“…a story, Mommy!”
“In a house in the woods, far far away, three bears were living.
“The father bear was big and tall with a big booming voice and big hard hands.”
“Bears don’t have hands! They have paws!”
“But living in houses is fine?”
“The mother bear was thin like rope, that you can bend and tie any way you like. She had a thin wavy voice and thin hard hands. The little bear was thin too, but not like rope — like wire. The little bear had soft soft fur that everyone liked to touch, but underneath was sharp.
“The father bear smelled like corned beef left out too long.”
“The mother bear smelled like cheese.”
“Yuck! What did the little bear smell like?”
“Blueberry ice cream.”
“The father bear had a magic cauldron, and — ”
“What’s a cauldron?”
“What a witch cooks the soup in.”
“and every Friday night, the father bear’s friends came to get happy and laugh and shout and dance. Weasels and skunks and boars.”
“What are boars?”
“Wild pigs big and smelly and noisy like rhinoseroses.”
“The night would get later and the rumpus would get louder — ”
“What’s a rumpus?”
“Buffaloes doing ballet on the sofa.”
“Buffaloes can’t do ballet!”
“But the noise they make trying! So — ”
“The little bear was in her own little bed upstairs, trying to sleep with all that thumping and laughing. When the animals wanted a new game, they would say to the father bear, ‘Bring down that little bear of yours so she can dance for us and we can feel her nice pretty fur.'”
“Then the father bear would call in his big voice, ‘Come down, little bear! My friends want to play with you!'”
“The little bear pushed deeper into the blanket and closed her eyes tighter. From downstairs came thump! thump! smack! Then the mother bear would come upstairs and sit on the little bear’s bed, and whisper, ‘Wake up, little bear, wake up and come downstairs, and I will buy you a nice new frock with roses on it.'”
“What’s a frock?”
“A pretty little dress that you buy to show you love your little girl.”
“I have one of those!”
“The little bear thought that was a bad bargain and closed her eyes tighter. The mother bear called, ‘oh, she is sleeping now,’ and went back downstairs.”
“Then something else came up the stairs, creak! creak! creak! and sat down on the little bear’s bed, stinking, and played with the little bear’s fur, rubbing all the wrong way so that it hurt just like if someone combs your hair all the wrong way on purpose.”
“The little bear pushed and kicked and yelled, ‘get out get out!’ She jumped out of the bed and rolled under it and the buffalo was too big and clumsy to reach her.”
“The week went by, and Friday came. The mother bear made a big kettle of soup, a great big pot to sit on the stove all night, because all that laughing and dancing and singing made everyone very hungry.
“And the little bear thought to herself, ‘I am tired of all those big smelly animals sneaking up the stairs to pet me.’ And she thought, ‘I too can do magic.’
“‘I am going to pick radishes for salad,’ she told the mother bear. But first she ran into the woods and found what she needed for her magic, and then ran back fast as she could to the garden to pull radishes. The mother bear said, ‘Well, you have taken a long time.’ And the little bear said, ‘Those radishes, holding tight to the dirt like that, it was hard to pull them!’ And she washed the radishes and cut them nicely and put salt in a dish for them, good little bear.
“And when the mother bear went out of the room, the little bear made the soup magic.
“Evening came and the father bear came home for his supper, and the usual friends came with him, and they sat and had soup. And the little bear dropped a dish and broke it. The father bear said, ‘I work hard all week to pay for everything and then you break it. Go to bed without supper.’ The little bear made a very sad sorry face and went upstairs to bed.
“At first a little bit of rumpus came from downstairs. And then the only noise was from the little bear’s stomach, growling and growling.”
“Like a bear!”
“Like a bear inside a bear, yes.”
“The little bear was patient, and waited. She heard outside the owl going hoot! hoot! But she waited.
“Finally she went downstairs, step by step, quiet like a mouse. She saw everyone was in a magic sleep. Then she got bread and milk for herself and ate it all up, and went back to bed.
“In the morning she went to the house of kind Auntie Hedgehog, and said, ‘Auntie Hedgehog, everyone in my house is still sleeping!’
“Auntie Hedgehog went back with her and looked. Then she said, ‘Poor little bear! They will never wake up!’
“The little bear knew that already because it was a magic sleep. But she made a sad scared worried face and held tight to Auntie Hedgehog’s hand.
“Then the fox came, wondering, and asked the little bear, ‘Did you have the soup for dinner last night?’
“The little bear said, ‘My stomach hurt and my mother gave me bread and milk and sent me to bed.’
“Then Grandmother Bear came, crying, ‘Oh, my poor little Lisya bear, only you and I are left now.’ She took the little bear back to her own house, and gave her bread and honey every day. And the little bear kept her magic trick all to herself.”
“Mommy — Lisya’s your name, mommy!”
“Isn’t that a good name for a clever little bear?”
Sarah Crysl Akhtar‘s shtetl forebears gifted her with the genes that impel her to make much from little. So of course she writes flash fiction, cultivates orchards on her windowsill and bakes fabulous shortbread. Her son gives her what’s immeasurable — the best of all possible worlds. (Less miraculous fruit of her labors has appeared on 365tomorrows, Flash Fiction Online and Perihelion SF Magazine.)