So he turned around and looked at them, and pronounced a curse on them in the name of the Lord. And two female bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the youths. -- 2 Kings 2, verse 24
In my green years, I was a bear. Now I am no longer one of them. A cheap
way to describe myself is “I am a dead bear.” But there is more to it than that. There is also more to it than my being a “non-bear.”
Not surprisingly, my sister was a bear, too, and together we did bear-like things. For example, we developed sweeping ways to grab fish at one particular waterfall, my sister terrorizing the fish toward me, and me doing the same for her. We also spent a lot of time picking berries together. And we would take turns scratching our backs on the rough bark of a good tree. And of course we had to deal with male bears and the cubs that filled out our lives.
Eventually, my sister and I died, even though right now –many thousands of years later – we are still not totally dead. The most important part of us lingers on in the venue of the Bible, where my sister and I are the only bears mentioned in all the scriptures.
So we are indebted to people of faith who read the Bible for reviving us every time they review II Kings II. We have also been indebted to the Prophet Elisha, the hero of that portion of the Bible, for dragging us along with the tangle of his immortality.
To tell you the truth, though, I am just trying to be polite for calling Elisha “the prophet.” That is generally what he is called today. But my sister and I knew him as “the lodge owner.”
He owned a resort lodge, you understand, and that is how he earned his nice living and stayed around so long. Elisha was also the outstanding naturalist in the time and place where we lived, and he used this gift to his great advantage as a lodge proprietor.
He was of course a great fisherman. He had a wonderful fresh-water fish platter for his guests every night, no matter if they were Samarians or Philistines, and he also used his gifts of naturalism to create entertainment for all his paid guests. Then he would follow this act with a sermon to all the idol-worshippers about the economy of worshipping only one God.
Meanwhile, the fresh-water fish he saved to feed my sister and I were always of the highest quality, and in exchange for them my sister and I would do anything Elisha asked us in front of his guests. They loved to see us rolling over, especially the Philistines.
As everyone knows, Elisha’s life changed a lot with the mysterious disappearance of his old friend, the Prophet Elijah. Elisha and Elijah would sometimes take long recreational walks together, and no one else was really equal to keep up with the things they told each other.
But one evening Elisha returned from one of these walks alone, and when pressed about where Elijah was, Elisha acted too uncharacteristically petulant to be a lodge host.
“He’s gone,” he said.
He was asked where Elijah went.
“He went up to Heaven in a chariot of fire,” Elisha said.
But Elisha had further news about this, except:
“I’m the new prophet,” he told all of us.
The days went by, and the longer Elijah was not seen, the more Elisha was asked questions. Yet he simply repeated that Elijah had gone up the sky and disappeared in a chariot of fire, to make it sink in. When pressed, Elisha added that he was the only “witness” at this event.
Elisha was really too respected, too successful and paid for too many needed community works to be treated suspiciously over the vanishing of Elijah. Also, he was simply too decent to be considered a suspect of some fighting or sudden violence that would otherwise explain Elijah’s disappearance. But the local young gangs were beginning to have increasing fun with the story, especially since they had long resented Elisha’s superior moralizing at their expense.
Finally, while Elisha was in the middle of one of his extremely long recreational walks, he was confronted by several of these young gang members. My sister and I were hovering around nearby as well.
“Where are you going, baldy?” said the tough one known as the gang leader.
Elisha wasn’t young any more, and he didn’t have many hairs on his head or as many muscles left in his arms either. So he just said:
He had to walk around the thug, but then another young punk jumped in front of him.
“Go up, you baldhead.”
“What do you mean, young man?”
“Go up to the sky with Elijah, you baldhead.”
He tried to walk around the second young touch, but two more stepped in front of him.
“Get away from me, you heathen boneheads, and die,” he cursed.
Actually, my sister and I did not then know Hebrew, so I am just guessing Elijah called them heathen boneheads. We didn’t really come close to knowing what Elisha was actually shouting, although we surmised he used the “die” word. But we knew that this gang was creating a lot of fluster in this man who fed us daily.
It was then that my sister and I ran out from the woods and simply mauled these guys until they exited the scene.
Of course, down the road, this became the most important bear story that Elisha told his lodge guests. Every year at the lodge house, over the fire, the number of antagonizing gang members in this story somehow grew greater. The number finally reached “42,” which is now is that account of record in II Kings II. Today, with every reading, my sister and I achieve a kind of post mortality as super bears. But in the old days all we cared about was that this man who fed us every day would be left alone by the neighborhood gangsters. And after everyone heard our story, that is what happened.
- - - Chris Sharp has had fiction published in previous Yesteryear Fiction presentations this year Feb 8, March 6, March 18 and April 11. His latest book being distributed this year by BarnesandNoble.com and AmazonBooks.com is “Dangerous Learning: The New Schooling in California.” A public-school teacher, he and his poet wife Debbie Bongiovanni live with a cat and a parrot in Menifee, California.