A polar bear named Nanuq.

 

The animals settled down for the night, but Bruno could not sleep.  After he’d stroked Tigger’s paws, the tiger had returned the favour, causing Bruno to experience emotions which he’d never felt before, or if he had, it had been in the very distant past.  Warmth spread all over his body, starting from the paw Tigger was massaging.  Bruno found he became pleasurably sleepy, Tigger seeming to make no attempt to stop him from drifting away.  Bruno drifted, but due to his internal worries, could not fully go to sleep.  Now the massage was over, the polar bear was fully awake, and sleep was a distant memory.  Bruno’s paws still remembered the massage, but his mind didn’t.  Bruno shifted uncomfortably.  It wasn’t the soft rug he was lying on which made him feel dreadful, it was his mental state.  All the other animals, excepting Simba and Tembi, were sleeping peacefully, and Bruno could get no sleep.  Getting to his paws, he padded out of the room and up the stairs.  He saw light coming from the main bedroom, and heard voices.  The door was closed, but he approached it, tapping gently on it with the flat of his paw.  The voices fell silent, and there were sounds of scuffling paws, heavy paws too.  The door opened slightly, and Bruno saw an eye watching him.

     “Who are you?”  Amber asked.  Bruno explained who he was.  Amber opened the door wider so she could get a good look at the polar bear.

      “You try any tricks,”  she said, “There’s an even larger polar bear than yourself standing behind you, who will do you much harm.”  Bruno heard the pad, pad, pad, of heavy paws behind him and quickly glanced over his shoulder.  The snow leopard was right!  This bear was huge!”

      “That’s the furball,”  Amber purred, “He’s a good chap really, but he hates those who betray our trust.”  The furball raised one huge paw and showed it to Bruno, who decided not to mess with the massive bear.

       “What can we do for you?”  The furball asked.  Bruno, his mouth now dry with fear, couldn’t reply at first.

      “I’m, I’m unable to sleep,”  he gabbled, “so, so, I, I thought I’d take a look round.  I heard voices, and saw light coming from this room, and, and I knocked on the door, and this snow leopard answered, then you came, and now I don’t know if I’ve done the right thing or not!”

      “come in,”  Amber said, “we’ll welcome you here.  For we know you, we’ve heard of you.  We know you’re trying to better yourself after your unfortunate career choice.”  Bruno looked at the furball for confirmation that he would not lay paws on him if he went with the snow leopard.

       “No worries,”  the furball said, waving a huge paw, “go in there.”  Bruno padded into the large room, the strong light making him blink.

      “You coming too?”  Amber asked the furball, who padded in after Bruno.

 

Bruno entered a warm room with a carpeted floor which felt nice on the paws.  Looking round him, he saw a large assortment of animals, polar bears, both adults and cubs, snow leopards, again adults and cubs, brown bears, there were two of those, two seal pups, a Labrador bitch, a Bengal tiger cub, and two snow tiger cubs.  One female polar bear caught Bruno’s eye, waved her paw and  smiled at him.

     “Come,”  she said, beckoning with the paw she’d just waved.  Bruno, expecting hostility, was surprised at the welcome he got.  Padding across to the large female polar bear, he found her inspecting him from ears to paws.  He saw she had brown eyes as well as  clean white fur and paws. in fact all the animals in the place all seemed to have the smartest fur, and cleanest paws Bruno had ever seen.  This female polar bear had large soft paws, as Bruno found out when she thrust out her right forepaw, which he took.  It was soft and warm.

      “Settle down here,”  she invited, patting the quilt with her paw, a quilt which Bruno had stepped up onto almost as soon as he’d entered the room.  Bruno settled down, his paws sinking into the quilt, the material  enveloping them in its warm embrace.  Allie watched Bruno settling down, and when he was settled, she introduced herself and, to Bruno’s complete astonishment, also introduced the two seal pups.

     “I’m Allie,”  the female polar bear said, “and these are Sandy and Sasha, my, um, pups.”  The two seals grinned.

       “What, I mean, how?  Why?”  Bruno stammered, “start again,”  he said, “why Allie, do you call those seal pups your pups.  Polar bears eat seal pups, they don’t care for them, adopt them, or anything like that!”

