of the Heart
A story by Ian Roberts
As we lay in bed I turned towards
Jason and said, “Tell me your story with the bear.”
“It’s a long story,
you might fall asleep,” he said.
“No way, I love your
“This one is a true story
not one bit is made up - the picture is the proof.”
I sat up and crossed my legs
leaned forward and kissed his nose, “See I’m sitting up, now
I won’t fall asleep. Tell me the story! I know you’re dying
to tell me.”
“Yes you’re right.
But I want to lie with my head in your lap.” So we move around and
If something pokes you in the
ear, it’s not my fault." We giggled.
“Sam was the best person
in my life until I met you. Before you Sam was my life. Oh we had our
arguments and sometimes I would win and most of the time he would win.
As you know I only went to school twice in my life. He home schooled me
and was better than any of the teachers I had. Both times I begged him
to home school me again. I think he decided he needed a break from me
so he sent me to a camp for a month, I was eleven. It was one of these
camps that taught you how to survive off the land and you would then go
out and live off the land for two weeks.
After two weeks of training,
helicopters would take each team of over-privileged kids to a different
drop-off point somewhere out there. The objective was to get to the pickup
point, somewhere else out there, first. Supposedly, it takes about a week
to get to the pickup point and then you spend up to a week just surviving
off the land.
On my first day, there was a mix up and I ended up in the Blue Team with
a bunch of guys way older than me. I always seem to end up with an older
guy," Jason rolled over and kissed my belly.
"You do that again and I won't get to hear the story," I laughed.
He continued, "The mistake didn't seem to matter at the time, at
least not to me. I ended up with a guy called Paul McCormick as my buddy.
They use the buddy system.
I thought Paul was a cool guy for several reasons. First of all, I learned
more from him about surviving off the land than from the 'experts' there.
Secondly, he always calls me by my name, Jason, instead of some stupid
nickname. Finally, he let me sleep with a night-light on.
On the day to test our knowledge in survival, I was walking with my team
members to the field where the helicopters were preparing to take us out
to the boonies, when one of my teammates asks, "Hey Quick Draw! Where's
Being an avid artist I replied, "Oh, shoot! I forgot it on my bunk!
Paul can you take my stuff? I gotta get my art pad! Please?"
"Sure, but you'd better hurry bud," Paul replied taking my backpack
I ran to the cabin retrieved my art pad, had a drink of water, and ran
back to the helicopter.
Blue Team was already in the helicopter.
"WHAT'S YOUR NAME?" shouted the counselor over the din of the
"JASON PHILLIPS, I'M ON THE BLUE TEAM," I yelled.
Remember, I said that the little mistake of getting on the Blue Team didn't
seem to matter? Well, the next moment I found out how wrong I had been.
The counselor looked over his list, "SORRY, YOU NAME IS NOT ON THE
LIST FOR BLUE TEAM. GO OVER TO THE OTHER COPTER! WE'RE RUNNING LATE!"
"NO! I'M SUPPOSED TO BE ON THE BLUE TEAM! MY BUDDY PAUL IS ALREADY
ON BOARD…" the copter started to lift off.
"GET OVER TO THE OTHER COPTER NOW!" He grabbed my hand and ran
me over to the other copter, while the one carrying Paul moved into the
Before I could object, I was strapped in and I was on my way to the boonies
with a bunch of complete strangers.
When I'm scared and nervous my bladder seems to sense this and holds about
an ounce of water. It was all I could do not to pee in my pants, so when
we arrived at the drop off point I jumped out of the copter and ran to
the woods to relieve myself.
I ran into the woods so no one would see me, unzipped my pants and took
the pause that refreshes. What a relief!
Just as I finished zipping up my fly, I heard someone call out, "Okay,
you guys buddy-up!" I turned to run back to the group, but in my
haste I stumbled, fell, hit my head on a rock and things went dark.
When I came around my head hurt like the dickens. I carefully felt my
head. There was a lump the size of Paris on my forehead, but luckily no
blood. I usually faint at the sight of blood, especially my own. Having
checked myself out I became aware that everything was quite, too quite.
My heart sank and my stomach did a flip. Slowly I turned around, hoping
that my ears were deceiving me, but to my horror the field was empty!
No sign of human life!
Panic sank in as I ran out to the field where the helicopter had landed.
