Should we bring the Bears?
The People were talking about them again: “Should we bring the Bears? Which Bears will get to go to the Russian River?”
The Bears knew what this means. One or two would get picked, and the rest would have to stay behind. And, C. Bear always got to go everywhere, so only one other bear would get to go. A. Bear’s little heart sank. He never got to go anywhere.
But a voice said, “I think that the Bears who want to stay, can stay, and the Bears who want to go, can go.” So, it was up to the Bears. And you know what that means.
So, all the Bears crowded into the Bear Bag, which is usually stuffed with cameras and underwear and toothpaste and a Bear or two. There wasn’t very much room for anything else but Bears, and C. Bear had to sit up on top, so he could see.
A. Bear couldn’t see, because he was down at the bottom of the bag, but he didn’t mind, because he was getting to go somewhere. Big ol’ Bo Bear was down in the back of the bag, with Out Bear sitting on his head. “Hey, I can’t see!”, said Bo Bear. C. Bear squirmed a little more until he was mostly out of the bag, so he could see just fine. After a while, the Bears stopped jostling around. It was time to go for a ride!
C. Bear was mad because they put the Bear Bag down low behind the front seat, and all he could see is the front seat and a cardboard box filled with old papers and stuff. Bye and bye, someone lifted him up to a window for a little while so he could see, and he saw a big bus with smoked windows, and he got to wave at all the people. But, because the of the tinted bus windows, he couldn’t see if they waved back, and very soon they passed the bus at high speed and left it way behind in the distance. C. Bear didn’t like that.
Next, they passed through a place that smelled funny. “Cows”, the people said, and they laughed about it, and C. Bear didn’t like that, either. Whatever these cow things were, they sure smelled strange!
After a while, it wasn’t so noisy any more, and C. Bear could smell trees and nice stuff. They drove around a lot of curves until Bo Bear said “urp” and C. Bear wondered if they were going to turn into cows. Then, somebody said, “this is the place!” and they all lurched to the left and the car stopped.
The Bears sat in their bag while the people “unloaded”. C. Bear figured this had to mean they all sat in the car while the other stuff in it went somewhere, but soon the Bear Bag was lifted and C. Bear’s head popped back out of the bag, and he could see they were going into a nice house. They went right through the nice house before he could even look around, and before you know it, they were all sitting out on a back balcony looking down upon a beautiful river.
All Bears know what rivers are. That’s where you catch all the salmon, but the Bears weren’t so sure if they liked fish. Well, maybe they would get to go rafting in a while, they decided. So they sat waiting, on the tables in little cardboard flats, just like the time they went rafting, but the tables didn’t move, so they just sat in the sun and watched all the people arriving.
T. Bear sat there with his outstretched arms and lavendar ribbon and happy Hospital Bear smile, and everybody smiled at him and said what a nice Bear he was. And little Out Bear, sporting his white hooded sweatshirt with pink triangle and “Out” logo, squealed with delight whenever somebody would see him. A. Bear, our little Philosopher Bear, sat with his red Atlanta T-shirt and peered at the people with his little black eyes, and everybody seemed to know he was a very special Bear. Bo Bear and New Bear were the quietest of the bunch.
Everybody seemed to think that Bo Bear was the Bear who got into all the stories, and C. Bear hated that, but there isn’t much you can do about this when you’re just a plain old Bear with a dirty old 1986 “Living Sober” T-shirt and a pretty advanced case of stuffing migration in one arm. But C. Bear got to sit on the arm of a chair and visit, and that was fun, and C. Bear remembered that he is still a Special bear, after all.
The People and the guests renamed New Bear “Bandana Bear”, but C. Bear didn’t think this would stick, because it wasn’t anywhere near as much fun as a name like his. C. Bear was almost never reminded that his real name was “Complainer”, which was probably a very good thing.
As a matter of fact, C. Bear would probably be a very spoiled bear, except that he is very adventuresome and imaginitive and, even when whiney, gifted with the charming naivete and winning ways of those who don’t take “no” for an answer. C. Bear does pretty much what he wants, but that’s OK, because a bear actually wants very little, beyond a little light and attention and something easy to count.
The Bears decided to count ducks. They saw a very big white duck called a “heron”, with a long neck and a long, pointed beak. It landed in a tree instead of in the water, but this duck also had very long legs so it could do those things. Then they saw a smaller, black duck called a “loon”, with a long crooked neck, which looked like it was trying to catch fish or something under the water, but that was not right, because the Bears already knew ducks eat Easter Basket grass. Anyway, that was two ducks, and the Bears got tired of counting.
A Big Person kept looking at the Bears . He was talking about sending them rafting over some dam. He would laugh when he said this, and the Bears got ascared of the whole idea of rafting. C. Bear’s stuffing migration started acting up, and he retreated from his perch on the chair arm back to the safety of the cardboard flat. The Bears didn’t know what a dam was, and they weren’t even sure if you were supposed to use that word. But The People laughed too and said, no, they didn’t think the Bears wanted to go rafting right now, and soon the talk changed to other things. All the people were having a wonderful time, and this made the Bears happy.
There was lots of food for all the people, and the Bears got to visit some more and make some very nice friends. People started saying good-bye and leaving this home, and most remembered to say good-bye to the Bears, which made them feel very special and happy. The evening got quiet, and the people who stayed behind talked in quieter voices, as if of times past.
A. Bear didn’t know much about times past, but he did remember being born in a gift shop in Atlanta, so he knew about distances. He watched the people talk, and he saw that they must have been friends for a long time.
They said that the one who owned the house, the one with the twinkley eyes, once drove himself to the hospital. A.Bear knew this was a place where they re-stuffed people, just like where T. Bear was born, and he wondered if maybe all Bears were born in gift shops. Most of the Bears didn’t even know where they were born, but T. Bear was always so happy, A. Bear decided he couldn’t see how T. Bear and C. Bear could possibly be related.
A. Bear looked at the people talking, and he looked at the other Bears, and then he looked at the river. Just now they all seemed to be almost the same thing to him, always the same but always changing, always going somewhere, always part of everything. This confused A. Bear very much, until he thought he saw that a part of us is always a part of everything. He squinted and peered at the river, as if it was the river which had put this idea into his head. A. Bear couldn’t hold on to all these pictures at once, and they went away again. This made him very happy nonetheless, because he thought he had seen how the river is our friend, just like the People and the other Bears.
Soon everyone was saying good-bye to the Bears, who waved and went back into the Bear Bag. A. Bear was not sure he should tell the other Bears what the river had told him, so he just gave them all a big hug and they danced and giggled inside the Bear Bag until the car started and they were on the long way home.
On the way, it started to get dark, but when they got back to the smelly place, the People saw some cows on the hillside, and remembered to take C. Bear out of the bag so he could see where cow smells come from. And there were indeed more cows than a Bear could count. Then, the Bears might have dozed off for a while, for before you could count “two!”, they were at home in time to watch the last half of Wonder Woman. During station breaks, A. Bear squinted at the ceiling, and imagined that he really could still see the river if he tried. A. Bear fell asleep smiling, because he finally saw that the river would be a part of him always, which meant we are all also part of the river, and it doesn’t matter where Bears are really born.
© Alex Forbes, La Parola December 1994
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