Chasing the Bear: A Young Spenser Novel - By Robert B. Parker

Chapter 1

I was sitting with the girl of my dreams on a bench in the Boston Public Garden watching the swan boats circle the little lagoon. Tourists fed the ducks peanuts from the boats and the ducks followed them.

"It's a nice place," Susan said, "isn't it, to sit and do nothing."

"I'm not doing nothing," I said. "I'm being with you."

"Of course," she said.

The swan boats were propelled by young men and women who sat in the back of the boat and pedaled. The exact appeal of the swan boats had always escaped me, though I too felt it and had, upon occasion, gone for a ride with Susan.

We were quiet and I could feel her looking at me.

"What?" I said.

She smiled.

"I was just thinking how well I know you, and how close we are, and yet there are parts of you, parts of your life, that I know nothing about."

"Like?" I said.

"Like what you were like as a kid; it's hard to imagine you as a kid."

"Even though you have often suggested that I am still a kid, albeit overgrown?"

"That's different," Susan said.


"I simply can't picture you growing up out there in East Flub-a-dub."

"Your geography has never been good," I said.

"Where was it?" Susan said.

"West Flub-a-dub," I said.

"I stand corrected," she said. "What was life like in West Flub-a-dub?"

"Where should I start, Doctor?"

"I know your mother died right before you were born by cesarean section. And I know you were raised by your father and your mother's two brothers."

"We had a dog too," I said.

"I think I knew that as well," Susan said. "Her name was Pearl, was it not, which is why we've named our dogs Pearl?"

"German shorthairs should be named Pearl," I said. "So what else would you like to know?"

"There must be more you can tell me than that," Susan said.

"You think?" I said.

"I think," Susan said. "Talk about yourself."

"My favorite topic," I said. "Anything special?"

"Tell me about what comes to your mind," she said. "That will sort of tell us what you think is important."

"Wow," I said. "Being in love with a shrink is not easy."

"But well worth the effort," Susan said.

"Well," I said.

Susan leaned back on the bench and waited.

Chapter 2

My father and my uncles were carpenters and shared a house. They all dated a lot, but my father never remarried, and my uncles didn't get married until I left the house. So for me growing up it was an all-male household except for a female pointer named Pearl.

Parents' Day at school was a sight. They'd come, the three of them, all over six feet, all more than two hundred pounds, all of them hard as an axe handle. They never said a word. Just sat there in the back of the room, with their arms folded. But they always came. All three.

My father boxed and so did my uncles. They'd pick up extra money boxing at county fairs and smokers. They began to teach me as soon as I could walk. And until I could take care of myself, they took care of me . . . pretty good.

Once when I was ten, I went to the store for milk and coming home, I passed a saloon named The Dry Gulch. Couple of drunks were drinking beer on the sidewalk. They said something, and I gave them a wise guy answer, so they took my milk away and emptied it out. One of them gave me a kick in the butt and told me to get on home.

When I got home, I told my uncle Cash, who was the only one there. One of them was always there. Cash asked me if I was all right. And I said I was. He asked me if I might have been a little mouthy. I said I might have been. Cash grinned.

"I'm amazed to hear that," Cash said.

"But I didn't say anything real bad."

"Course you didn't," Cash said.

"One of them kicked me," I said.

Cash nodded.

"I'll keep that in mind," he said. "And when Patrick and your father come home, we'll straighten things out."

Chapter 3

When they got home, Cash and I told them about what happened. Patrick and my father and Cash all exchanged a look, and my father nodded.

Patrick said, "If you saw him again, could you point out the guy who kicked you?"

"Sure," I said.

"Let's go down and take a look," my father said.

So all of us, including the dog, went down to The Dry Gulch and walked in.

"Sorry, pal," the bartender said to my father.