Bruin learns a lesson.
Bruin crawled away from the back door of the house, realising he was in the open for a week. As he thought of the week ahead, Bruin’s sore pads made themselves felt. Feeling the grass beneath his paws, Bruin lay down on the grass, covering his face with his forepaws. Bruin felt the wind ruffling his fur and drawing across his sore paws. He wondered what had made him hate Ringo on sight. Maybe it was the cat’s resemblance to a domestic cat. Bruin knew a domestic cat’s underpaw tactics and scheming ways repulsed him. Bruin knew he could tolerate tigers, lions and leopards, for the house was full of them, indeed he counted Tigger as a friend, that was until recently of course, when Bruin had started being horrid to Ringo. Then Tigger had turned into a raging fury.
Bruin heard paws coming towards him, looking up, he saw a domestic cat, a tabby cat this one was, and bruin’s hackles rose. He now knew what he hated about the ocelot. Even though he’d now isolated the reason for his hatred of Ringo, Bruin still had to do his week in the wilderness. The tabby cat prodded Bruin with one dainty paw.
“Get away from me you overfed moggie!” Bruin snarled.
“Oh sorry,” the tabby replied, “I’ll leave now if you don’t want me here. I was about to offer my services to you to help you get through this week, but now I won’t, as it’s clear you don’t want me here.” Bruin looked at the tabby cat.
“Can you help me?” he asked.
“Well, I can, but if I will is another matter,” the tabby replied. Bruin swallowed hard, trying to force down the urge to wallop the cat.
“Keep your paws to yourself,” the tabby spat. Bruin took a deep breath.
“Okay,” Bruin said, “I’m sorry for what I said, now will you help me?” the tabby took hold of Bruin’s paw, the bear fighting the urge to pull his paw away.
“Now I’m your only hope of survival,” the tabby mewed. Bruin shook his paw free and crawled to the gate.
“Where do we find food here?” he asked. The tabby bounded after him.
“I’ll show you in the wood,” he said. The cat caught sight of the sole of one of Bruin’s hind paws as the bear raised it to take the pressure off his sore pads.
“I can show you something to help take the sting out of sore paws too,” the cat said. Bruin crawled along the path, feeling worse than ever as his pads got more painful.
“I don’t know if I’ll still be alive at the end of this week,” Bruin whimpered. The tabby cat followed Bruin out of the gate and slammed it shut.
“Now we’re going to find food,” the cat said, “berries for you, mice and things for me.” Bruin was glad the cat hadn’t assumed he’d eat mice.
“Okay,” he said.
“I don’t know your name,” the cat said.
“Bruin,” the bear replied, “and yours?”
“Tib,” the cat said, looking down at his paws, “I’m embarrassed. My owners aren’t very imaginative.” Bruin smiled, and to his astonishment, found himself holding out his paw to Tib. The cat took Bruin’s offered paw and gently squeezed it, conscious of the bear’s sore pads. Bruin found the cat’s paw to be soft, his grip gentle, but his pads were rough and tough.
“Now I think we’d better rearrange things a bit,” Tib suggested, “you need to get something put on your pads Bruin, for they look sore.” Bruin admitted his paws were sore, and that he couldn’t concentrate on learning how to hunt for food if they weren’t bathed soon. Tib smiled:
“Tell you what,” he said, “how about if I check your paws over, and you check mine. We compare notes, and then I show you how we can treat sore paws, okay?” bruin was up for that.
“Okay,” he said, but where do we go to do this?”
“I know a disused shed not far from here,” Tib replied, “we can go there, there’s nice warm straw, and we can stay there.
“Sounds good,” Bruin replied, “warm straw, wow!” Tib grinned and patted Bruin’s paw.
“It’s going to be all right,” he said.
Bruin followed Tib to the shed where the cat opened the door by hooking the toes of one paw beneath the bottom edge of the door and pulling. The door opened, and Tib waved his paw for Bruin to enter. The straw on the floor of the shed felt good to Bruin’s sore pads. Entering, Tib closed the door and padded across to Bruin, who was already lying down on the straw, glad to take his weight off his sore paws.
“Will you let me take a look at your paws Bruin?” Tib asked. Bruin waved a forepaw.
“Go on,” he said, “they’re yours.” Tib examined all four of Bruin’s paws, finding scuffed pads, broken nails and a lot of sore spots. Bruin endured the pain of the examination with clenched teeth and closed eyes.
“I know you’re being gentle,” he said, “but it hurts all the same Tib.” The cat gently patted the hind paw he was examining.