      “Ah, there you are wrong,”  Allie replied, “I lost my own cub, and in my depression went to the beach where the seal mothers were pupping.  When I saw that two of the mothers had quite obviously died giving birth to their pups and that the pups were still alive, I decided I would try and help Them.”

      “But, but, Allie, we eat seal pups, we don’t mother them!”  Bruno protested.

      “You might eat seal pups,”  Allie said, “I don’t.  At least not any more.  Before I met Sandy and Sasha then yes, I ate seal pups, grown seals too, but not now.”  Bruno looked at Allie’s face, and the tenderness in her eyes when she spoke of her pups surprised him.

      “You really do love those pups don’t you,”  he said.  Allie smiled:

      “I do Bruno, I really do,”  she said.  Bruno looked Allie over from nose to tail.  He liked what he saw.  She was a large polar bear, with brown eyes, a mouth that was quick to smile, a strong body and legs, and the largest set of paws he’d ever seen on a female polar bear.  Allie was lying with her hind legs stretched out behind her, and Bruno could see the sole of one of Allie’s hind paws, Like her fore, her hind paw looked strong, with three large black pads and large strong toes complete with a set of well shaped claws.  This was one polar bear who really looked after herself.  Allie noticed Bruno appraising her, and smiled with pleasure.

      “You like me I see,”  she said.

      “You’re, well, beautiful,”  Bruno said, surprised he was so overt with his admiration.

       “Arki’s coat and paws are in a similar condition to mine,”  Allie said, “we keep our coats and paws in good shape here, it’s almost a requirement, though self imposed.  Bruno looked at his own paws, they were scuffed, the pads rough and pitted, his claws in a dreadful state.

     “As we’re soft toy animals,”  Allie said, “we can’t do much about the integral condition of our paws or coats, they are as they are, and we keep them as we have always had them, or as close to as we can.  If an animal is too injured to do so, we maintain their coats and paws as best we and they can.  We look after each other here, as you will see, as I believe you are working with Tigger?”  Bruno nodded.

     “You will learn a lot with him,”  Kodiak said, “Tigger’s the best there is at cleaning fur and paws.”  Bruno wondered if Tigger could do anything about the shocking state of his own coat and paws, which looked as if they’d not been groomed or washed in ages.

 

Bruno couldn’t take his eyes off Allie.  She was beautiful to his eyes, and he was glad, that despite knowing his past deeds, she hadn’t brushed him off.  Bruno wanted some of what these animals had, to have clean fur and paws, what a treat that would be!  For an animal to come up to him and put their paws round his neck and hug him would be a great thing too, but Bruno didn’t think this would happen soon.  He looked at Allie, and the female polar bear seemed to be watching him.

      “I know what you are thinking,”  she said, “you’re having the same thoughts as I did when I first came here.  Thoughts about whether you’d be accepted, wanting to be embraced by other animals, wanting your fur and paws washed and groomed?”  Bruno no longer felt it an intrusion to be told what his thoughts were, he quite liked the feeling that these animals understood his torment, and wanted to help.

     “Yes Allie,”  Bruno said, “you’re right, I was thinking all those things.  Is it really that obvious to you?”

       “It is,”  she replied, “now let me grant you one of those wishes.  Come here and I will hug you.”  Bruno looked down at his dirty paws, his dull, dusty, matted coat, and his broken claws.

      “You surely don’t want to hug me when I’m like this?”  He protested, waving a paw, “my paws are dreadfully dirty, so’s my coat!”

       “I can see that,”  Allie replied, “come, let me hug you.”

       “Allie, are you sure?”  Bruno asked.

     “come here before I get angry!”  Allie said smiling.  Bruno loved Allie’s smile, it was so natural, so genuine.

      “All right,”  he said, going to Allie.  The female polar bear asked Bruno to lie down, and when he was comfortable, she took him in her paws and embraced him.  Bruno, now as close to Allie as he’d ever get, breathed in her scent, her warm, sweet scent.  She had soft warm fur and paws, and Bruno didn’t want the hug to end.  Snuggling up to her, he closed his eyes, forgetting where he was for a few minutes.  Allie felt Bruno relax, and smiled to herself.

