What Do You Say to a Bear?

Julie Borden
The Shortform
Published in
May 28, 2024
Photo by Marc-Olivier Jodoin on Unsplash

Mimi Ma is a main character in The Overstory. Her father Winston is memorable in his own right.

He left China when his family was devastated by Mao’s regime, knowing he would never return or see them again.

As he built his new life in America, grief led him to never again speak in his native tongue — except once.

In one of his beloved national parks a bear wanders into his family’s campsite. While the others scramble for safety, Winston faces the bear calmly and talks to him — in Chinese.

Later Mimi asks him what he said. His reply:

“Apologize! I tell him, people very stupid. They forget everything — where they come from, where they go. I say: Don’t worry. Human being leaving this world, very soon. Then the bear get top bunk to himself again.”

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Julie Borden
The Shortform

Social worker, therapist, reader, writer, head-in-the-clouds dreamer, awed by most everything. (She/her) Reach me at JulieBordenLCSW@gmail.com.