Spiteful Winter returns in sharp slaps. Just to let us know. It will happen again. I listen to its chill voicings and head to the farm store for two small bags of birdseed though I know it's probably a bad idea considering the black bear that lumbered into the barn a couple of days ago looking for seed.
As I hoist the bags onto the counter, two women, one young one old, lean up against their cash registers, eyeing my purchases.
The older one gives me a significant look and says, "You know that's a bad idea."
I nod and get out my wallet. I can count on the Agway ladies to tell me what's what whether I want them to or not.
She continues, "Haven't you heard about the woman down to Connecticut getting mauled by that bear? In her own driveway?"
"No, no I haven't." I studiously count out my bills.
The younger woman turns to us and smiles sunshine. "Yeah," she says. "But Vermont ain't Connecticut."
The older woman lifts her eyebrows as she keys in the prices. "And how's that?"
"Well, everyone up here has a gun." She pauses to make sure we're paying attention. "So bears are no problem." She aims a pretend gun and shoots.
I laugh. "Exactly!"
The older woman looks me up and down as she hands me my change. "Do you have a gun?"
I shrug and smile and lift the bags to my shoulders. "Nope."
She nods, Obviously. She shakes her head, Some people.
Later, at home as I feed the starving birds that have tumbled in shivery and desperate, I chuckle at the thought of a bear mauling me, of the two women telling me their truths, of my own stubborn self, but I can't help feeling lumbering shadows at my back and musky breath at my neck as I scatter seed into the unmistakable track of a bear.