks we’d get from people in their nice safe cars were kind of ugly like. When we’d park and get out of the car, some people would stop and stare and some would simply turn and walk away. A lot of times people rushed off when they saw us coming. Whether they were going to hide under the bed or get a gun or had some important business they had to take care of, we could never tell. I wasn’t surprised to see Jimmy scribbling things down in that little notebook of his.

The second time he asked me what we were running from, I told him I’d had an accident with the van.

You hit somebody.”

Yeah, I did, and I’d had a couple of drinks. With my priors, I could get some prison time for that.”

Maybe you need to be in prison. You’re a dangerous fellow.”

Only when I drink and drive, and I promise you I’m through with that.”

What did you just say?”

I said I’m through with drunk driving.”

Well, I hope you’re serious, my friend. I can’t think of anything more important that doesn’t fall under the heading of national or global events. What happened to the person or the persons that you hit?”

Well, uh . . .”

Charlie, did you kill somebody with the van?”

Pretty much, yeah, I think I kind of did.”

We’d just pulled into a motel parking lot, and I was anxious to get out and get us some rooms. But Jimmy had his glittery little eyes on me and they wouldn’t let me make a move.

So you ‘pretty much’ killed somebody. Charlie,” he asked me in his sweetest voice, “did you happen to run over A BEAR?”

Not over, no. More like into.

You hit and killed a bear.”

Well, it could’ve been a deer or a big dog. And it’s possible it survived.”

But you didn’t remain at the scene to find out.”

I didn’t have to say anything else. Jimmy had it all figured out. He later said he didn’t understand why we were running away.

Do you think they’re going to launch a big investigation over the death of a bear?”

I don’t know, but they might. Just remember, you don’t know a thing.”

The problem of knowledge, yes. What can we know and how can we know it? Hmm. It seems that I’ve become the get-away driver of a bear killer.”


We’d been driving for hours one day when we stopped for coffee. We’d learned to get to-go. Drinking it in the vehicle was a lot easier on my nerves than sitting inside a place, where we’d always be the center of attention and I’d be hoping and damn near praying that Jimmy wouldn’t do anything that could get us locked up. Besides, being in the car gave me a chance to make myself a little Irish coffee drink. I might even slip into a nearby store to get me some whipped cream.

So we were sitting there, getting wired, in his case, or juiced up, in the case of me, when Jimmy asked me, “Why are people afraid of me? I know I sometimes make the uncaring remark, forget to flush, step on someone’s child that I didn’t scent, or leverage my way to the head of a line when I didn’t know there was a line. But why should such petty faults elicit fear? I suppose that when one is twice as large as anybody else, he is bound to offend. But I assure you I intend no harm. And I’m not afraid of them. But ‘you’ would probably be the more appropriate pronoun here. ‘I am not afraid of you.’ Don’t look at me that way, Charlie. I’m just giving my grammar a little romp. And, yes, I’m well aware of the fallacy of thinking that because I’m not afraid of you, you shouldn’t be of me. In any case, while I don’t fear humans in general, your cars and guns pose a distinct threat to my physical well-being. In brief, my life. And that of other bears, as well. But why am I telling you?”

You don’t have to run it in like that, I thought.

As a character in Anna Karenina casually remarks, it doesn’t take strength to kill a bear. Even a child can do it. He doesn’t have to add, ‘with a gun,’ because that’s obvious. And he doesn’t add ‘with a motor vehicle’ because there weren’t any cars back then. Now why do you suppose humans have such deadly contrivances as cars and guns while the rest of us do not?”

As a passenger, I was captive to all kinds of stuff like this.

Well,” I said, thinking we should be going, “people need cars to get around. Like we should be doing right now, if you’re rested up.”

Soon we were tooling along in the trough of a valley, stuck behind a watermelon truck at forty miles an hour in 95-degree heat. “And I guess people needed weapons because we didn’t have claws or poison fangs or long sharp teeth. We needed them to protect ourselves against creatures that did.” I had to give myself some props for figuring all this out.

Creatures like me, you mean.”

Well, uh, if the shoe fits . . . .”

I assure you that I will never wear a shoe. Over and above that, if every animal were to get what it required for self-defense, the mouse might qualify for a nuclear device. A dirty mole might get support in learning how to build a dirty bomb.”