      “Bruno’s not a bad bear really,”  she thought, “misguided yes, but not bad, not like Simba, now he’s a bad lion, through and through.”

 

Bruno must have slept, for when he woke, one of the polar bear cubs was lying beside him, examining him closely.

     “Hello little one,”  he said softly, sensing Allie was asleep.

      “Hi,”  the polar bear cub whispered, “oh, by the way, my name’s Candy.  I already know your name.”  Bruno looked at the polar bear cub.

      “Tell me,”  he said, “is Allie your mum?”

       “No,”  Candy replied, “Arki is,”  She waved a paw at another female polar bear who lay on the enormous quilt, “I’ll take you to meet her if you like.”

       “I’d like that,”  Bruno said, gently getting to his paws so he didn’t wake Allie, who’d let go of him, but who’s paw was still resting on his.  Feeling him move, Allie lifted her paw off Bruno’s and Bruno was free.  Crawling over to Arki, Candy and Bruno saw that Arki’s right forepaw was in that of a large brown bear.

      “Who’s that?”  Bruno asked candy, waving at the brown bear.

      “That’s Kodiak,”  Candy replied, “ He’s lovely too.”

    “I remember seeing a brown bear dragging Tigger out of the shop, was that him?”  Bruno asked.

      “that was,”  candy replied, “of course I wasn’t allowed to go on that job, Aslan was, the scheming cub!  He’s the one who got all the glory for chasing down Simba, but I could have done the same thing.  He lied to Leo and Theo about not wanting to get involved, and now he’s being praised for his actions!  I think that sends the wrong signal to a cub you know.”

      “Candy,”  Arki said, “I’m sure Bruno doesn’t want to hear about that.”

       “but Aslan’s a little liar!”  Candy yelled, waking Allie.

      “Thanks Candy,”  Allie grunted, “you saw I was asleep I don’t doubt, and still make your mouth.”  Candy barely glanced at Allie, before carrying on with her demolition of Aslan’s character, which the female polar bear noticed.  Getting to her paws, Allie whacked Candy hard on the paw with one of her own well padded forepaws.  Candy wailed with pain and crawled away sulking.

      “Aslan might have wangled his way into the job,”  Allie said to Candy, “but he knew what he was doing.”

     “He’s a cub!”  Candy wined.

       “Not under all that fur,”  Allie replied, for she’d spoken to Aslan at length and found the two month old lion cub to be articulate and very switched on.

      “I still  think he’s a scheming cub!”  Candy yelled, banging the quilt with her paw.

 

Meanwhile, Theo and Leo were trying to decide whether Aslan disobeying orders had contributed to the victory over Simba, or whether if Aslan had obeyed the order not to get into trouble, the day would have been won.  Theo was furious with his cub, but proud too.  The young lion’s conflicting emotions resulted in Theo first cuffing Aslan for disobedience, then hugging him for his brave actions.  Aslan felt his sire’s confusion and didn’t know how to help him resolve it.

 

Meanwhile, Simba and Tembi were confined to the wardrobe and the room beyond.  They could not venture beyond the door into the room, and when other animals passed the door, they were required to turn their backs on that animal, so they got no eye contact.

 

Simba was furious with the community for dumping him in such a dreadful place.  The room felt unlived in, and was freezing cold.  Both Tembi and Simba knew their imprisonment wasn’t by any lock or key, but was by the mutual agreement of those animals who’d imprisoned them.  Tembi knew she’d done wrong in thumping Tigger, and accepted her punishment, knowing that if she was found outside the room at any time other than recreation periods, she’d be soundly beaten and thrown back into the spare room.  Simba however, wanted to be free, and was willing to risk a thrashing.  He didn’t like the community he’d been incarcerated by.  They were too quiet for his liking, too gentle too.  It frightened him to think that these strange animals could get on together, polar bears with snow leopards, squirrels with dogs, tigers with lions.  Indeed, Simba was sure the white tigress and the leader of the community, were more than just leader and vice leader.  He’d seen the tigress touching the lion’s paw during the story telling session, and the touch was unmistakably loving.  So even a tigress could love a lion in this strange house of freaks.  The tigress was also fat and didn’t look very mobile at all.  She looked unwell, and Simba wondered if she might die soon.  He decided to ask Tembi about her.