"HELLO! WHERE IS EVERBODY? HELP! WHERE ARE YOU GUYS? HELLO! CAN ANYBODY
HEAR ME? HELP!" I screamed frantically looking all around.
"HELLO! HELP!" I yelled over and over until my voice was hoarse.
There was only the sound of the wind blowing gently in the aspens and
the sounds of a lonely eleven-year old boy crying.
I was wandering around the field getting nowhere, flinching, jumping,
and yelping at every strange noise or movement real or imagined.
"PAUL! WHERE ARE YOU? I NEED YOU'RE HELP!" I cried, but to no
avail as I carried on aimlessly wandering around the area.
I kicked something with my foot. Looking down I saw the object, my art
notebook. As I looked at it lying on the ground, a gentle wind blew flipping
the pages and pausing at my drawing of Paul. I reached down and picked
it up. On the opposite page I had written something Paul had told me,
"The first rule of survival - DON'T PANIC!"
"Great, Jason, you've just broken the first rule," I said to
I sat down and stared up into the blue sky watching the soft billowy clouds
drifting by. As I sat there, I started trying to reason things out. The
last thing I heard was 'buddy-up'. Everyone must have had a buddy and
so no one missed me. My buddy was somewhere else. I figured, I had at
least a week before anyone noticed I was missing.
I started thinking of all the things Paul had taught me. I took an inventory
of my resources by emptying my pockets - two pencils, my notebook, one
Swiss Army knife, some fishing line and a hook in my wallet along with
two strike-anywhere matches, and a squashed candy bar in my jacket.
If I was to survive, I needed water, food and shelter. Where I was may
be a good place to land a helicopter, but not to survive. I thought about
the trip there and remembered seeing a large pond or lake just before
I stuffed everything back into my pockets and headed off in the direction
of the pond. It only took me a half an hour to get there. It was a beautiful
place. It's a good size pond or a small lake. I'm not sure what makes
a pond a pond or a lake a lake. Lake or pond it's in the middle of a small
meadow about fifty yards from the woods. There is a large flat rock that
jets out from the shore into the pond about twelve feet.
As I walked out onto the flat rock and peered into the crystal clear water
I saw at least ten large trout swimming around. "This is my place,"
I thought as I surveyed the area, "Jason's Meadow."
I noticed at the edge of the woods there was a large boulder. I could
build a lean-to for shelter against it. That is where set up my camp.
A few hours later I had built the lean-to against the boulder and collected
a huge stack of wood for a fire.
I was starving. It was time to fish.
That evening as I finished off the last piece of fish and with a full
tummy I looked into the fire. I felt quite proud of myself; I had survived
my first day.
It's not to say that I was not scared, after all, it was dark. I heard
all sorts of sounds, I'd never heard before, and I was only eleven years
old. But, I knew I would survive.
I opened my art notebook, turned to my drawing of Paul, and sleepily stared
I said good night to Paul as I drifted off to sleep. End of story."
He turned and kissed my belly again.
"Hey! What about the bear?" I asked.
Jason smiled, and started kissing and licking my belly. I forgot about
the bear as we proceed to make love.
The next morning I woke to find myself alone. I got up took a quit shower
and went to find Sven. He was with his parents they were fixing breakfast
and speaking in Swedish so I had no idea what they were talking about.
“Good morning, Jason. Did you sleep well?”
Sven came over and gave me a kiss good morning and I kind of blushed.
I was beginning to get used to kissing in front of them.
“Sven has been telling us of your experience in the wilderness.
You were only eleven?” asked Papa Erik.
“How did you meet the bear?”
“It’s a long story.”
“Good! I like long stories. You can tell us as we eat breakfast.
Come on sit down.”
I went and took my seat opposite Sven.
And as we ate I told them how I met the bear.
“It was my tenth day
in the wilderness. I wasn’t too worried because I had realized that
they might not realize I was gone until Sam came to pick me up. Of course
I would hate to be in their shoes.
My daily schedule was pretty much the same everyday and I whittled a lot
when I wasn’t drawing I’d check out the landing area to make
sure that my HELP sign I made out of logs and sticks hadn’t been
destroyed. It had rained twice and the first time I lost my fire and you
can’t imagine how scared I was.
My second fire took me all day to start because I used a bow and stick
to start the fire rather than use my last match.
I finally got the fire going and I stayed up half the night making sure
it didn’t go out. The second time it rained I just kept making the
fire bigger. I’m surprised the forestry people didn’t come
to put it out.
