(Fear of Hair)
Tommy Wasserman was twelve years old when he went hunting with his father in the hills of West Virginia. Because Tommy was only twelve at the time, his father thought that it would be a safer option if he taught his son how to hunt with a bow and arrow. Tommy’s father was half Cherokee on his mother’s side so he wanted to teach his son some of his native culture. Tommy was excited to be out hunting with his father since his father’s job tended to take him away from home a lot. Tommy had inherited his father’s dark hair but
he had inherited his mother’s Germanic attributes such as pale skin and blue eyes. When his father had told him two weeks ago that he had scheduled some time for them so that they could get closer, Tommy was surprised but elated. He knew that his father regretted not spending enough time with his son. Tommy just knew that this trip would be a success. He even understood his father’s reasoning about hunting with a bow and arrow as opposed to with a gun, but maybe when he was older, his father would teach him how to use a gun.
They left home early in the morning after having a breakfast that his mother had reluctantly made. She was reluctant to have her husband take their son out for something which she considered as dangerous, but her husband had reassured her that he would carefully watch over their son. Once she had waved good-bye to them and the car had disappeared from sight, she sighed, hugged her robe closer to herself and went back into the house and cleaned the dishes. She trusted her husband to watch over their son; it was Nature that she didn’t trust. Two hours later, they arrived at the cabin which the family had owned for the last twenty years.
“OK, Tommy, wake up! We’re here.”
Tommy opened his eyes and looked out the car window and saw the beautiful trees which surrounded the back of the cabin. The sun was shining down on the door of the cabin and Tommy quickly got out of the car to help his father take in everything that they had brought for the weekend. An hour later, everything was put in its place and Tommy and his father got all of the equipment together that they would need for their hunting expedition. In what seemed like no time at all, they were a mile away from the cabin enjoying each others company. Tommy’s father reminded him about how to stalk their prey and how to listen to the sounds of the forest. When they reached the banks of a small river, his father quizzed Tommy about some tracks which they found nearby.
“What sort of tracks do you see?”
“Deer tracks. They have been here for at least an hour because of the freshness of the prints.”
“Very good. Now, let’s cross over and see if we can track it.”
The man and the boy crossed the river, whose water barely rose three inches above their boots. They quickly discovered some broken twigs on the other side of the river and continued to follow the path that they knew that the deer had taken. Eventually they came to a clearing in the forest. They found some eatable berries, picked a handful and took out their canteens. They found a fallen tree trunk and sat down to eat their snack. The silence of the forest was broken by the songs of the local birds. Tommy looked up to see if he could see any of the birds, but he was distracted by the canopy of the forest and the sparkling rays of the sun. He almost felt like he was in a cathedral which had been created by Nature.
“Come on, let’s go. We only have a couple more hours of light left before we have to return to the cabin.” Tommy’s father said. They put their canteens back on their belts, put their quivers on their shoulders, picked up their bows and heading north. Unfortunately for them, they never found the deer that they had been tracking. Tommy’s father just shrugged and said “We’ll try again tomorrow.” By the time that father and son arrived back at the cabin, the sun was just touching the western horizon. Tommy put his gear away and went into the kitchen to help his father make dinner. After washing, drying, and putting the dishes and utensils away, Tommy and his father sat out on the porch of the cabin and looked at the stars. An hour later, Tommy’s father told him that it was time for bed and that they would be getting up before sunrise to start the second day of their expedition.
