Told to my little boy at bedtime last week, with various corrections and embellishments afterward.
Once upon a time, back when you were quite small — perhaps some time last week — there was a little boy named Dylan who lived in a little house in the woods. And Dylan was friends with all the little animals who lived in his part of the woods. There was Scout the Puppy Dog, and Kali the Kitty Cat, and Foxy the Fox, Rakki the Raccoon, and Skanky the Skunk, and Gray, the Bunny Rabbit With No Sense of Self Preservation, and Sir Whittingford Quacksalot the Duck, and Ringo the Singing Chameleon, and Bluefish the Blue Fish and all the other little animals who lived in the woods.
One day, Dylan went out to play with his animal friends, and who should he come across but Gray the Bunny Rabbit With No Sense of Self Preservation. “Hello Gray,” Dylan said. “Would you like to play with me this afternoon?”
Gray the Bunny Rabbit hopped from side to side. “Oh young Mr. Dylan,” he said, “We will have to play another time, because the King of the Forest has summoned all the animals to a special meeting.”
“Oh,” said Dylan. “That is too bad. Why is the King of the Forest having a special meeting?”
Gray the Bunny Rabbit turned his head almost all the way around, looking to make sure that they were alone. In a very small voice, he said, “There is a rumor.”
Dylan didn’t know what a rumor was, because he was just a very little boy, but he didn’t want Gray to think he was foolish, so he just nodded and tried to look thoughtful. “This rumor,” he said, “Must be terribly important, for the King to call a special meeting.”
Gray the Bunny Rabbit looked around again. “The rumor,” he said, in an even smaller voice, “Is that a family of bears have moved into the forest.”
“Bears?” Dylan said. “I thought you said it was a rumor.” Dylan didn’t know what a bear was either, but it seemed like a bear and a rumor wouldn’t be the same sort of thing.
“The rumor,” Gray said, “Is what told us about the bears.”
“I see,” Dylan said, even though he didn’t. He started to worry that Gray was getting suspicious that Dylan didn’t really know what a rumor was. Dylan decided that if he started fresh about the bears, maybe Gray would let the rumor drop. “I’ve never met a bear,” Dylan said. “What are they like?”
Gray the Bunny Rabbit’s ears stood straight up and so did the fur on his back. “Oh my, Mr. Dylan,” he said, “A bear is a big, scary animal, four times as big as a little boy. With great big teeth and great big claws as sharp as knives!”
Dylan’s eyes opened as wide as they could. He couldn’t even imagine an animal so big and scary. “I shouldn’t like to meet a bear then,” he said.
“No you would not, Mr. Dylan,” Gray said with a nod. “A bear would gobble a little boy like you up in one big swallow, and would still have room in his tummy for me!”
“Oh my!” said Dylan. “Whatever will the King of the Forest do about the bears?”
“I don’t know, Mr. Dylan,” said Gray, “But I hope he will tell the bears to move far away from here.” Gray the Bunny Rabbit took out his pocket-watch and looked at it. “Oh-oh! The meeting will start any minute. I must be going.”
“Well have a nice day, Gray,” Dylan said, and he waved good-bye.
“And the same to you, Mr. Dylan. Look out for bears!” And with that, Gray the Bunny Rabbit hopped away.
Dylan stood a while and thought. If the King of the Forest was having a meeting for the animals, then he would not be able to find any animals to play with. Dylan thought of all the games he could think of, but none of them seemed like they would be as much fun alone as they were with a friend. So instead of playing, Dylan decided to go for a walk. Dylan always loved to walk through the forest and see the beautiful sights, like the trees with their leaves in every color, and the babbling stream that ran through the woods.
So Dylan went for a walk through the forest, and before long he had lost track of time and had walked quite a long way, and came to a part of the forest where he had never been before. And as he turned a little bend on the dirt path that led through this part of the forest, he saw a house that looked brand new with a bright red mailbox out front.
“Why, I am quite sure that this house is brand new,” Dylan said. “And that means that I must have new neighbors here in the forest. I should introduce myself to them so that we can be friends, because it can be very lonely to come to live in a new forest until you make friends with your neighbors.”
And so he knocked in the door of the brand new house. There was no answer at the door, but Dylan saw a note stuck on the door. The note read, “Gone For A Walk. Back Later,” but as Dylan was only a very little boy, he hadn’t learned to read quite all the letters yet.
