Polar bears are nesting in the freezer again.
Twelve this time, lively and rambling, sleeping on our packets of frozen peas, humping each other on our ice cream cartons, tearing open our vacuum-sealed cod fillets and digging in. This morning a cub tumbled from the ice maker into my glass of water. It was stunned; I gave it back to its mother, who chomped my finger. It still smarts.
I’m not sure this is what the scientists had in mind when they developed a way to save the megafauna. We learned about it all through school: their environments were shrinking, so they should shrink too, right? Conserve resources and endangered species at the same time. They were supposed to be a nice normal size, like deer. Well, the scientists fucked up and now we have roving infestations of muskoxen, rhinoceros, tigers, gorillas. Polar bears.
I call the pest guys. If you’re in the market, you can’t go wrong with Bruce’s Megafauna Removal. Humane, fair prices, no bullshit. Doesn’t mean I’m not peeved though.
“Listen, this is a real nuisance,” I say. “It’s the third time this year.”
“They do get more insistent in the summer months,” Bruce says. “You don’t have moose do you?”
“Christ, do I have to watch out for moose now? Meese.”
“Sometimes the Arctic vermin come together.”
“I thought the treatment I paid for last time would keep them out.”
“Pests like these—they can adapt to a lot.”
“So when can you come by?”
“’Fraid I’m booked ’til Wednesday. A swarm of giant tortoises came in from the south. They’re getting caught in lawnmowers.”
“And the blue whales and great whites have been bursting out of toilets all month.”
I imagine a shark chomping a chunk out of my ass as I innocently take a dump. Baleen bristles against my balls. Whale song drowned in a stream of piss. Really makes you appreciate the relative simplicity of frolicking polar bears making a shit mountain in your freezer.
“Take care of yourself, Hank,” Bruce is saying when I tune back in. “Let me know if you see any hippos, elephants, giraffes, stuff like that.”
“I thought you only got that shit in the tropics.”
“I been hearing things. See you, Hank.”
I slip the phone into my pocket and open the freezer. The bag of peas has ripped and cubs swim in it like open water. Two of the adults are grappling each other with their teeth bared, but it looks like a low-stakes bout between friends. The humpers have taken a break. One of them is wrestling with the ice maker. I close the freezer.
I go into the garage to unearth a cooler. I buy loads of ice, fresh fish, and frozen veggies at the grocery store. I stop at the pet supply to get some hardy aquarium furniture: a castle, a treasure chest, a shipwreck. I make the polar bears a playground.
I use oven mitts and tongs to pluck them one by one from the freezer and set them in the cooler. They fight me. One falls and attacks my feet, but I catch him by the scruff and drop him in with his friends. They stalk around. They sniff the fish before gnashing into it. They tumble down the ice hills like children sledding at the season’s first snow. The bear who tried to eat me climbs onto the ice precipice and fixes its gaze on me.
Its eyes are brown as burnt sugar. A few strands of DNA separate us. The polar bear rises up on its hind legs. It roars at me with all its gleaming teeth. It poises to leap. Something ancient inside me flares to life. I am just an animal, small and soft and afraid.
© Jasmine Sawers
[This piece was selected by Sara Crowley. Read Jasmine’s interview]