Grotto Header

Nimue's Grotto

Stinkweek

by Dennis Rudder

Once upon a time there were three bears -- a papa bear, a mama bear, and a baby bear.

"Why," baby bear asked one day, "don't we eat people? They look very tender."

"Because we don't," papa bear said and looked at mama bear for support.

"Because we don't," mama bear said. "Now eat your berries and grubs like a good little baby bear."

Baby bear ate his berries and grubs, but thought about a small human he'd seen in the woods, and his supper tasted bland.

Later that night after baby bear had gone to sleep, mama and papa bear discussed their son's appetite.

"Wherever did he get the idea of eating people?" mama bear said.

"Not from me," papa bear said, his eyes large and innocent.

"Well, certainly not from me," mama bear said. "Maybe we need to expand his diet. Maybe he's not getting all the nutrition he needs from berries and grubs."

"Expand it how? papa bear asked.

"I don't know. Maybe add an occasional squirrel or rabbit."

"Those are hard to catch."

"Then what do you suggest?"

"Maybe if we fed him a small human, he'd see how unappetizing they are."

"But what if he likes it?"

The two sat in silence, listening to baby bear's deep, sleep-filled breathing.

"What if we rubbed the human with stinkweed? That would make it taste disgusting," papa bear said.

Mama bear nodded. "But where are we going to find a small human?"

"God will provide," papa bear said solemnly.

"Goldy Locks, if I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times, don't go into the woods alone."

"Why?"

"Because there might be bears."

"But, Grandma, bears don't eat people, they eat berries and grubs."

Grandma Locks pressed her lips together and shook her head. "How do you even know that?"

"I read it in a book."

"Hummmph. Read it in a book. If a bear grabs you and eats you, don't come running to me."

And so it was that the very next day, Goldy Locks went into the woods alone. She had in her backpack a peanut butter and honey sandwich, a thermos of milk, and a copy of Wilson's Woodlore.

"I see her," papa bear said quietly. "You keep baby bear busy. I'll catch her and rub her with stinkweed."

Goldy saw a cluster of pink flowers. Wilson's Woodlore would tell her what they are. As she removed her backpack, she was snatched up by a large bear.

"What are you doing?" Goldy Locks yelled.

The bear, of course, could not answer because bears and people speak entirely different languages.

The bear held her down with one enormous paw and began to rub her head to toe in stinkweed. As he did he yelled, "Mama bear, baby bear, come see what I've caught."

"You don't eat people. You don't eat people," Goldy Locks said as best she could with a bear holding her down and stinkweed in her mouth. "You don't eat people. It says so in a book."

Baby bear was as excited as his parents had ever seen him.

"You caught a human. You caught a human," he said and spun around with glee.

"Yes, son," papa bear said. "I caught it for you. It's yours to eat."

Baby bear could hardly believe his good fortune. This was the best day ever.

At that moment, two hunters had the bears in their sights. One touched the other on the arm. "Isn't that that snotty little Locks girl?"

"It is. But we can't let the bears eat her."

"They're not going to eat her. I can smell her from here. She's covered in stinkweed."

A moment later, the hunter saw how wrong he was.

Papa bear lost a sizable chunk of his brain. And later, his hide, which was made into a rug.

Grandma Locks lost a granddaughter.

"Serves the little know-it-all right," she said.

Mama bear lost a mate and regretted she'd ever agreed to the stupid scheme.

And baby bear lost his appetite for humans. "They taste like stinkweed," he said.

The following year, a hiker found a backpack. Inside was the moldy remains of a sandwich, a thermos of sour milk, and a copy of Wilson's Woodlore, which she used to identify some nearby flowers. They were pink nasturtiums.

Baby bear, who had grown considerably, eyed the hiker and wondered if a stinkweed after-taste was really such a bad thing.

About the Author

Dennis Rudder writes children's stories. He's had little success getting children's publishers interested in his writing. Maybe it's his illustrations.