The Bear book excerpt: "The sniffing is closer"

This month's Book Club pick is about two children who are left wandering alone in the wilderness after a bear attack during a family trip.

The-Bear-Claire-Cameron-Chatelaine Book Club

I open my eyes and it is light outside Coleman now and I can see Stick’s crying face all red and squishy. He cries for Momma. I tell him to shush. He keeps crying. His belly is squishy too. It looks like a ball and is round like his cheeks. His face is like a bad tomato because he is crying so much. It is wet and he has snots all over his nose. It is very noisy inside Coleman because of Sticky and I’d like to get out.

I call Daddy and Momma and no one comes. I try to have a peek outside. I can see a line of sky that is blue. The trees reach out and they don’t look like claws anymore. I put my hands over my ears because it is so loud from Stick crying and I squint my eyes too. It is still loud but I can see darker lines down my eyes. I open them and the lines are gone. I shut them and they come back. The lines are attached to my eyes. I touch and they are my eyelashes. I thought  they were skinnier but they look furry. In the mirror there are a lot of eyelashes but with my squinty eyes there are gaps in between. I can still see out. The tree branches look furry not like claws. Like the needles are the eyelashes of a tree. And they are furry in the same way. When I squint. It is too loud and my hands on my ears barely block all the noise.

After a while Stick’s crying stops and I take my hands off. Stick is only breathing through his spit. He is curled up on his side of Coleman and just staring at the blank wall. It is hard to lift my head so I put it back down and listen. I hear nothing except then I do. I hear a sniff.

The sniffing is closer. I think of the black dog I saw through the crack. I don’t think Snoopy is here. Snoopy would listen and be nice. Mrs. Buchanan would call Snoopy because she doesn’t like him to be very far away. I hear more sniffs and I don’t hear Mrs. Buchanan. I think it is the black dog and I feel scared. I was scared of Snoopy too. The black dog might not be bad. I keep my fingers away from the crack because you are not supposed to make your fingers look like carrots.

The sniffing is close and something bumps Coleman. He wiggles and then stops. Sniffing and another bump. The black dog’s nose comes to the crack. It is wet so the black dog isn’t sick. It is big. It looks shiny like the chair at my grandpa’s house. Grandpa loves to sit. He says his “old bones” need a chair and there is a handle that I pull on the side. I am only allowed to pull the handle when Grandpa is ready for his legs to kick up. My grandpa is very nice when I do things his way and so I do. The chair is black and sometimes the cleaning lady rubs a cloth on it so much that I can nearly see my nose. Not my real nose but like a shadow of my nose. Rose. That is the cleaning lady. She smells like lemons and wears an apron that I think should have lemons too. Instead it is pink flowers that are more floaty. Rose came after my grandma died and my grandpa missed her so much he got Rose to do her jobs. When I pull the handle on the chair a small toadstool appears from the bottom of the chair and picks up Grandpa’s feet until he is lying down like a bed. Except it isn’t a bed. It’s a black chair. Shiny and smooth with dimples. Like this nose.

The nose sniffs and I watch the nostrils go in and out. Stick is quiet and I only hear him make a small squeak but I don’t want to lift my head because the nose is looking at me. It keeps breathing in my air like it’s saying hello like Snoop does. Except it’s not hello. It’s more like who are you? I don’t want to talk and I keep my head flat and I feel Stick is moving like he is trying to get away. There is nowhere to go inside Coleman. Stick is wiggling and I want him to stop. I push to get him over more on his side again. His head comes up near mine and our feet are curled together. The nose keeps sniffing around the edge of Coleman’s mouth and I take my hand and put it over Stick’s mouth like when we hide from Daddy. Not enough to make Stick mad or tight so he can’t breathe but I don’t want the black dog to know us. Stick’s stomach sucks in like he is going to scream and he changes his eyes to look at me. I say shh and I can feel his lips flap open to yell at me but his eyes blink once and he is quiet. I put my hand on him and we are quiet and we watch the nose sniff sniff sniff.

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