The bear was not the tidiest of maids. He was a fair hand at dusting, with the duster clasped firmly in his teeth, and he never let anything remain on the floor that did not belong there. Without articulate digits he was able to drag laundry into its appropriate basket. More often he would find Jody and drag him to the dropped object and stare at him until he replaced the offending bit of litter to its rightful spot (the bear seemed only dimly aware that its enormous hindquarters were responsible for knocking pictures, books and gewgaws from the shelves and bureaus – unless the bear did it on purpose, which Jody suspected).
Unfortunately, however, though naturally, the bear was not born to the business of domestic service. Cybil was a kind matron, doting on the bear like a cherished if clumsy child, and she delighted in its attempts at playing the accordion for her, but Jody would always resent its incursion into their home. The bear had done its job well. Jody had long since given up his extra-marital adventures. Under the watchful gaze of the bear he’d lost weight and curtailed his passive aggressive snipes at his wife. He ate what Cybil cooked without complaint and, imprisoned in domestic bliss by his curfew, he finally got around to rebuilding their deck. But this state of grace was forged with a foregone expiration date.
The bear was, after all, a bear.
The berries Jody laced with poison had no effect. The bear did not eat them. When starved of alternatives the bear would root through the garbage, through the pantry and, if not satisfied, press himself up against the front windows and growl at neighborhood dogs. This had only happened twice, though it had put the whole neighborhood on alert. But it was not the neighborhood that eventually ruined the bear’s domestic career.
Jody’s mother arrived unannounced one cool December afternoon bearing a fruit basket. Her son and daughter-in-law absent from the house, she let herself in with the key underneath the mat and, after straightening only a few household items and picture frames, reshouldered her purse to leave.
She noticed, just after turning the front door knob, the large sleeping bear curled around the base of the Christmas tree. “How adorable!” Jody’s mother exclaimed. And, believing the bear to be no more than a stuffed facsimile, the woman bent down and pinched the bear’s bulbous nose.
Bears have very sensitive noses. Once plucked, the bear startled awake with a terrifying roar. The poor woman fainted on the spot. Her collapse upon the bear’s feet was all that saved her for, after pawing at her leopard print caftan and prodding at her with his smarting proboscis, the bear assumed she was dead. Catching the scent of fresh fruit, he wandered into the kitchen, whereupon he devoured the fruit, in the process wedging his head into the bright red wicker basket.
The bear blundered down the hall as he attempted to dislodge the basket from his big, fuzzy head and, in his struggle, knocked against the loosened front door. It swung wide.
The bear, being what he was, recognized a ripe opportunity when he saw one. With a final sniff from his pinched nostrils, he urinated on Jody’s coat (dislodged from the coat rack amidst his battle with the basket) and loped down the porch, onto the sidewalk, and out of the cul-de-sac forever.