Speaking of weapons, it wasn’t long after this that we went through a town where everyone seemed to have a rifle on his shoulder or a pistol on her hip—or both. I thought I’d seen a sign as we were coming in that said it was mandatory here for everybody over a certain age to carry a loaded weapon, but we were going by it at a pretty good clip. I wouldn’t swear that’s what it said. But something like that.

How can they possibly justify all these guns?” Jimmy wondered out loud. “It appears we’ve wandered into a war zone or a political cartoon.”

I told him that with everybody armed everybody could feel safe. “I mean, you’re not about to pull a gun on me if you know I have one, too. The gun rights people think that this should put an end to gun violence.”

Ha,” exploded Jimmy, “Everyone ‘packing heat,’ as they say, doesn’t make me feel one bit safer.”

That’s because you’re not packing, too.”

Hmf. I can just about imagine what you people would do to a bear with a gun. As for everyone carrying a gun putting a stop to gun violence, was the Old West pacified by universal ownership of guns? Please.”

We drove in silence for a while. The roadside stands we were passing had signs for strawberries, grapes, melons, corn, all kinds of stuff like that. We’d stop and buy something from time to time, but even with Jimmy’s appetite, we could only eat so much fresh fruit if we didn’t want to make a lot of extra stops. Anyway, there was something scratching at the backdoor of my mind. It was Jimmy’s question from that coffee break. Why are people afraid of bears? The answer couldn’t have been so clear if it’d come to me in blinking red lights and bit me on the leg.

Getting back to the question that you asked the other day . . . ”

Which question was that?”

Why are people afraid of bears?”

No, I asked why people were afraid of me.”

But they’re afraid of you because you’re a bear.”

Do we really know that? At least some of them may be afraid of anything that moves.”

I didn’t know what to say to this.

So you have an answer now?” he asked.

I’m not so sure I even have a question anymore, but yeah, I do. And I’m not going to sugarcoat it either. People are afraid of you because you’re a bear, and bears sometimes kill and maim and even eat people. That’s been going on for a long time.”

Excuse me, but would you care to guess how many more bears have been killed and eaten by people than people killed and eaten by bears?”

I don’t know, how many?”

3,460,141. Got that? 3,460,141. As of the first of the month. We call that the Bear Mortality Margin.” He gave me a friendly bear nudge, the kind that can leave a bruise.

Did you Google that or what?”

No, I didn’t Google it.”

How do you know it then?”

I intuited it,” he growled.

I could see that Jimmy was getting kind of uptight, and I probably should have kept my mouth shut, but I just had to mention something super-ugly that I’d heard. “Some people say that a male bear will kill and eat any cub it finds, and that’s why mama bears are so fierce about protecting their young.”

Jimmy had to hit the brakes to keep from driving into a fence. “That’s a preposterous lie!” he roared.

Okay,” I said, “but it’s something I’ve heard more than once. Why would anybody make up something like that?”

He’d pulled our car off the road, and he was taking deep breaths. “Oh, Charlie,” he managed, at last. “Sometimes your light burns so dim. Don’t you see that this is propaganda put out by the bear hunters’ lobby? They want to be allowed to shoot more big males like me. We’re their trophy animals.”

Gee, Jimmy, you’re usually so mellow.”

And here’s another thing, Charlie. These people have the audacity to claim that by killing off male bears, they’re increasing the bear population. Increasing it! Can you imagine?”

I could kind of guess how that might work out, but I wasn’t about to say anything. We drove in silence for a while, but Jimmy wasn’t through with this. “Humans have also been known to kill and eat their own kind. The historical record includes many, many human followers of Saturn.”

Saturn? Isn’t that the one with the rings?”

Not Saturn the planet, Saturn—aka Chronos—the god of classical antiquity. He devoured his own children. With my people, that’s something only a grizzly would do.”

Yeah,” I agreed, “I guess under certain conditions, humans—I mean the kind of people they used to feature in the National Geographic—will sometimes eat their own kind. They’ve been known to.”

Jimmy was nodding like he was mulling what I said. Or he might’ve been somewhere far away, inside that shaggy head of his, so I just went blabbing on.

Besides that, people stranded and starving in the mountains in winter might eat a certain member of their party, if they were stuck there long enough without any other food.”

A nice fat infant perhaps?”

Wouldn’t surprise me none.”

