The grocer’s shop on West 34th Street had a sign in the window: “Send a Salami to Your Boy in the Army.” It rhymed if you spoke like a New Yorker. In that shop, back in the 1960’s, Flora Feuerstein was known as “Mrs. Canada.” Her son Evan wasn’t in the army—he was starting a utopian community in Canada. No one in the shop ever asked any questions when she sent packages of kosher salami to Evan and Joannie, who were building a cabin in northern British Columbia. Flora was worried that they might not have enough to eat, and also that they might be eaten by wild animals.
Evan had excelled at Junior Riflery in camp, but hunting a moving animal was a different story. He couldn’t even hit a grouse that was only a few feet away. Once, the grouse he missed was so close that he could have just reached down and grabbed it, though he didn’t think to do that. In the meantime, they were getting low on beans and rice because their cache on the Alaska Highway was regularly invaded by a bear. The cache was a platform about ten feet off the ground, resting between four black spruce trees. An entire wheel of cheese disappeared. Evan imagined the bear joyfully rolling his precious cheese down the embankment.
All their attempts at bear-proofing the cache—like wrapping the tree trunks in metal—failed. Evan’s marksmanship improved, and he decided it was time to hunt the bear. His friend Bernie, a biology major, was visiting then, so one night Evan and Bernie sat up in the cache, leaning against the sacks of rice and lentils piled under a canvas tarp. Eventually Bernie fell asleep in the half light of the sub-Arctic night. Evan stayed awake, holding his gun, and when the bear appeared he shot and killed it.
Bernie woke instantly, yelling, “Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot!” He calmed down when he realized the bear was dead, and he watched as Evan tried unsuccessfully to skin the bear with an inferior hunting knife he’d bought in Manhattan. Bernie always traveled with his favorite scalpel. “I’ve never dissected a large mammal before!” he exclaimed, slicing through the skin as if unzipping a costume. But it was real, and the slabs of strangely textured meat, both fresh and dried, fed them for many months. Even though bear meat is not exactly a delicacy, this one tasted good.
When “Mrs. Canada” heard about these events, she sent Evan more salami.
Copyright © Leora Freedman 2016
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