the museum of americana

a literary review

Bigfoot Family Dinner — Humor by Sylvia Cumming

“Not the Rockies,” moaned Tammy, preening the brown fur around her ears. “It’s all cowboys there.”

“Perfect for when you go looking for a boyfriend,” Bjork said, making a kissy sound and fluttering his long eyelashes.

“Shut up, Dork.” Tammy stood up. The fur around her neck stood out like a ruff.

“It’s Bjork.” Her younger brother smiled up at her sweetly.

“Dork.” She fake-smiled back at him.

“Knock it off, you two and eat your dinner.” Rosa said it at every meal. Every. Single. One. She shook her head, brushing a hair off the table. “And stop combing your fur at the table, Tammy.”

Bjork gave his sister a triumphant look.

“Yes, your mom worked long and hard putting together these shoots and berries.” Fred glanced over at his wife, who was now snout-deep in her plate. “Can we have a meal in peace for once?”

Tammy made a hissing sound and sat back down sullenly. Her ruff slowly lowered back onto her neck. “We’ve only been in Alaska since winter started.”

“Well, it’s decided,” Fred said. He pushed his horn-rimmed glasses up, then dived back into his plate. The glasses slid down again, slowly, through the velvety brown fur on his snout, stopping where his moist black muzzle began. “Your mother and I have been talking about it ever since that photograph was published.”

“Humans keep following us, hounding us, like they’ve done to the wolves,” Rosa added, taking a bite of a leaf. “It’s not safe to stay in one place too long.”

“You mean the photo that looked like a man in a gorilla suit?” Bjork shoved some berries into his mouth and chewed noisily. “The blurry one?”

Fred shook his head. “No, not that one. That was a picture of your cousin Salish near Mount St. Helens. I’m talking about when things first started to heat up.”

“Close your mouth when you chew, Bjork,” Rosa said automatically.

“Ugh,” said Tammy.

Bjork ignored them both. “It wasn’t one of us back then. That really was a man in a gorilla suit. You were watching them take the photo, right, dad? That’s what all my friends say.”

Rosa rolled her eyes at Fred. “Not that story again.”

“Not exactly,” Fred began, leaning back in his chair. “It was when Uncle Terry was living with us down in the forests of Oregon, when your mom and I were first married.” He smiled fondly at Rosa. “You remember Uncle Terry, don’t you, kids?”

“I remember he had really dark fur and he showed me some magic tricks once when we were living on Mount Rainier,” Bjork said.

“He was weird,” Tammy said. “He put itching powder on my bed once.”

“That was a good trick,” Bjork chuckled.

Fred continued, “We had been out hunting and gathering and got separated. I was looking for him when I noticed a couple of humans by the river. It looked like they were hunting too, but instead of guns, they had cameras. They were pointing across the water, looking all excited. I could see Terry over there standing on a big log, plain as day, acting up for the cameras like a fool, so I came up behind the two humans and joggled the loose rocks they were on and gave a roar. They fell over and ran off, and Terry and I had a good laugh.”

Rosa scowled. “And too many fermented berries, too, as I recall.”

“Pssh,” said Fred. “It was all in fun. What’s wrong with fermented berries now and then?”

Silence reigned at the table. An ant appeared from under a leaf and walked crookedly across the table and disappeared down a leg. Outside the cabin’s one window, a raven sat on a branch and clicked its beak and cawed, then flew off with a swoosh that knocked some snow off the branch and spattered the glass.

Tammy glared at Bjork, who stuck his tongue out at her. “Stop it,” said Tammy.

“No, you stop it,” replied Bjork.

Rosa growled at both of them.

“Just once,” Fred grumbled. “Just once I’d like to have a nice meal in peace and quiet. No arguments, no fidgeting, no nothing.”

Tammy and Bjork lowered their faces toward their plates and looked at each other from across the table but said nothing. The sounds of chewing filled the room. Crunchy shoots, new winter berries, pine needles and bark.

Suddenly, the quiet was broken with a resounding noise, the sound of a large branch breaking off from a tree, and the crash-thud of it hitting the snowbank. “What in the world was that?” Fred frowned and looked out the window.

“Sounds like a branch broke off one of the big spruce trees outside,” Rosa remarked and went back to eating.

“Huh,” Bjork said. “I didn’t think the snowfall today was heavy enough to do that.” He took another snoutful of roots and berries. “Maybe I caught something in one of my traps. May I be excused, please?”

“Wait until we’re all through with dinner, dear,” Rosa said. Bjork fidgeted in his chair but said nothing. He pushed his plate away and began drumming on the table with his claws.

Fred gritted his teeth. “Can you not do that?” Bjork stopped. After a minute, he began kicking a chair leg with one foot.

“Mo-om,” Tammy whined.

Rosa opened her mouth to say something, but stopped. The sound of snowshoes crunching through the snow came from outside the cabin. Rosa looked at Fred whose ears cocked toward the sound.

Bjork opened his mouth to say something. Tammy kicked him under the table. “Shhh!”

He stuck his tongue out at her.

“Peace and quiet, that’s all I ask,” Fred muttered.

“Hello?” It was a human’s voice, male.