Anyway on my tenth day after I made sure my fire was okay and all the
fish guts were buried well away from my camp about a half-mile away from
camp, I went fishing. I caught this huge trout and decided to let it go.
I threw my line back in I felt someone or something watching me. I slowly
turned around and ten feet was this young bear looking at me.
Now I had been told how dangerous bears were. Bears were equivalent to
sharks and you don’t mess with them. Well, that’s what the
experts said…so being me I disregarded their words. I knew the worst
thing to do with any animal was to show fear or anger.
“You’re a cute one I said gently as I reached out to let the
bear smell my hand. I figured that if you show hatred or fear it got a
back bad reaction from wild creatures then if I showed kindness and love
maybe I’d get that back. We were less than five feet apart.
"Hi. Come here, let's be friends." I said as I moved my arm
and hand towards the bear for her to smell my scent.
She slowly crept closer to me. I was a little nervous, but I maintained
a warm affection towards her.
I felt her desire to be friends. All the warnings I'd been told about
bears had no meaning now. I remained calm and in control of myself. "Don't
be afraid. I could never harm you," I said softly. Until that moment
I hadn't realized just how lonely I'd been.
She moved closer and closer. She sniffed my hand and then licked it. She
I slowly moved my hand to behind her ear and gently scratched. She loved
it. I leaned toward her and sniffed her nose. She licked me in the face.
It tickled and I giggled. She drew back to watch me. She must have known
I liked it. She licked me again. I squealed and laughed. Then I tickled
her and scratched her.
She smacked me with her paw. I yelled at her and it scared her so she
jumped away from him. She sensed my upset. She was sad and put her head
down and started walking away slowly.
"Stop! Come back, I'm sorry I yelled. Please don't leave. I know
you didn't mean to hurt me on purpose." I said to her "Come
on stay, don't leave".
She stopped and looked at me. I smiled and reached out to her again. "Please.
You're such a merry little bear…I think I will call you Merribear.
Come on, Merribear."
She ran back over to me when I squatted down. She licked my face and I
hugged her and kissed her wet nose.
There was this feeling of excitement between us. "Come on Merribear,
let's run!" I said as I took off running.
She followed me and we ran around the meadow like two children calling
out in their own foreign languages, but understanding each other fully.
For several hours we played tag, hide'n'seek, a number of other made up
games like, find-the-grub and chase-the-butterflies. We were rolling about
on the ground gently wrestling both tired, but both trying to keep going.
In a matter of minutes we collapsed against each other falling quickly
into a peaceful sleep.
I fished for her and then something I found hard to believe she fished
for me. We were inseparable for the next few days. She slept with me;
well she was next to me when I was going to sleep and when I woke up –
I was no longer afraid at night because I felt like she would protect
On the fifteenth day she and I had been playing hard again as usual and
lay down to take a nap.
She must have been awakened by a weird sound, sort of a rhythmic beating,
getting louder and louder. It began to frighten her. She nudged me with
"What, Merribear?" I asked sleepily.
I knew instantly it was the noise.
My expression changed. I became very excited. "Merribear, it's the
helicopter!" I hugged her tightly. She could feel my excitement.
She watched the helicopter fly over us and hover. She was getting scared
so I told her I would be okay and for her to run to the woods. She did
I ran to pick up my art pad and then to the landing area. I stopped before
I reached the woods turn to see Merribear standing and looking at me.
“I love you, Merribear!” I yelled. She paused and I know I
felt her love come back to me. There had been a bond of friendship and
love. I was certain of that. There had been a special connection between
When I got to the helicopter Sam was there and so was Paul I was so happy
to see both of them I hugged them both. I didn’t know it then but
Paul had cancer and died the following year but right up until his death
we remained best friends. Most people don’t believe the story and
it doesn’t really matter to me. What mattered was that Paul knew
it was true; he and Sam and several others had seen me hugging Merribear
and telling her to run to the woods.
I went to his funeral. I met his parents. It was a very emotional for
me, I gave them a picture I had painted of Paul and I and Merribear. They
thanked me and that’s when I cried buckets – well you know
how I am. It was after that that I think I realized for the first time
I might be gay because I had this huge crush on him.”
“A fantastic story!” exclaimed Papa Erik.
“It’s sad that your friend died,” said Mama Helena.
