Tuesday, July 14, 2015
I wrote The Fuchsia Bear back in 2009. It was one of my first posts. I have toyed with rewriting it many times, then came across a writing prompt from Sarah Selecky: write from the point of view of something that normally does not have a voice. Without question, I needed to rewrite my bear's story.
* * *
“Is this thing on?” I point at the winking red light.
“We’re rolling.” She wears her formal face, but I know she’s excited. She thinks her producer pulled some strings, but the truth is, Barbara is the only one I would talk to.
I shift my plastic eyes to hers. “Where do you want me to start?”
“We all know how it ended.” She flashes her famous You-Can-Trust-Me Smile. “I want to know how it began. Tell me how you met Emily.”
I clear my throat and wonder if I can get through this without getting emotional. “Her parents introduced us.” I pick at the purple fur on my arm. Once soft and shiny, it is now matted and dull with age. “We slept together that first night.”
Barbara glances at the camera, sends the viewing audience a knowing smile. “And, I understand, every night after.”
It is difficult to hold back the grin. “Yeah, but most nights I slept propped against the pillows.” I drop my voice as if the entire world won’t hear me. “She kicked a lot back then.”
“But it wasn’t always like that.”
“No, it wasn’t. On the nights I did sleep next to her, Emily kept one arm wrapped around my throat in a stranglehold so tight I could hardly breathe.”
“And you still managed to wake up on the floor every morning.”
Whether it’s habit or loyalty, I defend the only girl I have ever loved. “It wasn’t because she didn’t care.”
“No, of course not.” Sarcasm is thick in that short sentence. “Yet, you weren’t exclusive.”
“There were others,” I admit. “At least once a week, one of them would share our bed.”
“You never felt threatened?”
I shrug. “The others looked up to me—still do. Mostly because I know everything. And I mean everything.” I lean forward, rest my elbows on stubby legs. “The moment she got home, Emily would run up to our room and debrief me on her day. She trusted me with classified data; the kind of information that can’t be passed on to just anyone.”
“Give us an example.”
I smile. “I can’t give you specifics. Let’s just say she kept detailed dossiers on those who didn’t play well with others, and lengthy reports on what went down at recess. I know where it’s all hidden. It would humiliate a lot of people if those things were made public.”
“What other secrets did she ask you to keep?”
I shake my head. “Come on, Barbara. You know I can’t tell you that.” It doesn’t surprise me that she tried. Everyone does. “It’s part of the Code.”
“That’s right,” I confirm. “The Silent Code of Teddies.”
“Surely some bears break the code.”
“None that have lived to tell the tale.”
Barbara stares at me, her eyes wide. “You don’t mean…”
I cut her off with a wave of my paw. “How would you feel,” I ask her, “if your bear shared your secrets?”
She straightens in her chair. “I don’t have a bear.” Her eyes dart around, refusing to meet mine.
“Barbara.” I wait until she looks at me. “Barbara, we both know you have a bear.”
“I was a child.”
“He still knows your wishes. You have a lifelong bond that will never break. He still knows when you hurt.” I lean forward. “He still cries when you do.”
She stares at me, her eyes bright with hope and need. “He does?” No longer a world-renowned reporter with a voice of steel, she is now eight years old and needs to cuddle.
“Yes, Barbara, and he always will.”
She looks down at her papers and I know she is collecting herself. I do what I know her bear would do and I wait in silence.
When she is ready, she looks up. “We may edit that part.”
I shrug. “As you wish.” But I know when she reviews the tape, she’ll leave it in. She’ll leave it in because it’s good for ratings. More important, she’ll leave it in for her bear.
Composed now, Barbara carries on.
“Tell me about your amputation.”
“What? Are you referring to this?” I run a paw across faded pink yarn stitched into the right side of my head and snort out a laugh. “She chewed my ear off. It’s no big deal.”
“Did it hurt?”
“Not at all.”
Barbara sends me a dubious look.
I cross my legs. “Bears don’t feel pain the same way humans do. It’s part of our training.”
“Fluff Camp,” I explain. “Six intense months before we’re shipped for retail.”
“What does your training cover?”
“We’re expected to be fluent in at least three languages, including Newborn. We also take psychology and learn to deal with sleep deprivation. And, of course, there’s etiquette.”
“It’s important to know how to dress for and behave at special occasions.”
I smile as memories whip by. “Emily used to throw these extravagant tea parties and I went to every single one. Who wouldn’t? I mean, everyone was there: Kenny and Barb, the Rangers, some of the Care Gang. Emily’s parties were always formal.” I let out a quiet laugh. “And she’d make me wear that gaudy, orange hat. It clashed with my fur, but it made her happy when I wore it.”
“You changed for her. Were you resentful?”
“There wasn’t anything I wouldn’t do for that girl. Everyone said we’d grow apart, but that never happened. In fact, we became closer the longer we were together. We’d spend hours together in our room discussing everything.” I tick off the topics on my three-fingered paw. “The pain of love, the torture of betrayal, how our friendship helped each other heal.”
“And she still left.”
I drop my short arms and sigh. “Yes. She left.” I shift in the chair, my worn feet just touching the edge of the seat. “Things have changed in the last few months. There was a time when my days were filled with her laughter and tears, her songs and stories. But lately, my days are empty, passed in solitude, lying prone on our floral bedspread. Alone.” I swallow the lump that blocks my breathing. “Lonely.”
The crew is silent. The only sound in the room is the quiet hum of the camera.
After a few moments, Barbara gives a small cough. “When did she leave?”
“Last week.” My throat is tight. Dammit, I don’t want to cry. “She left for college on Friday.” I feel hollow, as though the very stuffing that lets me live is now wrenched from my fuchsia body and I am nothing but a dishevelled casing.
I look up at Barbara. “I’m not naïve. I know how this ends. I’ll be boxed and sent to a charity to live with other abandoned stuffies. We’ll remember the days when we were loved, boast of lavish play dates, each tale more embellished than the last.” My mouth stitching curves up in a rueful smile and another thread pulls loose. “No one will talk about the end.”
I look into the camera. “But in the dark hours, when the lights are asleep, and I am not, I will remember how she wrapped her arms around me and hugged me close while she dreamt.”
Barbara’s eyes are bright and wet. “You don’t forget, do you?”
“No. Never.” I press a worn paw against my purple chest, just above my polyester heart. “And we pray you never forget us.”