‘Bear’ by Dana Leibelson

Did you see that?

Fiancées Ben and Sophie go on a trip to Montana shortly after the death of Sophie’s brother, Alexei. There is tension: uncertainty around Sophie’s behaviour, Ben’s ongoing envy of the strength of the siblings’ relationship. And something has been promised on the trip that Ben cannot bring himself to believe. This disbelieving of the reality before you is interesting. In this story, images are misinterpreted or misremembered from the start. Before he dies, Alexei (a journalist) curtly corrects Ben on his mistaken identification of a painting: “You’ve gotten the women confused, because you think they have something to do with you”. Ben’s ‘possession’ of Sophie begins to disintegrate as he faces symbols of loss and irrationality which he can no longer pretend not to see, not least of which is the reanimated corpse of a black bear. There’s also a phone-line to the afterlife (though you have to make reservations) and a life-changing bell. ‘Bear’ is a smart and surreal slow-burn gem, with fantastic dialogue, dry wit, and unexpected turns.

Published in Guernica Mag, 2021 available here

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