This story

THE BIRTHDAY BEAR

by Robert Williams

Des and Mick were sitting on a bench in the park, relaxing and taking it easy on a hot afternoon in mid May, after a strenuous shopping expedition.

The last thing they really needed was Mike the Manic Mechanic walking up to them carrying a six foot tall stuffed bear.

"Hi there Des and Mick!" exclaimed Mike, placing the bear down on the ground. "Phew, it's hot today!"

"What's with the bear?" said Mick.

"I didn't know you were into taxidermy," said Des.

"I'm not, I never use taxis," said Mike. "Only drive fast Fords, and coincidentally I just happen to have a few bargain fast Fords hanging round at my forecourt..."

"No, no, I mean stuffing," said Des.

"That's more Mrs Greasy's department isn't it?!" said Mike. "Hey, talking of Mrs G, whaddya think of this present I've bought for her birthday tomorrow?"

"You mean that bear?" said Des.

"No, I mean my overalls," said Mike sarcastically. "Of course I mean this bear!! Picked it up dead cheap down the junk shop!"

"It's absolutely dreadful," said Mick. "What makes you think Mrs Greasy wants a stuffed bear?"

"It's a conversation piece, a curio, something that'll attract people into her cafe!" exclaimed Mike.

"Why haven't you got one for your garage then?" said Des.

"I don't need gimmicks, I've got a host of hot hatches on my forecourt to attract the punters!"

"Yes, well it's very nice Mike, but me and Mick are very busy at the moment," said Des.

"Busy doing nothing!" exclaimed Mike. "Listen Des and Mick, I'm taking a client for a test drive in a 1982 XR3 with reconditioned mudflaps in a min and obviously I can't take this daft bear with me otherwise I'll never sell the thing! So do me a favour, look after it for a bit, drop it round my garage and make sure Mrs Greasy doesn't see it!! Catch ya later!!"

Mike walked off leaving Des and Mick with the stuffed bear.

"Umm...no, Mike," said Des.

"He's gone," said Mick. "What are we going to do with this thing?! It's so embarrassing! Everyone's going to look at us!"

"Why did he have to leave us in this pickle?" whinged Des.

"We'll have to get it into your car as soon as possible and take over to Mike's garage," said Mick.

"We're parked miles away!" moaned Des. "So we've got to carry this thing right across town with everyone looking at us!"

"Oh no," said Mick. "Look who's waving at us in the distance! It's Mrs Greasy!!"

"Hmm, she doesn't usually go shopping on Fridays..." said Des.

"She's coming this way!" said Mick. "She mustn't see this bear!"

"Quick, let's hide it!" said Des. He picked it up and dived into the nearest bush. Shortly afterwards he re-emerged, minus bear, just as Mrs Greasy came up to them.

"Hello Des and Mick," said Mrs G. "Gosh, that bush is looking rather overgrown these days, I must phone the council and get them to tidy it up a bit."

"So how are you Mrs G?" said Mick.

"Fine, fine," said Mrs G. "Where's your new friend gone then?"

"New friend?" said Des.

"Yes, I could see him sitting with you on the bench! Bloke in a brown suit, as far as I could see."

"Oh, um, he had to pop off quickly," said Mick.

"He couldn't bear it any longer," said Des. Mick elbowed him in the stomach.

"Well, when you see him again, don't forget to invite him down to my cafe," said Mrs G.

"Yes, we will, well sorry you've got to go so quickly," said Des.

"Yes, it is a pity. See you later," said Mrs G. She walked off.

"Phew, that was a close one," said Des, rescuing the bear from the bush. "Oh look, it's got brambles all over it."

"I think it improves it," said Mick. "Come on, we'd better get this in your car as quickly as possible and hope we don't bump into Mrs Greasy again!"

They picked up the bear and started to carry it across the park and through town.

"Everyone's staring at us!" moaned Des.

"Just look straight ahead and ignore them," said Mick.

But they couldn't ignore Wayne.

"'Allo Des and Mick, it's yer ol' mate Wayne 'ere!" exclaimed the aforementioned, as they tried to make their way down the street.

"Wayne, we'd love to stop and chat, but we..."

"Who's yer new mate then?!" said Wayne.

"It's a bear," said Mick.

Wayne gasped in horror.

"Don't worry, he's not alive any more," said Des.

"Oh I see!" exclaimed Wayne. "So you're takin' him to the undertakers?!"

"No, no, no," sighed Mick. "Look, he's a birthday present for Mrs Greasy."

"Urgh," said Wayne. "She's gonna stick that 'orrible thing in her cafe?? It'll put me off 'er rice pudding!"

"Her rice pudding is enough to put me off her rice pudding," said Des.

"So if you do bump into Mrs Greasy, and it's difficult not to, remember, you know nothing!" said Mick.

"I know nothin'," said Wayne.

"That's true," said Des.

"Nothin' about what?" said Wayne.

"Her birthday present!!" exclaimed Des.

"What's that then?!" said Wayne.

"The bear!!!!!" exclaimed Des.

"What bear?" said Wayne.

Des and Mick groaned.

