6

Christmas in the Forest – Part 2

Mrs. G looks around. It appeared that everyone had arrived. She goes over to Mr. G. He is speaking with Stag.

Mr. G: I don’t want a repeat of last year. The does are here to enjoy themselves, not to fend you off. It’s too late in the year for that nonsense.

Stag: Some of them enjoy the attention.

Mr. G: And some of them don’t. If you can’t behave properly, this will be your last “truce”. You look like you might be a tasty post-hibernation snack.

Mrs. G: Dear! I told you – none of those jokes tonight.

Mr. G (looks at Stag): Who says I’m joking?

Stag: Very well. Point made. (Walks off.)

Mrs. G: I’m going to serve dinner.

She motions everyone to be quiet.

Mrs. G: Welcome everyone! I hope you’re having a good time. The food is ready, so enjoy.

The carnivores settle in one place, the herbivores in another. The herbivores are not at all comfortable watching the bears eating other animals, even if they weren’t relatives.

Mr. G is in a bad mood. He doesn’t like being near his favorite snacks and not be able to eat them. It was risky for Mrs. G to go to the ranches to get the cows and sheep. What if she got shot for the benefit of some stupid deer?

Mr. G: Darling, why is Mrs. B sitting with the carnivores? She says she doesn’t eat anything except berries. She should be over there with the mice and squirrels.

Mrs. G: Don’t be silly. She’s a bear and a member of the family. Look at her. Do you really think she’d be that “healthy looking” if all she ate was berries? That’s just another of her acts. Besides, the raccoons are with us and they eat anything.

Mr. G: Exactly. They eat meat.

Mrs. G nuzzles him. He hugs her and calms down.

The talk turns to the coming winter. All the signs point to a worse year than last year. The hibernators wonder if they’d put on enough fat. The small animals worry that they will end up as someone’s meal.

Mrs. G: Enough of the gloom. We’re here to have fun. I have a special treat for dessert.

Everyone waits in anticipation. She disappears into the den and comes back with her paws full of honeycombs. The guests gasp.

Mr. B: Mmm! Where did you find that much honey?

Mrs. G: It’s top secret. (She had found a rancher who raised honey bees.)

She divides the honey between all of the guests, the size of the treat proportional to the size of the animal. The small animals had never tasted honey; it belonged to the bears in the forest. Mrs. G stopped in front of the Black Bears. She gives a large piece to Mr. B and looks at Mrs. B.

Mrs. G: Do you want a piece, dear? I guess probably not, since it’s not berries.

Mr. G smiles at his wife’s cleverness. He could see Mrs. B struggling with an answer. Everyone knows black bears love honey. Finally Mrs. B. gives in.

Mrs. B: Well, I guess I could make an exception this one time. A small piece would be lovely.

Mrs. G: I’m so glad you’ll try it. It really is delicious.

Mr. G has trouble not laughing.

After dinner, the animals play games. The bears wrestle and most of the others run around. Mr. G sees Stag talking with some the does and walks over to see what is going on.

Stag: Mr. G, what a wonderful party you and your wife have put together! We’ve been talking about how great the food was.

Doe: Yes, I’m having a lot of fun. And Stag has been entertaining us with stories of how he has escaped being a trophy on somebody’s wall for the last couple of years. I’d heard that he is rather wild, but he’s been a perfect gentleman all evening.

Stag smiles gratefully. He had hoped someone would have noticed the change. Mr. G nods in approval and returns to his wife.

Mr. G: Well dear, it looks like another success.

Mrs. G: I think you’re right. Have you managed to make it around to say hello to everyone?

Mr. G: I think so.

Mrs. G: Even the herbivores?

Mr. G (low growl): You know I hate talking to them. They’re all afraid of me.

Mrs. G: Well you are the biggest, noisiest bear in the forest. And you look pretty grumpy most of the time. Go show them your charming side.

Mr. G (sighs): Yes, dear.

He heads to the herbivores looking as friendly as possible.

Soon the guests start to leave. Mrs. Snowshoe Rabbit looks around anxiously.

Mrs. S: Has anyone seen my husband?

The herbivores look around nervously. They don’t see Mr. S or Mr. G.

Mrs. S (looking at Mrs. G): You don’t think…

Mrs. G (a little nervous): Don’t worry, dear. I’m sure he’s around somewhere.

Just as she starts toward the trees, Mr. G and Mr. S appear, talking intently to each other. Seeing his wife’s face, Mr. S hurries over to assure her that all is well.

Mr. S: Don’t worry, sweetie. Mr. G was just showing me how to spot those traps the humans put up in the winter.

