Flash Fiction: The Lord’s Bears by Carolyn Oliver

After the prophet went away, they came for us. Cub-heavy, we couldn’t resist the invitations of their rocks and spears, so we died, our white claws—we’re the only bears with white claws—first gripping the loam, then splaying on its surface, as sea-stars rest on the sand.

Really, it had been a waste, mauling the forty-two noisy boys who mocked the prophet, nothing to speak of in our bellies but the occasional morsel. It shouldn’t have been possible, and it certainly wasn’t advisable, but when the Lord commands, what are bears to do? Or boys, for that matter? He must have commanded them to be clumsy and slow, since it’s not as if they couldn’t have overwhelmed us.

We thought the teeming hive was a reward for our obedience. When the men found us, our muzzles were slick with gold, our tongues bathed in sweetness.

At least our funeral was long and useful. The jackals and the eagles came, and later the beetles and the worms. The cedars and the oaks shaded us in sympathy, the cypresses stood straighter in deference. At night the little moths fuzzed through the air near our dens, powdery white as our skulls, silent as the voice of God.

Carolyn Oliver’s very short prose has appeared in Tin House’s Open Bar, CHEAP POP, matchbook, HOOT, formercactus, and New Flash Fiction Review. A graduate of The Ohio State University and Boston University, she lives in Massachusetts with her family. Links to more of her writing can be found at carolynoliver.net.


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