The stranger knocked on the door. Nobody moved for a long second. Then, silently, Rosa picked up her plate in her claws and stood, motioning for the others to follow suit. Together, they tiptoed to the far corner of the cabin, where Fred pulled up a trap door that was neatly hidden in the floor boards. They descended into the darkness below, settling the trap door into the floor quietly behind them.

Slivers of light came through from the chinks in the floorboards above them and from between the log walls of the cabin’s foundation. The space wasn’t tall enough for any of them to stand, so the four of them seated themselves on the dry dirt.

“Mind the joists,” Rosa whispered, brushing a cobweb from her nose. Bjork began shoveling food into his mouth from the plate on his knees.

Fred growled under his breath, steaming up his glasses. “I hate paparazzi. And I hate having dinner interrupted.”

“We know, dear,” Rosa said, patting his shoulder.

“I should have stayed in the cabin and caught him off guard,” he went on. A berry rolled off his plate and settled on a little pile of dirt. “Scared him away like I did those two in Oregon. That’s what it takes to live in peace these days.”

“They always have cameras, dear,” Rosa said, picking the berry up and placing it on the side of her plate. “It’s better not to show your face.”

Bjork piped up. “I don’t think you need to worry about this one, dad.”

Fred opened his mouth to speak, then shut it abruptly. Above them, the door to the rough log cabin creaked open. Underneath the floor, the family froze, waiting to see what was next. Through the cracks in the floorboards, they watched as a dark head appeared in the doorway of the cabin.

“Hello?” the man said again.

Slowly, the man opened the door wide and stepped inside. His breath hung in the frigid air as he looked around, still standing on the threshold, camera in one gloved hand and snowshoes protruding into the room. A tiny icicle hung down from his beard and rested on the collar of his red down jacket.

The man looked around. He pulled his glove off, drew the camera up to eye height and looked through the viewfinder. It clicked quietly as he swept the lens around the room, taking in the rough wood cabinet standing next to the small window and the fireplace, cold, tucked into the back wall, cordwood neatly stacked nearby. A couple of bunks, neatly made, stood head-in against the far wall. The cabin looked ready for a hunter to come and use it, as was the custom in the far north woods.

He tromped across the room on his snowshoes, dribbling a trail of melting snow behind him. As he walked, he swayed from side to side like an overweight duck.

He opened the cabinet and peered inside. A can of lard, a neatly closed, partially used five-pound bag of flour and a box of cornmeal stood on the shelf. He closed the cabinet door and continued his exploration.

His glance swept over the table, then his eyes opened wide as he saw a single brown hair resting on one of the chairs. He carefully picked it up and held it up to the dim twilight from the single window. It was stiff and straight like a strand of bear fur. He stroked it and smiled, then patted his side pocket, feeling for the zipper with his fingers. He fumbled with the zipper pull, his fingers slipping off. He tried the other side pocket but couldn’t make his fingers close around it. He set the hair carefully on the table, took his other glove off and began rubbing his hands together and blowing on them.

“Stay there, my lovely,” he said to the hair. “I’ll take you to the lab for a DNA test, and then we’ll prove to the world they exist.” The man grinned.

There was a rumbling from under the floorboards. A low, angry growl like a bear who was very unhappy to be disturbed. Then, another growl joined in.

The man’s eyes widened and he hastily pulled his gloves on and, as quietly as his snowshoes would allow, waddled his way out of the cabin and gently closed the door behind him, leaving the hair laying on the table, forgotten. The rapid crunch of his snowshoes faded into the forest.

A few moments later new sounds came from the near distance. Snap! Crack! “Aaaaaah!” Thump. Silence.

After a minute, the trap door opened on its well-oiled hinges.

“What was that?” Fred asked as he emerged into the room, brushing a cobweb from his ear.

“That was the sound of my trap,” Bjork said, stopping at the top of the ladder and smiling up at his father. “I think I finally made a trebuchet net that works. It is supposed to trap animals and shoot them across the stream into the snowbank. It worked great with rocks.”

Coming up behind Bjork, Rosa pushed him gently up and into the room. “I hope it didn’t hurt him. Will he be able to get out of it?”

“Oh, yeah, after a while, but the rocks in it probably broke his camera,” Bjork said, sitting back at the table.

“Dinner.” Fred sighed and sat once again in his chair. “Can’t a sasquatch eat in peace, just once?”

The crunch of bark and berries filled the air once again.

“Do we have family in the Rockies?” Tammy asked, pushing her plate away.

Fred shook his head. “No. But humans aren’t looking for us there right now. Besides, I’ve heard Montana is lovely this time of year.” He sat back and sighed. “Peace and quiet, that’s what’s there. Peace and quiet.”

Tammy loosened a knot in the fur near her ear. Bjork kicked her under the table. She opened her mouth to say something, then closed it again and resumed combing her fur.

“Would anyone like some dessert?” Rosa asked brightly, brushing a single brown hair off the table. It floated gently to the floor.

 

~~~

Bio pic #1When Sylvia was four, she insisted that her mother write down some of her stories, which were mostly about bunnies hop-hop-hopping and bears falling off ladders. More recently, her stories have been published in Alternate Reality Magazine and Freedom Fiction Magazine and have received Honorable Mentions from the Writers of the Future Contest. She is currently at work on two full-length novels. She has a cooking blog which chronicles her occasional cooking adventures and disasters, www.holidaykitchenadventures.com. Sylvia lives in Southern California with her husband and two cats.

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