      “That tigress?”  Tembi asked, unable to hide her own feelings for Snowy, “she’s lovely Simba.  Really gentle she is.  She’s comforted me many a time when I was upset or ill.”

      “Comforted you?”  Simba asked, “by stroking your paws?”

     “Well, yes,”  Tembi replied.  Simba’s face told Tembi what he thought of that form of comfort and she quickly tried to distance herself from him.

      “Simba, you’re in here because you were the mastermind of a plot to imprison two of our community members.  I’m in here for insulting and beating up Tigger.  It is you who will be thrown out of the community when you’re released, I won’t be.  Anyway, I’m thinking of apologising to Tigger, for I’ve been thinking hard about why I did what I did.  I’ve been stupid over this whole thing.  What difference does it really make if Tigger knew  I was in cub?  As it was I was wishing for some back up if things went wrong during Aslan’s birth.  It was hard work bringing him into the world, and there were times when I didn’t think either of us would make it.  Thanks to Theo, and to Tigger too, we made it, and now I’m being a stupid cub stamping my paws and slapping at Tigger for no reason other than I can’t understand him.  I shouldn’t fear him, for he is gentle, as you and Bruno found out.  He wouldn’t, and probably couldn’t hurt a fly!  He’s badly incapacitated now, and I regret slapping him about.  I love his massages, I’ve had them any times, and they’ve always been helpful as well as comforting.”  Tembi closed her eyes, remembering the touch of the tiger’s paws on her own as well as  the feel of his paws working their magic all over her body.  A sharp smack to her paw from Simba brought her back to reality!

     “Youch!”  Tembi mewed, “what was that for!”

      “You were dreaming about that bloody tiger stroking your paws!”  Simba yelled, “it’s disgusting!”

     “No it’s not!”  Tembi whimpered, feeling her eyes fill with tears, “it’s natural, and lovely, and I want to see Tigger more than ever now!”  She was beginning to see what kind of an animal Simba was and didn’t like what she saw.

       “I’m going to talk to Tigger!”  Tembi yelled.  Simba tried to stop her, but Tembi was furious with him as well as upset and angry with herself.  She fought him, throwing him aside and running for the door!

 

Tembi exploded into the hallway, nearly crashing into the furball!  The huge polar bear, on lookout duty, raised a huge paw to push her back into the room, but lowered it when he saw how distressed she was.

      “I know I’m not meant to do any more than keep you in that room,”  the huge polar bear said, his voice deep and words slow, giving him a slightly silly air, “but I couldn’t help overhearing your talk, and I think I might let you go and talk to Leo about what you feel.  For you are sincere in your remorse, or so I think.  If a polar bear can be said to have an opinion of course.”  Tembi looked into the furball’s eyes.  Despite his previous form, the huge polar bear had learned his lessons, and now didn’t go after Arki any more.  He now dedicated his life to keeping the peace.

     “I don’t want to raise a paw in anger,”  he would say to anyone who asked about his job, “but I will if I think I need to.  Then I might push someone out of the way, I never hit anyone unless they need it.  The furball had made his peace with Candy and Arki some time ago, the huge polar bear prostrating himself weeping in front of Arki and Candy, begging them to do with him what they wished, as he’d said unforgivable things to Arki about candy.  Arki, seeing the huge polar bear’s remorse, and realising he’d come to her of his own free will, decided to forgive the furball and give him another chance.  The furball had then taken first Arki, then Candy in both his huge paws and hugged them, weeping into their fur.  Arki and her cub returned the furball’s hug as best they could.

 

Now Tembi looked into the furball’s eyes, and wondered if the furball was a very nice name for him.  He was a shaggy furred polar bear, with rather gentle eyes and huge soft paws.  Tembi looked into the bear’s deep brown eyes.

      “I want to go home,”  she said, almost sobbing.  The furball, sensing Tembi’s distress and that she wanted to make amends for what she’d said and done, took her in his huge paws.  Tembi snuggled into the polar bear’s hug.

      “Take me home!”  she pleaded.  The furball escorted Tembi down the stairs, and motioned to Leo that she wanted to speak with him.  Leo patted the carpet with his paw.