The following morning when they left the cabin, a breeze came up which carried with it a scent of rain. Tommy’s father checked the sky and saw some gray clouds, but thought little of it. This time they headed east. Eventually the road, or rather dirt path, came to an end and they were forced to climb up a steep hill. The ground itself was dry but there was a carpet of pine needles which made walking a bit precarious. By the time they reached the top of the hill, they were sweating and tired. They sat down on the ground and had a piece of beef jerky and water before they decided which way to continue. They had gone about a mile when the wind began to pick up. Tommy was becoming worried but he trusted his father’s instincts. So far they didn’t feel any rain or hear any thunder, so they continued on. Thirty minutes later, they came across a cave. They stopped and listened but they did not hear any noises from inside the cave. At that moment, rain started to come down and they heard the first clap of distant thunder. Tommy’s father decided that they would take a chance and slowly entered the cave. They managed to find a few sticks and pine needles, so Tommy and his father gathered them up and made a fire. They sat around the fire and attempted to dry off. The smoke from the fire was not overpowering. After a while, and with his father’s permission, Tommy walked around the cave, where he suddenly found a pile of leaves and needles. He walked slowly over to the pile and, when he got as close to it as he could with light still lighting his way, he stopped. He noticed something else was on the pile…a collection of small animal and fish bones. He turned around to tell his father of his discovery, when the entrance to the cave started to darken. There, at the entrance, was a bear and his father’s back was turned away. At the same time that Tommy yelled to warn his father, the bear let out its own roar. Just as Tommy’s father heard the bear, he jumped up and stumbled around, trying to find his bow and arrows. He managed to just get ahold of them when the bear attacked. At first, Tommy was too frightened to move, but when he saw the bear knock his father to the ground, he ran screaming at the bear and waving his arms. The bear looked up to see what was making the noise, and when he saw Tommy, the bear raised up on his hind legs and roared again. Fortunately, Tommy’s father had not been knocked unconscious when the bear ran into him, so he rolled out of the way, jumped up and aimed. Tommy’s screams, however, attracted the bear’s attention too well. He started to run towards the boy and, before his father could hit the bear with an arrow, the bear knocked Tommy down. Tommy then pretended to be dead, hoping that this would confuse the bear and give his father time to take aim. The bear was suspicious of this creature that had been making all the noise and now was suddenly quiet and seemed to be dead. The bear sniffed Tommy’s face and chest. Time seemed to drag on forever while Tommy waited for his father to shoot. Finally, Tommy heard the twang of the bow and the thud when the arrow hit the bear. The bear turned around, roared, and started to go back towards the man, when the second arrow flew. Amazingly, the second arrow hit the bear straight in one of his eyes. The screams of pain echoed throughout the cave and the bear ran out, barely missing Tommy’s father. He then ran over to where his son was still laying and, seeing that the boy’s eyes were still closed and that there we no signs of blood on him, he yelled,
“Son! Son! Are you alright?”
The boy opened one eye, turned his head slowly to the left, and said,
“Is it gone?”
“Yes, it’s gone, but we better put out the fire and get out of here in case he comes back.”
His father slowly helped his son to get up. They threw dirt on the fire and scattered the remains with their boots. They then grabbed their equipment, cautiously looked outside the cave, then headed back the way that they had come. Thankfully, the rain had stopped. By the time that they got back to the cabin, Tommy was still shaking from his experience. His father saw that his son was still not over the experience and, thinking that it might help calm him down, gave him a small shot of bourbon. Tommy’s hands were shaking so bad, that his father held him in his arms and directed the glass to the boy’s mouth. The bourbon shook Tommy back to reality and his father led him to his bed. The next morning, Tommy woke up and saw that his father had already loaded up the car. His father made him drink a cup of black coffee and put down a plate of scrambled eggs and bacon in front of him. Tommy ate in silence and when his father finished cleaning the dishes, they got in the car and drove off. That was the last time that father and son went hunting.
FOUR YEARS LATER:
Thomas Wasserman, as he now preferred to be call, and his family had moved to Kansas City, Missouri because his father had been transferred. Thomas felt sad about leaving West Virginia, but he got over it quickly when he realized that the chances of running into a bear were less likely. For months after that fateful hunting trip, Thomas had had nightmares about what could have happened on that trip. He refused to watch any TV shows that dealt with, or had as a character, a bear. He definitely refused to watch his former favorite show, “Grizzly Adams”. Even though he knew that there were no literal bears in it, he would not go to the movies to see “The Bad News Bears”. Moving to a large city which had flat terrain helped Thomas to forget about his horrifying experience in West Virginia and he had fewer nightmares.
