True Tales: I was a Fourth* Grade Bear

*this might have actually happened in third grade, I don’t exactly remember

One year, they closed the woods at the elementary school.

I grew up in the country, and went to a small school of only a hundred students, K-5. After I grew up and moved away it was closed due to being constructed basically entirely from asbestos, but later reopened as a Christian school. I guess faith in the Lord protects your children from assorted cancers or something? WHO KNOWS.

Anyway, behind the school was the sports field, and to the north of the field was The Woods. Most of the woods wasn’t on school property, but we were allowed to play in the fringes of it, provided we didn’t go any further than the white and/or yellow lines painted on the trees. Past the lines was Out Of Bounds, and if you went Out Of Bounds, you’d be in Big Trouble. Of course, that didn’t stop the boys from exploring the untamed wilderness past the lines, and one rainy lunch hour, it didn’t stop me either.

I’m not sure exactly what game the girls were playing that I was so disinterested in that I snuck off by myself. Probably something about pretending to be horses. Whatever the reason (and it could have just been that I was a weird, socially awkward kid), I toggled up my navy blue duffel coat and when no one was looking, slipped into the Out Of Bounds.

There were kind-of trails through this part of the woods, but the huckleberry bushes and ferns grew close on either side. I kept my hood up against the rain and also to protect my identity in case I met anyone else out there. I was walking along with my thoughts when I suddenly came face to face with a group of boys from my class. I looked at them, they looked at me, and we all turned on our tails and ran off in opposite directions. I rushed out of the woods and joined in the horse game with the other girls, and watched furtively as the boys burst out of the trees and ran straight to a teacher, waving their arms and yelling. Oh. Crap.

That afternoon we were all called down to the gymnasium for a special assembly. I couldn’t believe it- they boys had ratted me out and I was about to get in trouble in front of the entire school! I had never been in trouble before, never had a detention or even had my name written on the board. This was going to be humiliating!

We all sat cross-legged on the floor and our principal, a short woman who resembled a chicken, stood up in front of us all and announced that ALL of the woods would be off limits for playing in until further notice, because some boys had seen something in the trees. Something scary. Something dangerous.

The boys had seen… a bear.

A bear! Everyone started whispering to their friends and discussing the horror of a bear in OUR woods, while I tried to hold in my laughter. Out of all these people I was the only one who knew the truth- there was no bear. There was only a skinny blonde eight**-year-old girl with a hand-me-down navy blue duffel coat. Of course, there was no way I was going to admit that I was the bear. I would have gotten in trouble for being Out Of Bounds, and besides, being mistaken for a bear wasn’t exactly flattering. I kept my secret to myself, and everyone in the school suffered through several weeks of woods-free lunch hours until the threat of the bear was perceived to have passed.

**I know 4th graders are usually nine but I skipped a grade.

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