Prompt: The florist on the avenue maintains on our corner three life size wooden statues of standing bears, one adult, two cubs… Two weeks ago I noticed something different about them. I could not tell what.
The Bears on the Avenue
They had been there as long as she could remember. Certainly since she was a little kid, and next week she’d be eight. You do the math. At first they’d frightened her. Three bears, a momma and her two cubs hewn from dark, rough wood –the little ones a full head higher than she was.
“Damn-it Karen,” she’d heard her daddy complain to Mummy, “are we going to have to walk a block out of our way to avoid those bears forever?”
Daddy is an insurance underwriter, whatever that was. Emily wondered if he’d be less grumpy if he could be an overwriter, but she never asked.
But she’d grown up and the bear cubs hadn’t. Now she could look the little ones in the eye. Though she never did. She’d liked Christmas time when they wore pointy elf hats and shoes with curling toes. She liked it less when they dressed up for sports teams. The little one wore a Derek Jeter striped shirt for two months, about as long as one of daddy’s baseball games. Now, though, Emily felt badly for the bears. They stared forlornly day in and day out, unmoving with nothing to see but the mailbox store on the corner. There was somewhere they’d prefer to be. She understood.
But a few weeks ago, something changed. Something was not right.
“Mummy, the little bears have moved,” Emily had explained to her mother as they hurried past on their walk to school.
“No, honey. They’re carved from wood. They don’t move,” Mummy had replied, but she was on her Twitter-tweets again and wasn’t paying attention.
“Duh,” thought Emily. But they had moved, and they had begun to smile–just the slightest of glints off a long white tooth that hadn’t been there before.
On Thursday Emily saw the cubs, their long snouts bent conspiratorially together. Did a coal-black eye track her movement in front of the florist on the corner?
“Daddy, they’re watching us,” Emily tried her father.
“Right you are crumpet,” he’d said and mussed her hair but then he went back to yelling into his Bluetooth about his fantasy football team. His team was made up. The bears weren’t.
They walked past the week after Eddie Moskowitz’s birthday. Emily hadn’t wanted to go. Eddie called her “Smemily” and pushed her down. Mummy said she had to go because it would be rude to say no. But Emily knew it was because Eddie’s father had something Mummy called, ‘Client Potential.’ Emily hoped it wasn’t catching.
It was chilly when they approached the corner and Emily could see the sun-bright pumpkins decorating the bears’ spot on the curb. The plastic Thanksgiving turkey cut-outs were stuck in the ground around the planter where the bears had stood. She could not, however, see the bears.
“Where are the bears?” Emily asked with a gasp.
“Holiday in the Poconos, I presume,” Mummy replied without looking up from her phone.
Mummy wasn’t taking her seriously. Emily could tell. She turned to look around the intersection as the air filled with the season’s first dancing flakes of snow. Emily let go of her hand and Mummy kept walking, neck arched like a swan to read her screen.
Emily looked up the Avenue. From behind the white delivery van, always parked by the pizzeria, three forms in long winter coats and black pilgrim hats stepped out into the road. One large, two small. Their noses were pointed uptown. The big one turned back and extended one brown paw toward her.
Light from the streetlamp shone through the snow, glinting off girl’s small smile that hadn’t been there before.