Let’s just hope we never become that hungry.”

Were we really thinking of sharing an infant if we did? This was starting to scare me, kind of, but I wasn’t about to shut up.

I’ve also heard that a grizzly will kill and eat a black bear.”

I guess we were both getting a little bored with the driving and wanting to stir things up a bit.

Abysmal grizzlies. And our government wants to award protected status to the ones still in the wild, too! They’re not real bears. A real bear would never eat of a brother or a sister bear’s corpus. As far as I’m concerned, the grizzly bear is only half a bear.”

You think the rest is what—a shark?”

The rest, my friend, is human.”

Jimmy was really hung up on this grizzly thing.

Half-human, huh?” I said. “What about all that fur and those big teeth and claws? If that’s not all bear, I don’t know what is.”

It isn’t their secondary characteristics that I’m talking about. It’s their aggression. A grizzly would just as soon kill you as look at you. Especially if you happen to look at him.”

And you put humans in the same category?”

He used a bear grin for an answer. “Anyway,” he snorted, “for all you know, we bears eat human flesh as a sacrament. That’s right.” He was looking at me, waiting for my reaction, and I had to grab the wheel to keep us from drifting into a truck in the other lane. He went on in a preachy tone. “Those that get a taste of this sanctified flesh can thereby slough off the mask of everyday life and become as one with the all-powerful spirit in the sky. As for the so-called victims of the sacred feast, they go straight to the great beyond where they can eat anyone or anything that they might like for another fifteen years. And they never risk being eaten by anyone else again. Forever, amen.”

Jimmy snickered, and I had to crack up, too. We’d been watching a program on the Aztecs at a motel a couple of nights before, and his riff was coming straight out of that. Our Jimmy was one sharp bear. Did I understand the meaning of human sacrifice? Hell, no. The whole thing had always seemed to me to be a case of religion jumping from an upper floor.

We were on a mountain road by then with lots of steep grades and hairpin turns and sheep grazing at a crazy angle. Jimmy had gotten his driving chops back, and he handled the vehicle with ease. Made me proud of the way I’d trained him. After a silent hour or so, he said he had a question for me.

Charlie,” he said, “I was wondering. Why is it that you’re not required to work for a living?”

Well, Jimmy, you know I’ve got this bad hand.” I held it up and wiggled it a bit. I couldn’t wiggle it a lot. “It’s my major hand, too.” I’m not going to get into my medical history here or show you the x-rays or make a list of what I can and can’t do with my messed up hand. You just have to take my word for it, it’s messed up.

All right,” he said. “You’ve got an injured or malformed hand. You’ve shown me before how you can barely tie your shoes or peel a potato. But an injured extremity doesn’t explain how you can afford to buy this massive vehicle, plus a condo on Telegraph Hill, or pay for all of our expenses on this trip. I appreciate your generosity, but I can’t help wondering if you have the pension of a corporate CEO or you won the lottery or what?”

Well, uh, Rhonda helped pay for the condo. Some anyway.”

And? What else? Is Rhonda paying for our trip?”

Look, Jimmy, this is something I just don’t want to get into right now, okay? Maybe some other time.”

Sure, no problema, mi hermano. I was just curious and thought that curiosity injured only cats. No offense, I trust.”

It’s okay,” I said.

There’s just one more thing I have to ask. When you . . . did what you did back in San Francisco and thought you had to run away, why didn’t you just book a flight to Europe or South America? Isn’t that what middle-class criminals usually do?”

Well,” I said, “to fly you have to have a destination. I just wanted to get away. And I thought that you might like it, too. I mean, the road and all.”

Ah, Charlie Higgins as Jack Kerouac. And thinking of what I might want, too.”

Since we were headed east and never seemed to get an early start from one day to the next, the summer sun was mostly at our backs. Late in the day, we’d drive up to a high spot, if there was one around. Then we’d look back at the sunset and maybe we’d see the road we’d been on, unspooling itself below until it was a thread that fizzed off in the distance where we’d been the night before. We didn’t use no GPS to find our way around. Instead, when we got to our rooms, we’d get out one of our road atlases and spread it out on the bed to figure out where to go next. If we found the name of a place we liked, we’d settle on that, just as long as it was east of where we were. If we couldn’t find a name we liked, we drew a circle round a place that had a river going through it or a nearby park where we could have a picnic and get rested up. When we got there though, it was never what we’d imagined from the map.

