William D. Waltz

from Memory, like Glass, Is a Slow Moving Liquid

My father tells the story as follows: My friends and I climbed the mountain high enough to clear the trees. Our town spread out before us like a picnic. Later we discovered the cave and inside a black bear. Without flinching, we chased the bear out the other end with hoots, hollers, and a dozen gnarly sticks. Frankly, I wish my father’s version was true. Maybe it is. I gave up insisting on my modest account. Now I sit back and enjoy this braver version of myself. It’s his story after all.

It was spring. The breeze smelled like snow. Three older boys threw mud balls off the mountain. A gang of kids and I crept up the slick incline. The older boys retreated into the heretofore unknown cave. We followed. Tubular and warm, the cave was littered with dry leaves. The shuffle of our feet reverberated loudly enough that no one heard me gasp when I discovered a bundle of fur and bones. I froze; they encircled. Someone poked it with a stick. We cringed. Someone yelled bear. We scattered down the mountain.

Is that what I remember, or what I imagine happened, or what I remember remembering, or the memory of what I imagined? I am sure of little. We lived beside an Alaskan mountain; I was a boy—mud, cave, fur. A different story than my father’s.