He didn't see the woman standing next to him until her face, white and round as the moon, was peering into the car. Her gray hair, long and thin, danced in the wind.
Her hand moved in circles ... [+]
The Identification of Bears
Becca scowls down at her white shirt emblazoned with a smiling bear—at the long, bony finger inches away from her skinny chest.
"It's Funshine Bear," she says. She wishes it were Grumpy Bear. Then maybe this man would take the hint and go away. Instead, he grins at Mom, brushes his bangs from over his eyes, then turns his gaze back on Becca. His stale breath washes over her as he leans in closer. A cigarette glows between his fingers and there is a beer stain on his Grateful Dead t-shirt.
"I'm sorry. Do you like Funshine Bear?"
Becca glances at her mother, who stands with arms crossed over her chest, smiling. She knows what her mom expects. Mom wants her to like this man, but Becca can't.
"Yes," she says, because she must.
"Cute. You like Care Bears?"
Becca looks at her mother again.
"Say yes!" Mom mouths.
Becca pretends not to notice. It's a stupid question. The man is stupid, her mom is stupider, and she wants to kick them both and run away and never come back.
The man inhales his cigarette. Becca coughs with exaggeration and waves a hand through the smoke floating before her face.
"I can't breathe," she says, choking. "You're giving me asthma!"
Mom rolls her eyes behind the man's back. Her arms drop in defeat. "Go outside and play," she snaps.
"That's okay," Becca says, no longer coughing. She refuses to follow her mother's lead. She drops her backpack on the kitchen table and opens her Trapper Keeper. "I have homework."
It's a lie, but Becca plays it out. With slow care, she spreads a workbook before her and locates a pencil. Pink with red foil hearts.
Her mother sighs. She rummages in the fridge for two cans before reaching for the man's hand. "Let's have a beer on the porch until the little monster goes to bed."
Becca maintains a glower as the man follows her mother outside. As the screen door slams, she smiles and begins to hum to herself.
She has won.