ON NOT NOTICING A BEAR • by Amy Sisson

Everyone in the village thought it was ridiculous, the way Laurent was pretending not to notice the bear that had become attached to his coattails. To be fair, it was a reasonably subtle bear, as bears go.  It didn’t grunt or growl, just padded along quietly, holding the stumpy little man’s extravagant coattails gently in its snout. In fact, so subtle was the bear that Laurent was not even sure at exactly what point during his long walk home from the Archeduc’s Court that the bear had appeared.

Laurent was weary. It had been a long week at Court, during which he’d been expected to cater to the Royal Astronomer’s every whim. (Royal service almost always went to a scholar’s head.) Laurent had looked forward to his quiet cottage, and to resting his feet after taking off the tight black pointed shoes that the Archeduc favored for his staff this season.

Laurent was concentrating so hard on not noticing the bear — which, as he could now see out of the corner of his eye, was rather larger than he’d initially thought, and really more of a black bear than a brown bear — that he truly did not notice the Widow Vuitton until he nearly overturned her wash basket.

“Monsieur LeClaire, you have a b–”

Oui, bonsoir, Madame Vuitton, a very fine evening, and a pleasant rest day to you on the morrow,” Laurent said briskly.

“But Monsieur–”

“A fine evening indeed,” said Laurent, and walked past the Widow, or rather trudged, for he felt that to quicken his pace would be to acknowledge the bear, and thus defeat.

When Laurent reached his cottage, however, the bear planted its feet and held fast to his coattails. It even growled, although in a manner that was not at all threatening.

Laurent sighed and turned around.

“Very well, Monsieur Bear….”

The bear shook its head whilst maintaining its hold on the coattails.

“Madame?”

Another shake.

“Mademoiselle?”

The bear nodded, her mouth still full of thick, embroidered cloth. Laurent shuddered to think what the Archeduc would say if Laurent returned to Court with holes in his best frockcoat.

“Very well, Mademoiselle Bear, how may I be of service?” Laurent asked.

The bear looked sadly at the door, then at Laurent.

“I hadn’t actually planned on entertaining this evening…” said Laurent, trailing off as the bear’s eyes began to glisten, “…but perhaps a short visit….” The bear brightened and dropped the coattails, which did not appear to have any holes in them. Laurent went inside. The bear had to wiggle to get her shoulders through the door, and once inside her bulk made the roof seem too low, but she seemed perfectly happy. She settled in front of the fireplace and looked expectantly at Laurent.

“May I get you some tea?” Laurent asked. The bear shook her head, her eyes never leaving Laurent’s face. “Or perhaps some porridge?”  A vigorous nod, and Laurent turned to the kitchen to prepare a light supper of porridge and cheese.

Once they had finished, Laurent sat down in his armchair with an obscure volume of astronomy that the Archeduc’s Librarian had loaned him. Astronomy was not best perused after porridge and cheese, however, and before long, Laurent sighed in his sleep with an emotion almost entirely unfamiliar to him. The bear gently nudged her head under his hand before releasing a sigh of her own.

In the morning, Laurent woke with the word “contentment” inexplicably on the tip of his tongue.

Now that she was obviously welcome, the bear seemed willing to let Laurent go about his necessary business. When the time came for Laurent to return to Court, she made no attempt to delay him, but simply rubbed her nose along his sleeve in an affectionate farewell.

“I shall leave the door ajar so you may come and go as you please,” said Laurent. “It’s a pity you cannot come with me, but the Archeduc takes himself very seriously and I’m afraid he would find the idea of a bear at Court rather ridiculous.”

The bear chuffed softly.

Oui,” Laurent smiled. “He dresses himself and his staff in the silliest of costumes, and makes us stand on elaborate ceremony, but there it is. Now, do you need anything before I go? I shall be back at the end of the week. You will be here when I return?

The bear nodded and rubbed her snout on his arm once again.

The villagers were nothing short of astonished to see Laurent’s manner that morning. He was dressed as before, but for once his heavy-lidded eyes were open and smiling. It was far more astonishing than the bear itself had been, two days before.

Bonjour!” Laurent said, smiling and nodding at those he passed.

Bonjour, Monsieur LeClair,” said Éric, who was the blacksmith’s son and the boldest of the village children. “How is your bear this morning?”

“Very well, young sir,” said Laurent. “Perhaps you could look in on her while I’m gone, so she won’t be lonely, you know. There’s a franc in it for you, if you would be so kind.”

Oui, Monsieur! I shall take good care of her! Merci!”

Laurent’s lighthearted mood lasted all the way to the Archeduc’s gate, and even the sight of that imposing iron could not quench his gaiety completely. He greeted the guards and made his way through the formal gardens, toward the terrace upon which the Archeduc always breakfasted. The Archeduc required his staff to report to him immediately upon their return, to ensure that they recovered as quickly as possible from the sinful leisureliness of the rest day.

As he came around a row of the Archeduc’s prize rosebushes, Laurent stopped short, but only for a moment.

Bonjour, Archeduc Cachette! I see you have a very fine zebra with you this morning. I wonder whether you might permit me to introduce her to my bear some day soon?”


Amy Sisson is a writer, book reviewer, crazy cat lady, and former librarian. Her fiction ranges from Star Trek work for Pocket Books to the short stories in her Unlikely Patron Saints series, which have appeared in Strange Horizons, Lady Churchill?s Rosebud Wristlet, and the Toasted Cake podcast site. She enjoys making artist trading cards, studying German and Japanese, attending Houston Ballet performances, and traveling with her husband, Paul Abell.