One evening when the reds and yellows and purples in the western sky were having a beauty contest, we saw that we were driving by a high school football game. Jimmy wanted to stop and see it. I thought maybe he thought they’d let him play. Being with Jimmy was like having a kid and a parent both along.

Any fool knows that,” he growled when I told him we could only watch. He still wanted to go. He knew that American football was full of action and, in my opinion—though I know Rhonda disagrees with me—Jimmy got off on action.

We found us a place to park with the other cars, but as we were making our way up into the stands, we got hard looks. We also heard some rude remarks. Wow, I thought, these people really don’t like bears. But even if Jimmy hadn’t been a bear, we’d have stood out by the fact that we weren’t wearing red like everybody else. Well, we got up to some seats, and we hadn’t been sitting there more than two minutes when this fellow in a yellow cap came bounding up the steps to thank us for our support “in this hostile environment. And, sir,” he said to Jimmy, “that’s a wonderfully lifelike bear get-up.”

Much obliged,” growled Jimmy. “and, sir, you look almost human yourself.”

I watched the dude scurry down the stairs and back to his seat at the other end of the stands. That’s where the visiting teams’ cheerleaders were, too. They were trying to electrify a little cluster of people wearing blue and gold. I could just make out their chant: “Go, Bears. Beat’em, Bears!” they piped. The Bears must be the visiting football team, I grokked. I ran down the situation to Jimmy, but he was all skeptical like.

The ones in the blue and yellow, you mean? Huh, just like Cal. But they don’t look like any species or subspecies of bears I’ve ever known. What are they wearing under their shirts?”

I couldn’t tell if he was putting me on or what, but I explained about the shoulder pads. He wanted to know the home team’s “totem.” “Not the hunters, I trust.”

No, they call themselves the Red Dragons.” Dragon pictures were everywhere, and the crowd was chanting, “GO, RED DRAGONS, GO!”

A beast of both Chinese and European legend, if I’m not mistaken. I think that the bear should be more than a match for an animal of mere myth. GO, BEARS, GO!” he roared in that amped-up bass of his. A hundred crazed Dragon fans craned their necks and squinted nasty looks at us.

Is that a real bear?” asked a boy a couple of rows away.

No,” barked Jimmy. “It’s a pit viper!”

I was really needing a drink, but I’d left my flask in the car. The signs said no alcohol in the stands, so it was just as well. But Jimmy had also left something in the car—his distance glasses. “What just happened?” he’d ask. “I’m getting whiffs of a human pile-up.” More people turned around to stare.

The Bears are making a goal-line stand,” I yelled into Jimmy’s ear to get above the noise. “It’s called a goal-line stand.”

GO, BEARS!” he roared. “And why are they so happy now?” he had to know. Everyone near us had got up out of their seats. They were cheering like it was the last day of school.

The Dragons made a touchdown, a goal.”

Jimmy stood and started chanting, “DRAGONS EAT BEAR POOP, DRAGONS EAT BEAR POOP, DRAGONS EAT . . . ”

No, Jimmy,” I begged, trying to pull him down. “I think maybe we’ve seen enough.” I was treating him like a five-year-old that’s had too many Cokes, but what else could I do? I thought he might get us killed. I got up.

No, no. Let’s stay.” he pressed. “This is wonderful.”

Somebody’s had too much to drink,” I could hear a woman say. If only she was right and it was me. Other people were muttering stuff I didn’t want to hear. “Maybe we should call the police,” I thought I heard.

He’s just a bear,” I murmured.

What’s that?” the guy behind us asked. “A real bear?”

A woman shrank back, her arms around her kids. But Jimmy was making his way out of the stands, and people were giving him plenty of room.

Jimmy, wait up!” I yelled, heading after him and feeling like a jerk. I knew I’d said the wrong damn thing. When I caught up with him in the parking lot, he pulled away. “Get away from me with your ‘just a bear.’”

Jimmy, like I’m sorry. I’m only human.”

That’s exactly the problem,” he flung over his shoulder as he crashed off into the darkness of a stand of firs on the edge of the school’s parking lot. He was on all fours, and anyone would think he was a wild bear.


Read Chapter 3 of Barely Human

If you want to contact me about the book, I can be reached at alsandine (at) aol.com.