Chapter 29

Long long ago, in a land far far away…

On her way back to Far Far Away, Quackling stopped by the place that was always as sunny as summer. The land of cats and ibises. Out of all her friends she missed Grizzly the bear the most.

Now bears were from beyond Far Far Away but in those crazily crowded woods anyone could end up as neighbours. Quackling had friends big and small, but wasn’t too sure about bears to begin with. After all, they kind of had bad press and ate things. Plus, Grizzly was big and tall, taller than all the creatures of the land. Grizzly knew very well what the neighbours thought. Did they say, be careful? How could anyone fall sleep with a bear next door, right? He grinned, flashing his beary bare canines that outmatched those of even Great the Dane.

Back then, Grizzly didn’t speak much FarFarish. He used to say that Bearish was the most beautiful tongue in all the lands. All throaty growls and roars, Quackling thought, unconvinced. Fortunately, he turned the GRRRRRs into lucrative work, guarding millions of dollar’s worth of cauldrons and potions by moonlight each night, for a rich witch with a twitch.

But by day he was friendly and friends with absolutely everyone. A smile for the scruffy ibis up the tree, a clawshake for the grumpy old bear down the road, a light-hearted prank for the sleepy sloth at the corner store. They all knew him by name. Grizzly especially loved stopping to talk to little ones but was gentle and careful so as to not frighten the parents. It’s different here, he sighed, back in bear country mama and papa bears get angry if you don’t stop to play with their baby bears! They’d say, but he’s so cute and oh-so-grizzly!

Grizzly missed home and wasn’t a huge fan of the crazily crowded woods. These trees are crap and flap about in the wind, he complained. Where I used to live we had proper trees, you know, tall and strong ones. It’s ugly too. Where I used to live we had a beautiful garden and very nice roses. Where I used to live…

There’s a bear in there
And a chair as well
There are people with games
And stories to tell…

Reaching for a branch, he’d snap off a bit of wood to shape into yet another DIY pipe. Disgusting! Quackling coughed, as smoke rings merged into little clouds around them. He smoked so much that he huffed and puffed like an old wolf (so they discovered, on a friendly race across her favourite haunt – the graveyard). It’s very bad, I know. I need to quit, he’d always say. But I’m addicted.

Between puffs of smoke, Grizzly sometimes talked about bear country. I saw arrows and spears flying not far from me, he said. Our cave is safe but I feel sorry for others out there. Tribes are fighting everywhere and lots of bears are being killed. Some come to us but we don’t have enough room for everyone. The little ones are so innocent… but no one here cares about bears. He growled, angry and heartbroken at the apathy.

So great was the contrast between the bigness of his heart and the smallness of hers. Feeling guilty, Quackling could never quite bring herself to ask her friend whether bears really mauled more than other creatures. It didn’t feel right either, dipping bread in the same bowl, to ask what this bear thought about the palatability of birds and other edible creatures.

That’s all folks. The end.

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