(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

This tale is narrated in the first person by a man trying to make sense of the life and death of his friend and erstwhile lover Victor. During the course of his musings, the narrator introduces the reader to the concept of the “bear,” a physical type first delineated by the gay community and characterized by being slightly overweight and sporting a beard and perhaps body hair.

The narrator asserts that Victor was an ideal specimen of his type, a “bear absolute.” At the time of their first meeting and their one and only sexual encounter, Victor was in his early forties. He had “heavy eyebrows and a startlingly dark beard,” and his walk betrayed the recent acquisition of a “washtub stomach.”

It becomes readily evident, however, that despite his attractiveness to other men who value these physical characteristics, Victor had not made a success of his life. He had moved back to his childhood home after the death of his mother to be near his father, with whom he had difficulty communicating. No level of understanding was ever reached between son and father before the latter’s death not long after Victor’s return.

At the time of his fateful decision to take his own life, Victor had just lost his job because of his recurring unreliability and was about to lose his license because of driving while drunk. He had lived with a succession of roommates, all of whom had left after a short while because living with Victor was...

(The entire section is 529 words.)