No. 391

Will came upon an old man in the forest who was sitting beside a freestanding door.

“What’s on the other side?” Will asked the man, even though he could clearly see that beyond the door was more of the same forest.

“Bears,” said the man.

Will nodded. “Sure. But don’t bears just go around the door?”

The old man scowled at Will and pointed angrily with his walking stick. “I didn’t say the door was for the bears, did I? Now move along.”

Will, not wanting to upset the man further, did as he was told.

 

The next day, Will sent his friend Jack into the woods to see if perhaps he could discover the true purpose of the strange spectacle.

 

Jack returned late in the afternoon with a black eye.

“No luck, then?” Will asked.

“Nope,” said Jack. “I asked the geezer specifically what the door was for, and he straight-up whacked me with his stick. That’s it. Didn’t say a word.”

“Huh,” Will grunted, deep in thought and ignoring his friend’s wound. “There’s got to be somebody in town who knows what this is all about.”

“Whatever. The dude’s crazy, is all I know. I’m going home.”

“Ok. Right,” Will dismissed him absently.

“See you later,” Jack called on his way out the door.

 

Will spent all night obsessing about the old man and the door. He tossed and turned under his sheets, with all the possible scenarios racing through his head.

Was the door magic?

Did there used to be something built around the door?

Why did the man say “bears”? How did the bears fit in?

On and on it went, until first light when Will got up and left immediately to the cafe on Main Street for breakfast.

 

“Hey,” he said as he slid his chair up to the counter. He looked around and saw several old-timers with their morning coffees. “Has anybody heard about an elderly man in the forest who sits beside a random doorframe?”

“Oh sure,” said a woman at the next table. “That’s Crazy Bob. He’s been up beside that door for who-knows-how long.”

“Why?” Will asked, leaning forward.

“I think mostly because he likes to hit people with his stick,” said the woman’s friend. “After all, his name is Crazy Bob.”

“That’s it?” Will pressed.

“Pretty sure,” said the woman.

“So far as I know,” confirmed her friend.

Will had one more question. “Do you know why he told me about bears? He told me there were bears on the other side.”

“Bears?” said the woman. “He said ‘bears?’”

“Yes.”

“I really couldn’t tell you,” she said. “There hasn’t been a bear around here since, well, since before my time, anyway.”

 

Armed with the new information, Will returned to the forest to confront Crazy Bob. He found the scene just as he’d left it, two days before. “I know who you are and I know there are no bears,” he told Crazy Bob.

Crazy Bob did not lash out, as Will was half expecting. Instead, the man leaned back. “Is that right?” he asked. “Well, then you tell me, what’s that?” he said, pointing again with his stick.

Will looked where the old man indicated. There, on the far side of the door, was a giant bear. When Will turned back to Crazy Bob, the man was smiling and the door was open. “If you’re worried about the bear, just step on through.”

That was when Will decided it would be a good idea to make a run for it.