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Rate this story:
 average 3.8 stars • 6 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • A refreshing surprise over morning’s coffee.

    The creative take on the bear was delightful. I can see this as an illustrated story for children, the characters in costume, their expressions and interactions. For old children like me as well.

    • A note on star voting. Prior to my voting the score was 3.7 with 7 votes. I precisely clicked the 4th star and the total dropped to 3.5 with 8 votes, apparently registering as a 3. Strange.
      • Camille Gooderham Campbell
        Hi Jeff, you can always email us for specific concerns like this. Did you take a screen capture? Our stats show that it was at 3.6667 stars and 6 ratings, then down to 3.4286 stars and 7 ratings — your 8th ratings brought it back up to 3.5000 stars. If rating #6 came in while you were reading (quite possible according to the time stamps), you may have seen the figures jump from 3.7 (rounded for display) to 3.5, but I can assure you that your rating did in fact register as a 4. I hope that helps.
        • Jason
          Why is everybody always so confused about this? If somebody votes while you have the page open, the stars will not update until you also vote, so its possible the total rating will change in the opposite "direction" of what you voted.
  • A refreshing surprise over morning’s coffee.

    The creative take on the bear was delightful. I can see this as an illustrated story for children, the characters in costume, their expressions and interactions. For old children like me as well.

    • A note on star voting. Prior to my voting the score was 3.7 with 7 votes. I precisely clicked the 4th star and the total dropped to 3.5 with 8 votes, apparently registering as a 3. Strange.
      • Camille Gooderham Campbell
        Hi Jeff, you can always email us for specific concerns like this. Did you take a screen capture? Our stats show that it was at 3.6667 stars and 6 ratings, then down to 3.4286 stars and 7 ratings — your 8th rating brought it back up to 3.5000 stars. If rating #6 came in while you were reading (quite possible according to the time stamps), you may have seen the figures jump from 3.7 (rounded for display) to 3.5, but I can assure you that your rating did in fact register as a 4. I hope that helps.
        • Jason
          Why is everybody always so confused about this? If somebody votes while you have the page open, the stars will not update until you also vote, so its possible the total rating will change in the opposite "direction" of what you voted.
  • Another feel good story. Love them. Especially with animals being the solution. Entertaining and well-written, I enjoyed it.

  • Another feel good story. Love them. Especially with animals being the solution. Entertaining and well-written, I enjoyed it.

  • Trollopian

    Gentle and enchanting!

  • Trollopian

    Gentle and enchanting!

  • polutropey

    First story this year that made me come here and vote. Can I give it
    MORE than five stars, please? Congratulations, Amy Sisson. I want to
    read more of your writing.

  • polutropey

    First story this year that made me come here and vote. Can I give it
    MORE than five stars, please? Congratulations, Amy Sisson. I want to
    read more of your writing.

  • Sarah Russell

    Jeff has it right. This would be a wonderful children’s book. I can see the illustrations now!

  • Sarah Russell

    Jeff has it right. This would be a wonderful children’s book. I can see the illustrations now!

  • I enjoyed this strange whimsical tale. I liked the way it was written and it appealed to the big kid in me.

  • I enjoyed this strange whimsical tale. I liked the way it was written and it appealed to the big kid in me.

  • MPmcgurty

    Delightful from the first sentence to the last. A nice way to start the week. The author really brought the bear to life. Now I want a bear.

  • MPmcgurty

    Delightful from the first sentence to the last. A nice way to start the week. The author really brought the bear to life. Now I want a bear.

  • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

    I did enjoy this, and the bear was truly charming. But I started to get a teeny bit weary of the archness and heavy formality of the tone; a story like this should be light as air. Four stars.

  • joanna b.

    yes, i want a bear too. although the zebra sounds pretty fine. i also would like to see this as a children’s book. perhaps with two children (a bully and a victim?) as the main characters. 4 stars.

  • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

    I did enjoy this, and the bear was truly charming. But I started to get a teeny bit weary of the archness and heavy formality of the tone; a story like this should be light as air. Four stars.

  • joanna b.

    yes, i want a bear too. although the zebra sounds pretty fine. i also would like to see this as a children’s book. perhaps with two children (a bully and a victim?) as the main characters. 4 stars.

  • This reminded me of those cartoon shorts from Hanna-Barbera. I was waiting for a Dick Dasterdly or Huckleberry Hound cameo. 🙂

    Pleasurable read. Thanks for the story!

  • This reminded me of those cartoon shorts from Hanna-Barbera. I was waiting for a Dick Dasterdly or Huckleberry Hound cameo. 🙂

    Pleasurable read. Thanks for the story!

  • Paul A. Freeman

    Very Kafka-esque. A story I wish I had written. A big 5. I wasn’t sure if the phrase ‘that imposing iron’ should have been ‘its imposing ironwork’ to describe the gate.

  • Paul A. Freeman

    Very Kafka-esque. A story I wish I had written. A big 5. I wasn’t sure if the phrase ‘that imposing iron’ should have been ‘its imposing ironwork’ to describe the gate.

  • S Conroy

    I’m not sure why this is so lovely, but it really is.

  • S Conroy

    I’m not sure why this is so lovely, but it really is.

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