“Fancy meeting you here,” said the horse to the bear, even though it was a lie. It was not fancy meeting him there. It was plain and simple. They were two men on a walk.
“Good afternoon,” said the bear. He was not one for pleasantries, but what could he do? There was nowhere to hide. They were the only two people in the forest.
“Come here often?” said the horse.
The bear scratched his belly. A bead of sweat rolled down the middle of his back. The costume was heating up.
“No,” said the bear.
“I like your fur,” said the horse. “Is it real or synthetic?”
The bear did not know, but it was rude of the horse to question his authenticity. “Have a good day,” said the bear.
“I’m walking that way as well,” said the horse.
The bear sighed. He did not trust a man in costume, even though he, too, was a man in costume. They both liked dressing up, fine. It did not mean they were the same. Did not mean they should be friends.
“I like getting out of the city,” said the horse.
The bear did not respond.
“You too?” said the horse.
“I do not live in the city,” said the bear. This was not true, but the bear did not want the horse to know where he lived.
“Where do you live?” said the horse.
“Bears live in forests,” said the bear.
“Oh, gotcha,” said the horse. He winked.
This annoyed the bear.
“I’m actually walking this way,” said the bear. He stopped, then turned around to walk in the opposite direction.
“I see,” said the horse. “Well then, I wish you good day.” The horse let out a “neigh,” quietly, and then another one, “neigh.”
This was the horse praying. He was a very religious horse. He went to church on Sundays. He did not find it boring.
God knew this, so he answered—a tree fell. It landed in-between them. It shook the ground with a thud.
This startled the bear, and he fell over, onto his back. The head of his costume slipped off.
“Jacob?” said the horse.
“I’m not Jacob,” said Jacob, frantically pulling the bear head back on. So frantically, he put it on backwards.
“Jacob,” said the horse, “it’s me, Brian!” He slipped the horse head off, and held it in his hands, by his chest.
Jacob was mortified. Brian was his co-worker. Worse, Brian was his employee. They both worked at the bank. Jacob was the manager, and Brian was a junior teller. Jacob wore a tailored suit to work. Brian wore ill-fitting khakis.
“I’m not Jacob,” said Jacob. He thrashed his arms like a bear (a bear with a backwards head). He screamed “Grrr” at Brian, as dangerously as he could.
“Jacob, it’s alright, I’m not going to tell anyone. Your secret is safe with me.” Brian stepped over the fallen tree, and turned the bear head around, so that Jacob could see.
Jacob, now with vision, pushed Brian to the ground. “I am a bear,” he screamed. “If you don’t stop talking, I will eat you. Bears eat humans for dinner.”
“Is that so?” Brian said. Brian put the horse head back on, and with all of his might, bucked the bear to the ground—his hind legs making contact with the center of the bear’s chest.
The bear fell into the dust, and the horse galloped away, into the sun.
Aileen O’Dowd lives in Toronto. Her fiction has appeared in the Berkeley Fiction Review, Monkeybicycle, The Ekphrastic Review, and Flash Fiction Magazine.
image: MM Kaufman