by Mina Ma
You’ve heard a lot of bullshit about us, so I’m setting the record straight, right here, right now; ask me anything. Okay, how we met: I was in the middle of the forest with dad and my brothers – Jim, Andy, and Mike. It was the first day of hunting season; my first time out there with them. I hadn’t fired a rifle before, because I’m the baby of the family, and the only girl, but I knew my way around them – I’d cleaned them, oiled them, loaded them for dad and the boys – just never fired one myself, and dad said it was about time I learned. We were wearing ugly high-viz jackets, creeping around, trying not to be seen or make a sound. I was feel- ing like an idiot, I mean, we were all stumbling about, tripping over roots, slapping at mosquitoes; no wonder we hadn’t managed to kill anything. And, you know, thinking back, dad and the boys never brought much home from their hunts, for all their efforts. Anyway, dad found tracks. He held his hand up, which was his signal, and we froze, then followed behind, like we’d been taught. It felt like hours. Dad would move forward a few meters inspecting the ground, stop, check the wind direction, screw up his brow, take off his hat, wipe his forehead, then begin again. Truth be told, I already knew hunting wasn’t for me. I just wanted it to be over, so I could meet my friends at the bar. I was probably daydreaming; that’s what I used to be like, back then. Then there he was. He rounded a tree, stopped right in front of us, and reared up on his hind legs. Ten feet tall, spiky blackness, all meat and fur, teeth and claws. And there I was. Hot and sweaty, decked out in
fluorescent orange, which isn’t my colour at all, staring up at him, holding a rifle. It’s a cliché, but I knew I’d been hit by cupid’s arrow. Maybe there really are fairies and gods in the forest, I don’t know, I’ve never seen them, but I felt it – my heart fluttered, cheeks burned, pulse raced; all the things you hear about. I looked to my left, and dad had his rifle raised, pointed right at Bear, one eye pressed against the sight, the other squinted closed. I shouted, ‘No!’, or something, and threw myself at him, knocking the barrel aside. The shot went wide, and the sound reverberated, scaring all the birds out of the trees, but Bear stood right where he was, brave as anything.
‘Why’d you mess up my kill shot, girl?’ dad
asked, looking at me like I was stupid.
‘You can’t kill him,’ I said. ‘I love him.’
I told you it was love at first sight, and I wasn’t afraid to say it, not even to dad, but he didn’t understand then, and still doesn’t. I guess he doesn’t believe in true love and destiny – I mean, we didn’t find Bear, he found us, which just proves it, right? And you know the real reason I was in the forest with them? My other brother, Ben, was sick, and they needed an extra pair of hands, so it was fate, wasn’t it? Dad looked like he was about to spit, then Bear growled, real low and deep, and moved closer. Dad and the boys fled. I stayed put. Bear reached his paw out to me, all tender, and I placed my hand in it. We’ve been together ever since. Yeah, how they reacted: Mum phoned the rang- ers, reported me lost. They found me easy enough, of-
‘ Love is Love ’ 1/2022
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