Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Great Bear Scare - or - The Man Who Repaired Bear

My wife changed our plans, canceling my casual get-together with friends, and setting a more important get-together of her own. I was available to watch our 5-year-old son that Saturday evening after all.

The three-bedroom house was silent -- not the silence of mischief, but the silence associated with peace -- and I was enjoying it.

Then everything changed.

I plodded into my son’s bedroom to see what he was fussing about. Clutching his favorite teddy bear -- appropriately named Bear -- he showed me a long rip across the furry stuffed animal’s right armpit.

“What’s this?” my son demanded as if I had hurt Bear.

“What’s what?” I asked my son.

I didn’t hurt the stuffed animal. Somehow I felt guilty.

“This rip on Bear,” he said. “Did you do this?”

“I didn’t do nothin’,” I said.

Two years ago, when Bear lost an eyebrow, my son climbed up onto his train table and said he’d jump, that he didn’t want to live anymore. He showed no signs of this dramatic behavior with the armpit injury. Maybe he was growing up.

And then stuffing spilled out of Bear’s underarm.

“Oh my God, he’s dying!” he cried out. Then he jumped up onto the train table, threatened to jump.

Bear’s injury was no accident, I was sure. I had to find out who hurt my boy’s fuzzy-bunches-of-love. The criminal would pay.

I didn’t have much. An injured bear, stuffing all over the floor and an angry child.

I tried to pinpoint the time of the crime.

My son awoke to singing birds that morning with Bear in his arms. All was well. As far as I knew, nobody but my wife, son and I were in the house that day, though I’d left on three occasions to run errands.

I got my son to admit that one of his friends had come over to play while I was gone. Bingo!

I called an associate who worked at the play gym where my boy’s friend once attended. He gave me the dope on the kid, said he had a long criminal past. He broke the wheels off toy trucks. He bit the heads off toy soldiers. Most telling, he ripped the wings off a stuffed duck.

My son protected his friend, said he didn’t go near Bear the whole time he was over. I really didn’t have enough evidence to call the parents and accuse the little brat. That’s a no-no in California. Any New Yorker in my shoes could call the kid a murderer to his parents’ faces and actually enjoy it, no matter the response. But in California, you can’t be so brutally honest. You risk being called rude, and we sensitive Californians can’t take such harsh evaluation.

“Bear is dying!” my son yelled. The boy was a crumbling wreck.

I called Grandma to see if she could race over and repair Bear. Grandma was out of town on business. Not good. Grandpa hinted that he could fix Bear, said he was a Boy Scout once. Perfect. He could take needle and thread to Bear and calm my boy down. Then I could concentrate and solve the crime.

Grandpa arrived and went to work on Bear. I picked up the phone to call my wife, digging for clues. The dial tone indicated a voicemail. I listened to the message. Grandpa sent it earlier that day.

“It’s Dad,” Grandpa said in the message. “Gimmie a call.” Then I heard a sharp sound from his end of the line, as if he pressed the wrong button when hanging up the phone. And while thinking nobody but Grandma was listening, Grandpa spilled his guts. He’d torn Bear’s arm when he was over that morning while I was out, he said. He called it an accident.

I slammed the phone down on the receiver.

Grandpa was finishing up Bear’s repair. He was quiet. Was he going to say anything about the crime he committed? Was he going to remain silent and play hero repairman? I couldn’t let Grandpa walk away from this. I had to say something. I had to take this criminal down.

“Thanks for fixing bear,” I said to Grandpa in perfect California tongue.

To this day Grandpa remains a free man.

-February 2009

No comments: