The day before you find blackberries shoved under the cabin door by Frankie McMillan

There’s a bear at the edge of the forest staring at you, and you stare straight back from the doorway of your cabin, night falling, only the finger of a moon through the trees and you’re having thoughts of Jimmy, the way his eyes never left yours as you passed a joint back and forth, but you know if Jimmy were here, he’d fetch the gun he kept wrapped up in a yellow cloth, he’d say nobody likes a bear staring at them, and so then you ring a friend but the friend just wants to talk about snow levels and what state has been declared an emergency and next night the bear is there again, the trees now heavy with snow, the occasional crack of a branch, a flurry of white in the stillness and, what the hell you think, or maybe it’s loneliness, so you wave to the bear and the bear raises itself on its hind legs to get a better look but you hurriedly slam the door and now it’s all your fault… you encouraged the bear, because next night the bear is closer to the cabin, you can see its steamy breath in the cold air and without thinking you ring Jimmy but only get his mother who says she hasn’t slept since the funeral and all that stuff about him being a drug runner was wrong, her Jimmy was clean, clean as the driven snow.

FRANKIE MCMILLAN — Frankie is a poet and short fiction writer. Her latest book, The Wandering Nature of Us Girls ( Canterbury University Press) was published in 2022. Her work appears in international journals including The Best Small Fictions and Best Microfictions anthologies.

Art by LIANA ASHENDEN — Liana is a writer and artist living in the ancient volcanoes of Te Pātaka-o-Rākaihautū/Banks Peninsula, Aotearoa/New Zealand. With a PhD in English Literature and a BSC in Physiology, her writing blends the esoteric and domestic. As an expressionist artist, Liana works in watercolour, acrylic, charcoal and clay. You can find her in Flash Frontier and on Instagram @swampmoa.