Gerald rolled on his back in the autumn sunshine. This was the life! His tummy was full and all he needed to do was lie in the sunshine until he felt the first tummy rumble, when he would waddle into the fast flowing stream and catch himself some fish. No worries, no one telling him what to do. (He had left his mother and brother months ago, he needed no-one.)
He watched the world go by, seeing wolves, elk and bison, along with the smaller creatures that hurried along through the grass, and the birds that took to the skies when he approached. They didn’t bother him and he didn’t bother them. He was a bear, top of the pile as far as he was concerned. He didn’t need to interact with them in any way, it was much too much trouble trying to catch anything on land.
During the autumn he got fatter and fatter, and, as the cold weather came he grew slower and slower. He needed to find somewhere to shelter from the snow and freezing winds. He came across the perfect place and made himself a bed at the back of a cave. The narrow entrance would keep the snow out. He snuggled down for a nap until he needed to venture out to get some food.
“You don’t need to go out to search for food,” a voice said. Gerald opened his eyes and saw a vixen in front of him, a dead rabbit at her feet. “I can bring food for you.”
“Why would you want to do that?”
“You are such a fine animal. With your amazing fur coat, your huge paws and your beautiful eyes. We are proud to have you in our neck of the woods.”
“We?” said the bear.
The next time he opened his eyes there was a wolf in front of him, laying a carcase in front of him and bowing low. This was followed by a bison (how had he got through the narrow entrance?), and later an elk. All manner of animals visited him with many offerings of food, and he didn’t even have to get up and walk to catch it himself. He gorged himself on their gifts.
This went on for some time, but suddenly, without warning, it stopped. No-one came to bring food. He would have to venture out and catch some fish for himself or he would starve. He lumbered out of his bed and tried to get out through the narrow entrance. He couldn’t fit! He had got so fat with all the food the animals brought him and with no exercise that he could not squeeze his body through the opening. He was going to starve!
He curled up on his bed, exhausted with the effort of trying to get out, and fell into a deep sleep.
Time passed, the snow began to melt and green shoots could be seen appearing from the soil. Gerald sat up and stretched. He had never been so hungry. But he couldn’t get out. Could he? He tried again to leave the den and found he could easily get through the narrow gap. He had lost a third of his body weight while he had been asleep. He would have jumped for joy at being out in the world again, if he had not been so weak with hunger. He plodded over to the stream, which had swollen with the rain and melting snow and easily managed to catch some fish.
He thought he saw the animals that had come to him during his winter in the cave, but none of them even looked at him, they certainly didn’t bow to his superiority and present him with food. Had he dreamed it all?
Gerald wasn’t sure what had happened, but he remembered the feeling of being stuck in the cave, unable to escape due to the fat round his middle. That wouldn’t happen to him again. He could enjoy his food, but he could also move around a bit more, maybe explore this area where he lived, and maybe even meet a lady friend!