I met a bear today.

a short story

I  put my bags up on the conveyor belt and was reaching for my shoes when I saw him. I stood there for a moment or two, looking over at him.

“Excuse me sir, please keep moving.”

“Sorry.” I hurried through the rest of security and found my gate. 

 

I sat myself down, facing the masses of the world, and pulled out the evening paper.

 

ATTACKS KILL 5, 20 INJURED

Investigations are currently underway to ascertain correlationary DNA samples of the perpetrators, but a suspect has not been effectively located as of this morning. 

OCEAN LEVELS CRITICAL, ADMINISTRATION SAYS

Scientists from the National Administration are advocating for awareness of the rising global ocean levels, which are expected to cause unprecedented flash flooding around the world. 

MARKET DROPS SIGNIFICANTLY

Yesterday, runaway inflation has led many businesses to lay hundreds of workers off, and tensions are expected to rise in corporational unions; government banks are scrambling to adjust to the alterations. 

 

I snapped the paper shut and looked up; there he was, bouncing and skipping past magazine stands and restaurants, but he seemed to take no notice. “Good evening! How do you do? Evening! Splendid day! Hello!” He was tugging an orange balloon, pulling it this way and that as he went. Past big black television screens tuned to the world’s darkness, past crying and yelling, past lost bags and littered floors. 

With the paper still stuck in my hands I saw children tug at their parents, trying to get them to look, but it was no use. I was the only one living outside of Catatonia. The children, he, and I. 

 

“Ladies and gentlemen, you are now free to board.”

I snapped out of my dazed stupor, collected my things, and got in line. My phone buzzed and I pulled it out to see what the message said.

 

 

I put the big black screen back in my pocket and looked through the line of hats and hoods–and there he was again, a little orange balloon bouncing to and fro. I craned my neck to get a better look. When no one else was left in front of him, he bounced off for the plane–the attendant and people behind him seemed entirely oblivious–his little balloon running right with him, bumping back and forth, up and down. 

 

The attendant scanned my ticket and I hurried through to find my seat. Of course, it was right beside his. He was digging around in his little satchel for something and I tried to sit down quietly. He perked right up and dropped the bag.

“Why hello there! How do you do?” He stuck a paw out for me to shake.

I looked around for a minute and looked back at him. He looked at me and smiled, so I carefully shook it. He told me his name, so I told him mine. 

 

The plane hit the runway, and I noticed his bag laying out. “Do you want me to help you put that under the seat?” 

“Oh! Thank you for reminding me, I have something just for you.”

 

I didn’t really know what to say. He dug around in his bag and handed me a little stuffed donkey. The donkey wasn’t of the talking variety, but it still spoke to me. 

 

A gift.

 

“You make me think of this donkey. Lots of people make me think of this little donkey.”

“Er, thanks, I guess.”

He nodded, and the plane took off.

 

• • •

 

I sat down at the bus station and called my wife as a little balloon crossed the street. I looked at the donkey in my hands.

“Hi, you’ll never believe what happened today.”

“And what’s that?”

“I spoke with a little stuffed bear on the plane.”

I could hear her laugh faintly on the other end.

“No, seriously.”

She paused for a moment. “Well, what did he say his name was?”

I paused too and looked across the street. He waved at me and I waved back. 

 

“Hope. He said his name is Hope.”

 

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Hello is different.

No page numbers. No titles. No table of contents. 

It’s a cultural commentary, a protest against the conventional wisdom, and a call for something more.