‘Go with Dad to the Grand Canyon. You’ll come home to a big party.’
I was already bored. We had been in the car for two hours to make it to the canyon, and I’d forgotten to charge my Gameboy the night before.
Dad had been blabbing on and on about going down to Arizona with his father to see the Grand Canyon for his tenth birthday for as long as I could remember, and how he was looking forward to my tenth birthday so we could have the same experience. He seemed so much more interested in this than learning about my games, or how my day at school was. But now that we were both there, all I saw was a big hole in the ground with a river at the bottom.
‘C’mon, son,’ Dad said, beckoning me. ‘The tour will be starting soon.’
The tour ended up being just as dull as everything else at the canyon. We followed along the trail on a bus, all the way to Hoover Dam and back. It was a long tour as well; the one Dad had signed on for started at 10am and ended at 4pm. All the bus seats had little screens on the back that showed a video about the Grand Canyon, a woman’s voice discussing how and what coyote’s hunt. They said that sometimes bears showed up around the park, but that it was rare. The best part was the lunch break; at least the food was alright.
But Dad was having a great time reliving his childhood memories, so I did my best to smile and look amazed at the sites we saw and the history we were told.
The late afternoon sun left an orange hue over the Grand Canyon as we started getting our stuff off the bus. Once we were sure we had everything, Dad excitedly walked me back to the old fence where he had first shown me the canyon that morning and started taking photos.
‘Can we go back now?’ I asked.
Dad gave a light chuckle. ‘Just a little longer. We’ll take some photos here once the sun goes down, then we’ll get ice-cream.’
And just like that, I lost my temper. ‘What’s the difference, it’s boring rocks now, it’ll be boring rocks at night. We saw everything we needed to when you took me to this fence this morning, I don’t see why we had to waste the whole day looking at it.’
Dad put his camera down and turned around, his eyes staring down like they always did when he was sad. ‘Well,’ he said with a soft voice. ‘If you really hate it here so much, we can go straight home. No photos and no ice-cream.’
I was in trouble. Dad can yell as loud as any other man I know, but he only spoke like that when he was truly angry.
‘Let’s go.’ Dad put his camera in his left pocket. Then a confused expression appeared on his face as he pawed through his right pocket, then concern.
‘Where’s my wallet?’
He turned around to the road we had walked from, a small group of workers moving around where the bus was still parked. ‘Sit there and wait,’ he said, pointing towards a solitary bench before turning around and marching back to the station.
Once I saw that him disappear down the hill, I turned around and stormed past the bench and down the dirt path and towards the carpark. I was already in trouble after all, and there was no way I was just going to sit there and stew while waiting for him.
This is what I told myself as I stomped back, though as the minutes passed, some doubt did start to trickle in.
It wasn’t because I was lost. I could remember the way back to the car easily enough, but maybe I should have at least told him where I was going.
That was the last thing I thought before tripping over a piece of root jutting out onto the path and rolled down the hill and into the trees. By the time I stopped rolling, I was already wincing from some light cuts on my arm. I slowly got up and looked towards the way I had fallen. A steep hill was now between me and the path to safety. Now I was really in trouble.
I tried scrambling up the hill, only to slide back down after a few steps. Then I tried gripping onto nearby trees to pull my way up, but to no avail. As I turned around to look back the way fell, I froze as I found myself face to face with a bear.
We stared at each other intently. With each passing second, I expected him to snap, or get up on his back legs and maul me. Instead, he approached me slowly, nudged my skinned arm with his nose, then licked it gently.
It was then I realised I had been holding my breath. I released it while looking at the bear. He tilted his head, eyeing me. I got up, he turned around and began to walk up the hill, taking a gentler slope I hadn’t noticed before.
The slow trek up the hill and the remainder of the path back to the car took ages, but as we left the forest path and emerged into the carpark, the late afternoon sun was in more or less the same place it had been when I had walked away from Dad. I looked towards the bear, confused.
I spun around, quickly stepping away from the bear with my hands up in surprise.
Dad raced down the path we had just walked through with a panicked look on his face. ‘I told you to wait, what were you thinking?’ he said. Before I could say anything, he grabbed my cut arm. ‘What happened?’
‘I fell.’ I could feel the tears on my face as I spoke. ‘But I’m okay, he helped me.’
I turned around to where the bear had been moments ago, but he was gone.
Dad looked down to where I was staring and put a comforting arm around me. ‘Who helped you?’
I didn’t say anything, I couldn’t think of anything to say then, and I suddenly felt very tired.
‘Okay,’ Dad said, gently patting my back. ‘Let’s go home.’
Author: Flynn is a 4th year Creative Writing student with a penchant for fantasy, mystery, and the supernatural. Growing up, Flynn loved reading stories with worlds that he could get lost in for hours, and he hopes that one day he will write stories that others can also get lost in.
Artist: Cyndra Galea (she/they) is in the third year of her Bachelor of Fine Art’s in Creative Writing with a minor in Professional Communications. When not found with her head in a book or three, Cyndra can be found radioactive antique hunting, fixing classic cars with her dad, drawing on her iPad, or writing and editing her manuscript. Cyndra aims to work as a structural editor when she finishes her Masters of Editing and Publishing, but also dreams of releasing novels of their own.
Editors: Bea Warren and Rory Hawkins