Santa's Basement


Down in Santa's basement the teddy bears were gathering for one last lecture from Father Bear. Tomorrow they would be taken out by Santa, and given away to children all over the world. Father Bear never went; he stayed behind to guide the next group of bears, telling them what was happening and what to expect -- and what was expected of them.

Dee Dee had been finished months before, and had heard it all enough times to know exactly what Father Bear would say tonight. He didn't want to hear it; he didn't particularly want to go. The reason was the black bear sitting on the crate beside him. Speaking of whom...

"Bo Bo, what are you doing?"

The bear dropped the thread it had been playing with and looked over. "Nothing."

"Bo Bo..." Dee Dee scooted closer and saw the black thread was from one of Smurf's arm seams. Bo Bo had been slowly pulling it loose. He gave Bo Bo a frown. "What are you doing? Do you want him to come apart before his child even gets ahold of him?"

Bo Bo pouted at him but argued, "Santa wouldn't have let him go without giving him the once over."

Dee Dee just shook his head -- whatever he'd been about to say was interupted by Father Bear. Bo Bo poked him for good measure, and got another glare for his trouble. Then they turned their attention to the small polar bear at the front of the room.

"Come on, now, everyone settle down. Bo Bo! Leave him alone. Is everyone here?" There were murmers of assent. "All right. You know why you're here. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve and the lot of you will be headed for your new homes. I've told you all I can about what you'll find waiting for you; not much more I can say, tonight, except to wish you well.

"Remember, it's not a stuffed world out there. But there are children waiting for you -- some of them will be kind, some of them won't be. But I guarantee you'll each of you be loved. Santa wouldn't give you away, if you weren't. It may take awhile to win your child over and you may feel at times that you're being used for a punching bag. But when it comes right down to it, it's cuddle or be cuddled. So I want you to be careful.

"You'll not see me, or each other again. But you'll find that it's all right -- your new child will be your family, and you'll find that's enough. Now, I want you to make me, and Santa, very proud. Merry Christmas, all of you."

With that Father Bear moved away, heading for one of the younger bears who obviously wasn't ready for his journey in the sleigh. Dee Dee looked down at the dark basement floor, thinking.

A black paw rubbed his nose. "What's wrong, Dee Dee?"

He looked over at Bo Bo. "You heard what he said. Tomorrow's Christmas."

"Yeah," the bear shrugged. "We've known about Christmas for months." Dee Dee just stared at him. Finally Bo Bo sighed, and wrapped his arm around Dee Dee's brown fuzzy neck. "You don't want to go, do you?"

"Bo Bo, we won't ever see one another! Ever again!" Dee Dee's plastic eyes sparkled just a little.

"I know. But it's what we're here for. You know that." Bo Bo's words were hard, but his voice soft. He leaned closer to Dee Dee.

"I know." Dee Dee buried his face in Bo Bo's soft fur. "I'm going to miss you, though."

"I know." A paw raised his chin. "I'm going to miss you, too." Clear blue eyes shone. "I love you, sunshine."

"I love you, too, Bo Bo."

The two bears pressed their lips together, long and hard. Neither noticed as Father Bear watched, and began ushering the other bears away. When Dee Dee finally pulled away from Bo Bo, he gave a sniffle and rubbed at his face.

"Here, use this." A white kerchief was held out. Dee Dee looked up and saw Father Bear. He took the kerchief and wiped his face, then handed it over to Bo Bo who did the same. Father Bear waited until they were presentable again, then spoke. "The two of you are luckier than most. You were both made early in the year -- you've had seven months together."

"I don't feel lucky," Dee Dee grumbled.

Father Bear gave him a hard glare. "You'd rather have been made last week? Only known each other for seven days?"

Dee Dee bit his lip, and glanced up at Bo Bo. Bo Bo shook his head. "No, it's better this way." He looked at Dee Dee. "Best seven months of my life." He brought a paw up, touched Dee Dee's face. "I won't ever forget you, now. No matter who Santa gives me to. Won't ever forget you, sunshine."

"Me, either." Dee Dee suddenly grabbed Bo Bo, and held him tightly. "Won't ever forget. No matter what happens."

Father Bear walked away, but when he reached the door he stopped, and turned back. "Trust Santa, boys. He won't ever let us down." Then he left the two bears alone, together.

Santa crept through the living room, placing parcels under the tree and in the stockings. There were several, for the family had many children. The tree was well decorated with hand-made ornaments --painted by the children, one could tell. The parents and other relatives had nearly filled the available floor space, but Santa added his own regardless.

Finally he reached into his bag, and pulled out a bear. He smiled down at the brown bear. "Well, Dee Dee, welcome to your new home. I'm sure your little boy will be happy to meet you." Dee Dee had on his bravest face, and said nothing. Santa smiled. "Happy Christmas, Dee Dee." He moved to place him beside the tree.

Behind him, the bag rustled and Bo Bo peered out. Dee Dee tried not to look -- once out of Santa's grasp he would have to remain still and silent anyway. He could see Bo Bo out of the corner of his eye, though, and he watched him closely. Wanted to remember those blue eyes forever.

Santa turned and saw Bo Bo. He gave the bear a pat on the head. "Don't worry about him, Bo Bo. He'll be taken very good care of. He'll be well loved."

Bo Bo stared a moment more, then slowly sank down into the sack. Santa placed Dee Dee beside the tree, and gathered up his sack. Dee Dee watched, until the last bit of red and black had vanished, and then listened until the last jingle of the sleigh bells disappeared. All around him, packages and toys waited for morning.

