by Asfandyar Qureshi
Nine times out of ten, the bear gets the girl. They exchange a look across the room, and feeling invited, he ambles toward her, propped up on his hind legs, uneasy, but more graceful than when he rides his tricycle. He smooths his silk shirt with a paw, scratches his bare ass, and taps that gold chain around his neck to make sure it catches her eye. Sometimes he licks his paw and slicks back the fur on his head. He reaches her, he smiles, he bares his grizzly fangs, flashes deep brown eyes, and chews off her skirt. She goes along. Nine times. The tenth is a slap. Hard, across his snout. His skin flushes, a growl escapes his throat, and he wants to grab her, to throw her down, to unsheath his claws, to make her pay.
The first girl he kills, they let it go. “He’s a bear,” says his lawyer, “she should have known better, she should have never smiled.” The jury looks at the bear, his mass wedged into a little chair, like clowns crammed into a tiny car. They see his pinstriped suit bursting at the seams, they see his sad little puppy-dog eyes. “He’s trying,” thinks the old woman whose son never visits; a man nods along with the lawyer’s sing-song voice; a girl, one of the next nine, smiles, blooming, rose red. “I’m sorry, so sorry,” the bear says on the stand, his natural growl suppressed, just a low rumble as he rolls his r’s. “I try, I try, I do, but sometimes, sometimes the animal, he reaches, reaches out, and there’s nothing, nothing I can do.”
So they let him go. After all, a talking bear is so very rare.