David S. Atkinson The Unknowable Agenda of Ursines It wasn't like I'd never seen a bear before, but I guess things are different in the bar at a casino. Not in a cage or anything, just a bear walking in like he did it every day. I'd certainly never seen that. There was just me and the bartender in there. I'd been parked on that stool long enough, nursing beers and listening to the beeps and whistles of slot machines, that the bartender wasn't even making polite small talk anymore. She was just washing out glasses waitresses brought in from the casino and left me on my own. That was all right, though. It was payday again and I was just playing the same game I did every two weeks. Honey, I thought to the waitress, pretending to be the 'aging ex-marine,' decking yourself out in a tipgetting tube top ain't gonna get you nowhere. It's been a few years since anybody was willing to tip to see them saggy cans. For some reason, whenever I sat in that bar I kept imagining myself as a white trash retiree exmarine. Really, I wasn't even thirty yet and was more Cherokee than anything else, but I guess I felt that's who should drink at that bar. I had a decent enough gig teaching at the community college up the road, but on what it paid I'd never repay the forty grand it'd taken me to get in there. Every payday I'd get the big idea that I'd screw everything. Take my check to the casino and win enough to be free of it all. But then I'd just sit in the crappy little bar, trying to get up my nerve, until reality set in and I slunk home to pay bills. Things were about to that point again, like normal. Course, 'normally' didn't involve the bear. "Honey," I shouted at the bartender in my out-loud aging ex-marine voice, shaking my empty bottle. "I'm drier than a two dollar whore's cooch over here. Help out a hardworking American." The bartender didn't seem to care. She cracked another bottle from the cooler and slammed it down in front of me. Didn't even pick up the old empty. That's when the bear walked in. Now, I don't mean or all fours or riding a unicycle and juggling. Two legs, like the grizzly was human. Dressed in baggy denim overalls, a red Pendleton shirt, and a green seed cap. He shambled over and sat down on the stool next to me. "What'll you have?" The bartender asked, either not noticing or not caring that it was a bear. I guess they served all kinds. She put a beer in front of him when he pointed a claw at mine.