“And good morning to you,” Bear bowed to the image in the mirror who, having the same set of fine manners, bowed back. The image had a striking similarity to our bear. It was about three inches tall with well-combed short brown fur, two black eyes that sparkled ever so often when Bear smiled, four strong paws, and two softly soft ears. Speaking of smiles, the image had the same warm, toothy smile our bear had.
He dipped his paws in the water in the sink and rubbed it into his face, all around his neck and ears, and now he was fully awake.
Autumn was in full bloom and the days were getting shorter and mornings darker. A little bit more and the winter will come and the snow will light up the night, but until then there was still plenty to do. Raindrops were tapping at the window and so Bear knew that it was raining without even looking.
Bear switched the lights off and in almost full darkness walked down the stairs. If there was a reason for having such good eyesight, then it must have been for occasions just like these.
A reflection came from the kitchen into the hallway, casting light on the last step and bit of the wall, and a shadow swiftly moved back and forth on the reflection.
“Morning,” the bear growled as he entered the kitchen. Rabbit sitting at the table and reading a slightly wet newspaper giggled and replied with a nod. Owl facing the stove muttered something about calm mornings in a squeaky voice, but then turned her head almost fully backwards, as owls are capable of such feat, and gave Bear the widest of owl smiles.
Keeping his eyes on the newspaper, Rabbit tipped his chair backwards to reach the counter, and with a swift scoot, passed a coffee mug to Bear. Precision and elegance was Rabbit’s forte and so the mug stopped right at the edge.
The coffee’s strong aroma rushed into Bear’s massive nose. He took a sip and sat down across from Rabbit. The kitchen table was round and with plenty of space to conveniently sit at least eight animals.
Owl moved the last slices of toast from the oven to the plate on the table and sat down across from Bear and Rabbit. It’s easy to sit across when your table is all round.
“So what’s it gonna be today?” crunching on a toast, she lazily asked.
“Looks like the world is about to end,” Rabbit said and grabbed a slice for himself too. With his mouth full he went on, “at least according to the newspaper.”
“Go on,” Bear said in an encouraging tone.
“Well, the end is all mushed so it’s not clear,” Rabbit said and showed the bottom part of the paper where the water had mixed with ink into an unreadable mess, “but the headline says ‘The world might or might not end very soon’ and it goes on about something coming at us fast. Apparently, we should be perfectly fine if it turns out that we are going at them instead of them coming at us.”
“It’s settled then,” Bear said after a thoughtful pause.
“Are we getting out of here?” Rabbit asked.
“We are getting a dry newspaper. And who’s up for a cupcake?”
“As long as it doesn’t come in a cup,” Owl said, and abruptly stood up and rushed off.
“I’m sure it will come on a plate!” bear called after her.
“I’ll go put on my gumboots,” she shouted from the hallway. “Will you be taking your big umbrella?”
Owl loved gumboots. She had whole twenty mismatching pair of boots despite the fact that she could fly anywhere. “Flying is for the ones in the rush and not good at all for chatting,” she once had explained. “Besides, then I’d have to wait for you two!”
With the bear in the middle holding the big umbrella, they splotched down the muddy road towards the town. One foot quickly switching with the other, Owl’s stride looked like she was running on wheels. She had an eye for patterns and was sure that there was something patterny going on right there. Rabbit was shorter than her but had longer legs, so every single of Rabbit’s steps took two of hers. Bear had a longer stride and it took one more step to match him. And that led to Rabbit matching every two of Bear’s steps with three of his own. But at that point Owl started wondering if maybe she should grab a piece of paper and try to figure it all out properly. If only it wouldn’t rain so heavily… She promised to maybe, possibly not forget it until they get back home, and hooted out loud out of excitement.
“I also thought we could try the bank again,” Bear interrupted their otherwise silent stroll.
“Not the bank,” Rabbit protested, “The badger was laughing so hard last time that my ears are still ringing.”
“He was just being pragmatic,” Bear said.
“What does being fragmatic have to do with anything?” Rabbit said.
“I think Bear meant dramatic,” Owl suggested.
“Sometimes I forget who I am talking to,” Bear said, “I meant the badger was being realistic.”
“As if!” Rabbit said and almost slipped on the mud, but Bear caught him in time.
“What was I thinking?” Bear said after a while. “Covered in mud you would have made a much better impression at the bank.”
“Or on that thick carpet,” Rabbit said and giggled, and Owl joined him with a hoot.
Chimneys peeked out from behind the hill, showing that they were almost there. Bear stretched out his paw from under the big umbrella to test the rain. It had almost ceased completely, so he stopped in his tracks and after furiously shaking the umbrella, closed it and then shook some more. Satisfied with the result, he strapped it to his back. Owl was awkwardly staring up into the sky as if trying to spot something. When Rabbit asked her about it, she said she was looking to see if it might start snowing. “Because that would be unusual.”
They hung their raincoats and the umbrella on the hanger at the entrance to the cafe and sat down on the floor next to a table. The owner of the shop was an elderly opossum that tried to offer fries with everything, including the three hot chocolates and cupcakes, but the animals gently refused. Rabbit went with the opossum into the kitchen to help him carry the goods, and also to make sure that he didn’t put the cupcakes in cups, as that would mightily confuse Owl.
Bear snatched the newspaper and quickly ran through the world’s-end story then switched to the classifieds section at the back. He put down the paper as Rabbit and the opossum returned carrying the cupcakes and chocolate. Once everything was on the table, the opossum threw them a glance and once more inquired if maybe the dear animals might like to have some fries as well. He shrugged at the head shakes and left with a polite smile.
“The world’s end was a hyperbole,” Bear said.
“Hyperbully?” Rabbit said in a muffled voice, his mouth full with cake.
“I think Bear meant home delivery,” Owl suggested, her eyes not leaving the cupcake she was slowly chipping away at.
“I meant, the article turned not to be about world’s end at all,” Bear explained, “and I was actually looking for this.” He pointed to an entry at the bottom part of the classifieds section. “I thought maybe the ink was playing with us at home, but it looks solid.” The classified stated ‘On and off-world repairs and parts’ followed by an address.
“Ooh,” Owl ran her eyes over the ad and took another slurp of hot chocolate.
Rabbit declared that this was much better than the world’s end, and that for this he was ready to face the bank again. He asked for the newspaper, however, so that he could finish reading what that whole end was about. After passing the paper to Rabbit, Bear rolled on his back to think for a bit. He had to come up with a strategy that would feel solid even to the ever-calculating badger.
As the animals left the cafe, the kind opossum allowed them to take the newspaper, but only if they would have some fries with it. That seemed like a fair deal, so when they approached the massive building of the bank, Rabbit was carrying a neatly packed box of fries labeled Opossum’s Dream.