The Bear Wife – Catherine George
The bear wife took the cub to mommy and me yoga. She didn’t look much like a bear without her fur, but somehow the other mothers seemed to sense it; when she came in carrying the cub they shifted away, drifting on their yoga mats closer to the windows, to each other. She was left alone in the middle like a stone dropped into a lake, each woman a wave rippling outward. In tree pose she was a lightning-struck pine at the center of a clearing.
It must be something primal, she thought, lifting the cub up in a sun salutation. A smell, maybe, or a musk that hadn’t gone away when the fur came off (worried now, she sniffed at her armpit as she twisted into warrior pose, but she smelled nothing but the plastic roses of her deodorant). Anyway, she didn’t blame them for staying away. The bear was still in there, just below the skin; if any of them threatened the cub she’d tear the heart from their chest.
As the mothers eased into downward dog — a ring of A-frame cabins, each sheltering a baby — the weathered blonde yoga teacher approached her mat and placed a gentle hand on the bear wife’s back, correcting her posture. “Like this,” she said. “Keep your back flat.” The hand pulled away, a bird taking flight, then settled again, on the hunch of her neck. “Focus on pulling the shoulder blades together behind you.”
The bear wife didn’t bother to tell her the hunch would never go away. No amount of focusing on her shoulder blades would remove the grizzly in her.