Colburn | 3
scratches and bruises on their long, wild limbs. I could see them deciding what to tell. They looked at each other and came to an unspoken agreement, my telepathic daughters.
“We visit the bears,” said the older daughter. “There’s an old bear who lives in the forest and she has two sons.”
“We like them,” said the youngest, slowly. Her eyes were already closed. I became worried about them falling asleep, as if they had concussions.
“You must not visit the bears,” I said. “And you must not paint on your faces.” The girls were already drifting into themselves.
The next night before bed I sat down next to my two daughters, their room lit pink by a bedside lamp, their faces sleepy and hungry and flush. I said “I would like to tell you a story.”
“Yes,” they said, sleepily and hungrily. “Sure.”
“I would like to tell you the story of the bears.”
That got their attention. They each shifted to face me and opened their eyes, the oldest propped on her elbows.
“Once upon a time there was a family, much like our family, except the opposite. Instead of a father and two daughters there was a mother and two sons. And the sons grew up playing in Yellow Woods.”
“What happened to the father?” my youngest daughter said.
“He was accidentally shot,” I told her. “By a hunter.”
“This is a scary story,” said my oldest daughter.
“One day the two boys found an abandoned hut in the woods and decided to make it their second, secret home. But whenever they entered the hut, they felt funny.”
“Funny how?” asked the younger.
“Like they wanted to fight each other, and they became very itchy, and their tongues hung out of their mouths, and they could smell strange smells from far away. They could smell bees and grasshoppers and mushrooms all across the forest.”
“Cool,” said the older.
“They had stumbled on a witch’s hut. In the day, she lived in town. She was a school teacher.”
My daughters gave each other knowing looks. Of course their teachers were witches.
“But at night she often came to the hut in the woods. And there was a spell on the hut. It had a way of turning people into animals.”
Outside the night was full with stars, and a waning quarter moon sat in the silver maple leaves as they flashed their undersides in the wind. The night became part of the story.
I told them “One day the boys went to the hut and started fighting. They even bit each other; they couldn’t help themselves. And they didn’t notice darkness had come. They decided to stay in the hut instead of risking the forest at night. But then the witch appeared, of course.”
“What did she do?” said one. “How did she get there? Don’t say on a broom,” said the other.
“The witch rode in on a giant black bear. The two boys were terrified, but they asked her for