A Night at White River

Willow blew softly on the incense holder and let the white swirls of sandalwood drift up into the pines.

“They’re going to love it. I can feel it,” she said.

Falcon smiled and blew her a kiss as he hauled the canoe out of storage and slid it across the grass to the jetty at the mouth of the river.

It was a month since they left the city to live a quieter life. “Reconnecting with nature” was how they’d put it to their friends, who threw them a goodbye party on the beach and wondered how they’d make it. For despite their names, Willow and Falcon were urbanites born and bred.

But today, the sun was warm and life was perfect. Willow sprinkled handfuls of seeds and herbs around the campsite’s perimeter.

“A circle of blessings,” she whispered.

The drone of an engine announced the arrival of their first guests at White River Holistic Retreat. Susan and Henry were a middle-aged couple from Hamilton, looking to inject a little romance into their 32-year marriage. Henry had reluctantly agreed to humour Susan, who had found the site on GlampingHub.com. She had pleaded for the fully catered luxury teepee, but a man had to draw the line somewhere. So they settled on the “Cozy Rustic”: a small Airstream trailer that opened onto a red tassled rug with a green canopy above, strung with tiny lights. “It’s like a gypsy dream!” swooned Susan. Henry grunted his assent.

That night, disaster.

“You forgot the hot dogs?” said Henry incredulously. “We drive six hours for a camping trip, and you forget hot dogs??”

“If I’d had my way, we wouldn’t have needed to cook at all,” Susan pointed out calmly. “You want them so badly. Go see if they have some up at the cabin.”

Grumbling to himself, Henry marched out of the trailer.

At the edge of the campsite, he found himself nose to nose with a 400-pound black bear, daintily snacking on the trail of seeds left by Willow that morning. Henry screamed. The bear looked up. Henry knew nothing about bears, and did the one thing he shouldn’t: he ran, and kept on screaming. This made him incredibly attractive to the four-legged visitor, who naturally began to chase after him.

Shaken by the screams, Willow and Falcon came running from their cabin – Falcon pausing to grab his brand new hunting rifle – arriving just in time to see the bear lunge.

“Do something!” Willow cried.

So Falcon shouldered the rifle the way he’d seen in movies, took shaky aim, and fired the first shot of his life. The crack of the pistol bounced off the trees with a shudder.

Silence followed, and Susan emerged to find her husband dead in the grass, a bloodied bear stumbling into the woods, Willow crying and Falcon on his knees, rifle still in hand. She wasn’t sure where to look first.

The police came and went, taking Henry with them. A devastated Willow offered Susan to stay in the house with them for the night, and waived the cost of the stay. But Susan refused, saying quietly that she’d prefer to be out under the trees, just as she and Henry had been dreaming.

After a few hours, Willow came to check on her, and saw an extraordinary sight. Under the light of the August moon, Susan sat in a nightdress on the stoop of the Airstream, petting the bear’s matted fur. “Who’s a good boy?” she whispered, as she fed him hot dogs, one at a time, from a jumbo pack.

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