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Ghoulygars

It was ages and ages before Joyce met the Bear in real life again. Of course she would often sit and talk to it on the floor, but it never replied; didn’t even twinkle its eyes. She told it all the things she thought about, even the very unlikely things, or things she could hardly believe herself. She also asked the Bear hundreds of questions, all to no avail.

But of course, she hadn’t worked the magic that makes things come alive. She hadn’t felt sorry and cried. The truth is that after seeing the great rising she felt so happy for so long that she just couldn’t. It went on for such a long time that she even began to wonder if it really happened. Her mother had said, “Dont be silly, it was only a dream.” And the way her mother had said it had made her feel that dreams were not as good as other things. In any case, she had been awake.

So after waiting for weeks, and worrying about it for days, and wondering about what her mother had said, she began to see the Bear as grown-ups saw him, just a piece of carpeting on the floor.

This was too much for her. The loneliness began to come back, and she felt so sorry for the Bear just lying there, that she knelt down on poor Bear and wept.

She hadn’t done it purposely. Real magic is seldom done just when you want to do it. Her unhappiness had worked it. After having cried for some time, most of her sadness had dropped away in her tears. Now she just knelt on the rug, her face buried in the bears fur. She didnt expect anything to happen. She wasnt even thinking about it, or about anything. It was enough just to be close to what was left for her of Bear.

It is impossible for Joyce to say exactly how long she stayed like that before the happiness came. But come it did. Not just being empty of sadness either, but a real feeling of being happy.

Gradually the feeling of having lost the Bear disappeared. In its place was a feeling that the Bear was there, not a dried up skin, but a living growling bear. Even then it took her a while to notice that she was now gently moving up and down. When she did, nobody was more surprised than she to realise that she was rising and falling because the Bear was breathing again. Then she almost fell off him in her excitement. “Youre back! You’re back!” she shouted. Then crossly she said, “But where have you been all this time? Why haven’t you spoken to me or anything?”

The Bear didn’t answer, but slowly sat up and stretched, sliding Joyce off his back. She immediately ran around and stood in front of him, “Why did you stay away?” she asked again.

The Bear still did not reply, only leisurely finished his stretching. Then, as he had done before, gently licked where the tears had streaked Joyces face. He bad to bend his head to do this, as he was such a big bear, even sitting down.

Still not pacified Joyce said, “You left me alone so long I even began to think it hadn’t really happened, not you or the horses or anything.”

The Bear sat up on his back legs and looked down his nose at Joyce.

In a grumbly low down bear voice he said, “Really? Really! Whats all this really? You remember it don’t you? You were happy afterwards werent you? What do you mean then, really?”

Joyce felt a little bit silly now for having mentioned it. “Well” she said, “my mother told me it was only a dream, and you never spoke to me, and I began to wonder….”

She didn’t have time to say any more because the Bear brought his front paws down with a plonk, his nose very close to Joyce’s. “Only a dream!” he roared.

Somehow Joyce wasn’t too frightened. She felt that he meant well.

“Only a dream,” he muttered to himself in a growl. Then very slowly and rumbling, “Only… .a… dream!” Ho looked her straight in the eye, his nose even closer. “That is Ghoulygar talk. Dont be taken in by it. Dyou hear me?”

The last few words were so loud she could not have missed hearing them even with wool in her ears. “But my mother…” she began – but never managed to finish.

“Be careful” the Bear roared, “or else youll start being a grown-up like most of the others.”

“But my…” Joyce began again.

“STOP!” shouted the Bear, “Dont you know what youre doing? Carry on like that and you will age years in the next few minutes. Has nobody ever taught you how people grow up and become old?”

Joyce thought for a few minutes.

“Well, it’s because” with each year the body grows, and you learn more, and you can leave school then, and you don’t have to eat what you don’t want to eat, and its because you get better at things.”

The Bear sat back on his haunches and did what, for a Bear, is laughing. “And being so clever is what makes their faces all wrinkled and their body bent, and stops them playing or laughing? Have YOU ever seen cats or dogs or bears, even old ones, who stop playing or have wrinkles, or are bent?”

Joyce wondered what this was all about, but said, “No,” anyway because it was the truth.

“Of course” you haven’t,” the Bear went on, because they never get caught by the Ghoulygars. And that’s mostly because we dont talk at least not such a lot of nonsense as you humans do. Look at the trouble your mother caused for instance.”

“What trouble?” Joyce asked.

“What trouble? Why, you disbelieving in me and the great rising of course. Didn’t you talk to me? Didn’t you go to the seashore with us? Didn’t you see the rising? Then a few words and you no longer believed. Let me tell you that would never happy to a bear.” The Bear scratched himself with a back paw. “Some people’s feet have the most awful feel about them when they stand on you,” he said, looking at Joyce out of the corner of his eye as he scratched behind his ear. “But with all their talking, they don’t tell you anything important like how to watch out for Ghoulygars. Well, maybe a few humans do say. But most other humans dont talk about things like that.”

“Well, I don’t even know what you are talking about,” Joyce said. “Anyway I’ve not seen anything that makes people old and wrinkled, or bent up like you said.”