Mrs. S: That’s very kind of you, Mr. G. Thank you so much. I’m sorry I thought something bad had happened.

Mr. G: No hard feelings at all. I know my reputation. Have a safe trip home.

The Grizzlies start to get ready for bed.

Mrs. G: I’m so proud of you, being so gracious to all the herbivores.

Mr. G (feeling guilty): Well, not quite all of them.

Mrs. G: What do you mean?

Mr. G: Well…. Those skunks who kept running around pretending to squirt everyone really got on my nerves. I took them out back, but they just laughed. So I hit them with my paw.

Mrs. G: So what happened?

Mr. G: Well, the neighbors won’t have to worry about the smell anymore. The bodies are out back. (Waits for Mrs. G’s response.)

Mrs. G: Well, since the deed is done, let’s have a midnight snack.

 

 

 

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8

Christmas in the Forest – Part 1

Somewhere in the forests of Montana:

It was time for the Grizzlies’ annual holiday party. The party was highly anticipated – the food was always great, and it usually happened right before hibernation.

Mr. G: So are you ready for the big night, dear?

Mrs. G: I don’t know. I’m not sure I have enough food. Maybe I should go hunting one last time.

Mr. G: (laughs): You always have more than enough. We snack for days. What are we having?

Mrs. G: Well, I wanted to try something different. I saw a couple of joggers. I thought they might be tasty but I didn’t get a chance. Probably just as well. I talked to some of the other bears later. Apparently that kind are gristly. They said that the others are too fatty. So it’s back to the usual cows and sheep.

Mr. G: (disappointed) I suppose that means you’ve invited all those herbivores again. Some of them are delicious. (The guests gets uncomfortable when they see a relative on the menu.)

Mrs. G: Of course I did. That’s part of the tradition. The herbivores have a day when they don’t have to worry about us eating them. The humans call it a “truce”. They don’t seem to last very long. It won’t hurt us to do it for one day.

Mr. G: I suppose. I’d hate to think that we can’t even be as civilized as the humans. So where did you find the food for them?

Mrs. G: The Rabbits sent their regrets. Because of the early bad weather, the decided to den up early. She felt badly, so she sent a huge bunch of greens. Once I knew what to look for, it wasn’t hard to get more.

Mr. G: Nasty things! I don’t know how anyone can get them down, much less live on them.

Mrs. G: I don’t understand it either. But they are guests, so we need to serve them something they can eat. And none of your jokes about inviting them to be dinner. It frightens them.

Mr. G: Hmmph! (as he wanders off)

On the night of the party it was clear and cold. Mrs. G. had just finished the preparations when they heard a rustling.

Mrs. G: Just in time! Our first guest.

Mr. G: It’s probably your freeloading brother coming to eat all the salmon chunks before anyone else gets here.

Mrs. G: Be nice to him. You know he’s been depressed since that girl left him.

Mr. G: What did he expect? Her family’s from Alaska. You know how snobby those bears are.

Sure enough, the brother headed straight for the salmon. Mr. G went over but was interrupted by the arrival of the Black Bears. Hugging his cousin, he asked how things were going.

Mr. B: Haven’t you heard? The humans got my friend from China.

Mr. G: You mean the one that was here for last year’s party? I felt a little badly that he had to bring his own food. Mrs. G couldn’t find bamboo anywhere. She took a real liking to him. He was rather nice to look at with that black and white fur. What happened?

Mr. B: It turns out that he was getting his food from a place they call a “nursery”. One day he got careless and went during the day. A human saw him.

Mr. G: How awful!

Mr. B: He got away, but they knew he was there and they hunted him down. I guess they don’t see very many Chinese bears around here. They took him to a “nature preserve.” I don’t know what that is.

Mr. G: I hope it isn’t one of those awful places where the human cubs scream all the time and throw things at you. I saw one once. I still get nightmares. Bear cubs would never behave that way.

Mr. B nodded. His wife joined them. She gave Mr. G a hug.

Mrs. B: How are you darling? You look wonderful! Where is your lovely wife? I must say hello to her and tell her how fabulous everything looks. I’ll leave you boys to whatever it was you were up to.

Mr. G groaned inwardly. He could not understand why his cousin, as good a bear as he had ever known, had decided to mate with her. He’d met her down in Yellowstone. She’d been in some “Don’t Feed the Bears” video and thought she was a star. Mr. B had brought her home to meet his family and convinced her to stay. It wasn’t even her looks – her fur had no gloss and her eyes were too big for her face.

He overheard her ask Mrs. G if she had any berries, “Because all I ever eat is a small bowl of berries, as you know.” What kind of bear was she anyway? Mr. G had never met a bear who didn’t like fish. Besides, she always looked like she was ready for hibernation regardless of the time of year.