“It’ll all be over in a minute,” he said. Bruin hoped it would. Once Tib had finished his examination, he left the shed and came back with a stem in his mouth. Dumping the stem on the straw, Tib ripped leaves off the stem and began rubbing them on Bruin’s sore pads. The bear hardly had time to take everything in. One minute he was in pain from the sore patches on the soles of all four paws, the next each paw was being soothed by the leaves Tib had brought in. Bruin’s sore paws were soon soothed. Once this was done, Tib invited Bruin to examine his paws. Bruin, now feeling very remorseful about treating Ringo with such contempt, examined Tib’s paws with care and consideration, just as he’d done to Brunetta when they’d been together. Since their separation, Bruin hadn’t got this close to an animal in peace, and that was over two months ago. Tib realised Bruin knew what he was doing when examining paws, for the bear did a thorough job, parting the fur on the sole of each paw, and checking the pads by sight and touch. Once all was done, Bruin lay down beside Tib and looked at the cat.
“Your paws are fine,” the bear said, “but now I’m feeling very bad for what I did to Ringo.”
Who’s Ringo?” Tib asked. Bruin explained who Ringo was, and what he’d done to the ocelot.
“You share your house with lions, tigers and an ocelot?” Tib asked, totally astonished by Bruin’s tale.
“I do, or rather I did,” Bruin replied, “I might not ever get back in there.”
“I know Constance,” Tib said, “she’s one of the badgers from your place isn’t she?”
“She is,” Bruin replied, “A gentle creature really, but she doesn’t take any crap.”
“She looks that way,” Tib replied, “sounds it too. She’s one knowledgeable badger. She taught me how to use the leaves to soothe my paws.”
“Ah the old woodland ways,” someone said, “they always were the best, still are.” The bear and the cat looked round. Constance stood on the straw.
“I didn’t hear you come in!” Tib mewed.
“Light on my paws for a badger I be Tib,” Constance replied. Bruin had never heard her talk like this before.
“Tib show Bruin bear how soothe paws with leaves Constance,” Tib said. Constance nodded.
“Me still think woodlanders knows best,” she replied, using a dialect which was fast grabbing Bruin’s attention, “Badgers know what is what when it comes to treating injured animals, for we be healers in woods. We be historians too, make notes of everything that go on in woods and other place where badgers be. We no forget anything, though we forgive much. Me see how Bruin be sorry for what he do to Ringo ocelot. Me see he be dam sorry and maybe want return to house place. Constance talk to Brunetta, who want Bruin home, we talk to other animals, and them plenty furious with Bruin, and well them have right to be too. But them say after long talk, that if Constance be satisfied he no attack ocelot again, Bruin come back, but we keep hawk eye on him plenty big time.” Bruin had never heard anything like this! All Constance was saying was that the animals had talked things over, and that if he promised not to attack Ringo again, they’d let him back into the house, but it didn’t sound like that. Constance went round the houses a bit, but that was the beauty of her dialect.
“So you be letting Bruin back into house place then?” Tib asked.
“We be that,” Constance replied, “but we keep eye on him for long time to come.” Tib nodded:
“I understand why you do thing,” he replied. Constance waved a paw at Bruin:
“comeback to house place now,” she said, “You need thank Brunetta for wanting you back in house. She like snowy, but she love Bruin bear too.”
“I must apologise to Snowy too,” Bruin said, “I’ve wronged her also.”
Constance smiled at Bruin and took his paw in hers.
“Brunetta want you back big time,” she said, “she do lots to get Leo let Bruin back in you know.” Bruin could well believe it, and was more grateful than he could put into words.
Tib and Bruin made their way back to the house with Constance. Tib stopped at the open back door.
“I can’t go in here,” he said, “we’ll say goodbye now Bruin.” Bruin turned to Tib and hugged the cat. Tib snuggled up to Bruin, the bear’s eyes filling with tears. Bruin released Tib, the cat bounding away and leaping for the top of the fence, where he turned and watched as Ringo appeared at the back door, grabbed hold of Bruin’s paw, and tugged the bear into the house. Once the door was closed, Tib vanished into the wood.
In the house, Constance and Ringo made sure Bruin was settled down on the sofa. Bruin made sure he looked Ringo full in the face and watched the ocelot as much as possible as he worked on him. Soon Bruin was comfortable, his paws bathed and dried. Ringo looked at the bear’s face, having got a good look at the rest of him while he was working on him, for it was Ringo who did most of the work to make Bruin comfortable. This attention from the cat he most hated made Bruin feel worse than ever.
“Ringo,” Bruin said, “”Please, give me your paw.” Ringo gave Bruin his paw, the bear looking into his face.
“I’m sorry for what I did to you when you first got here,” Bruin said, “I can’t undo what I did, but I can apologise, and then try to make things up to you.” Ringo smiled at the bear and nuzzled his paw.
“We will go on from here Bruin,” the cat said. Bruin’s vision blurred as his eyes filled with tears.
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