As a preview of the quality fiction which is soon to be released from Pop Seagull Publishing, and as a free gift to all visitors of this site, we have decided to release a special, free short story this week: Teddy Bear’s Picnic. This story, which will also be available for purchase on Smashwords by itself and in an upcoming short story collection by the author, was inspired by her childhood imaginings and her feelings on the arbitrary, sometimes cruel, prejudices of children. Since its writing, it has inspired animator Robin McLean to produce a short film of the same name. Watch out for Robin and his work in later posts… he just might be doing some cover art for an upcoming novel!
If you enjoy this story, please consider buying the upcoming ebook or print-on-demand version, which you can take with you anywhere. Both versions will include original cover art. I also love to hear your comments. If this story has made you think, or you want to write a short review, feel free to comment or shoot me an email here .
Teddy Bears’ Picnic
By Elizabeth Hirst
Deanie flung the bedsheets onto the floor—first the comforters, then the flat sheet. When Jack the Teddy Bear wasn’t between the blankets, he reached under his mattress and pulled the fitted sheet up, too. Under Deanie’s bed, a Mickey Mouse jack-in-the-box and a couple of dinky cars gathered dust. No Jack.
Deanie scanned the shelves lining his room. Stuffed animals crowded for his attention, arms outstretched, their black bead eyes saying “Forget about the bear. I’m lonely.” Some movement caught Deanie’s eye, out the window. He leaned out of the open lower pane, cool evening air caressing his cheek.
He closed his eyes and opened them again to be sure he wasn’t still napping. Jack, his teddy bear, waddled toward the back forty on overstuffed legs. He moved quickly, but less at a run than a pattern of tottering, falling, and crawling. He reminded Deanie of a chubby kindergartener trying to avoid being ‘it’ at tag.
Deanie hesitated at the window before whirling around. Under his tummy he felt excitement flipping and flopping like when his Dad had told him they were going to DisneyWorld. Still in his Cars pajamas, the red ones with Lightning McQueen and Tow Mater prancing around on them, he yanked open his closet and grabbed the necessities for a long journey: light-up cross-trainers, a Transformers lunch box filled with action figures and a yellow plastic flashlight.
He jumped into the trainers, slung the flashlight over his shoulder and swung the lunchbox in the air. “It’s finally happened. . . the Teddy Bears’ Picnic!”
Deanie clambered out the window into the apple tree. He remembered what they had taught him in first grade last year:
If you go out in the woods today,
You’re sure of a big surprise. . .
Today’s the day that Teddy Bears have their piiicnic!
They’d all brought their teddy bears to school. Margie from next door had a strange blue teddy bear with a Mohawk of ponytailed fur. On that day, they all sat on a big fleecy blanket from the nurse’s office eating gummi bears and drinking fruit punch labeled ‘Beary Juice’. The others thought that was the real Teddy Bears’ Picnic.
Deanie shimmied down the apple tree and sprinted for the woodlot. Jack’s chubby, waddling form edged into a yellowbell bush.
Deanie waved. “Jack! Stop, take me with you!”
Jack rustled on through the yellowbell bush, into the forest.
Deanie slowed down at the treeline. He peered into the ferns on the forest floor, shading his eyes like the re-enacted hikers on his favourite show, Outdoor Adventures. The people on Outdoor Adventures told real stories about awesome stuff like hanging off cliffs for hours before being rescued by natives and narrowly escaping maulings by various woodland creatures.
The woodland creature that Deanie sought stood over the lip of a small snow-melt ditch.
Once again, Deanie called out, “Jack, Jack!” but Jack ignored him and continued to slide down the carpet of dead leaves lining the ditch.
Deanie decided that living Teddy Bears probably couldn’t hear.
As he crested the slope of the ditch, Deanie searched for the site of the picnic. All he saw was an oval patch of twilight bent across the ‘v’ of the ditch and a scrawny tree jutting out from one bank. There had to be a fluffy blanket somewhere, and baskets with gingham bunting filled with whatever it was Teddy Bears liked to eat.
Margie’s bear with the scruffy Mohawk was there, and more bears than Deanie had met on the entire block. When they reached the twilight oval on the ditch floor, they dropped to all fours and swung their legs out as they walked, like the real bears Deanie saw on Outdoor Adventures. One bear tried to hoist itself up the trunk of a nearby tree, but kept falling backward because its arms weren’t long enough and its felt body kept sticking to the bark. Every time it fell, it left little tufts of red fluff stuck to the tree. Jack and another bear raised themselves up on their hind legs and battered at each other with their rounded arm stumps.
A squirrel bounded along the edge of the ditch in front of where Deanie stood. The three bears closest to it opened their terry cloth mouths. They jumped into mid-air and landed on the squirrel. A piece of fluffy tail with dark red on the tip flew out of the pile of Teddy Bears. Deanie heard a shrill scream that trailed off too quickly.
The remaining bears now stood on all fours, facing Deanie. They smiled, hideous smiles filled with unnatural teeth.
Jack sauntered up between the other bears like a confident housecat.
“Jack,” Deanie pleaded, shaking his head, “We’re best friends. . .”
Jack leaped out in the lead, kicking up leaves under his stub-legs as he went. Deanie screamed and ran for home, expecting every second to feel the clamping of little needle teeth around his ankles. He shot across the field, possessed of his own momentum, hurtled up three porch steps in one leap and slammed the screen door behind him. He hid under his parents’ bed on the opposite side of the house.
Deanie found Jack sitting in his miniature rocking chair the next morning, slumped over the handrail. His black bead eyes seemed to say “Don’t stay mad at me Deanie. It was all just a joke, right?” Deanie poked Jack with a plastic sword. When the bear stayed still, Deanie grabbed him by one arm. Outside, the boom of distant thunder rattled the window panes.
They went back to the ditch together, Jack hanging from Deanie’s arm, looking for the last time like the perfect picture of boy and best bear. Deanie stood at the edge of the ditch for a moment. He uttered a deep sigh then tossed Jack onto the dark ground in the center of the ditch.
“You’re a real bear now,” he said.