Vas Deferens, Bears & Jacob:
Why I Listen To My Children Breathe

Photo by Seniju
Vas Deferens, Bears & Jacob:
Why I Listen To My Children Breathe by Jesse Goolsby

Fifteen minutes later on the way home, I ride shotgun and pray for smooth roads in our Honda Pilot as Sarah weaves in and out of Washington D.C. traffic. Our daughter naps in her car seat.

“Did she say a bear would fucking eat me?” I ask.

“She said you would faint.”

“Who says that?”

“She just meant the twitching, I think. Maybe being lightheaded. Who cares?”

“I wouldn’t faint.” I say. “I’d fight back. Shit, I’d try. I’d jam a stick in its eye or kick or something. I wouldn’t just fall down unconscious.”

There’s a traffic jam over the Potomac River and Sarah slows the car to a stop. She looks over at me.

“I know you would. Relax. Besides, aren’t you supposed to ball up?”

“What does she know about bears?” I say. “I grew up around bears. Bears don’t even like to eat people. Black bears a little. Grizzlies will kill you, but don’t eat you. Does she know that? And I don’t know of anyone who faints. Fainting isn’t even on the table for reactions. And she tells me that after her intern welds my testicle in the wrong place. Shouldn’t I get jumpy? Does she just want me to lie there and let them Picasso my shit?”

“But you’re supposed to ball up so they play with you instead of kill you. I’ve heard that.

“There’s a big damn difference between fainting and purposely balling up on the ground. If you ball up on the ground and the bear starts to eat you then you can fight for your life and stab it in the eye. But if you’ve fainted, you aren’t in a ball and it can just eat you. If it wants to eat you, which it doesn’t.”

“You’d wake up,” she says.

“Do you know what unconscious means?”

A police car edges by with lights on, but no siren.

“Why do you keep saying stab it in the eye?” my wife says. “The bear will be moving around. It’s not going to stand still and let you find a stick and stab it.”

“Jesus, I mean do anything to live. Stabbing it in the eye seems like it would hurt.”

“There might not be a stick nearby.”

“You can use your finger, whatever. If you’re fighting a bear you are probably going to lose anyway. But our brilliant doctor doesn’t know that it most likely won’t eat you.”

“If you’re dead who cares if it eats you?”

We move, but only a car length.

“The bottom line is I wouldn’t faint.”

“I don’t think you’d faint.”


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Jesse Goolsby is the author of the novel I’d Walk with My Friends If I Could Find Them (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). His work has appeared in Narrative, Epoch, The Literary Review, The Greensboro Review, Redivider, and the Best American series. He is the nonfiction editor at The Southeast Review.