“Yes. If not for him though I probably would never have seen her
again, Merribear. Paul taught me a lot about the wild and Merribear taught
me a lot too.”
“You saw the bear again?” asked Papa Erik. “Helena,
please another pot of coffee then Jason can continue.”
“While I’m making the coffee why don’t you gentleman
move to the family room I am sure the two boys would prefer sitting next
to each other,” suggested Mama Helena.
“Of course! Let’s go boys.”
Sven sat on the couch with his legs stretched out so I had no option than
to sit between his legs and lean back into him, not that I wanted any
other option. Papa Erik smiled, “You two truly love each other…and
that’s good. So what are your plans? I mean this is a lifetime commitment,
is it not?”
“Definitely!” exclaimed Sven.
“Forever!” I exclaimed at the same time.
Papa Erik laughed at our enthusiasm.
“And we plan on having children too, but we’d haven’t
decided on whose going to be the one to get pregnant!” I laughingly
“Yes we have, you are!” laughed Sven.
“Are you two always this way?”
“I think so, laughing is contagious and I caught it from my grandfather
when I was very young. And interesting story if I do say so myself. I
know Sven must have gotten his from you.”
“Hey! One story at a time!” laughed Sven.
Mama Helena walked in with the coffee and served us all then sat down
in her husbands lap.
“So, continue your story,” said Papa Erik.
“Well, when I decide to do something nothing ever stops me. Paul
was cremated and I asked if I could take his ashes to the wilderness.
His parents agreed and Sam did too but under certain conditions school
grades, how well I did in fencing and I had to really study everything
about survival. I was going to go back to Jason’s meadow for two
weeks by myself. I figured I was twelve. And this time I knew Sam would
be back to pick me up plus I’d have a bit more equipment and Sam
insisted I have a GPS device and a two-way radio and of course Paul’s
I don’t know about life after death or anything like that but I
always felt his presence around me – I would sometimes talk to him
and I always felt like what I was going to do was what he wanted and sort
of how he wanted to free himself. I know this may sound weird but I felt
that Paul wanted to experience Merribear through me because my intention
was get there and dump the ashes, but every time I would go to do that
something would distract me – weird stuff like flashlight turning
on or the radio or something. And it kept happening until I sat down by
the water and talked to Paul like he was there and could listen to me.
I promised I wouldn’t dump the ashes if he’d stop scarring
me. It all stopped and I could feel a warmth like I do when Sven says
he loves me. It’s like something that flows all around and through
Merribear did turn up after almost a week after I arrived. I was laying
on the rock by the lake sunbathing in the nude and I felt asleep when
all of a sudden I felt something wet lick my ass! It scared the hell out
of me and I yelped and turned over and there facing me was a big black
bear. She let out a little rafff and I realized it was her and she was
a lot bigger. Then she proceeded to wash my face.
For the whole week that was left we played and hung out together on the
day I left the meadow she got into my things and she had Paul’s
urn in her mouth and the ashes were falling out on to the ground and being
blown by a gentle breeze…I heard…” I took a deep breath
I didn’t want to get all emotional. Sven gave me a gentle hug and
kiss. “I swear I heard Paul say, “Thank you, Jason. I loved
you.” And then it was silent only the grunts of a bear with ashes
all over her face and the leaves rustling in the breeze. The helicopter
picked me up and I went back home.”
“So, what about the photo of you on the bear,” asked Helena.
I looked at her and sighed. “That was taken by a nature photographer
a year later. The last time I went back.”
“Well, then tell us about that time,” she said.
I knew I could not talk about that time without crying, “Maybe later,
it was a very sad part of my life. I would probably cry a lot if I told
you about it and it’s too nice a day to put you through the ordeal
of seeing me cry.”
“Well, perhaps another time. Jason, I thoroughly enjoyed your stories.
You are a remarkable boy and I for one and I think I speak for my wife,
am honored to have you as a son-in-law.”
Sven picked up the photo
of me riding bear.
“You want to know, don’t you?” I said with a bit of
sadness in my voice.
“Only when you want to tell me.”
I patted the bed and he came over and lay down beside me. I rested my
head on his chest as his arm gave me a hug and he kissed the top of my
“I knew that Sam was dying. He never told me but why would he go
to such lengths about the bank and all…he knew I would probably
have to go stay with those horrible people and he knew I wouldn’t
stay and so he gave me a way out.”