The Bear sneezed as he got the last of the dust from his coat. Then he shook himself just to make sure and said, “Hmmph, a fat lot you know about anything. You didn’t even know about the rising. Besides, you can’t see Ghoulygars very often.”

“Why not?” Joyce asked.

“Because they are not really there at all – except when you let them be.”

Joyce wasn’t sure whether that was supposed to be funny or not, so she only laughed a little bit. “I still dont know what you mean,” she said.

The Bear walked towards the kitchen. He stopped at the door and locked over his shoulder. “Come on, he said, “if you want to see Ghoulygars, I’ll show you some.” Then he left.

Joyce followed him quickly, wondering if her mother were likely to come home while the Bear was in the kitchen. When she caught up with him he was standing next to the stove looking at the cellar door. Then he lifted the latch with his nose, pulled the door open with a paw, and stared down the dark stairs. He sniffed a few times and then sneezed. Bloomin mice!” he grumbled, and sneezed again. Looking back he saw Joyce staring at him. “Im allergic to them,” he explained. Standing back away from the steps he said “Now come here and walk down the steps.”

Joyce walked to the cellar stairs, went down one step, then the next one more slowly, and then stopped. “I dont want to,” she said, one hand on the wall, and the other still on the door post.

“Why not?” Bear asked, sitting back with his tongue out.

‘Well it’s dark and I can’t see the steps.”

“You can feel,” the Bear said.

“But I might fall, or touch something,” she said, looking back over her shoulder.

“What? Something soft and wet that will jump,” the Bear said, saying “jump” very quickly.

Joyce clambered up the two steps into the kitchen. “Don’t say things like that, you frighten me,” she said, breathing very quickly.

“I didnt frighten you,” he replied. “You were already frightened but you wouldn’t admit it. Yet you know that there are only boxes of apples, a pile of old magazines, some suitcases and tools down there. Nothing at all down there to be frightened of, yet you were, even before I said Jump! and that’s what a Ghoulygar is!”

“But I didn’t see anything, and anyway, it is frightening down there. I bet you wouldn’t go down there without the light on – there are mice down there.”

The Bear got up and walked to the cellar door, then stopped and looked back at Joyce. It’s not good to be frightened; not unless there is something to be frightened of. But you don’t often see Ghoulygars, you only feel them like you did. If you are always frightened, unhappy, cant sleep, hate everyone, don’t like babies, dogs or animals, or cant stop working, even when there is no need, thats Ghoulygars. See what I mean about them don’t you?” he asked; then turned and walked down the stairs, his claws click clicking on the stone steps. Joyce stood at the top of the stairs watching him disappear into the dark.

Just at that moment the kitchen door opened and Joyces mother came in humming a tune and carrying a shopping basket. Joyce gasped, slightly frightened and excited all at once. Frightened because she felt that anything she did with the Bear would not be really understood by her parents, and excited because she had so much wanted her mother to see and believe in the Bear.

“What on earth are you doing, Joyce?” her mother asked, closing the door and putting her shopping on the table. “I’ve told you before that cellar is dangerous. Have you been down there?”

Joyce simply stood at the cellar door not knowing how to explain. “No, I didn’t go down there,” was all she managed to say.

“Well, shut the door and come away then,” her mother said, sighing and shaking her head.

“But the Bears down there,” Joyce said, “He was telling me about Ghoulygars, and I bet him he wouldnt go down and he did.”

“Oh, for goodness sake. You don’t have to make up such ridiculous stories just because I caught you doing something you shouldn’t.” Her mother walked to the cellar door and was just about to shut it when there was the sound of a distant sneeze. With her eyes slightly wider open than usual, she looked at Joyce and said, “What was that?”

With a mixture of smile and worry on her face, Joyce said, “Thats the boar, he’s allergic to mice you see.”

With a very determined expression, he mother lit a candle that was left for lighting the cellar when there was not sufficient reason for lighting the pressure lamp, and started walking down the stairs.

A few steps down she stopped, holding the candle up higher, and peered into the half lit cellar. “Is anybody there?” she asked.

Joyce, who was just behind her, also looked into the half-light trying to see the Bear. Not realising that her mother had stopped, she bumped into her, making her jump so much she almost dropped the candle. “Dont do that,” she said irritably. “You almost had me down the stairs.”

“That’s the Ghoulygars here,” Joyce said soulfully.

“What on earth are you on about now?”

“Making you feel frightened,” Joyce went on, “Thats what the Beer said, and he seems to know about things like that. This cellar is probably full of them. Maybe they are like a mist squirming about at the bottom trying to crawl up the stairs to us.”

“Oh, don’t talk rot, Joyce,” her mother said, holding the candle out in front and quickly looking at the foot of the stairs. “Of course Im not frightened. Its just that these steps are terribly dangerous. Come on now, hold my hand so you don’t fall, and we’ll see who’s frightened.”

Step by step they carefully descended the stairs, Joyce’ mother holding the candle well out in front. They came to the bottom and began to walk across the cellar floor, but suddenly her mother stopped and gasped, “Oh my goodness, what’s that?”

Of course it was only the Bearskin draped over a box of apples. Joyce’s mother looked so relieved when Joyce showed her it was only the skin, and nobody seemed more pleased to get out of the cellar. But that’s Ghoulygars for you!

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