And here friends and followers is the conclusion… if you have not read Part I please click here.
I finally caught up with old Baker scratching his back beside a creek. It was quite something to watch him in broad daylight; so relaxed and at peace in his wilderness. He was rubbing his back up against the rough bark of a tree; eyes closed, lips curled in satisfaction. When finally he opened them, our eyes met and I thought I saw in them recognition. Certainly it was not the first time Baker and I had locked eyes. I had chased him from my orchards with gunfire and clamoring pans more than a dozen times over the years and always he would amble away with a casual sneer. He saw me as the two legged apple keeper and I went from seeing him as a nuisance neighbour to a murderer. I raised my .338 and aimed at that spot between his golden eyes. He took that bullet with an amicable smile.
I thought of old Baker three months later when my wife and I bumped into Tom Yates having dinner at the only restaurant in town with the deceased’s Mrs Yates’ younger sister Alvira. I thought of him again when we attended their wedding the following Fall and Alvira wore her older sister’s wedding dress ‘in tribute’ she had said to me but to my wife she had said something else altogether. She had said her sister had been a ‘large woman’ and so the dress was wide enough to hide her baby bump.
Baker started visiting soon after the wedding. I’d wake up to the sound of falling apples and munching and when I looked out my bedroom window and down into our small orchard he would be there reaching for those apples, the bullet hole clearly visible in the moonlight.
I started doubting myself. I woke my wife up more than once and asked her to take a look when the munching roused me from my restless sleep in those predawn hours but the occasional bear she spotted she said, was nowhere near old Baker’s size. Besides she didn’t believe in ghosts especially not in the ghosts of animals coming back to haunt their killers. She said she worried about me and that I should go see a head doctor. Instead I took to checking on Baker’s remains in the post office and was not comforted by the fact that he was still there. After I had shot him, Tom had Baker mounted as a ‘man-killer’ and put on display at the post office. Such a big bear the townspeople said would draw in crowds of visitors. But very few crossed the bridge to come and stare at Baker.
Earlier this year Baker caught up with me on the bridge. I had been standing there in the half-light of dusk with my hands in my pockets staring down at those two rivers running side by side, wanting to think of trout and pink salmon but instead thinking of Tom Yates and his second wife and their three sons when Baker made his presence known. He was on all fours, panting and heaving on the town side of the bridge. I think I laughed at him. I remember bending down to pick up a small stone and throwing it at him. I told him I was an old man now. I told him to leave me alone. But Baker just kept on staring at me with those golden eyes. When I tired of waving my fist at him I got into my truck and drove through him and into the wide cedar that stood behind him.