Thomas was enrolled in high school, got better grades, and made new friends. One of his friends was Nathan Goodly. He was a bit of a nerd, was skinny, had red hair, and wore contact lenses instead of glasses. His father had, in fact, insisted that he get contact lenses because he was afraid that with his slight frame and meek personality, there would be less chance that his son would be bullied. Nathan understood his father’s concerns and agreed with him. When Nathan met Thomas, they were assigned as lab partners in Biology class. At first, Thomas was not particularly impressed with Nathan, but when he found out that they both had an interest in science fiction, they became fast friends. When Thomas noticed how some of the other boys tended to pick on Nathan, he quickly came to his defense. In fact, some of the boys even admired Thomas for his loyalty to someone who was not particularly popular. It also helped when Thomas knocked the main school bully, Billy Wilkins, on his ass when the boy had pushed Nathan into his locker. In short, Thomas Wasserman became the most popular kid in school. Eventually, he even got a girlfriend, Joyce Willis, whose long, blond hair was what had drawn Thomas to her in the first place. Joyce was also sympathetic to Nathan and would often invite him along when she and Thomas went anywhere that might not be considered as a date, such as a bus trip to a local museum or school-related functions.
One day at lunchtime, Nathan told Thomas and Joyce about a sci-fi convention that would be coming to Kansas City in a week. Nathan was very excited and managed to talk Thomas into going with him. Joyce, who was not a big sci-fi fan, told Thomas that it would be okay with her if the two boys went to the convention.
“Great! I’ll go pick up two passes for us at the TicketTron after school. I saved up enough money over the summer to pay for the tickets.” Nathan said.
“Let me know how much mine will be and I’ll pay you back.”
“Okay, no problem.”
Later as Thomas was doing his homework, his telephone rang. It was Nathan calling to let him know how much the passes were and Thomas told him that he would pay him tomorrow at school. The next day, Thomas reimbursed Nathan but he told him to hold on to his pass; he was afraid that he might lose it. Nathan agreed.
Finally, the big day came and both boys were excited. Nathan’s mother drove them down to the Convention Center and told them that she would be back for them at 7:00 PM. Thomas thanked Mrs. Goodly and the boys got in line.
“Man, we should have gotten here earlier; look at this line!” Nathan said with a note of annoyance in his voice.
“Don’t worry about it, dude! We’ll get in. We’ve paid for our passes already, so they have to let us in.” One minute after Thomas said this, a tall, skinny guy dressed in an astronaut outfit came along the line with a megaphone saying, “Attention, people! If you have already purchased your passes, please follow me to the pre-paid line in an orderly fashion.” Since Thomas and Nathan were, basically, the end of the line, they looked at each other, smiled, and followed the astronaut. By the time that they got to the new line, they were closer to the entrance by half. Fifteen minutes later, they were inside. They were amazed at how many people had come in costumes representing their favorite characters. Some they just had to laugh at. Nathan and Thomas weren’t that much into sci-fi to where they would treat it as a chance to act like it was Halloween. They checked out some of the booths, bought a couple books, and stood and watched as two people dressed as Luke Skywalker and a storm trooper battled with light sabers. The boys hadn’t seen “Star Wars” yet, but they knew some of the characters. They were so into watching the show that Thomas didn’t notice when someone stood behind him. He turned to Nathan to say something, when he suddenly froze. Thomas slowly turned his head and, there standing behind him, roaring, was a person dressed as Chewbacca. Thomas suddenly screamed and ran through the crowd while almost knocking Nathan to the floor. Nathan did not know what had caused his friend to run away, but he went after him. Eventually, he caught up with Thomas, who he found sitting slumped over by a booth selling VHS tapes.
“Thomas, what’s the matter, man? Why did you run off like that?”
Thomas had his head in between his knees, sobbing out loud. The girl at the booth was worried about being the center of this commotion and waved over a security guard. The guard came over, stooped down and said, “What’s the problem here?”
The only words he and Nathan heard were, “The bear! The bear!”
Half-an-hour later, little Tommy Wasserman was taken out of the building on a stretcher, followed by a totally befuddled Nathan.