Justine was sad that there were no bears in the Valley. Oh, Blake had told her he saw one or two in the distance in the year he had lived and worked at the mine. But that was before she arrived, and she was really hoping for a dramatic encounter or two.
She often fantasized about close encounters and near misses. A favorite that she played in her head like a phonograph involved Blake, a basket of fresh picked blueberries, and a secluded clearing not far from their cabin. In the daydream he has taken the afternoon off to spend with her, and leads her by the hand carrying a basket and an old quilt he had found in the cabin. After a few minutes of berry picking, Blake takes the basket from her hands and lays it down in the muskeg. He then pushes her onto the old quilt and pulls down her pink sweater, exposing her breasts to the wind and the sky. Justine closes her eyes and smiles, feeling foggy puffs of his cold breath moving closer to her chest. In this fantasy, they don’t get to finish what they started. A tawny-furred grizzly stumbles into their hiding spot and rears up on its haunches, a low snuffling growl forming in her throat. Blake and Justine throw the basket toward the bear, and back away slowly until the distance is great enough that they can run. Once they clamor up the cabin steps and bolt the door behind them, they show their relief in heat and sweat and adrenaline. Justine’s sweater is still loose on her chest.
But of course that doesn’t happen. When they did go berry picking, only a marmot intruded on their privacy. Marmots are too cute to instill that passionate, human fear reaction that always excited Justine so.