Bear lifted his head from the rag rug in the great room, but said nothing, then put his head down again.
Sighing, he got up. It was a cold, wet, windy day: dull, drab, and bone-chilling, and all Bear wanted to do was to lie by the fire. But no; Girl had to go exploring the cabin.
He padded around, looking for her, and finally found her at the back of the storeroom.
“What,” he said, sounding annoyed.
“Bear, there’s a box back here. What’s it?”
Bear snorted. “How would I know?” and started to turn back to the great room.
“Bear! Please help me get it down – or else I’ll climb up on a chair, slip, and break my fool neck!”
“Well at least that way I’d get some peace and quiet,” Bear grumbled to himself.
“What?” Girl said.
Bear sighed. “Nothing. I’m coming.”
He reluctantly padded into the store room and pushed Girl out of the way – none too gently, although she giggled, which irritated him even more. He reared up, slid the box down into his other paw…then had to juggle to keep hold of it as it was much heavier than he expected.
Finally, he set it down on the floor with a thump, turned, and wandered slowly back into the great room, letting his irritation show, then slumped onto the rug with a long-suffering sigh, and closed his eyes.
Looking weary, he opened his eyes, then squinched them tightly shut, hoping he could pretend he hadn’t heard.
“Well, you don’t have to shout! This box is heavy.”
Bear ignored her.
“I know what you said. So what?” Bear replied crossly.
“I can’t carry it into the other room.”
“Well, neither can I – from here. And I’m going to stay here – sleeping. So, please be quiet!”
There was a silence that Bear could only interpret as sullen that lasted for almost twenty seconds.
He lifted his head and shouted, “WHAT?”
“There are books in here, Bear!” the voice said, excitedly. “Wonderful books!”
“Big fucking deal. Books. Hunh.” And he laid his head down again.
There was a long period of silence, during which Bear could hear a steady procession of thump, pause, thump, pause, thump … he presumed as she was taking books out of the box and depositing them on the floor of the store room.
Finally, the noise stopped, and shortly thereafter, Bear heard footsteps coming slowly into the great room. He tried to pretend he was sleeping.
Girl sat down next to Bear and tried to snuggle into his belly, but he crossly wriggled around so all she got was his paws and hind quarters.
She didn’t seem to mind but leaned back anyway. He heard a dry creak as if something old was opening, then silence, followed by what sounded like heavy pages turning slowly.
Bear squinched his eyes shut, scowled, and pretended he didn’t hear, but now sleep was just not going to happen. He heaved a great sigh – which Girl ignored.
Finally, when the silence seemed about to explode, Girl flipped several pages, cleared her throat, and read, “The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame, illustrations by Ernest H. Shepard…”
Bear lifted his head and glared at Girl.
She ignored him, and carried on reading, “The Mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring-cleaning his little home. First with brooms, then with dusters; then on ladders and steps and chairs, with a brush and a pail of whitewash; till he had dust in his throat and eyes, and splashes of whitewash all over his black fur, and an aching back and weary arms. …”
She kept reading, page after page, and gradually, Bear relaxed. First, he gave up trying to sleep. Then he started listening. And finally, he turned so Girl could snuggle into his crescent-shaped tummy and lean back on him.
And so, the two friends passed the cold, wet, rainy, miserable afternoon in companionable enjoyment.
And when Girl finally put down the book to start supper, Bear lifted his head, held out his paw to stop her, looked at her, and said, “Thank you, Girl.”
And he licked her nose.
She blushed and hurried off to the kitchen area.
But she was happy.
And so was he.
Later that evening, Girl was sitting on the floor, thumbing through all the books that had been in the storeroom box.
Bear kept wandering in and out, knocking over the book pile each time he passed.
Finally, Girl picked up one of the heavier books and smacked him on the butt as he walked by.
Bear pretended to be hurt, and crawled across the carpet, whimpering, one eye on Girl to gauge her reaction, while crying crocodile tears. “Boo hoo hoo…”
Girl says, “OOOHHHH!!! You are so infuriating!” then gets up, goes over, pummels his stomach to make a crescent pillow on his tummy, sits down, scrunchies around, then starts to read Peter Pan to him.
When she’s not looking, he smiles to himself, then leans over and licks her ear again.
Which is one way he shows affection – but which she hates as it both tickles and gets BEAR SLOBBER all over the side of her head!
She turns and smacks him again, this time with the flat of her hand, wipes her ear with the palm of her hand, then goes back to reading.
He chuckles loudly, then settles down to listen.
Soon they are both transported to Neverland … until Girl notices that Bear has fallen asleep and is snoring gently for a bear.
She gets up quietly, leans over, kisses him on the ear, then tip-toes into her own room…and is soon fast asleep herself, dreaming of flying and fairies.
Above them, the stars twinkle down on the cabin where the two friends are sleeping … especially the second star from the right…