"This bear!!!" they both exclaimed.

"Oh, that bear!!" exclaimed Wayne. "All right then, if I meet 'er, I'll tell 'er I know nothin' about that bear!"

"Yes!" said Des. "No! Just don't mention the bear!"

"Des mentioned it once but I think we got away with it," said Mick.

"Okay!" said Wayne. "You can rely on me!"

Wayne walked off to clean some windows or something, while Des and Mick continued on their way to the car park. Eventually they reached Des's Fiat 126.

"Thank goodness for that," said Des, as they put the heavy bear down.

"It's not the end of it," said Mick. "We've still got to drive it back to Mike's garage. Come on, let's get in inside your car."

But that proved to be easier said than done. They loaded all their shopping bags inside the car, but however hard they tried, they couldn't get the bear inside.

"It's too big!" exclaimed Mick. "It won't fit through the door!"

"Well there's only one thing we can do," said Des.

"I'm not walking all the way home with it!!" exclaimed Mick.

"No, I'll have to drive back and get my bus," said Des.

"Oh right, and leave me standing about with a stuffed bear," said Mick. "Thanks."

"Well, just try to act natural," said Des. "Why don't you pop into that cafe over there for a bit. Won't be long!!"

Des drove off in his car, leaving Mick standing there with the bear.

"Just pop into the cafe he says," grumbled Mick to himself. "With this thing?! Oh, I don't know..."

Mick was about to go off for a walk with it when for the second time that day he saw Mrs Greasy in the distance walking towards him.

"Oh no!!!" he exclaimed. He dithered about in blind panic, wondering what to do. Eventually he hid the bear behind a Range Rover, and hoped the owner wasn't in too much of a hurry to come back. Just in time - Mrs Greasy came up and greeted him, standing in the empty space recently vacated by Des.

"Hello Mick, what are you doing standing about in the car park like this? Where's Des?"

"Oh, um...he's just driven back home to get his bus," said Mick.

"What's wrong with his car then?" said Mrs G.

"Well...we'd got so much shopping that there wasn't enough room in his car to carry it all," said Mick.

"So where's all your shopping now?" enquired Mrs G.

"Oh, he took it all back with him...um..."

Mick began to realise that his story wasn't really holding together.

"Well anyway, I was wondering if Des could give me a lift back, my moped's broken down again."

"Oh no!" groaned Mick. He broke out into a cold sweat and his heart started pumping.

"Are you all right, Mick?" said Mrs Greasy.

"Yes, yes, well...he's going to be a little while...you don't want to stand around here do you? I know! Why don't you go into that cafe over there for a bit?"

"Hmmm," said Mrs G. "That's a good idea, it's only just opened, I'll compare prices with mine. Coming?"

"Err, no, I'll...just stay here," said Mick.

"Suit yourself," said Mrs G.

She walked off to the new cafe, while Mick tried to work out what to do next. Obviously, they couldn't transport both the bear and Mrs G home at the same time! Unless...

Mick spotted a menswear shop next to the cafe. It was a long shot, but worth a try. He dashed over to it with the bear. He left the bear outside, half-hoping that someone would come along and nick it, and went inside to buy a suit, trousers, shirt, tie, shoes and bowler hat.

Finally, with his wallet feeling very empty, he emerged from the shop to find the bear still there. As bemused passers-by watched, he dressed the bear up in the new clothes, hoping that Mrs Greasy stayed inside the cafe next door.

Just as he finished, Wayne came up to him again.

"'Allo Mick, it's yer ol' mate Wayne 'ere!!" he exclaimed. "Who's yer new mate?!"

Mick sighed.

"He's a b... Oh, never mind, just remember, you know nothing!"

"Nothin' about what?" said Wayne.

"Brilliant!" said Mick.

At that moment, Des's bus drew up alongside them. Immediately, Mrs Greasy came out of the cafe. Mick hoped for the best.

"Oh is that your new friend again?" said Mrs G, pointing to the bear, now dressed in business attire.

"Err, yes, he's not terribly well at the moment. He's feeling a bit browned off."

"Looks like he's spent too long on the sunbed!" said Mrs G.

"He's a bear!" exclaimed Wayne.

"What he means is," said Mick, hurriedly, "is that he's barely able to speak at the moment, I'm just going to take him home to bed."

Des, sitting in his bus, looked askance at Mick.

"What have you dressed him up for?" he mouthed to him. Then he noticed Mrs Greasy getting on the bus, followed by Wayne. "Mick!!!" he exclaimed.

"Not my fault!" mouthed Mick back. He carried the bear onto the bus and took it straight upstairs. Unfortunately, Wayne and Mrs G then decided they'd rather sit upstairs as well.

Des drove off, and Mick sweated it out, desperately hoping Mrs G wouldn't twig. Luckily, she spent most of the time making notes about the cafe she had just visited.

"That cafe was dreadful," reported Mrs G. "Revolting food at extortionate prices, I don't know how they get away with it!"

"What's 'is name then?" asked Wayne.

