“I knew going on this hike was a stupid idea,” Theresa growled, while Dave held her arm as she removed her foot from an ankle-deep, half-frozen mud puddle.
“It’s not stupid,” Dave argued, “You just have to watch where you’re walking.”
Theresa grumbled and they kept on going.
Two days earlier they arrived at their vacation destination, a cottage in the woods of Vermont. Prior vacations included Manhattan, LA and Miami, all Theresa’s idea of time well spent, but Dave had finally put his foot down and insisted on a vacation he’d enjoy. Theresa wasn’t happy, and she’d spent the last two days making sure that was known, by constantly complaining and pointing out everything she hated. “It’s cold here,” she’d say, or “when are we going to do something fun?”
Dave tried to pacify her, taking her to dinner the first night at a fancy restaurant several miles from the cottage. He’d made sure the cottage they were renting would be new, clean, and equipped with electricity, a toilet, a shower, and a TV. But Theresa was impressed by none of it, and even the cozy fireplace in the living room didn’t bring her even the slightest tinge of pleasure.
This morning they’d headed out on a hike, with Dave dressed in jeans, snow boots, a wool sweater with a heavy winter coat, gloves, hat and scarf. Theresa, on the other hand, after refusing to pack appropriately for the trip, was dressed in jeans, a shiny jacket with fur around the collar, dress boots with a heel too high to hike in, and nothing to keep her hands or head warm.
“We should get moving,” Dave said, after they’d stopped to sit and rest on a rock just twenty minutes into the hike. They started walking again, then suddenly Theresa hesitated, staring into the woods ahead with a startled expression. “What?” Dave asked, then looked in the same direction.
There was a black bear several yards ahead.
“What do we do?” Theresa shouted.
“Shhhhhh…” Dave panicked as he realized the bear had heard Theresa and was now looking in their direction. “Get down,” he said, as he pulled Theresa into some nearby brush.
They’d barely begun to crouch under some branches when the bear was suddenly upon them. “Run!” Dave yelled at Theresa, as he pushed her backward and stood to face the bear.
The bear had ahold of him, pulling Dave to the ground quickly with his enormous, clawed paw and an arm so strong it was immediately evident that Dave didn’t have a chance. Theresa stood and screamed while she watched the bear mauling Dave, clawing down the front of Dave’s torso.
“Run!” Dave yelled again, but Theresa wouldn’t and couldn’t. She stood frozen in fear while Dave continued to try to squirm away from the bear, his punches to the bear’s face and neck being received as if they were mere bug bites.
Theresa looked around for a weapon – a large stick, a big rock, anything she could use to strike the bear and help Dave. As she bent down to search the ground, the binoculars that had been hanging by their strap on her shoulder fell into her view. She wrapped the end of the strap firmly around her wrist and hand, tightened her grip as much as she could, then lunged at the bear in one long, courageous stride. The bear raised his head as she approached, she swung, and hit the bear in the snout hard with the binoculars. The sound on impact was chilling; a cracking noise, with the gory sound of blood spatter mixed in.
The bear stood stunned, just long enough for Dave to wriggle out from underneath. Dave looked at Theresa, shocked at what he’d just witnessed, and tried to grab her arm so they could run. But Theresa stood ridged, not taking her eyes off the bear, and just as Dave tried a second time to grab hold of her jacket, she wound up again and struck the bear with the binoculars a second time. The bear’s head flung back, and he swayed to one side. He fell toward the ground, catching himself with one arm, and hovered there, bleeding and dazed.
“Run!” Dave yelled again, this time grabbing hold of Theresa’s jacket and jerking her closer to him, hard. They ran through the woods toward the cabin, neither daring to look back to see if the bear had recovered enough to pursue them.
They reached the cabin and Theresa ran for the phone. “I’m calling 911!” she screamed, as she struggled to dial.
“I’m ok, I’m ok,” Dave said, as he collapsed on the sofa, still bleeding profusely.
The next morning, Dave lay in his hospital bed, awaiting Theresa’s return. She’d been by his side the whole night, but had headed to the cafeteria to get coffee for her, and juice and a bagel for Dave.
I can’t believe she did that, he thought, as he recalled the events of the previous day. He thought about how brave Theresa had been, managing to hit that bear not once, but twice, and for a moment he thought it must have been a dream as he recalled the image of her standing fearlessly face to face with that bear. He thought about how she’d risked her own life for him, and realized he was surprised, but not shocked, because in spite of the difficult and seemingly selfish personality Theresa usually puts forth to the world, he’d been with her long enough to know she had a soft side as well. She’d do sweet things for him, like making him oatmeal every morning and insisting he eat it to keep his cholesterol down. She’d leave notes in his lunch bag, drawing tiny hearts and smiley faces. She may have been a bitch on the outside, but deep down resided a loving angel.
Theresa returned to the room, and placed her coffee on the bedside table. She moved the chair she’d been sitting in into the corner, then placed Dave’s juice and bagel on a tray. She searched the bedside stand for a napkin; found a Kleenex instead and figured that would do, then lovingly placed the tray on Dave’s lap.
“I figured you’d like the ones with raisins,” she said, then kissed him on the forehead, pulled her chair back over to the bed, and sat down.
Dave, now overwhelmed with love and gratitude, looked at her and smiled. Theresa looked back and smiled briefly, but then her smile suddenly changed to a frown.
“What?” Dave asked.
Theresa looked at him with a hard, cold stare. “I told you this trip was stupid.”
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