“I don’t understand why we need real animals.” Theodore Smallbear’s anxiety, which had been hibernating since Ben “Grizzly” Adams filled them in on his plan, was now fully awake and ravenous.
“Can’t we get some of the underclassmen to dress up in costumes?”
“Are you kidding me, Teddy?” Grizz crouched next to the golf cart, hidden behind a giant rhododendron at the Chinook Golf Course and Driving Range. “This is the perfect senior prank!”
“One that comes with jail time if we’re caught.” Joseph Kodiak held the smaller of the two coolers they’d brought.
Grizz punched Koda in the shoulder. “Quit being such a mama bear.”
They skirted the edge of the driving range until they reached the lot where the trailers were parked in a configuration like Old West wagons circled for protection. The side walls of two of the trailers had been lowered to expose the tiger and bear cages. Others were raised and supported by fencing to create covered enclosures for the camels, elephants, and alpaca.
“Seems needlessly complex for revenge on your ex, Grizz,” Teddy whispered.
Grizz rolled his eyes and removed some smelly bait out of the cooler before shoving it at Teddy. “You ever heard of karma? Wait here.”
Teddy’s heart pounded in his ribcage as Grizz and Koda worked their way toward the circus animals, ducking from shadow to shadow downwind. He lost sight of them and cursed himself for not going with them. At least then he’d know what was taking so long.
Clanging metal broke the silence.
His friends barreled toward him. “Run!”
Teddy snatched the cooler and raced in the direction of their getaway golf cart.
“Don’t forget the breadcrumbs,” Grizz called.
Teddy stuck his hand into the cooler and grabbed a hunk of slimy meat. The salmon fillets, which had originally been frozen, were now mostly thawed. He dropped one and kept running.
“More, Teddy!” Koda yelled.
Teddy reached into the cooler and continued to drop fillets every few yards until he ran out. By then, Grizz and Koda had caught up with him.
Grizz vaulted into the golf cart. “Ditch the cooler.”
Teddy shotputted it and climbed on the back of the retreating cart, sucking in air.
Grizz’s plan was working. Three bears lumbered after them, following the trail of salmon fillets. When they reached the cooler, they pawed at it until they realized it was empty. Then, they raced across the driving range after the cart.
“They’re gaining!” Teddy shouted.
Grizz smacked him on the back of his head. “Use the other cooler, dummy.”
Koda held the lid open while Teddy scattered more fish. Eventually tired, full, or both, the bears began to meander. Teddy collapsed against the seat and ran his damp hands through his hair.
They reached the cart path that led to the golf course. Grizz paused to wedge the cooler beneath a big leaf maple before parking the cart at the course. Their timing was perfect; the first participants of the annual Salmon Run were arriving for check in.
Teddy, Grizz, and Koda pinned their racing numbers on their shirts and waited with the rest of the guys from Blackbear Academy.
Teddy leaned in close. “I forgot to ask. How’d you get the bears’ cages open?”
Koda raised an eyebrow. “Ancient Indian magic?”
Grizz shrugged. “That’s between me and PETA.”
“Who’s Pita?” A leggy blonde wearing tiny running shorts sauntered toward them. “Your new girlfriend, Ben?”
Koda stepped between Grizz and his ex she-demon. “Go away, Goldie.”
“You’re such a serious totem pole, Koda.” She ran a manicured fingernail down his chest. “And so sweaty.”
Teddy, pretending to stumble, wiped his fish-soaked hands on her clothes.
She shoved him. “Get off me, you perv. You stink.”
“Now, you do too.”
Even knowing how she’d pretended to be in love with Grizz to steal Blackbear Academy’s prized totem, Teddy couldn’t resist the sway of her hips as she joined the girls from Miss Cindy’s School.
“Maybe she’ll get mauled,” said Koda.
Grizz managed a half-smile. “Poor bear.”
At the crack of the starter pistol, the fun runners surged down the cart path toward the driving range. Teddy, Grizz, and Koda jogged at a leisurely pace until a scream rent the air. “Bear!”
“Time for phase two.” Grizz careened off the path and raced to Miss Cindy’s.
Teddy and Koda followed. Grizz led them though a break in the hedge separating the school from the golf course, then up the fire escape he’d used to sneak into Goldie’s room when they’d been “dating.”
Once inside, Grizz crouched on the floor. “All clear on the plan?”
Koda and Teddy both nodded.
“See you in five.”
Teddy crept downstairs, but he needn’t have bothered with stealth. Everyone at Miss Cindy’s was out watching the race. He loaded the girls’ celebratory brunch into canvas grocery bags he found in the kitchen. As he finished, Grizz showed up with their totem under one arm and Goldie’s Siren mascot costume under the other. Then Koda arrived, arms full of Goldie’s underwear.
It was hard to keep from laughing as they fled across the driving range. Koda dropped panties and bras behind them like Teddy had done with the salmon. When they reached Bear Academy, Koda helped Teddy set out the food they’d stolen—bagels with cream cheese and lox, donuts, fruit, juice. Meanwhile, Grizz placed their Three Bear totem back in its rightful place on the mantle. He put the siren costume in a urinal in the seniors’ bathroom.
By the time their classmates finally arrived, Grizz, Koda, and Teddy reclined on the living room couch, feet kicked up, watching news footage of Goldie running from circus bears.
“To Goldie’s lox,” they toasted one another with bagels.
It was the best senior caper ever. Especially since the police couldn’t determine whether they’d taken advantage of the bear release or caused it.
I wrote this story for NYCmidnight.com's Flash Fiction Contest. This is my favorite writing contest because it assigns entrants into groups and if you do well you move up. Each group is assigned a different genre, location, and object and participants have 48 hours to write a story up to1000 words. For this challenge, the genre was a Crime Caper, the location a golf driving range, and the object was a salmon fillet. The Bears' Revenge came in second in its group. :)
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