“Finally, a month before he died he told me he didn’t have
long to live…you have to understand he was all I had. I needed time
to accept what he had told me I needed someone I could trust and there
was no one. I told him I was going to the wilderness to think. That was
the only way I could think of dealing with the news so I went. I had planned
to just live out there until I died and I nearly did. If it hadn’t
been for the photographer I would be dead.”
“I never told anyone this especially not Sam but I really intended
to die because I was so scared of being alone without Sam and I thought
if there were a heaven then Sam and I could be there together forever…except
Sam didn’t believe in heaven. Anyway, I arrive back a Jason’s
meadow and a day later Merribear tipped up bigger than ever. It was very
hot so I stripped and she tore my clothes to pieces – well to be
honest we play tug-o-war with them. I didn’t care I wasn’t
going back to civilization. One day towards late afternoon we sat by the
lake and I told her all my troubles and I cried and she had never seen
me cry from sadness. She did her best to comfort me – licking my
face and all.” I giggle. “She ended up pushing me into the
ice cold lake. Talk about cold! Boy did I stop crying and then I started
laughing and splashing her and she’d roar back at me. You’d
never think a bear could do that but she got me out of my doldrums. I
climbed back up out of the water and we simply sat there for about ten
minutes with me leaning into her – a bare boy and his bear…little
did we know that the photographer had captured everything. She got up
to go forge for food. That’s when I got on her back and that photo
I lay there with my head on Sven’s chest. Why are some things in
my life so emotional? I sighed feeling now I had to get through this…”The
next thing I knew I was sitting on my butt. Merribear stood up and I slid
off. There before us was a huge grizzly bear. He did not like me being
there and he charged…but Merribear challenged him, she was so small
compared to him. I knew she was doing to protect me and give me time to
get away…one swing of his mighty paw and he broke her neck…I
went bezerk…I didn’t even hear the gunshot as I picked up
a large stick and bashed the hell out of the bear’s head. He fell
forward dead from the bullet wound through his heart. I just kept on bashing
and bashing and bashing and screaming obscenities at him. I was covered
in his blood and my own. I think all the hate I had ever had came out
of me at that moment.The photographer came up to me I turned and screamed
at him, “Shoot me! KILL ME!” and then I collapsed on to Merribear
and cried and yell and alternated between being angry with Merribear for
tying to protect me and for dying and leaving me alone and pleading with
the photographer to end my life. I was hysterical and totally out of it.”
“He picked me up and the next thing I knew I was struggling to keep
from drowning in the ice water of the lake. He was trying to drown me.
He pulled me out of the water with me gasping for air and simply said,
“It’s not your time to die, little one.”
“He was an Indian nature photographer called Silent Eagle. He explained
that Merribear had given her life for me – something…something
that never happens that a bear gives it’s life for a human. Somehow
our spirits had come together and now she was a part of me and I owed
her a good life and he had just proven that I was to live a long and successful
life. I spent the rest of the week with him and then return to Sam. Sam
said that the Indian was right I was a very special person. Two weeks
after I return home I got that picture and gave it to Sam. It was a Saturday
and I had a tournament for fencing. Sam had someone pick me up because
he was feeling a little under the weather…It was the state junior
championship and he didn’t want me to miss it so I went and I won…I
was the state champion in the junior class! When I got home I ran up to
his room yelling “I won! Sam, I won!” There…”
I looked up at Sven, my bottom lip quivered and I barley got out that
there was no answer, before I buried my face into his chest…crying.
“He never knew, Sven…, he never knew that I won,” I
“Babe, I don’t believe that. I know he knew and that completed
his life. And just like the bear is part of you so is Sam. You’re
so quick to defend you loves, your friends with no concern about your
own well being and so many times from what you’ve told me about
Sam I see Sam’s spirit in you – kindness and caring of others.
You are special.”
I shook my head ‘no’ and Sven slapped me alongside of my head.
I was shocked for a second.
“Never invalidate my best friend, my love, my mate for life! Do
you hear me?” he smiled.
I smiled – he was right.
I kissed him and said “Thanks.”
“There’s something else I wanted to tell you…”
I said as I rolled over on top of him and looked into his beautiful blue
eyes, “You know when I went to the café to tell you I was
“Well, if you hadn't come running after me I was planning on going
back and asking you to go with me.” He smiled and we kissed. I could
feel him getting hard and I was too and all too soon it was all over.