Alpha by Francine Witte

This story was first published in Midway as Third Place in their contest and was named a finalist at Best Small Fictions 2018.

After watching the nature channel, you decide to go live with the bears.  You like their simple simplicity.  Mouthsalmon, tree paw, and backscratch.  You won’t miss the human things, the traffic, the money, or the clothes.

 You travel to find an appropriate forest.  One with lush foliage and animal stink.  You tear off your clothes and stuff them under a mossy rock.  You change your mind and float them down a stream.

Before long, you see your first bear.  You name him Roscoe, though naming is such a human thing.  He leads you to the others. They look you at you blankly, heads tilted, but Roscoe nods, and they seem okay.  Clearly, he is their alpha. 

 He takes you aside and shows you how to climb a tree, how to sniff out berries and dig up twigs.  A part of you misses the hub bub of traffic, and your clothes, which are floating in the stream like a chalk outline. 

You think it might help to teach him a bit of your culture.  You start with money and how near dinnertime it can be used to purchase food.  Donuts and pizza and hot dogs. 

You pick up a leaf.  Foldable and green.  How very much it looks like cash.  You place it firm in Roscoe’s paw.  You start to think how easy it would be to take over here, become the alpha yourself.

You explain to Roscoe that you he would take the money and hand it to someone, and in exchange they would give you food.  You are frustrated at first that this poor beast has no idea what you’re saying.  And then just as you are about to give up, Roscoe presses the leaf into your white fleshy palm, and just before he swallows you in five efficient gulps, you are almost proud.

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