      “Come,”  he said, “lie down here and say your piece.”  Tembi crawled over the carpet, and collapsed beside her leader.

       “I’ve had enough,”  she mewed, “I want to go home, to be with Aslan and Theo once more!  I’ll do anything, because I’ve realised I’m in the wrong.  I was talking to Simba, and while talking to him, I realised I liked Tigger, for I knew hatred while talking to Simba.  He hates me and Tigger!  I don’t hate Tigger, I cant hate a tiger like him.  I was stupid, I’ve acted like a cub over all this, listening to my fears.  I shouldn’t fear a tiger like Tigger, for he’s a gentle tiger. All  he wants to do is help everyone!  Including me when I was in labour on the track.  I want to talk to Tigger, if you’ll let me, and Tigger will also.  I want, want to say I’m sorry and make amends as best I can.  For I know now that all the problems, and Simba’s arrival here was caused by me and my stupidity!”  Leo knew the little lioness’s remorse was genuine, and hoped Tigger would let her talk with him.

 

Leo had a habit of lying with his eyes closed when on his rug, professing that this relaxed him, so the first he knew of another animal’s presence was the sound of purring, then the feel of a paw clumsily taking his.  The paw was familiar to Leo, and as the toes of the paw strongly gripped his, Leo opened his eyes and looked at the paw’s owner.

      “Hello Tigger,”  Leo yawned.  The tiger rubbed noses with Leo, the lion smiling and nuzzling the Bengal tiger’s cheek.

      “I will talk with Tembi,”  Tigger mewed, “alone though, and in private.”  Leo patted the paw which held his own, Tigger smiling.  Releasing Leo’s paw, Tigger crawled away, taking Tembi’s paw in his and guiding her to the bathroom.  There he ran a bath and switched on the whirlpool machine.  Keeping the setting to its lowest, Tigger picked Tembi up in his paws and gently lowered her into the water.  This gentle action made Tembi want to cry.  Feeling the water washing over her entire body, Tembi began to relax finally.

     “Now what did you want to say to me?”  Tigger asked, dangling one of his huge paws in the water.  Tembi took the submerged paw in both of hers and held it tightly.

      “What I wanted to say was, was that I’m very sorry for saying what I said and doing you harm.  I know now you’re no sorcerer.  I would have been glad of your help during Aslan’s birth, as it was frightening, difficult and painful work.”  Tigger, his head bent low towards Tembi’s, his eyes almost, but not quite looking into her own, with his paw in hers beneath the water, soothed Tembi’s mind.  Tigger was a handsome tiger, and gentility flowed from him in everything he did, from the slightest touch, to the massage he was famed for.

      “I knew Aslan’s birth was difficult Tembi,”  Tigger said softly,  “If I could have, I would have massaged your paws during the hardest times, while Theo helped by pulling Aslan free while you pushed.  I helped my mate give birth to our cubs, and though she held onto and crushed my paws during her labour, she said my presence helped, and I wouldn’t have let her go through it alone, or missed it for the world.  That time brought us closer than ever.”

     “Now your mate is dead, your cubs too,”  Tembi mewed.  She felt Tigger’s body jerk, his paw clench as the memory of his mate and their cubs surfaced.

       “They are all dead,”  Tigger said sadly.  Tembi saw the way just talking about his mate and cubs affected Tigger.  She wanted to throw her paws round his neck and hug him, but didn’t know if this was the right thing to do, or whether he’d resent it.

       “Next time I have cubs,”  Tembi said, “I want you there Tigger.  Theo would too I’m sure.  In fact he nearly said he’d go and find you when things got difficult and painful during Aslan’s birth, but I stopped him.  Now I wish I hadn’t.”  Tigger lowered his head and licked Tembi’s ear.

      “I would be glad to help in any way I could,”  Tigger said softly.  Tembi threw her paws round Tigger’s neck and hugged him.  The bath was big enough to allow two grown animals to get in together, so Tigger stepped into the water, lying down beside Tembi and letting her hug him properly.  Tigger, the hug over, flicked water at Tembi.  This degenerated into a water fight, the two cats flicking water at each other, tickling each other’s paws, and generally playing like over grown cubs.

