A black bear is wandering around, making stops here and there, letting its presence be known to the citizens of Chatham. Each time the bear is seen by someone, it quickly moves on as if it feels that it must stay aloof and retain its mysteriousness. However, the bear’s presence has left an impact in the community and on those three lucky (not so lucky) witnesses to its passing, “…all this fuss was reported in high school prose in the local papers…” (27). The bear is news worthy. The citizens of Chatham take the bear seriously in a way that they can’t take their neighbors and the health of their community.
In juxtaposition, the bear is set up against two scenes of violence in which the good citizens of Chatham simply look the other way.
The first was that pit bull is loose, attacks and kills a lesser dog, leaving it a pile of broken flesh and bones. The pit bull was simply taken back to the owner, or so the article in the local paper tells the narrator. What bothers the narrator was what was omitted, no legal action taken, the dog not put down, other than it happening, the dog attack was non-event.
The second was seen first hand by the narrator and the shop owner with the newspaper stand. A man burns a woman with a lighter. The woman gets into the back seat of the vehicle trying to get as far away as she can. The man reaches after her. They drive away. The shop owner looks to the narrator and says, “The Peters Family.”
This story tells of the human capacity to misinterpret, confuse what is important and what is novel, newsworthy. The bear and the dog make the paper, but the abusive husband will not. Point taken.
The story was well written, focused, and didn’t pull any punches. It is a reminder that we should do better.
Freese, Mathias B. “The Chatham Bear.” Down to a Sunless Sea. Tucson, Arizona: Wheatmark, 2007.