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And Then There Is Pope

Pope, Part I

 

IN THE WORLD OF THE SMALL, there is a group known as the stuffies. These consist of dolls: human-like, rototoid, bird-like, reptile-like, and the most seen of all, animal-like. In this animal group, there is further breakdown into species and, above all, the most seen of these are the "bears". Even within this particular group, there is and can be separation according to personality. Usually, if there is a gathering of these remarkable little treasures, there is a chosen one who will take lead as he (or she) has the most experience and knowledge in how to handle the so-called "masters" who own them.

Such a gathering is, and has taken place for some time now, in a small, modestly furnished - yet comfortable - abode on a well-known island near to all of us. Their day starts and ends with "good-mornings" and "good-nights", music and chatter, warmth, security, and, most of all, love. Oh, it is not given without care, but in a very give and receive manner. They can be childlike in behavior: gleeful, excited at the smallest of things, happy, and good. They can be sad, hurt, teasing, jealous, conniving and - yes - lonely: all the feelings and emotions of their masters and other humans.

So much care and practice has to be put into owning a group of stuffies. Each has its own set of rules in order that everyone wakes up to a new day, happy and excited at the sun peeking over the rim of the distant hills, ready to stream in the windows, making the mirrors and glass on the tables and doors glint and twinkle, filling the room with dancing lights and warmth. Oh, such chatter and laughter can be heard under the soft cotton throw that covers them completely each night. And, when it is pulled off, they wave their arms, giggling with glee, happy faces, all talking at once and then turning to one uniform chorus of, "good morning, master, good morning to you!"

There is a name for each, identifying quickly as it is called out: One Scooper, the ice cream bear. Honey Bear, for her honey colored coat, plush, soft, like creamy caramel. Phoo, of course; Mr. & Mrs. Capwell; Mr. & Mrs. Macy Bear with their daughter, Candycane. Caesar, of Tahoe, with his top hat and tails and white satin vest. The Gambler, with his black satin vest and bowler hat. Tricks N' Trash, who knows too much and tells all. Christmas Bear, who sings songs and makes his heart light up with the rhythm of music. German Bear, with his famous Tyrolian hat and stein, always asking, "fill `er up." Klondike Bear, with his never-melting ice cream sandwich, and Popsicle, the big white polar bear with deep thick glistening fur, like obsidian.

AND THEN, there is Pope.

An art has to be learned by the master who owns them, and is very readily infused into the bear stuffies wherever they may be. It is that one does not just perceive a special one as royalty through its trappings or manner, as this can be deceiving, easily gotten. It is through emotional feeling, that one who is among us is great in knowledge, wise in the ways of the master's world, protective yet stern, is obeyed: loving, but firm, fearless but not threatening until it has known there is danger or willful deceivement.

One would imagine, "Well, then certainly the polar bear has to be the royalty of all bears. Look at his magnificent coat, his power, and no fear of the master or his world, or, perhaps the Kodiak, the largest and most feared in all the world, king of the forest, his thick, shaggy coat like that of armor."

But no, there is royalty everywhere, but few have it, few reach it into the outer world; rare they are, treasured when they are found.

It is here, in this sun filled room, that one such treasure reigns. In the corner of this room by the big windows there is a large handbuilt wooden wagon, a freight wagon, to be exact. No, not as kingly coach, but with a high seat in the front, and a large carriage box on the back. Here most of the group stays, sitting around, talking, standing up from time to time (only when alone, of course, or with the master), to peek over the ledge of the windows out onto the front lawn and the street.

It is here they peek to eye the other masters who walk their dogs, and the postman, and the gardener (they hate him; his machines roar and fill the quiet sun-filled mornings with clatter and noise). Temporary at that, such noise is not welcome each Thursday.

It is here that Pope reigns, his group of playful charges an earful themselves at times, causing him to climb down and go over to the couch to sit with Putty, the white leopard who lays on the back cushions. Here, Pope sits at the front of the wagon, the driver, the leader, the one who decides what road they will take today, their protector and decider.

Pope could have gone to another court, maybe more lavish, maybe even into the arms of a child who has known no such luxury even as small as a warm bed or a hot meal each night. There, we would have taken each into accord, adjusting, and been kingly, as called for. But fate and luck brought him to the one master in whom he could convey all his knowledge and power to be, and this is fully used, understood, believed in, and yes, taken into the most secret of confidences. His introduction came on a warm Fourth of July weekend, from a store window to a bed in a weekend inn on the river. Here, he was received in great surprise, given in deep love, and received tenfold over.

His appearance there that day was perceived immediately as wise and almost pastoral. From this, one could easily imagine he came from a long line of royal bears deep from within the forests of mother Russia: his massive forehead, long nose, a positive stance, with golden brown hair somewhat coarse on top, that would easily repel the thick evergreen forest pine needles and the harsh stinging snows which his long-departed ancestors ruled eons ago.

Here now is his realm, this sun-filled room, his court a small band of childlike charges, where his loving or stern stare is always held in love and awe, promoting or delaying their bickering or playing.

Even the master himself comes for guidance or to convey, for he who is Pope is the keeper of secrets, the security of knowledge, the love needed in loneliness, the joy with whom to share. Except for an occasional short trip to the place from where he came, he plays out the days in this room, waiting each morning and night for the master who will sit and talk, share and give the room light at night, tenderly covering him each night to keep off the dust of the darkness ...

But something is happening as of late, a sense of anxiety from within the master, a sense of happiness and contentment not seen in over three years, a sense that perhaps a new and different trip is about to be taken. His wisdom perceives of impending celebration, but not sure quite yet if he and perhaps his court, will move or travel soon. Now it is the master who has a secret he will not tell Pope. What is to become of this, he ponders; how can I prepare, what am I to expect?

A king who is mystified, this cannot be. When will I know, he wonders, when will he share this new strangeness he has taken on, a strangeness he feels is good ...

TO BE CONTINUED

Author Anonymous

This month's story came to us in the mail penned by "anonymous". It is not our writing, but we wish it were. We find it intriguing, captivating, and delightfully rich in depth of perception. The story promises a continuation which we eagery await.

© La Parola, November 1994

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