 

 

Bruno padded in, saw what was going on and stood in silence, watching intently, his mouth wide with surprise.  He’d never seen a tiger playing with a lioness before, and it fascinated him that two vastly different animals could play together in harmony.

 

“Want to join us?”  Tigger asked.  Bruno knew he couldn’t fit into the bathtub with the two cats, so Tembi got out, allowing him to get in.  Bruno, in a bath for the first time, stepped into the water, the warm water washing over and under his paws.  Stretching out full length, Bruno let Tigger stroke him from nose to tail.  The sensation was a strange one to Bruno, but not unpleasant.  Soon his whole body tingled from his nose to his toes.  Tigger was very thorough in his work and obviously knew his stuff.  Tigger and Bruno were just getting down to real work, Tigger teaching the polar bear how to stroke a paw when there was a scream, then a thud, then a series of thuds, followed by an almighty crash!  Bruno leapt up, shedding water like rain.

     “What the hell was that!”  he demanded.

 

Leo padded into the bathroom looking very serious.

     “I think, think you’d all better come into the living room,”  he said, “we’ve had a bit of a disaster here.”  Tigger, fearing the worst, followed Leo and Bruno into the living room.  the furball stood over Simba, the latter quite obviously dead.

      “He attacked me,”  the furball whimpered, “I, I tried to defend myself, that was all!  I pushed him away, and he fell, and now, he’s like This!”  The poor polar bear waved a paw at Simba’s broken body.

      “He looks like he fell down the stairs,”  Tembi remarked.

      “I think he did,”  Leo confirmed.

        “I pushed him down the stairs Leo,”  The furball sniffed, “I didn’t mean to, I just pushed him away, and he fell!”

      “it was none of your doing my friend,”  Leo said.  “Simba was an argumentative sort, who wanted to pick a fight.  You did your job, it is he who put himself in danger, not you.  If he picked a fight with you, then you have a right to defend yourself.”  The furball buried his face in his paws.

     “I’m going to be thrown out for this!”  he moaned.

      “No you’re not,”  Leo replied, “it was an accident.”  The furball wept pitifully:

     “The thing is, I really hated Simba,”  he sobbed, “I felt real rage towards him, but I didn’t want to kill him, not ever!”  The furball looked desperately round the room, searching for angry faces, he found none.

       “Simba picked a fight with the wrong person,”  Leo said, “that was all.  He started the fight I’m sure.”

     “How can you be sure Simba started the fight?”  Tarker asked, “that overgrown fur-fest hasn’t been exactly whiter than white in his past.”

     “No Tarker, this is true,”  Leo said, “but I have spoken at length to him, a consequence of which was him going to Arki and patching things up with her and Candy.  Now he has changed.  Our furball is no longer the brute he was when he came here.  He’s a gentle and kind creature.  Once we have dealt with Simba’s body, we will have more joyful things to attend to, as our furball has no name.  the furball as we used to know him, is not a good name for a polar bear.  Let the badgers bury Simba, then we will name this polar bear.

 

The badgers took Simba’s body outside.  They cleaned him up, for there was blood on his fur from a head injury during the fall, but it wasn’t this that killed him, He’d broken his neck on the way down the stairs.  Burying the disgraced lion, they returned to the house, where the other animals waited.  The furball looked exhausted, his paws shaking with fatigue and fear.

      “You have nothing to fear now my friend,”  Leo replied, “nothing at all.”  The furball wiped his eyes with a shaking paw.

      “Please,”  he sobbed, “Let me go upstairs and go to sleep.”  Leo hugged the furball tightly.

      “Listen my friend,”  Leo purred, “let me first give you a proper name.”

     “What’s that?”  The furball asked.

   “I name you Nanuq,”  Leo replied.  The furball, now renamed Nanuq, looked up at the assembled animals.

      “here is the newest member of our community!”  Leo proclaimed, “You might know him under a different name, but now he’s a different bear, a reformed bear, and should be known by a proper name.  His name is Nanuq, and Nanuq means polar bear in the Inuit language.”  Nanuq got to his paws, knowing he was still part of the community, still valued and had the protection of his fellow community members.

      “I will do my best to be a peaceful member of the community,”  Nanuq said.

 

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