The Bear on the High Shelf
(A True Bear Story)
The shelf was too high!
The teddy bear watched as people stopped to study the stuffed animals on the shelves below him. They often took a lucky one home with them, but few patrons of the crowded, small shop ever looked up at the shelf far above their heads. Certainly, the children never saw him, the only teddy bear on the shelf near the ceiling.
He knew he wasn't a very spectacular teddy bear; a good bear, by all means, but not a showy one. He was a good size to hold, beyond a doubt, with a properly stuffed and fat little belly. His neatly curled fur was a suitable bear-brown, and each paw ended with a soft, velour pad. Round ears sat evenly above bright black and brown eyes, with his black-thread nose stitched very correctly at the end of an appropriate muzzle.
He was, all in all, a very proper bear, as long as no one noticed that his mouth was a bit lopsided, and the placement of his otherwise perfect eyes gave him a permanently startled look. Maybe his multicolored bow never folded down just right, but he held to the faith that a human hand could easily fix the problem.
Luckily, no one down there could see his embarrassingly round tail. He feared people might think he borrowed it from one of the stuffed bunnies. Still, the tail did an admirable job of keeping him from falling over, so he considered it a proper teddy bear tail after all.
But that didn't matter. No one ever looked up at him.
He became quite a philosophical little bear, sitting alone on that shelf. After a couple months, when even the shopkeeper forgot to dust him, he realized he wouldn't make a very good child's toy. He now spent too much time in introspection, often musing about the nature of the universe, the place of humans and teddy bears, and the verities of retail sales. He became a very wise bear, watching everyone pass through the store. He could, in fact, often predict sales during the long days. This woman would take home a glass cat and that man one of the odd looking ceramic gnomes. The couple would take home one of the other bears.
He didn't even mind so much. . . .
Except Christmas was very near, and the rows of stuffed animals beneath him began to thin out. He watched each go and wished them luck and a happy morning beneath the lighted trees. That would be very nice, he admitted to himself, as he leaned back on his round tail and watched the hurried shoppers rush about the store.
Very nice to go home.
But Christmas Eve came, and he still sat there, dusty and unsold. In a few short hours the store would close, and the humans would leave for their own holidays. The shop would stay locked and unlit tomorrow while they celebrated. He didn't like the thought of that dark, empty day.
Maybe he would get lucky at the after-holiday sale. However, being so philosophical, he doubted the humans would come looking for a bargain in bears.
Ah well. Valentine's Day was a good holiday for teddy bears. Unfortunately, he didn't think he was a very sweet looking bear and that was a real drawback. Still, he could hope.
Teddy bears can hope very well.
A half dozen of the unsold clocks chimed the hour. The store would close soon.
A hand caught hold of his leg and pulled him down. He was so startled he could only stare as the human gently brushed the dust from the top of his head and ears. The man even turned him over and looked at the tail -- oh dear! -- though he still smiled when he looked back into the bear's face.
"This is your lucky day, guy," the stranger said. "You're a perfect Christmas bear for Zette. And you look like you need a home. I could hardly see you up there!"
So the little bear had his own morning beneath the lighted tree. And Zette does think he's adorable, and a perfect philosophical friend with which to discuss life and writing.
She calls him Aristotle.
They are both quite happy.
Note on the story:
When I got the bear Russ told me he had been sitting on a high shelf in the store, and Russ had almost missed him up there. He'd pulled the bear down and told him this was his lucky day. And yes, I went to the computer and wrote the story that day.
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