Mr Bear Title Card

Mr. Bear

“Mr. Bear lost his bow-tie.”

Kiana stood in front of me with the solemnity of a funeral home director, her stuffed bear cradled in her arms.

Mr. Bear had seen better days. Patches of his fur were matted and sticky-looking, whether from jelly or paint, I was never sure. His once-white belly and paws were distinctly gray. His plastic eyes were dull and scratched, and his nose, which used to light up and play music when his paw was squeezed, looked like it had been chewed on.

“His bow-tie,” Kiana shoved the grungy thing in my face. “It fell off.”

“And?” I pushed the bear away. It was blocking my view of the TV.

“Will you help me find it?”

“No.” I settled even further into the couch cushions.

“But I think it fell off while I was getting into the car after school.”

“You don’t go to school, you go to daycare. You’re not big enough for school,” I snapped.

Her pout became more pronounced, and a guilty feeling knotted my stomach. Then I realized I had missed something important in my show. She was just distracting me with her dumb baby stuff! Also, if I got up off the couch, Mom would say I was feeling better and had to go back to school in the morning. But I couldn’t explain that to Kiana, she was only four. She didn’t understand grown-up problems.

“Kiana, Mr. Bear’s bow tie is not a grown-up problem,” I said loftily. Her big brown eyes narrowed.

“You’re not a grown-up, you’re only ten.”

I frowned back at her.

“Well, why do you need me then?!”

“Because Mom says I can’t walk back to school by myself. You have to come with me.”

“Why don’t you just check for it tomorrow?”

“Because Mr. Bear wants his bowtie now!”

She threw her arms around my neck, smacking me in the back of the head with her dirty old bear.

“Please, Benji? Pretty, pretty please?”

“No!” I shoved her off of me, harder than I meant to. She fell back onto the floor, landing hard on her butt.

I rolled my eyes. She would find the stupid bow-tie in her backpack or under her bed, and suddenly act like none of this had happened. I laid my head on the arm of the couch and tried to figure out what had happened to make Captain Reactor join forces with his arch-enemy, Dr. Earthquake. The sounds of the TV blended with the sounds of Mom making dinner in the kitchen. I pulled the afghan down off the couch and snuggled underneath it, and drifted off to sleep.

I woke with a start as if someone had shouted in my ear. It was dark outside, and the house was quiet. I was alone in the living room, with no light except the street lamp shining through a crack in the curtains, falling on… Mr. Bear, sitting on the floor next to the couch. I sat up and stretched, kicking the bear over as I got up.

On the plus side, if Mom had let me sleep through dinner, that meant that she definitely thought I was still sick. On the downside, I was starving. I stepped over Mr. Bear and walked into the kitchen. I searched the fridge, hoping for leftover pizza or pudding cups. All I could find was a Tupperware full of mac and cheese. If I stuck that in the microwave, Mom was sure to hear. I stood back, grumbling to myself. PB&J would have to do. I leaned down to grab the jelly, but heard something clatter softly behind me. I turned sharply.

In the light from the fridge, I saw something on the kitchen table that hadn’t been there before.

Mr. Bear.

“Kiana!” I hissed, “Quit it!”

I peered around in the darkness, straining to hear smothered giggles. I crept down the hallway, thinking I’d catch her sneaking back to her room, but it was empty.

She’s pretty fast for a little kid, I thought to myself as I approached her bedroom door.

I opened the door, stealthy as a ninja, and poked my head into the room. I could see the shape of her under her covers, faintly outlined by her nightlight. I could hear her breathing, slow and even. Not like someone who had just run from the kitchen.

“Kiana?” I whispered, suddenly uncertain.

The shuffling, clattering noise came from behind me again and I whirled, stifling a yelp.

Mr. Bear was sitting on the carpet, right behind me. His scratched plastic eyes eerily reflected the nightlight’s glow. The light in his nose flickered.

I jumped over him and hurried down the hall, grabbing my jacket from a peg by the door, and slipping out into the night.

Kiana’s daycare was only a couple blocks away, about a fifteen-minute walk. I walked barefoot down the sidewalk, feeling somehow safer outside than I had in. It was cool, but not uncomfortable. I barely needed my jacket. The streetlights were a dim, weak yellow compared to the blue glow of the moon in the cloudless sky.

The parking lot of the daycare looked weird without all the cars. The cartoon characters painted on the wall of the building seemed to stare at me, the grins wider and less friendly in the night, their eyes seeming to glow with moonlight.

I made a slow circle around the lot, staring at the cracked asphalt. And there it was. A grimy red bow-tie. I stuck it in my pocket and hurried back up the street.

Mr. Bear was sitting on the front porch when I got there, nose lit. The jangly notes of some song too slow and off-key to identify drifted softly through night air as I stood staring at that red, flickering lit. Slowly, deliberately, I placed the bow-tie on the ground in front of him. Then I zipped around him and ducked inside, locking the door behind me.

I crawled into bed, hoping that this would all be some awful dream.

“Look, Benji, look! Mr. Bear got his bow-tie back!” Kiana’s voice blared in my ears like an alarm. I opened my eyes to see Mr. Bear less than an inch from my face. I screamed, scrambling backward and falling off the other side of my bed.

“Do you still feel sick?” Kiana asked, looking confused, “Do you want Mr. Bear to stay and keep you company today?”

“Nope. I feel fine. I’m definitely going back to school. Right now.”

“Okay,” she chirped, twirling out of the room with the bear in her arms, “Mr. Bear says he’ll play with you some more when you get home!”

The MidWeek Flash Challenge is a writing exercise organized by author Miranda Kate through her blog and Facebook group. Mr. Bear was originally posted on my Tumblr in September 2019 in response to the Week 123 prompt.

Photo Credit: @VictoriaGoldma2 on Twitter

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