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James meets a bear


James was walking down the street with his grandfather. They were holding hands and they had just being down to the local shop to buy some provisions for the evening’s meal. James was happily talking to his grandfather about how much he liked bears. ‘Small ones, Grandad’ he cried. “not really big ones. Because I think they are really scary  and fierce. But little ones are all right. I don’t mind them at all. I don’t know what I would do if I met a very big one’.  ‘Nor do I’ said his grandad. ‘ I think I might run away, extremely quickly.  But don’t worry. I don’t think we will meet  one around here. Let’s go home and have some supper’. And they turned the corner, carrying their shopping, and then they stopped, completely speechless.

         There, on the doorstop, a very large bear was sitting. He was very large and covered with dark brown fur, and he had very large paws indeed. But what was even more surprising was that he, or it, was smoking a pipe. The smell that came form it was pleasant and aromatic. It reminded James of herbs and spices that his grandmother had always prepared. As he and his grandfather stood there, the bear turned around and looked at them.

         ‘Hallo’ he said. ‘My name is Bear. I thought I might come and see you. I know you like bears, so I thought you might like to know about us. Do you mind if I come in for a while? I promise I won’t stay long’. James’s grandfather looked him rather suspiciously. ‘How do I know you haven’t come to eat us?  The bear looked alarmed. ‘Oh, no’ it said hastily. ‘I would never do that’. But I do know’ It said somewhat dreamily. ‘I do really like Italian pizza. With lots of cheese and tomato, I don’t suppose you have any, do you?’

         James tugged at his grandfather’s hand. ‘We have lots’ he said. ‘Grandad has them in the freezer. Do you want some?’ ‘That would be wonderful’ cried the bear, in his loud growling voice. ‘ In return, I will tell you about myself, and give you a special bear’s blessing. ‘You’d better come in then’, said grandfather, ‘and we’ll see what we can do’  ‘Thank you,’ said  Bear. ‘I really appreciate it’ So in they went, with the huge bear ambling along behind them. James’s grandmother saw the bear and gave a shriek of horror. ‘What is that thing doing in here! Get it out at once!’ And she snatched up a large frying-pan to hit it with. ‘It’s all right’, said her husband very quickly, because he thought to himself, I might get in the path of that frying-pan. ‘He’s come to have supper with us, and talk with James.’

         James’s grandmother looked rather oddly at her husband. ‘Why do you bring strange bears home?’. James cried out. ‘He’s not strange! He came here to talk to me and to have some pizza!’ His grandmother sighed. ‘Oh, all right. Let’s see what I can find’. So she went to look in the freezer and take out all that was in there. And so they all had a pizza supper together. Bear ate most of it, and afterwards, sat back in his chair, looking as if it would break at any moment, and sighed contentedly. ‘That was so good,’ he said. ‘Now let me tell you about myself’.

         ‘When I was a cub, I used to play with my brothers and sisters on picnic sites, and that is where I got my taste for pizza. But we also enjoyed playing around. And then, as I got older and bigger, I began to enjoy frightening people! I growled at them and decided to look very fierce. They just saw me and ran away. But I would not hurt them. I just liked the food they had. It was fun! And I also began to like ice-cream as well. By the way, do you happen to have any? I like chocolate’. James’s grandmother got up. ‘I’ll see if we have any’ she said, by now quite liking Bear. She came back with a large tub of chocolate ice-cream, which Bear immediately seized and ate it, tub and all! ‘Oh! That’s better’ said Bear contentedly.

         ‘Now then, where was I? Oh, yes I was going to ask James why he liked bears. You only like little ones don’t you? I know I’m big, and I’m greedy. I like my food. But I would never harm you. I promise you that. But we do look very big and fierce’. James looked at him. He had never taken his eyes off Bear since he had arrived. ‘I know some bears are bad’, he said thoughtfully, ‘ but I think that some are very kind bears, and would never hurt anyone. That is the reason. And also, I think, bears are so very different from us, and we don’t always understand what we don’t know about’.

         ‘Well done!’ said Bear,  chuckling. ‘You are right. You are a very intelligent child, I’m glad to say. But I must go now. I have other things to do. But I would like to thank you all for your kindness, and all the food you provided’. And he suddenly rose up and went over to James. His grandparents gasped. But then Bear, towering over James, bent down and, very gently, put his huge paws around James, and gave him a small bear-hug. Then he smiled, showing his sharp white teeth. I will perhaps see you again’. Then he ambled out of the front door, which James’s grandfather opened for him.

         As Bear walked down the front garden path, he suddenly paused, and turned to look at James and his grandparents. ‘I just thought. If I do come again, I’ll bring a few of my friends with me. That will be good, won’t it? He looked at their horrified faces for a few moments, and then burst into bear-like laughter. ‘Don’t worry’, he said, still laughing. ‘Not too many’. And with that, he disappeared down the path and vanished into the night.

Frank Jackson (17/10/06)