Bear chuckled. “And that’s how I get my supplies.”
He sat back and looked at the Girl, waiting for a reaction.
She giggled, then looked thoughtful. “But how do you get the money to order stuff?”
”That,” Bear said, “is another story for another day. But if you think about it, the answer should be fairly obvious. And no,” he held his paw up. “I’m not going to discuss it, so don’t go asking the questions I know are hammering behind those lovely lips of yours.”
Girl stopped, then giggled, “Well, then may I ask if you really think my lips are lovely?”
Bear stopped in his turn, then grinned. “Good enough to eat.” And he gave her a glowering look that she just knew was supposed to be ferocious, but failed by several leagues. She giggled even harder, then squealed when he pushed her over with his shoulder, and straddled her, making a loud, snarling sound.
“OOOH!” she pretend-cried, “Somebody save me from the ‘rocious, ravening BEAR! Oh, oh, oh” And she waved her hands around, patting them on his chest as if trying to fend him off, then collapsed into even more giggles, eventually turning on her side and curling up in helpless laughter.
“Aw, shucks. You ain’t no fun! How can I terrorize you if all you do is laugh at me?” He continued to loom over her.
Her laughter slowed, then she looked up at him, a taunting smile on her face. “Bear?”
“What?” he said, crossly.
“THIS!” and she started tickling him under his forelegs.
“No! No, don’t…Oh, stop it, STOP IT!”
Bear rolled over, away from her, but she got up on her hands and knees and pursued him, tickling him mercilessly.
For his part, he had to be cautious. He could bash her head in with a careless blow, or crush her with his bulk, neither of which he wanted. So, he allowed himself to be pursued while he rolled over and over, seeking to escape, but really just playing a part.
She finally relented, and the two friends lay, panting, on the grass, laughing together.
“For what? Never mind…you’re welcome. Just don’t try that again, or I shall be forced to resort to extreme measures!”
She snorted. “Right. A cutting remark. A sarcastic jibe. A rude witticism!”
Bear, lying on his back, let go a moderately loud ROAR!
Girl jumped, startled. “Oh shit! You almost scared me, Bear!” Then she started giggling again, which rapidly turned into guffaws.
Which, of course, set him off again. Eventually, they were both gasping for breath and holding their sides.
When they finally stopped for a second time, both of them had aching sides and exhausted diaphragms. Neither of them could remember the last time they had experienced that, but it was cleansing.
Finally, Bear rolled over and lumbered up on all fours. “Well, we should be getting home. Can you walk, or did you want to ride?”
Girl sat up, gave Bear a strange look, swallowed, and said, “I think I’d better walk if you don’t mind.”
Bear shrugged, “Not at all.”
Girl scrambled up, walked over to Bear, put her hand on his back, patted his fur, and said, “Let’s go!” And off they went.
They were lounging in the great room after supper, just kibitzing with each other, and laughing together. There was a new easiness between them, born of the belly laughs they’d shared, and they both seemed to seek chances to touch one another in gentle affection.
Bear looked at the window, then sat up, almost dumping Girl on the floor. “They’re here! I was afraid we’d lost them. Come on!”
He jumped up and went for the door, then turned to look at Girl, who, having been unceremoniously dropped to the rug, was lying there, one hand on her chin, her body laid out behind her, looking at him sardonically.
“Well, come on!”
Giving an exaggerated sigh, she made a great show of lumbering up, aping his behavior, then rocking forward, walking on hands and knees, mimicking him.
“Cute. Now, get up, smart ass!”
Grinning, Girl got up and walked to the door, then the two of them jumped down the three steps from the porch and into the meadow.
Where Girl finally understood what Bear had been going on about.
“Fireflies!” she shouted. “I haven’t seen any fireflies since I was a kid! I used to love them!”
She started running around the meadow, chasing them, capturing them in her hands, then releasing them again. She suddenly looked more like six than sixty-three, and Bear was charmed by the look of delight on her face.
She finally found a rock and settled on it out in the meadow, and sat, just watching the blinking light show around her. Bear lumbered over and sat next to her, and she leaned on him.
She pushed herself upright and looked at him. “Bear? Did you do this for me?”
Bear chuckled, “Gosh, you have a lot of faith in how much influence I have with Mother Nature, don’t you? No, I’m as delighted as you are. But I’ve seen them before up here – just not as often as I would have hoped.” He snorted. “Humans are destroying their habitats.”
He shifted his weight. “When I was a kid, we’d have fireflies every summer, sometimes for many nights. But as I got older, I saw them less and less frequently. As an adult, I didn’t even think about it – until one night, my wife, family, and I were staying at a campsite in…um…rural Pennsylvania, I think it was. And there they were.
“I hadn’t thought about fireflies in years at that point. But all of a sudden, I felt truly sad that they had disappeared from my life.” He went silent for a long time, looking off into the distance.
And Girl knew, without asking, that it wasn’t just the fireflies that he missed.