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The Waiting Room

~ Chapter Eighty

The Bear

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The bear lumbered forward, clumsy on its' two back feet, sending Barrie back two steps. It gave a low growling, baring its' teeth.
Barrie heard the chilling sound of gun hammers.

“Do stop, me friends. Porthos means no harm. He has just missed me. Nothing more, nothing less.” The author let down his hands, allowing the bear to fall to all fours.

Barrie glanced around the Room to still see weapons pointed in the bear’s direction.

He turned to face them all, putting his back to the giant carnivore. The bear called Porthos nudged him from behind as if begging for him to play. He reached back and placed a hand on the bear’s head and pushed, trying to keep the grizzly from shoving him.

“Porthos, please, I am trying to talk here,” the Scotsman tried to reason with the beast.

The bear backed up and sat down on its haunches.

“He understands you?” Gilbert asked, mesmerized by the animal, never having been so close to a creature of this magnitude before.

“Of course,” Barrie said surprised by the question. “All God’s creatures understand. Ye just have to know what to say and how ye be saying it.”

“What a bunch of crap!” Jung shouted as he finally found his missing gun. He wondered how it had gotten into the ice chest behind the bar. He checked the clip, then stuck it in the waistband of his pants. He then recalled why the gun had been there. Carefully he felt beneath the bar ledge above the chest and found the hidden packet. He remembered placing the gun down in the chest as he taped the packet under the bar. He must have been so high he left the weapon behind. With a flick he removed the packet of white powder and stuffed it in his shirt pocket. A little something for later.

“I can assure ye Mr. Jung, that it is not ‘crap’ as you so eloquently put it in your American way. I am quite capable of communicating with this creature and all creatures, be they of God’s good earth or more ethereal beings, like fairies.”

“Hey Mort!” Jung shouted across the Room. “Still got that shovel of yours? Cause I think it’s getting deep in s--t around here!” The drug king gave a laugh so hard his belly shook.

Mort ignored the question and kept his eyes on the man and beast in the center of the Room. He watched as Gilbert made his way, cautiously, towards both.

“Can I pet him?” Gilbert asked timidly.

“Of course ye can, lad. There is no need to be afraid of Porthos.” The Scotsman said, his ‘r’s” rolling off his tongue in elegant Scottish brogue.

“Just pat him here, on his head. He likes that best,” Barrie instructed, taking Gilbert’s hand and guiding him to the top of the creature's skull. The other men could see a slight tremor in the young stock boy’s hand as he made contact with fur.

The bear turned towards Gilbert, moving his large, round head for a better pat, a cry emitting deep from his chest. The sound frightened the boy and he quickly withdrew his hand for fear that the bear was about to have it for lunch.

“No, no,” Barrie said disappointingly. “Don’t be afraid. He was just telling ye he liked the patting. Here, like this, see? Scratch his head hard.” Barrie demonstrated, digging his fingers beneath the brown mat of fur. “Go ahead, ye try young Gilbert.”

Again, hesitantly, Gilbert Grape touched the bear’s head, then with more confidence, scratched the animal who seemed to be delighted by the attention.

“Ye got it, lad. That’s it. Good and brisk, that’s all old Porthos likes it, don’t ye fellow?”

The bear gave a high cry, giving its' attention briefly to Barrie then returned to Grape.

Gilbert smiled. “I can’t believe I’m petting a bear. A real bear.” His heart was beating, racing, at the thought. Arnie would love this, he thought.

Arnie? He had forgotten for the moment. Where was Arnie? Had he been back to the window? Did he miss him go by today?

“Thank you, Mr. Barrie. I enjoyed this. I have to get back to the window now,” and with that, Gilbert stepped away from man and bear and found his spot where he could keep a watch out for his brother.

Slowly, one by one, others came forward to pet Porthos. DeMarco insisted on escorting his lovely dove, BonBon, just as a precaution against any sudden change in the bear’s temperament.

“I am right here, my love,” he assured her as she placed her manicured hand upon the bear. DeMarco smiled as he watched.

“You remind me of that fairy tale…Beauty and the Beast…you two are a vision together.” DeMarco commented. BonBon gave a shy smile of her own then returned to her seat, DeMarco not far from her side.

The only one who had not ventured to pet Porthos had been Sands. Barrie asked if he would like to come and pet the creature.

“No thanks, Scotty,” Sands replied. “I can think of better things I’d like to be doing with that bear.”

“Ye are a crude, crude man, Agent Sands,” Barrie answered back.

“Nah, my friend, just truthful. Just telling the truth.” Sands confessed as he leaned back in his chair and dreamed of a bear roast with scotch-whiskey gravy.


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