He thought about the note, and decided, “Sometimes, people will put a note on the door to say ‘Please come in,’ perhaps that is what this note says.” And since he tried the door and found that it was not locked, he decided that his guess must have been correct, and he went inside.
Inside the house, he found a long table with three bowls on it. And because Dylan had gone for quite a long walk, his tummy started to rumble when he saw the bowls. “Perhaps,” he said to himself, “The people who live in this house are having a party to meet their neighbors. Oh! They will be so disappointed when they find out that all of the animals had to go to the King of the Forest’s meeting and miss the party. These bowls must be snacks for the guests.”
So Dylan sat down at the first bowl. And it was a big bowl full of mashed peas. Dylan took a little bite of the peas and frowned to himself. “These peas are yummy,” he said, “But they are too hot.”
Dylan moved down to the second bowl. The second bowl was smaller than the first, and inside it were little chunks of avocado. Dylan ate one. “Oh-oh!’ he said, “This avocado is very tart, and it is also too cold!”
Finally, Dylan sat down by the last bowl, which was the tiniest bowl of all. It was full of rice cereal. He took a bite, and the rice cereal was delicious! So he took another bite. And then another. And before he even realized it, all the rice cereal was gone!
Dylan looked around the little house, but nobody seemed to be at home. “That is very odd behavior when you are throwing a party,” he said. “Oh-oh! Perhaps there are animals who live in this house, and they had to go to the meeting!”
Dylan thought that if the animals who lived in this house had gone to the meeting, then they might not be back for some time, and so he should go home. He thought he would like to write a note so that he could thank them for their hospitality and leave his regrets that he hadn’t been able to meet them in person.
But as Dylan tried to remember if “regrets” had three os or four, his little eyes started to get very heavy. And his little house seemed like it was ever so far away, to walk with a very full tummy. “Oh no,” he said, “If I try to walk home now, surely I will fall asleep on the way. And what then if one of these bears who live in the forest should come upon me! They would eat me all up in one swallow, and then where should I be? No, I shall have to take a nap before I go home.”
So Dylan found his way to the bedroom, where he found three beds. He climbed up into the first bed, which was very large. “This won’t do,” Dylan said, “This bed is too big, and if I go to sleep here, I shall get terribly lost!”
And so he climbed down and tried the second bed. Before he was half-way up the bedskirt, he gave up and slid back down to the floor, saying, “This one won’t do either! This bed is too high, and if I go to sleep here, I might roll off the side and I would fall and that would be the end of me!”
Dylan was starting to get worried that he wouldn’t find anywhere where he could sleep when he came to the third bed, and saw that it was a little crib, and Dylan clapped his hands with delight. This bed would do nicely. So Dylan climbed, carefully, up over the rails and into little crib, and it was only a few seconds before he was fast asleep.
Now, Dylan was very tired, so he stayed fast asleep for two whole hours. And he didn’t even stir when the owners of the house came home. And what Dylan didn’t know, because Dylan couldn’t read the name on the bright red mailbox, was that the brand new house in the woods belonged to a family of three bears. There was a great big daddy bear, and a somewhat smaller daddy bear, and a little baby bear. They had gone out for a walk in the woods because the big daddy bear’s mashed peas were too hot, and the somewhat smaller daddy bear’s avocado was just out of the freezer and needed to warm up. And the little baby bear’s rice cereal was just right, but she didn’t like to make a fuss, and besides, she enjoyed going for walks in the woods with her dads.
After their long walk, everyone was very hungry, so they went to check on their bowls. And the big daddy bear looked at his bowl of mashed peas, and he said, in a big deep voice, “Somebody’s been eating my peas!”
And the somewhat smaller daddy bear looked at his avocados, and he said, in a somewhat smaller voice, “Somebody’s been eating my avocados!”
And the little baby bear looked in her bowl, and she said, in a very small and sad voice, “Somebody’s been eating my rice cereal, and it’s all gone!”
By now, the three bears were very worried, so they set to looking about the house. When they looked in the bedroom, the big daddy bear took one look at the bed, with the little spot of messed-up sheets in the middle, and he said, “Somebody was trying to sleep in my bed.”
And the somewhat smaller daddy bear looked at his very high bed, where the bedskirts had all been pulled out to one side and he said, “Somebody was trying to sleep in my bed.”
And the little baby bear went to her crib, and there she saw little Dylan, fast asleep, and she said, “Somebody was trying to sleep in my bed, and I think that they succeeded!”
