Written by Nayoung Jin
A story that was initially published in a downloadable format by a U.K. company/site Alfie Dog Fiction, before it got pulled out due to lack of reader based revenue. That said, it was fun to write this piece. 🙂
Baby Bear, the Cook
There lived a grizzly bear family at the top of Grouse Mountain. Baby Bear lived with his grandparents and parents.
Often Grandpa Bear, the head of the family, would take Baby Bear to the bee hive; there he would politely ask the queen bee to share some honey. Then the bees would listen. The bees and bears in this wild reserve helped each other with their needs.
Grandpa Bear was always wary of humans, remembering the wolves killed by human hunters. “It was all nonsense. Killing for excitement! For fun! For prize!”
Normally because of the electronic fence which was set very high, the bear family couldn’t go any further than the wild reserve.
However, one day, after thunder and lightning, some parts of the fence were burnt in fire. Sitting on Mom’s lap, Baby Bear stared. Mother Bear stopped the curious Baby Bear from running towards the smoke. Baby Bear had to wait.
The next morning, when the air was frosty, Baby Bear went to the burnt spot and saw a small hole there. It was about the size of Baby Bear.
Baby Bear, who felt like an adventurer, crawled through the hole. Then he stepped forward and forward until a bush blocked his way.
When he peered out from the bush, he could see a store—its front sign said, “Canada’s Original and Oldest Hamburger shop. All organic. Vegetarian dishes are also available.” Baby Bear wondered what that meant.
Then he smelled something so good: sweet like honey, spicy like a mint leaf, salty like a trout, fruity like blueberries.
Baby Bear couldn’t help but rush forward. He sprang out of the bush and rolled and rolled and rolled on the grass until he bumped into the wall of the hamburger shop. He stood up slowly and looked around.
Right above his head was an open window. Behind him were buttercups. There, the bees stopped buzzing to look closely at Baby Bear.
“Oh-oh,” said the bees, “A stranger in the back garden!”
Baby Bear didn’t mind, though. He tiptoed and looked through the window. Inside the shop, a man wearing a long white hat and white coat was cooking, humming a happy song. Everyone called him Chef. Chef was breaking eggs and chopping potatoes at the same time. Watching him cook made Baby Bear’s mouth water. He stood still, leaning his hands on the window sill.
After that, Baby Bear came to this place every day and watched Chef. He was so silent that Chef didn’t notice anything. The same humans—a toddler and a woman—were always around Chef. They must be Chef’s family, Baby Bear thought.
Chef’s place smelled of all sorts of foods that were new to Baby Bear. He learned the recipes by heart. He learned how to make jam. He learned how to make a wild berry salmon hamburger (when Chef served this dish, he always cried, “ORGANIC, ORGANIC!”). He learned how to make vegetarian soup. Soon Baby Bear came to know most of the ingredients. He was so glad and wanted to know more.
Now the bees in the back garden were no longer suspicious of Baby Bear. Baby Bear’s nose could distinguish a wider range of foods. Sometimes, when he got lucky, he ate some of the bread crumbs—Chef’s woman tossed them out for the birds in the back garden.
In his free time, Baby Bear explored the wild reserve to find cooking ingredients. He had to ask all his friends: baby squirrels, baby wolves, baby owls, baby coyotes, and baby foxes.
Baby Bear could have been the future apprentice of Chef if he hadn’t been frightened, oh so frightened by somebody: a toddler.
One day, Baby Bear was looking through the window, as usual. While he was absorbed in watching Chef making a fruit salad, Chef’s baby sneaked out from the shop and crawled toward Baby Bear. Then she hugged Baby Bear fiercely from behind.
Baby Bear was too surprised to speak a word. The toddler laughed, screamed, laughed, screamed, and murmured. This confused Baby Bear.
The toddler pulled Baby Bear’s face and ears. She then sat down, and, with great enthusiasm and with equally great strength of hands, held up Baby Bear’s front leg and put it into her mouth and sucked. She licked Baby Bear’s paw until all the maple syrup left on the paw was gone. But she still didn’t let it go.
Just then an owl came down to sit on a branch of a nearby tree. The toddler was distracted but still held the paw tight. Baby Bear was about to cry.
“Sarah, Sarah! Where are you, sweetie?” Chef’s woman’s voice was coming out from the shop. The toddler turned around, held out her hands, and called, “Ma!” She crawled back toward the hamburger shop.
Baby Bear sighed deeply in relief. He was set free. He ran back home. Baby Bear decided that he would never come back to this frightening place. His adventure was over. He had had enough.
That evening, at home, Baby Bear cooked a new dish which he had learned from observing Chef; he served his family a salmon and shrimps seasoned with maple syrup and peppermint (a present from his friends). He also served mixed berry salad with nuts, acorns, honey, and baby greens.
The supper was nothing fancy, but Mother Bear beamed. She said, “Oh, I’m so proud of you, darling.”
Father Bear emptied his dish, wiped his mouth, closed his eyes, and murmured, “ummmmmm, yummmmm.” He then patted Baby Bear.
Grandma Bear held Baby Bear gently and kissed him on the cheek.
However, Grandpa Bear was silent throughout.
“How do you find the meal, Grandpa?” asked Baby Bear.
Grandpa Bear said, “… Delightful! Refreshing! Oh, I should have tried mixing things long ago.” He wasn’t angry anymore toward Baby Bear for sneaking out every day to watch Chef.
When Baby Bear mentioned more recipes for delicious dishes the bear family could try, Grandpa Bear said, “See, my baby is special. He always finds something good from everyone, including a human.”
Baby Bear was so happy. That night, he slept soundly, dreaming of being a cook as a grown-up.