Several minutes later, Lance stopped underneath an old elm tree. He felt funny, as though someone or something was watching him. He began looking all around himself. Finally, he looked up--and saw a young cub bear lying stretched out on a thick limb about twenty feet above where he stood.
"Wow!" he said, shouldering his rifle. "Dad would really blow a gasket if I brought home a bear. It's not very big, but I bet he could have it stuffed. It'd really look great on the fireplace mantle!"
"What do you think you're doing?" came a sudden, gruff voice from nowhere. No, it was behind him, and lance whirled around and dropped his rifle at what he saw. A six-foot brown bear was looking at him through glinty eyes, and holding a shotgun pointed directly at him.
But bears don't speak and carry firearms, Lance told himself. Except that this one did!
The bear pointed the barrels of the gun skyward, and squeezed the trigger. One barrel exploded a load of buckshot into the air.
"Unless you'd like to get a taste of the other barrel, young man," growled the bear, "I'd heartily advise you to vow never to harm another innocent animal--then run home just as quick as your feet will carry you. And remember, I'll be around from now on. I'll be watching you, but you won't see me--until it's too late."
Terror stricken, Lance turned and ran faster than he had ever run in his life, with the bear's awful, throaty laughter following him. He was certain the bear would follow him for a good long while to come.
When the boy was gone, the "bear" shed its empty hide. Pastor Judson Elyys ejected the empty shell from the gun, then nimbly climbed the elm tree and retrieved the stuffed toy bear cub from the limb. "Guess I put the fear of God into another one," he said, then gathered all his gear and began a triumphant walk back home.