Repeat-After-Me by Nancy Freund

Repeat-After-Me

The other day (the other day)

I met a bear (I met a bear)

Out in the woods (out in the woods)

A way out there (a way out there)

Only he wasn’t way out there at all, a way out there, at all. And it wasn’t the other day but a few months ago, during Easter break, when he looked at your sister funny, first.

He wasn’t in the woods, where you like to run. People think the woods are scary, dark, and deep, dark and deep, but you find them soothing, like the Finns and the Japanese who forest bathe. You and your sister breathe them in, cracking sticks and twigs and falling-freely leaves, your sister and you. Falling freely, whirling-twirling leaves, breathe them in. Tiptoe through, only birds as witness. Birds as witness. Sometimes song.

It weren’t no bear. (It weren’t no bear).

But when you run, and when you run, you’ll spy a tree, you’ll spy a tree, it’s ten feet up, it’s ten feet up, oh glory be, oh glory be.

But don’t you fret and don’t you frown, cause you’ll jump for a branch. Catch it coming down. You’re now at camp, this is your song, you’ll sing these words, all summer long, and in this song, and in this song, the bear speaks to you, he speaks and asks: why don’t you run, why don’t you run, and you reply: y’aint got no gun, y’aint got no gun.

Your grammar’s bad. Your logic’s worse. But you love each line, you love each verse. (Bears don’t talk! They sure don’t negotiate! Unless you call a door slammed in your face negotiation). But you’ve learned the good word fret, which rhymes with threat, and you’re excited to add echo to your repertoire of camp song genres. And you’re glad to know even if September’s looming soon, again, your screen-door cabin nights are still sleeping-bagged and counselor-bunked, and right now, you girls are safe.


An American-Brit in Switzerland, Nancy Freund is always hard at work on a novel, but she also loves flash. She has published pieces at Hobart, Largehearted Boy, Necessary Fiction and BloodLotus Journal in the US, and journals in six other countries.  She has Creative Writing degrees from UCLA and Cambridge. She’s on twitter @nancyfreund.

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Image: William Holbrook Beard Public Domain

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