Tabias’ little sister, who’s five, is mean. Sister is so cruel that when her friends come over, Tabias plays with them just to save them from her. Father doesn’t believe him and Step-Mother laughs when Tabias points out Sister’s piggy tails hide her devil horns.
Parents don’t listen. Instead, they send Tabias outside. “Imagination needs fresh air,” Father cites.
He sits high in a giant oak tree. Snow below him, the forest around him and home behind him. The tree sits on the outskirts of Fort St. John. Spring buds were appearing and the winter bark was peeling to make way for fresh tree skin.
Grass patches showing were a honey brown. Purple crocuses bloomed and scented the clearing that Tabias overlooked.
He could hear footsteps approaching and singing.
“If you go down in the woods today…”
Tabias nearly fell out of the tree when he heard his little sister’s voice.
“You’re sure of a big surprise…” she sang.
Between the words, Tabias could hear many footsteps but only one voice.
“So, if you go down in the woods today, you’d best go in disguise.”
She wasn’t singing at all! She was commanding the army march.
“For every bear tha’ ever there was, will gather there for certain because…”
From the break of the forest, emerged a line of stuffed animals marching behind Sister. There was something off about the stuffed animals. The cuddly cute creatures, something was…
Tabias saw the borders of their stitching had burst open. White pillowy tuffs trailed behind the stuffies as they marched. A tall yellow giraffe nearly tumbled as his leg fell off. A bunny was trying to hop but his tail kept falling off. A white-bellied, brown bear with large fluffy ears, was carrying his head as he marched sadly.
There had to be ten or more of them, but the teddy bear looked the most desperate. He wobbled as he tried to keep pace behind Sister the drill sergeant.
“Today’s the day,” she stopped suddenly, causing a chain of collisions as she turned to face them. Her piggy tails flared straight up and she held her arms out as she belted the last words, “the teddy bears have their piiiiicccccnnnniiiiiccccc.”
Tabias climbed quickly down the tree, Sister was approaching the animals. Tabias hit his feet to the soggy ground. His snowsuit kept him dry and warm but his ears were cold, his hair was frozen and he never hesitated once as he ran straight to the poor teddy bear.
He swooped the bear up and left with a plum of snow bursting toward Sister from his quick turn and burn out.
The other mishappen stuffed animals cheered him on as Sister screamed in her carnal cry.
Step-Mother fixed the bear the best she could. He became Tabias’ best companion, perched atop his head with his ears listening for his lost friends and his arms hugging his new friend close.