The Shrinking of the Bears – Frankie McMillan


We tell the children over and over. Please don’t slam the fridge door. Maybe if the polar bear were bigger they’d be reminded and if they could reach further into that lost continent of a bear’s mind they’d think more kindly thoughts, say the need for polar bears to rest. But because the polar bear is small enough to lie curled on the tray just above the vegetable cooler, he’s sometimes forgotten.


The authorities insist all the polar bears are now the same size and it’s the depletion of their natural resources that shrunk them. My husband says ‘Who can believe anything anymore?’ He likes to open the fridge door, run his hand gently over the thick white pelt, trace a finger between the animal’s ears. He tells me the polar bear’s skin is black and though the fur looks white it is actually transparent.

I pull my husband’s arm. ‘Come to bed,’ I say.


A rumour goes around about a polar bear in the next district. We hear it somehow got out of the fridge and turned on all the lights in the house before vanishing out into the forest. We hear the authorities boarded up the house. We don’t know what this means. Sometimes I turn to my husband at night and hug him with a strength that leaves us both gasping. ‘We’re still here,’ I say.

Frankie McMillan is a poet and short fiction writer from Aotearoa New Zealand. She is winner of the New Zealand Poetry International competition (2009) and and her poems have been selected for Best New Zealand Poems 2012 and 2015. REcent work appears in Best Microfiction, 2020. Her latest book, The Father of Octopus Wrestling and other small fictions, was listed by Spinoff as one of the 10 best New Zealand fiction books of 2019.

Image via Pixabay

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