Fabiola and the Bear
Bolivian village in the Andean Plateau
Twelve year old Fabiola Rodriguez darted down the dusty road, looking over her shoulder as she went, her hair slapping at her face. Looking past the long black locks in her eyes, she was relieved to see no one who might be coming after her. Turning her full attention to the road – it really was more of a path – in front of her, she sped up as much as she could.
She had heard that there was a small circus troupe that had come to the edge of her village, and if that was true she wanted to see it all and not miss a thing. Things like this didn't happen in her village except for once in a lifetime, and no matter what she got for it when she got home, she just had to go to that circus. She wasn't completely dumb; she had done all of her chores before she had left her parents' farm, but they still would not be pleased when they discovered her absence – particularly her father.
Fabiola shook her head, trying to physically shake the thoughts from her mind as she ran. She should know by now not to care what her drunkard father thought of her – the bruises that were scattered across her body in various stages of healing gave testimony to the fact that he expressed his opinion of her frequently enough. After twelve years, she should be used to it by now.
Not until she got to the edge of the village was she able to truly forget her thoughts on her troubled home life. She paused for a second when she realized that there was a man who was a part of the circus who was standing between the village and the circus, charging a fee to enter – a fee that Fabiola couldn't afford, no matter how small it was. Pondering this newfound problem, she darted behind a strand of trees, staying out of the man's sight until she saw the answer to her problem.
A husband and wife were entering the circus with their passel of seven children. No one would notice if she snuck in with them. So she did, managing to go unnoticed. Quickly and quietly and on the side of the group that was opposite the man taking money, she darted in without anyone paying any attention to her. And then she was free to enjoy the sights of the circus going on around her.
There were a few rickety game stands that looked like they were all rigged, and a Ferris wheel that Fabiola thought looked too old to trust. A couple of the circus employees were wondering around selling churros and tortillas covered with cinnamon and sugar, but she knew without looking that those would also cost money that she didn't have; the same as the games and rides would.
But that was okay. She had gotten away from the farm, she didn't have to be doing chores right now, and she was free to do as she pleased for once in her life.
And then she saw it.
Surrounded by some scraggly, barking stray dogs, a few daring, awestruck kids, and a couple of dumb boys who were throwing rocks at it, was a brown bear. Having obviously come in with the circus, the sedate-looking bear was tied to the circus's truck. For a minute as she made her way carefully towards the animal, Fabiola didn't see how the rope was attached to him, but then she did, and it startled her. There was a peg stuck through the poor animal's nose, and the rope was attached to that peg.
Fabiola stood still for a second, just watching the bear, fascinated by this huge, dirty animal that seemed so… almost… impenetrable. His very size and the fact that he was so close – only a few yards away – made him seem frightening, yet something told her that he knew better than to lash out at people. Something made it seem like he had given up, she mused, too taken with the bear to notice as a circus performer came to stand directly beside the bear.
"Hola, ninos!" the circus performer called out to the children, wearing a pasted-on sort of smile on his face. "Would you like to see the bear dance for you all?"
Fabiola jumped at the sound of his voice as the children that were clustered closer to the bear cried out "si! si!", but still she couldn't tear her black eyes away from the bear.
The bear's trainer tapped the animal's leg, ordering him to "bailar."
The bear sighed, swinging its head around. For a second, his eyes connected with Fabiola's.
What she saw there in the depths of those black orbs was unnervingly familiar. His life so far had been hard, and he was tired with life, tired of trying to please the people around him. Yet he knew better than to rebel against those same people. He had a job to do, and since the people that wanted him to do that job had complete power over him, he would continue to do it. But every once in a while he would pause, delay his obedience, like he was doing now. It was his moment of rebellion and something told Fabiola that he was enjoying it, savoring it, even.
And then the moment passed; the bear stood on his hind legs, and he began to move in a sort of dance. It was Fabiola's turn to sigh. She really didn't want to see the bear performing the act that kept him in captivity, and she had things to do back at the farm. And besides, the shorter the amount of time that she was gone, perhaps the lighter her punishment would be. Her own moment of rebellion now had to come to an end.
Fabiola turned on her heel and ran back down the dirt road, heading back to her parents' farm.