Monday, January 23, 2012

Billy Bob Bear Comes Home

Billy Bob Bear was birthed in the back of a bar one chilly night. Months later, his mother dressed him up in a purple tie, a fuchsia vest and a tall striped hat and tearfully nudged him past the pool tables to the front of the bar. "I hope," she said with a quivering voice, "someone kind will give you the home I cannot provide."

The bartender looked up at Billy Bob Bear's mother. "And just what do you expect me to do with him?"

"This is no place for a young cub to be raised," Billy Bob's mother said sadly.

"I will find someone to take him home before the night is out," the bartender said in a gravelly, cigar stained voice.

"Thank you," Billy Bob's mother said meekly. She kissed her little boy bear on the cheek and said, "Now you go and be a good boy bear."

"I will Momma," he promised. Billy Bob Bear waved goodbye to his mother, but she had already gone. He wiped away tears with his pudgy paw.

"Sit over there," the bartender said, indicating a place on the shelf between beer bottles.

Billy Bob Bear sat very, very still for what seemed like a very long time. Suddenly he saw a blonde middle aged woman sit down. She seemed a little preoccupied. Maybe she will take me home, he hoped. After a while, the bartender approached the woman. "You want a bear," he asked, pointing to Billy Bob.

"No, not really," the woman replied.

"You're Bev, right? You come here every so often," the bartender persisted, "and you seem like you're not such a bad dame."

"Thank you," she stammered.

"This is Billy Bob Bear. His mother left him here with me," the bartender continued. "I told her I'd help him find a good home."

The woman looked up at the bear. He smiled shyly down at her. Bev's heart melted. "Oh, I cannot leave him here all alone."

The woman fed Billy Bob Bear a good dinner of fish sticks and berries. He ate until he was good and stuffed. The woman looked at the bear. "I cannot keep you," she murmured. "We don't have a lot of room, and you need a family that will appreciate you. But you can stay here for the time being."

Billy Bob Bear barely slept. He tossed and turned. He was scared. The woman seemed kind enough, but if she didn't have room where would he go? He loved the room he was in. It was so cozy. He knew he'd find none better. "Perhaps if I danced or sang," he thought, "maybe then Bev would change her mind."

In another room, Bev, sat up watching late night TV. Billy Bob Bear was so sweet. He needed a good home. She had been arguing again with the cousin who owned the house she and her family lived in. She knew it was only a matter of time until she and her family would be forced to move. The cousin wanted to raise their rent well beyond what they could afford. She sighed wearily. Poor little bear. She couldn't tell her problems to him, and she knew he was badly wanted to stay with them.

Bev thought about the people she knew and wondered who would want to take Billy Bob Bear in. She thought about the woman down the street who had the little crippled girl. Every other day she saw the woman pushing the stroller to the el to take her child to some appointment or other. The woman was shunned by the neighbors. Why, Bev could not understand. Every time she saw Bev and Bev's mother, she lit up. Probably the only conversations the woman had. Bev decided that this woman needed something cheery in her life. Surely this woman would give Billy Bob Bear a home.

Early the following morning, Bev knelt down by Billy Bob. She gave him a bowl of oatmeal. As the bear ate, she spoke to him. "I am not sure, but I think this woman down the street will take you in. She has a little girl who is crippled," she explained, "and I bet
you would brighten things up for them." The bear frowned. "What does crippled mean," he asked. "It means that the girl cannot use her arms or legs very well." The bear wiped his chin. He wasn't sure about being with a girl who couldn't walk or put her arms around him. "The little girl's mom seems very nice," she continued. "I bet she will love you and the little girl will, too."

"Why can't I just stay with you," he asked. Bev sighed. "I wish you could," she said, "but we cannot keep you here." Billy Bob Bear tried not to cry. "Please," he pleaded. "You seem so nice." "I am sorry," the woman replied. "I know you will be well treated by the neighbor lady."

If she wants me, the bear thought, dejectedly. What, he wondered, would become of him if the woman said no? If she had a crippled girl to take care of, she might not want him. And then what? He was certain Bev wouldn't kick him out, but he also knew he couldn't stay indefinitely. The oatmeal felt like lead. He fell into a fitful sleep.

Billy Bob awakened to voices. Sounded like someone outside. He moved stiffly towards the window and peered outside. He saw a middle aged woman pushing a skinny little girl in a stroller. That must be the crippled girl, he thought. The girl caught his eye. She looked up and smiled at him. Then she giggled. Right then he knew he wanted to stay with her. He listened intently. "I'll be back for the bear in a few minutes," the woman announced, as she strollered the little girl back to their apartment. Billy Bob Bear could hardly believe it. He was going to have a place he could call home. He also knew that he and the girl would have a lot of fun together.

Bev lowered the bear down to the woman's awaiting arms. The woman looked down at the big white bear with his huge hat. He was much larger than her Kid O. She thought of him as more of a guardian than as a playmate. The woman smiled at him as she carried him up the stairs to their second floor apartment. He wasn't sure yet about her, but he couldn't help but smile back. "My little Kid O will just love you," she said. Billy Bob Bear knew Kid O already did love him. And he knew he loved her, too. He settled in near Kid O's crib. As Billy Bob Bear dozed off, he smiled to himself. He knew he had come home.