Small spaces, dark places, and big bears

When I was a kid, I was sure there was a something evil lurking under my bed. So every night before I went to sleep, I bravely lifted the black-and-white gingham bed skirt to peek.
Today, even if monsters were real, they’d never be able to hide under my bed at the farmhouse because there’s too much stuff jammed under there.
Believe me, I’ve used up every available inch. Even dust bunnies have a hard time finding a spot to hide.
Plus, I only have 14 inches of height to work with below my double bed, which also was down-sized from the “larger than life” unit that stood 40 inches off the floor in our other neck of the woods.
And given the storage space galore at that house, the only things under my bed were two dogs and their blankets.
Needless to say, a challenging rescue mission ensued the first night at the farmhouse when long and lanky “Cash” managed to wriggle under the bed and got stuck.
The sight of his hind legs sticking straight out and being tugged on reminded me of a TV show I once saw where a vet was helping birth a colt.
The trauma of that experience left the poor dog scarred for life against small, dark spaces, including the door to the basement. I could leave a raw steak hanging from the doorknob and I’d never have to worry.
It would mean strapping “Cash” to a catapult to get even one paw down there.
“Dot,” on the other hand, rings true to her fox terrier ancestors, made evident by the deep, dark hole she’s dug into the bank near the creek. I suspect a small black mammal with a white stripe is coming ever closer to a foul engagement with the family pet.
Of course, it will just be my luck that Pete will be away at work when the stinky confrontation occurs—leaving me to decontaminate the putrid pooch.
And just as I’m donning a gas mask, rubber gloves, hip waders, and opening a bottle of fabric softener to pour on the dog, he’ll phone collect from way up north.
He’ll expound on how much fun he had driving at warp speed down a mine drift like Fred Flintstone on a Bedrock freeway, and how equipment and trucks parted for his landcruiser like Moses and the Red Sea.
Then he’ll tell me he loves me and wishes he was here living the farm life with his “Mrs.,” who by then will have had visions of using a pitch fork to get her point across about bad timing, pets who don’t listen, mounting work orders on Mickey Mouse plumbing, and the valuable space “Fred’s” electric guitar case is taking up under his side of the bed.
And then, to top it all off, I’ll tell him about the dark and how after a hard day’s work here on the farm re-arranging the lawn furniture, I’d nearly come face to face with a brooding black bruin.
In the pitch-black of this country setting where even a pole light can’t illuminate what’s near the barn, I’d stepped outside with the dogs to monitor their last “bathroom” visit before bedtime.
It was then that I spotted what I thought was a huge bear standing still as a statue on all fours poised to attack from 100 feet away. I didn’t waste any time cutting the dogs short on their missions and locking us all up tight inside.
The next morning after sunrise, I ventured outside to see what mess the brute had left behind, only to realize it hadn’t been a bear at all.
What I’d seen in the dark was the looming shadow of an old wicker couch I’d plunked near the bank of the creek as a place to rest my weary bones.
There was no one around to make fun of my mistaken identity, but if there’d have been room, I’d have crawled under the bed to hide my red face.

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