Read A Bear Named Trouble Online

Authors: Marion Dane Bauer

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A Bear Named Trouble

A Bear Named Trouble
Marion Dane Bauer

Clarion Books
New York

Clarion Books
a Houghton Mifflin Company imprint
215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10003
Copyright © 2005 by Marion Dane Bauer

The text was set in 12-point Charter ITC BT.

All rights reserved.

For information about permission to reproduce
selections from this book, write to
Permissions, Houghton Mifflin Company,
215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10003.

www.houghtonmifflinbooks.com

Printed in the U.S.A.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Bauer, Marion Dane.
A bear named Trouble / by Marion Dane Bauer,
p. cm.
Summary: In Anchorage, Alaska, two lonely youngsters make a
connection—a brown bear injured just after his mother sends him out
on his own, and a human whose father is a new keeper at the Alaska Zoo
and whose mother and sister are still in Minnesota.
ISBN 0-618-51738-3
1. Kodiak bear—Juvenile fiction. [1. Kodiak bear—Fiction.
2. Bears—Fiction. 3. Zoos—Fiction. 4. Alaska—Fiction.] I. Title.
PZ10.3.B317Be 2005
[E]—dc22
2004021259

ISBN-13: 978-0-618-51738-1
ISBN-10: 0-618-51738-3

VB 10 9 8 7 6 5

For all the good people at the
Alaska Zoo who rescued Trouble,
for those at the Lake Superior Zoo
who gave him a home,
and, of course,
for Trouble

Contents

1 A Bear, a Boy, a Goose 1

2 Waiting 14

3 "Mama!" 23

4 The Encounter 32

5 Hunger 40

6 Break-in 47

7 "No!" 53

8 Trouble 62

9 Take Care of Trouble 70

10 "Good!" 79

11 Trouble for Trouble 85

12 Go, Trouble! 94

13 A Lot Like Us 105

14 Home 111

Epilogue 117

1. A Bear, a Boy, a Goose

T
HE
Alaskan brown bear wasn't born to the name Trouble. He arrived in his six-hundred-pound mother's den the size of a chubby chipmunk, and for her he had no name at all. He was merely her reason for being alive.

For the next three years of the cub's life, he and his mother were seldom apart. He had neither brother nor sister, so his great brown mother was his entire world. And he must have assumed—if bears can be said to assume—that his life was as it would always be. He and his mother... together.

Bears have no defined territory, as wolves do and even birds. They have a range, but that range will be overlapped by many other bears.
Consequently; they must learn a hierarchy—who has rights to the best spot along the salmon stream, who stays to feast and who moves on when the bushes hang heavy with crowberries, even who gets to nap on that smooth rock in the sun. Cubs have no status at all, but while they are with their mother, her place in the world is theirs.

During the long, long summer days in the wilderness outside Anchorage, this mother taught her son all she knew about survival She showed him what roots and grasses and berries to eat and where to find them, the way to snatch spawning salmon from the river, how to discover the underground food caches of singing voles. She played with him, too, patient with his mock attacks, his insistent chewing on her face and ears and neck, his games of tag. And always she kept him close, calling him back if he strayed too far and nursing him many times a day. He hummed as he drew sustenance and comfort from his mother's warm body. Why
should he expect this idyllic life ever to end?

Then one April day, not long after the now-adolescent bear and his mother had emerged from their third winter's den, a large male came sniffing around the open, wet area where they grazed on tufted marsh plants. In the past when another bear came near, the cub's mother had always run it off, or else she called to her son and they were the ones to move away. This time she did neither. She pretended to ignore the big fellow, but her ignoring was filled with a subtle message. "It's all right," she seemed to be saying to the intruder. "It's all right. You may stay.
"

The big male's being so near confused and distressed the young bear, and he moved closer to his mother's side for safety. She had upended a clump of sod to reveal pea-vine roots and was using her long curved claws to sift the dirt from them. The young bear bent to eat.

To the cub's surprise, when his head came near his mother's, she flattened her ears and growled, low, under her breath. He leapt away.
Bewildered, he stood for a long moment, caught between his mother's irritable warning and the intruder. Finally, he turned and sauntered a short distance from both, pretending unconcern. He dug up some wild onions and sat down to continue his breakfast.

He didn't even think about his mother again until he looked up to see her bearing down on him in a silent charge. She veered off before making contact, but the seriousness of her message couldn't have been clearer. The young bear took off at a gallop. When he reached what seemed a safe distance, he stopped to look back.

His gentle mother flattened her ears, popped her jaws, and showed her sharp yellow teeth.

The son checked the waiting male for confirmation of what had just happened. The big fellow only went on grazing, apparently unconcerned about the drama playing out before him.

The adolescent cub turned back to his
mother again and whimpered, just once. She made no response. But when he took an experimental step toward her, she lifted her snout and flattened her ears once more. No question remained.

Head hanging low, eyes dark with misery, the cub accepted his mother's sentence. He turned away.

From this day on he would be alone in the world.

***

Jonathan stood well off the zoo path, deep among the trees, so as to be away from other visitors. Here he could be alone with the pure white goose that was his favorite creature in all the zoo.

"Come, Mama Goose," he called, reaching into his pocket for the corn he always carried when he came to the zoo. "Come. Look what I have for you."

She tipped her head to one side, studying him, then suddenly flapped her great white wings and honked loudly. Jonathan jumped,
just a little, and some kernels flew from his hand. As tame as she was, Mama Goose could still startle him when she did that.

When she was very young, she had been a pet. Once she'd grown past the cute, fluffy stage, her owner had decided he didn't want her after all and had donated her to the zoo. Mama Goose had a good life here. All the kids loved her. But no one, not anyone in the world, loved the pure white goose as much as Jonathan did.