"Oh, do you mean him..." said Mick, pointing over at the bear, who he had laid down on a seat as far away from Mrs G as possible. "He's called, er, Barney."

"After that cartoon bear?" said Mrs G innocently.

"Absolutely not!!" exclaimed Mick abruptly. He quickly calmed down. "Sorry, no, it's just coincidence."

The remainder of the journey continued without incident - until...

"'Ere Mick, what 'appened to that bear you 'ad?!" asked Wayne.

"Bear??" said Mrs Greasy.

"He means the, er, bear, er, um...bear...bear...Bernard Bresslaw starring in 'Carry On Camping' on video in the record shop, um, I mean video shop..." said Mick.

"No Mick, I mean that huge brown bear you were carryin' around!" said Wayne.

But luckily the bus had stopped outside the cafe and Mrs Greasy had already got off, eager to catch the lunchtime rush.

"Phew!" exclaimed Mick. "I think I got away with it. No thanks to you Wayne!!"

"Oh, and no thanks to you too, Mick!!" exclaimed Wayne. "Ta-ta!"

Wayne - who was Mrs Greasy's lunchtime rush - got off the bus. Des then drove it over to Mike's garage to finally drop the bear off.

The next morning, Mike opened his garage for business at the usual time. As he stood ironing the leather seats on his 1971 Ford Capri, Mrs Greasy came up to him.

"Oh, good morning Mrs G!" said Mike nervously, hoping she wouldn't notice her birthday bear which was standing in his workshop. "Happy birthday!"

"Yes thank you Mike," said Mrs G. "Anyway enough of that, I don't really do birthdays. When you get to my age you don't notice them any more."

"Luckily I'm at least thirty or forty years away from that!" said Mike. Mrs G gave him a black look.

"Anyway, I was passing and I was wondering if I could bring my moped in for you to look at," said Mrs G. "It's getting on a bit to be honest, and it's started breaking down all the time."

"I beg your pardon?!" exclaimed Mike, rather taken aback. He didn't deal in vehicles with fewer than four wheels. "Mrs Greasy, please don't take this the wrong way, but I don't DO mopeds!!!!!"

"No need to get your overalls in a twist," said Mrs G. "There's a lot of work needs doing, I'll take it in to a reputable garage instead then. I just wish I could afford a new one..."

"See you later," said Mike. Mrs Greasy had just started to walk off when she stopped suddenly.

"Mike, why have you got a giant stuffed bear at the back of your workshop?"

Mike stood there with his mouth wide open, totally dumbfounded.

"Yuck! It's a horrible old thing," said Mrs Greasy, walking inside and looking at it. "Can't understand what you see in that old junk. Funny, it reminds me of someone I met the other day...can't think who though... Well, I'll see you later in the cafe, I can't wait to see what super pressies everyone's got me..."

Mike started running around in blind panic. He had intended to present the bear to her in the meeting in just one hour - but he certainly couldn't do that now!

"Maybe I could disguise it as something else...no, no....I wonder if Des and Mick have any ideas..."

Mike rang up Des and Mick and called them over to the garage for an emergency meeting.

"This had better be important," yawned Des in his dressing gown. "I'm missing 'Rugrats' for this."

"She doesn't like the bear!! She hates it!!" exclaimed Mike. He explained what had happened.

"Oh dear..." said Des. "You see, the thing is...we thought we'd give it as a joint present. So we haven't bought anything else for her!"

"You numbskulls!!! Now what are we going to do???!!!" exclaimed Mike.

"We've got less than an hour to buy her another present," said Mick.

"But what on earth could we buy her? What's the one thing she really wants?!" said Des.

"I know what she wants," said Mike. "A new moped. But..."

"Well that's what we'll buy her then!" exclaimed Mick.

"Oh no!" said Mike, utterly disgusted by the idea. "You don't think I could tempt her into a 1981 Escort XR3 instead?"

"Maybe, but she hasn't got a licence to drive one!" said Mick. "Come on, there's a place in Kingston that sells mopeds. But we'd better hurry!"

"I suppose it does have its advantages," said Mike. "It'll stop her defecting to that other garage..."

They hurried into Kingston, and bought a brand new moped - paid jointly by all three of them.

"I might just as well throw my money away," whinged Mike.

They rushed it home on Des's bus.

"What I want to know," said Mike on the way back, "is what I'm supposed to do with that stupid great bear now. I don't suppose you two want it?..." He got a negative response.

They finally turned up at the cafe just thirty seconds late for their usual meeting.

"You're thirty seconds late!" exclaimed Mrs Greasy. "Never mind, now you're here, it's time to cut my birthday cake - which I made myself, of course."

"Later," said Des, disappointing Wayne who had been salivating over Mrs Greasy's birthday cake for over half an hour already. They led Mrs G outside and presented her with her moped. She was delighted.

"It's lovely!" said Mrs G. "It's just what I wanted! Thank you all so much!!"

Des, Mick and Mike heaved a huge sigh of relief.

"It's just a pity Barney couldn't be here to see it..." said Mrs Greasy.


Copyright © Robert Williams
Random story: The Fiat 126 Owners' Club