So the three bears gathered around the little crib, and the big daddy bear reached down and tapped little Dylan on the shoulder, and Dylan woke with a start. “Oh hello,” Dylan said. “This must be your house. I’m terribly sorry to impose. It’s just that I was so very tired, and I was afraid I might fall asleep on the way home. I only came over for a visit to meet with my new neighbors.”
And the great big daddy bear scooped little Dylan up out of the crib and put him down and said, “What a polite little boy you are. We are all very glad to meet you, because you are the first person we have met since we moved to the woods. You are welcome to come visit us any time you like, but you should really call first so that we will make sure we are at home.”
“I’m sorry that I put you out,” Dylan said. “I’m glad that we will be friends. My name is Dylan.”
The little baby bear said, “Hello Dylan, I am Baby Bear, and these are my Daddy Bears.”
Bears! Dylan looked up at the great big daddy bear, who was four times as big as he was, and he remembered how Gray the Bunny Rabbit had told him that a bear could swallow him up with one bite. But then he looked at the somewhat smaller daddy bear, who was only three times as big as Dylan, and at the little Baby Bear, who was no bigger than he was. And he remembered what Gray the Bunny Rabbit had said about bears having great big claws as sharp as knives. The great big Daddy Bear certainly had great big claws, but they were neatly trimmed and didn’t look sharp at all. And these bears ate peas and avocados and rice cereal, and none of those things were very much like little boys.
So Dylan decided that it he were going to be scared of the bears, the time to have done it would have been when he first woke up, and not now that they were having such a lovely conversation. And Dylan decided that after he had eaten their lunch and slept in their beds, it would be very rude indeed to be scared of them.
“I am very pleased to meet you, Baby Bear,” Dylan said, and he gave the bears his happiest smile — yes, that’s the one. “It would be grand if you all came to visit me at home on Thursday. We can all have lunch together, and I will serve peas and avocados and rice cereal.”
Baby Bear said, “That sounds very nice, Dylan.” Baby Bear looked around, and then leaned in close. “If it isn’t too much trouble,” she said, “Rice cereal is very nice, but I prefer milk.”
“You like milk?” Dylan asked. “Milk is my favorite! When you come to visit, we can have milk and play games.”
So they all agreed that the bears would come to Dylan’s house on Thursday afternoon for food and milk and games. And because it was starting to get late, and because Dylan was still tired from his long walk, the somewhat smaller Daddy bear picked Dylan up and carried him on his shoulders back through the woods to the little clearing where Dylan lived.
As the somewhat smaller Daddy bear was putting Dylan back down on the ground, Dylan asked a question that had been bouncing around his mind for some time. “Mr. Bear,” he asked in his most polite voice, “Do bears eat animals?”
The somewhat smaller Daddy bear smiled down at Dylan. “Well, we bears eat all the same things that little boys eat. But when you’re a great big bear, it would be too much work to get enough food to eat by eating animals. We would only eat another animal if we were starving and there was no other food to eat.” And he patted little Dylan on the shoulder and said, “And never a friend.”
Dylan smiled, and wished the somewhat smaller Daddy bear a good evening, and he sat down on the front stoop of his little house to play and wind down after a long day.
Before too long, Dylan’s animal friends Gray and Ringo and Sir Whittingford Quacksalot stopped by on their way home from the meeting. Dylan couldn’t wait to tell them all about his new friends.
“But weren’t you scared?” asked Gray the Bunny Rabbit. “Bears are so very big and such long claws!”
“I didn’t know they were bears,” Dylan said, “Not until we had been introduced and they had been so nice to me. So I didn’t know to be scared. And by then, there wasn’t any reason for me to be scared. They were very nice and I am having them over for snacks and milk and games on Thursday. You could come too if you like.”
Sir Whittingford Quacksalot said that he did not think he would very much like to have lunch with bears, but Gray the Bunny Rabbit agreed to come so long as Dylan promised that he wouldn’t be eaten. Ringo said that he would try to come, but he had an appointment that afternoon and might be busy.
And so, Dylan and the bears and Gray the Bunny Rabbit had lunch and played games on Thursday. And the next Thursday, Ringo came over as well. And even though some of the animals were still scared of the bears, before too long, most of them had made friends. And Dylan often went to visit his new friends the bears. But he always made sure to call first to make sure they were in.
Told to my little boy at bedtime last week, with various corrections and embellishments afterward.