He was getting really irritated when he was interrupted by the arrival of the herbivores. They always came in a group, just in case the bears had changed their minds about the “truce.”

Mrs. G: How wonderful that you could all come. We’re looking forward to a special dinner. Mrs. Rabbit sent over some beautiful herbs and grasses. I’m sure you’ll enjoy them.

Mr. Squirrel: That was very thoughtful of her. I have brought some nuts to share as well. You are so kind to share your home with us Mrs. G, I hope you don’t mind.

Mrs. G: Not at all, Mr. Squirrel. Anything you’d like is fine. (To herself: How can anyone consider nuts a meal? He’s as bad as Mrs. B with her berries.)

To be continued…

 

 

 

7

The Secret Life of Vegetables

The other day I was thinking about a book I read when I was in my early teens. It was about four kids living with their father (I think he was widowed).

When the kids got bored inside, they would play various games. One game was a variation on Twenty Questions that only involved identifying people. One of the characteristics was which vegetable the person most resembled.

I thought it would be interesting to turn the idea around and give the vegetables human characteristics. So let’s join the Tomato sisters, Roma and Cherry, at a cocktail party.

Cherry is indignant. “I can’t believe I had to beg for an invitation to this party. They said it was vegetable only, and we’re fruits. I mean seriously, who knows we’re fruit except humans who remember their first biology class and these snobby Corn people. And they are so crass.

Look at Mrs. Corn. She thinks she’s being sophisticated with her husk peeled down like that. It looks like she wants to show as much kernel as she can without giving away the whole ear. And her husband is in the soaking pool with all those young corn plants.”

Roma giggles. “Look over there at the Cabbages. I don’t understand why Red ever married into the Green family. They are so boring. And she lets him go alone into Cole Slaws with the Carrots. Cherry adds, “Of course she does. He’s so dull she doesn’t have to worry about any of the Carrots being interested in him.”

Roma smirks. “I bet she doesn’t know he still goes to the Kraut Crock with the Spices. I hear he even gets a little pickled sometimes. I can’t believe she doesn’t smell it on him. Cherry says, “Well, it’s not like she has anywhere to go. Her family disowned her when she married into the Green side of the family. They’d turn her into real slaw if she went near them.”

The girls look around. A couple of the Broccolis come up. “Hi girls,” says Ben, the taller of the two. “How’d you like to get out of this place and have some real fun?” The sisters look at each other, and Cherry asks, “What do you have in mind?” Ben replies, “Well, we thought you might want to watch us work out. You know how healthy we are. Then maybe we could go back to our place and we could show you our muscles.”

The girls giggle and refuse. “Can you believe how full of himself he is? He was such a nice guy before they started writing about his family in those health magazines. I hear the whole bunch of them have turned into snobs.”

Roma says, ”It’s so crowded in this room. Let’s see what else is going on.” She opens a door and gasps as she quickly closes it.
“What? What’d you see?” asks Cherry, alarmed. Roma pulls her down the hall and whispers, “You wouldn’t believe what they’re doing in there!”

“What?” Cherry is getting frustrated.

“The green Peppers are having the red and yellow Pepper girls rub dressing all over their bodies and then licking it off of them. You’d think the Corns wouldn’t allow that type of behavior in their house.”

Cherry suggests they go outside for some fresh air. In the yard, they find the Onions talking to the Leeks. The Leeks seem to be upset about something.

“We know that you just took in those young Green Onions because they didn’t have anywhere to go, but they’re taking over the neighborhood. You can see how quickly they set down roots and spread. Could you talk to them about moving toward suburbs rather than taking more room from us?”

Mrs. Onion sighs. “We have tried to talk to them. They were so sweet when they we younger, but now that they’re older and stronger we can barely get near them. We may end up moving near our children up on the north side.”

They continue to talk as the sisters notice a group of Lettuce watching them and whispering. Cherry looks nervous and says to Roma, “Do they look familiar to you?”

Roma answers, “How would I know? All the Lettuces look the same to me.” As she finishes speaking, the Head Lettuce says, “That’s them. I know it is. They snuck into the party at the Mushrooms, pretending to be veggies. Then they went to all their fruit friends and told stories about us.”

The Lettuce spread out and start moving toward the Tomatoes. The girls see them and run for the gate. The Lettuce is right behind when the gate opens. A Pineapple is standing in the opening, holding a hot vinaigrette.

The lettuce backs off, not wanting to wilt.

The girls run out the gate. The Pineapple glares at them. “Your mother sent me out for you. You’re lucky I got there when I did. You’ll be spending some time in the bed thinking about your behavior when we get back.”