"Come, Mama," he called again. And settling onto a patch of ground that wasn't too snowy, he held out a handful of corn.

Mama Goose took a cautious step toward him. She always did that, too, acted as if she had forgotten him, as if she didn't remember he was the one who came to see her every single day.

She bobbed her head up and down, took another step.

Jonathan held his breath.

And then there she was ... not just pecking the kernels of corn out of his hand but clambering with her wide flat feet right over his legs and settling into his lap. She always gave her tail a final shake when she settled down, murmuring deep in her throat. Kind of a low chuckle.

"Hello," Jonathan whispered, running one hand down her silken neck. He took another handful of corn from his jacket pocket and held it out. Mama Goose gobbled the kernels eagerly, then tilted her head to peer with one bright eye into his face.

"Who are you?" she seemed to be saying. And, not incidentally, "Do you have any more corn?"

Jonathan laughed. "I'm Jonathan," he said. "I've told you that before. And yes ... here's more corn."

She watched intently as his hand disappeared into his pocket and emerged again. Then she bent her elegant neck to receive the new offering.

"Just wait until Rhonda sees you,"
Jonathan said, watching her eat. "She loves birds, and she's going to love you more than all the gulls over Lake Superior. More than the bald eagles, too."

Rhonda was his little sister, but she wasn't here in Alaska with him and their father yet. When Dad moved to Anchorage to take his new job as a keeper at the Alaska Zoo, Rhonda and their mother had stayed behind in Minnesota so Mom could finish out her teaching job in Duluth. Jonathan had wanted Rhonda to come with him and Dad, but Mom had objected. "Rhonda needs me," she'd said, as though Jonathan, being all of ten years old, didn't.

In June, once school let out and their house was sold, Jonathan and Dad would fly back to Duluth and bring Mom and Rhonda and their yellow lab, Marigold, and Rhonda's beta fish, Boy Blue, to their new home in Anchorage. And then, at last, they would be a family again. But this was only April. June was a long way away.

Jonathan stroked the goose's elegant long neck again, feeling the living warmth beneath the feathers. "You'll like Rhonda, too," he told her.

She honked her agreement with that.

"I've told Rhonda I'm going to adopt you for her," he added, "so when she gets here, you'll really be hers. I'll have enough money to do it by then." He already had seventeen dollars and
fifty
cents toward the zoo's adoption fee of thirty dollars.

You could do that at this zoo, adopt one of the animals, and then it was as if the animal belonged to you—though whatever it was you'd adopted remained at the zoo, of course.

Imagine adopting a Siberian tiger and taking it home!

Slowly, carefully, Jonathan encircled the white goose with his arms and buried his face in the feathery softness of her breast. She tolerated his embrace briefly, then bent down to peck his ear.

"Ow!" he said, releasing her and grabbing the offended ear. "That wasn't very nice."

But nice or not, Mama Goose rose on her stubby legs, shook her feathers back into alignment, then climbed off his lap. As she waddled away, her tail feathers twitched with each step.

Jonathan smiled at the picture her rear end made—Mama Goose always made him smile—and scrambled to his feet. Though he had managed to avoid sitting in a patch of snow, his own rear was cold and more than a little damp. He wasn't done with the white goose, though, even if she was done with him. There was the game to be played still.

He closed his eyes and stood perfectly still for a long moment, breathing in the alive smell of the wet earth. When he opened them again, he was ready. It was a game he'd played with his sister since she was little. He'd pretend his way inside a bird or an animal, then he'd tell Rhonda exactly what being that animal was like.

He and Rhonda were still playing the game, even if they had to do it on the telephone now. That meant he had to store up details for the next phone call. He couldn't make the game seem real without the right details.

Jonathan squinted his eyes, studying Mama Goose, who was busy pecking at something hidden in the damp leaves.

Feathers. First there would be the feathers, soft and stiff at the same time. Feathers all over their bodies. And beaks, of course. He brought his hand up in front of his mouth, defining in the air the size and shape of a beak.

"I know," Rhonda would say, impatient for him to get on to the good part, the part where the flying began. "All birds have feathers and beaks."

"But," Jonathan would remind her for the hundredth time, "you have to be
inside
the feathers,
inside
the beak. You have to feel them."

"And inside the wings!" she would say, and without even seeing her, he would know that her cheeks were plumped out with a teasing grin.

But Jonathan refused to be hurried. He never let himself be hurried when they were playing the game, no matter how impatient Rhonda got. Waiting a little didn't hurt her. Rhonda hated waiting, but then she
was
rather spoiled. Everyone in the family admitted that Rhonda was spoiled, even Dad, who was the one who spoiled her the worst.

Next, Jonathan would remind her about Mama Goose's eyes, how she has one eye on each side of her head. "That's so she can see in every direction at once," he'd explain, "so she won't get caught by predators." But, of course, Mama Goose didn't have to worry about predators. Life in the zoo was safe.

"Our feet," Jonathan spoke out loud now, as though Rhonda were by his side and could hear, "are big and flat. You'd think a goose's feet would be cold, standing bare like that on
the snow, but they aren't. It's got something to do with the veins being close together. I don't remember exactly what."

Finally, he got to the part he knew Rhonda was waiting for. He reached his arms out wide and said, "And our wings are strong. When we stretch them out, they catch the air. I can feel the way the air lifts me off the ground. I can feel the flying in my wings. Can you feel it, too?"

And without even having to close his eyes to concentrate, he heard Rhonda's answer. She looked up at him with those sky blue eyes that always captured every fragment of the light and said, "Yes, Jonnie, yes. I can feel it. Just like you. We can fly!"

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