by Jon C. Crusoe
Someone had filched an eye from the human head mounted over the bar. Bertram
Foss sighed as he dragged over a stepladder to replace the missing orb. He only
had one more human eye in the storeroom. The eyes in the ursoid head were the
ones that were usually stolen as souvenirs and he had plenty of those.
He climbed the ladder and rummaged in his pocket for the round piece of glass.
I'd better order some more tomorrow, he thought as he slipped the orb into the
"Hail, O mighty, but bald, hunter," rumbled a voice from the door.
Bertram didn't need to turn to know who it was. "Hail back at you, you walking
rug," he replied.
He climbed down and limped across the room to touch his hand to the paw of what
appeared to be a larger than normal Kodiak bear. "How's it going, Berak?"
"The shoulder still bothers me. I see that you're still limping."
Bertram flexed his leg and winced. "The docs say that it's permanent from the
way you clawed the muscles up. I guess we've both got something to remember
our last hunt by."
The human filled a bucket-sized mug from the elevated beer tap and used both
hands to push it across to the bear. He filled a glass for himself and raised it as he
said, "Here's to another season."
Berak raised his mug and answered, "To helping evolution along." He pointed up
at the heads over the bar and asked, "Lose another eye?"
"From the human head this time. Must have been one of your early arrivals."
The bear nodded. "There are a few of them that I'm a little worried about, but I'll
fill them in on proper behavior tomorrow."
Bertram filled his glass again and pointed at Berak's mug. The other shook his
head, so Bertram took a sip and said, "I have a couple of newbies too. I'll get them
straightened out before I let them into the field."
"Good enough," answered Berak as he headed for the door. "Thanks for the beer,
and I'll see you in the morning."
The day's transports began arriving early the next morning. Hunters filed out,
carrying their equipment as they talked and joked with each other. Most of them
had been at the lodge before, but as always, there were a few new faces in the
opening day crowd.