Horace brought his toast with marmalade and his mug of tea into the living room. He lowered his considerable backside onto the dilapidated sofa and then scanned the vicinity for the TV remote. Ten to one I’m sitting on it, he rolled his eyes, but no: there it was, on the coffee table. He flicked channels to the local news, hoping he hadn’t missed the weather report. He was hoping to tend to his bees that afternoon and didn’t fancy being out in the rain.
On screen, the presenter bore a look of restrained alarm as he announced the escape from a nearby zoo of a grizzly bear. “The public is warned not to approach the animal in any circumstances,” he addressed the camera. “Advice from the police and zoo officials is to remain indoors until the bear is captured and returned to its secure environment.”
The toast turned to ash in Horace’s mouth. Typical media sensationalism! Alarmist nonsense! What made them think the escapee would pose a danger? The poor thing was probably terrified. The zoo was surrounded, Horace knew, by busy dual carriageways. Buses, lorries, endless streams of cars. All that noise! The stink of pollution! The grizzly wouldn’t know whether he was coming or going. He’d be confused, terrified! He’d need reassurance and careful coaxing but what would he get? He’ll be cornered – men from the zoo in their jeeps, thinking they were on safari, will chase him into a confined space, a car-park, perhaps or a subway. And then – cowards! – they will shoot from a distance. A tranquillising dart, if he’s lucky. Something deadlier if he’s not.
Can’t have grizzly bears roaming around, willy-nilly. Oh, no. That would never do.
It was always the way. Shoot first, hold enquiries later. Rather than trying to make the animal feel at home and integrated into a place he never wanted to come to.
As he watched the rolling news reports, Horace reached under the collar of his shirt and scratched. Soon be time for another waxing, he realised. He was already at pains to shave his face four times a day.
Something heavy thudded against the back door.
Horace padded through the kitchen. He opened the door. Blocking out the afternoon sun was the towering silhouette of the escaped grizzly.
“Dave,” Horace said flatly. “You found me.”
“Need a place to stay,” grunted Dave. “Keep my head down until the trail goes cold. Got the Filth on my tail, haven’t I?”
Horace stepped back so Dave could squeeze through the doorway.
“Nice gaff you’ve got here,” he sniffed appreciatively at the kitchen bin. “We all miss you – at the old place.”
Horace closed the door and pulled down the blinds.
“Make yourself at home,” he sighed.