Bearicus Factorum Anum

Teddy bears don’t dream no more, uh uhn… I remember teddy bears came to my house one day, I signed their petition… equal stuffing for all plushies. That was 1982 or ’83 I suspect. But that don’t mean anything today, ’cause teddy bears don’t dream no more. I signed it ’cause it sure makes sense to me. What do little stuff kitties and little stuff doggies got that no teddies got?

Ain’t Jesus preached a different way? Did he not say, “Let all the little teddies come unto me?” And wasn’t Jesus nothing but a little teddy bear when the spirit came into him and he preached to the elders in the temple, and when Mary found him they all knowed he was God’s teddy bear? But that ain’t no thing today, ’cause teddy bears don’t dream no more.

That’s what they said, down in the square, that the teddy bears came and went. I never saw them all leave town, but some folks did. They saw them pack up their cute little things they had into tidy ol’ boxes and stick ’em in their adorable little cars. I didn’t see it, no, but that’s what the people said down round town in bars and when they got their hair cut at Jim’s. I seen Jim nearly cry, a big old man, his ol’ eyes all wet. That man stormed Okinawa. He cleared the bunkers and shot ol’ ladies when they came out screaming with grenades all in their hand. That man, I seen him do it, I seen him all but cry as he says, “They all gone away… just drove away. Guess a teddy bear can’t dream no more.”

I look back on my life. I never finished high school. I worked down in the factory for forty years. Married Bess, had two kids. They both did good, good enough that they don’t need no old man no more. Bess is dead now, and the kids brought by the grand kids until they growed up too. I sit on the porch and never forget the days before all the teddy bears went away.

Whatever happened to Sandra? Guess I loved that girl. She weren’t no great lady, just a girl who stacked cards at the stationary store for the tourists. She was pretty smart and looked real tops, but she put up with me anyway. Would it all been different if we’d got outta this town together?

We were probably fifteen. I was just too young to fight the Japs. And we went to see the teddy bears. The branches scratched our heads as we ran in the dark. I could hear her laugh, but it come from a distance, ’cause she didn’t weigh but a thing and she kept getting ahead of me. And I guess I fell once. On some gnarled root what couldn’t trip Sandra up. She laughed just once, ’cause of some joke from the radio I guess. And then it was real quite, too quite for the woods, no owls nore mice or nothing that makes the night so loud. She laid at the edge of the quarry, all lit up by what I thought was the moon, and her black hair was all wavy, and her shin was up and swinging at the knee, foot in the air. I was afraid to get close. I breathed real hard and could see those hairs on her neck in the light and it sure looked soft. Her dress was blue. “Look,” she said, and pointed an arm as brown as Mary Janes into the quarry.

Teddy bears. Weren’t no moonlight at all, just teddy bears at work.

But teddy bears don’t dream no more. Sandra, she got pregnant by a Smith boy the next summer, Ronald or Harry—no, Harry was in Europe—whose family owned that whole town back then. And she went away and I don’t know where, ’cause that was the habit in those days and her family had no pull in town anyway. But I can’t help but think that maybe if I coulda held her in that night, shielded her, guarded her with that teddy-bear-glow…

I can’t eat right, damn it! I want a good steak, but I guess my problem is I don’t really want it. I just ain’t hungry. Jen, she comes by every afternoon, says I better eat. She smacks her gum. She’s too damn tall. These kids, they don’t know nothin’ no more. They ain’t even from round here. They maybe remember teddy bears from when they were kids, but some of them are even too young for that.

Jim thought they all drove to Arizona, got on a spaceship, like in them old movies that you could watch two for a dime, plus a newsreel and a cartoon. That they all took off and left us here to rot because “it was their time to move on to a greater happiness.” When Jim died, I honestly think he thought was was gonna meet up with ’em. I don’t buy it. I see folks’ faces! They look like when Bess and me and the kids went on vacation in 1971 and saw the ocean. When the tide run out and there are a thousand cracks in the sand; that’s their faces. But imagine the tide ain’t never gonna roll back in to smooth things out again. That’s folks’ faces today. Only one reason folks get like that.

…the original teddy bear factory, found in the street, 2005 (about 250K)…

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