When he saw the expression of joy on the boy's face who picked him up, squealing, he realised that Santa was right.

Far away, Santa crept into another house. This one was not so affluent, not so well kept. The tree was a small after-thought and the walls bare of decoration. Paper streamers covered the branches though, and to one side Santa found a plate. Not biscuits, but two pieces of toast buttered by a child's clumsy but enthusiastic hand. The mice had left them alone, knowing for whom they were intended. Santa smiled and picked a piece up and munched it as he worked.

There were half a dozen wrapped packages under the tree, two for each resident, all labeled with the same careless handwriting. Giving the boxes a shake, Santa discovered clothes in all but two. One held a pipe and tobacco, the other a metal train engine. He recognised the brand, it would be brightly painted and had good wheels. Santa knew it would stand up to a lot of child's rough play. It was an old brand, though, and hadn't been made in over twenty years. He wondered whose train it was, who had donated it for the child. It didn't matter, though, and he went back to his work. He left three presents beneath the tree, and then crept silently into the child's room.

There was only one stocking up, a regular child's sock instead of a hand-knit christmas stocking designed to hold a sizable stash. It had been hung at what was a child's height -- apparently no parent had been there to help. Santa shook his head, and took a red stocking out of his sack to lay at the foot of the child's bed. The tiny form beneath the blanket barely stirred, as Santa walked up to stand beside the bed.

Santa pulled Bo Bo out of this sack. He held the bear in his arms, and whispered to him. "Here's your new home, Bo Bo. It won't be easy, but I know you can do it. He's been alone for too long -- last Christmas his grandma was here, and he wasn't in need. But now, he needs someone to hold, someone to love. He may seem to be mean to you at times, he may throw you and hit you. But that's why you're made of soft fur and stuffing, so you can take it without hurting. Don't be scared, and I'll see you next year when I visit."

Bo Bo said nothing, only stared at the child sleeping now restlessly. Santa laid him carefully beside the boy's pillow, and tip toed away. Bo Bo watched, as the boy suddenly opened his eyes. Scared deep blue met his own and for several long seconds they simply stared at each other. Then the boy reached out and touched Bo Bo's arm. His brow furled as he realised the bear was real, and he looked around his room, obviously not able to understand why and where the toy had come from. He touched the bear's nose, and started slightly at the cold feel of the leather.

Without warning Bo Bo was grabbed, stuffed under the blanket, and held tightly. With a sigh, he snuggled in. Santa was right.

Years later Bo Bo was gathered up with some items he recognised as belonging to his boy's grandmother. A shawl, a few pictures, and he all wrapped carefully in a blanket and placed in the bag. Bo Bo knew, from Father Bear's descriptions, that he had been Put Away. He closed his eyes and went to sleep, wondering about his child and dreaming, as always, of Dee Dee.

He wasn't sure what woke him -- from what Father Bear had said he was probably being given away, to son or daughter or a thrift shop. He waited, seeing nothing in the dark bag but he could hear voices, muffled by the denim.

"What's this, then? Never seen it before." One voice was close by, perhaps the one who'd just put the bag down.

"Oh... that. It's my grandmum's stuff. I took it when I left home."

"Do you want to unpack it?" Bo Bo heard a gentleness in the voice that made him want to smile. He had recognised his child's voice, and was pleased to find that he'd apparently found someone who cared enough to care whether he wanted to see old memories from childhood.

There was no answer for a bit, then his child's voice was closer and the bag was being lifted again. "Yeah, let's see what's in here. I've a picture of her, I think." The bag was opened, and Bo Bo could see a stream of light coming down through the shawl. A hand began rummaging, and suddenly it lighted on Bo Bo's tummy. "What's... hey!" Bo Bo found himself being lifted up, and he saw his child' face -- an adult now, but just as happy to see him as he had been the first morning he'd woken, to find the bear had not, after all, been a dream.

"Who's this, then?" The other voice asked, and Bo Bo was turned and presented to the other man, grinning as well -- indulgently but with love.

"Ray, may I present to you Filthy Bear."

"What?" Ray was shocked. "You named your teddy bear 'Filthy'? Bodie.. you're having me on."

"No, that's his name. It's a long story," Bodie admitted with a sigh. "If you make me a cuppa I might tell you."

"All right. But first," he took Bo Bo out of Bodie's hands and carried him out of the room. Bo Bo could see Bodie following, a curious smile on his face. Ray looked down at him. "You're going up here." He was placed on a shelf in what he could now see was a bedroom -- in the state of being unpacked and decorated for Christmas at the same time. Bo Bo thought it was a holy mess. He liked it.

Ray moved away to a box, and reached in. "You can keep Ragamuffin company." He turned, and was holding...

Dee Dee.

"I think you two will be good friends," Ray was saying as he placed the worn brown bear on the shelf beside Bo Bo. "In fact.. Bodie, doesn't he look a bit like you, though? Black fur and blue eyes."

"Yeah, and Rags there looks like you." Bodie reached over, and repositioned Bo Bo. "There. Now they'll be happy. And I want my cuppa."

"All right, all right. But you have to tell me how you named him...."

Their voices faded. Bo Bo stared into green eyes, felt his nose pressed up against a torn and resewn one, felt warm furry paws resting against his.

"I didn't forget you, Bo Bo. I love you."

"I love you, too."

Father Bear was right. Santa hadn't let them down.

-- THE END --

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