The bear made no move to charge, but growled deep in his throat. Tim moved toward the deer, going slowly and searching through the snow. He found his other spear and his atlatl. He thrust one spear into his quiver, hooked the other into his atlatl and balanced them over his right shoulder while he held the torch in his left hand.
The wind tore at the torch, laying the flames out horizontally. The numbing cold cut deep.
When Tim had come to within thirty feet of the kill, the bear made a move to charge, then retreated from the torch. He snorted and shook his head. Slowly, Tim advanced, but the bear stood his ground.
Tim needed three hands: one for the torch, one for the spear, and one to cut out a portion of the desperately needed meat. He advanced another step. He had to drive the bear off, but the bear showed no sign of fear.
Tim’s torch was burning down, and as it died the bear was gaining confidence.
The bear charged. Tim cast the spear, and missed. It cut the air where the bear had been one second before.
The bear’s roar shook the mountainside and his jaws plunged toward Tim’s face. With one last desperate burst of strength as he fell back, Tim brought his atlatl down like a club on the bear’s swollen cheek. The festering wound burst open in a shower of pus and the bear leaped stark upright. His scream split the air. He towered above the spot where Tim had been knocked down, waving his paws in agony, then turned and plunged into the storm.
Suddenly, Tim was alone in a swirling white world of snow. He drew a broken breath and for the moment he could not move. Then he rolled to his knees and pulled out his knife. He cut out a massive chunk of meat and hacked off a section of hide, working quickly, for the bear would surely return.
He recovered his spears and atlatl, estimated his position, and headed back toward the shelter he had left hours earlier. The wind and snow were so fierce that he didn’t think he would be able to build a new shelter in time to keep from freezing. And he wanted distance between himself and the bear.
Fortunately, though the deer had run far, he had been circling back when Tim caught him. In the howling storm Tim could not be sure of his directions. Juices from the meat froze on the back of his hand. He blundered on.
It was the hollow where the deer had nuzzled him that he recognized first. After that he found his way without difficulty, but he was chilled through by the time he had kindled a new fire in his shelter.
For all his efforts, he had gained only a piece of venison weighing a few pounds and one lacerated section of hide. But when he remembered the bear, he was content just to be alive.
Throughout the storm, Tim kept his fire high to keep the cold away, even though it meant frequent trips out to find wood. He was stronger now for the meat he had eaten.
Yesterday he had done without his crutch, and he would have to do without it in the future. As the snow level rose, he would have to have better snowshoes, and the piece of deerskin was the way to obtain them. There was not enough to use as webbing, but he cut what there was into strings. These he soaked in hot water in a bark basket made from his now useless quiver. more next week