“ How would you feel if a bear made it’s den right beside this stream?”
Cole shrugged. “I’d kill it.”
The potbellied elder nodded with a knowing smile.
“ Animals feel the same way. Don’t forget that. You aren’t the only creature here. You’re part of a much bigger circle. Learn your place or you’ll have a rough time.”
“ What is there to learn?”
“ Patience, gentleness, strength, honesty. Animals can teach use more about ourselves than any teacher. “ He stared away towards the south. :Off the coast of British Columbia, there is a special black bear called the Spirit bear. It’s pure white, and has pride, dignity and honour. More than most people.”
“ If I saw a Spirit Bear, I’d kill it, “Cole said.
Edwin tightened his grip on Cole as if in warning. “Whatever you do to the animals, you do to yourself. Remember that.”
Cole Matthews is an angry young man in a lot of trouble…
The police might not have caught him, but after a week had passed Cole bragged about breaking into the hardware store at school. When someone ratted on him, the police questioned Cole. He denied the break-in, of course, and then he beat up the boy who turned him in.
The kid, Peter Driscal, was a ninth grader Cole had picked on many times before. Still , no one ratted on Cole Matthews without paying the price. That day, he caught up to Peter in the hallway at Scholl. “You’re a dead man, “ he warned the skinny red-haired boy, giving him a hard shove. He laughed when he saw fear in Peter’s eyes.
Later, after school, Cole cornered Peter outside the parking lot. With anger that had been brewing all day, he attacked him and started hitting him hard in the face with his bare hands. Peter was no match, and soon Cole pounded him bloody.
Nobody crossed Cole Matthews and got away with it.
Cole’s Choice: Circle Justice or Jail?
Following Cole’s acceptance into Circle Justice, preparation meetings took place. Each meeting was considered a Healing Circle but had a different name, depending on what was being discussed. There were Talking Circles, Peacemaking Circles, and Community Circles. Eventually there would be Bail Circles and Sentencing Circles.
“ Is everything always in a stupid circle?” Cole had asked Garvey, his parole officer.
“ Why not?” Garvey said, “Life is a circle.
“ Do I have to go to all these stupid meetings? Who decides my sentence?”
“ The Driscals, Peter’s parents, have asked to join the circle.”
“ You mean they might help decide my sentence?”
Garvey nodded, “Yes.”
“ They’ll hang me,” Cole said, “I’m dead.”
“ I think you’ve already hung yourself,” Garvey answered.
A year in isolation on a remote Alaskan Island
Cole knelt defiantly in the bow of the aluminum skiff as faced forward into a cold September wind. Worn steel handcuffs bit at his wrists each time the small craft slapped another wave. Cole strained at the cuff, even though he had agreed to wear them until he was freed on the island to begin his banishment. Agreeing to spend a whole year alone in Southwest Alaska had been his only way of avoiding a jail cell back home.
The Spirit Bear
Cole became aware of a presence. Not movement, only a lurking presence. Grimacing, he searched the trees and shore. At first, nothing appeared out of place. Then something large and white broke the smooth pattern of the shoreline. He squinted, and the image cleared.
A bear. A white bear.
Out across the water, on the point of shoreline near the opening of the bay, a massive white bear stood as motionless as a statue, facing him.
The huge white animal looked frozen on the shoreline, motionless as the stones under its massive paws. It stared at Cole.
Cole picked up his makeshift spear in one hand, and his knife blade in the other. Keeping his eyes on the big creature, he hurried towards it. As Cole neared, he slowed. Any second now, the bear would turn and run. Just in case it didn’t, Cole raised the spear over his shoulder.
Instead of fleeing, the bear shifted position to face Cole directly. He intended to kill it. Cole gripped the spear so hard his knuckles hurt. A lifetime of hurt, a lifetime or proving himself, a lifetime of anger now controlled him.
When Cole’s advance brought him within ten feet of the Spirit Bear, he made his move. He flung the spear with all his strength, aiming at the Spirit Bear’s broad chest .
Cole never even had time to raise the knife before the bear was on him, clubbing him down with a powerful blow. Cole’s body folded and collapsed to the ground. Before he could roll away, another crushing paw shoved his face into dirt. His jaw struck a rock.
The bear sank its teeth into his thigh, lifting him like a ragdoll.
Badly mauled, and dying.
Read to find out:
Will Cole survive the attack?
Will Cole ever see the spirit bear again?
Can Cole become a better person?
Will Cole ever tame his anger?
What will happen to Peter?
About Touching Spirit Bear:
A medium read: not super hard, but not a quick, easy read