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The International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: Dreamscapes Fiction

Joe the Bear
Adam Graupe

Joe, a 500-pound Brown Bear, worked for Pine Tech Incorporated. He plodded away from the time clock, down the hallway and slumped down into the chair in his cubicle. There he sat and read the emails from his inbox. Sharon, a Kodiak, sat in the cubicle to his left and Nancy, another Brown Bear, sat in the cubicle to his right. Every day at 10 a.m. either Sharon or Nancy telephoned the other and they gossiped with Joe hearing their every word.

During today’s conversation, Joe put his hands over his ears and yet he still heard snippets of conversation:
"The thing about her is she is such a slob"
"He is a hog"
"I’m not one to gossip but did you know she had weight loss surgery three years ago and gained all the weight back?"
"She doesn’t know how to do her job"
"He is on an all-you-can-eat diet"
"He is on a west-coast diet"
"Boys that age are so disgusting"
"You know how she is"
"She didn’t know what she was doing"
"All men are disgusting at that age or any age"
" I told her"
"You know about…"

They volleyed snippets of gossip like a tennis ball back and forth over a net, and Joe tried to ignore the gossip but it stuck to him like gum on the bottom of his shoe and spread throughout his brain and he tried to shake their attitudes away but they stuck.

Suddenly, Nancy exclaimed, "oh my gawd here comes that bitch Ms. Jenkins gotta go!"
The phones slammed shut in unison and then Joe heard, "Hi, Ms. Jenkins," from Nancy and Sharon. Ms. Jenkins murmured something to them and said hello to Joe.

Joe turned and eyed Ms. Jenkins the manager with embarrassment. Ms. Jenkins, a divorcee, was a Grizzly Bear with dyed blonde hair who wore a too high skirt and a too low-cut blouse and had sparkled glitter applied to the top of her chest. He averted his eyes and looked at Bob who stood next to her. Bob, a Dwarf Panda, was pudgy and balding. He nodded to Joe.

Ms. Jenkins purred to Joe, "I need you to drive Bob here to Mischke Tech for a meeting on their new specifications for our 10-289’s. I know this is short notice, but their meeting is in two hours. Can you go?"

Ten minutes later Joe sat behind the wheel of his Honda and Bob rode shotgun. Joe said to Bob, "Some days I feel like I can’t go on like this anymore. I’m getting old. I just want to lie down and sleep for six months. Do you ever feel like that?"
"Well," Bob said, munching on some salmon chips from a bag, "can’t say that I feel that way at all."
"I don’t know, Bob, I just feel burned out. And my wife sits at home all day writing poetry about her dissatisfaction with life, and the minute I walk in the door, she wants to recite it to me. After listening to Nancy and Sharon gossip all day I just want to put on earplugs, go on the internet, and play Honey Hive. I tell you I am just sick of it all."
"At least you have a wife," Bob said while trying to retrieve a salmon chip that fell on the muddy floor mat, "I don’t know if you heard but Jill left me for a Black Bear last fall after my DWI."

Joe knew all about the DWI. Sharon mentioned it to Nancy several times. "I don’t know if you are so unlucky," Joe said. "To top it off, my mother-in-law is coming to visit us this weekend, and she always has to point how her daughter deserves to have a new car and a pool and a piano and house where there is more than one bedroom. Then she mentions the saint of all saints, her dead husband, who had the sense to take out a big life insurance policy before he dropped dead of a heart attack while working double shifts at the trout farm. Then she’ll look at me and ask ‘why don’t you pick some extra hours up at Pine Tech or try to get a promotion?’ And I’ll think of how wonderful it would be to work more hours with Nancy or Sharon. I tell you the more I hate my job the cheaper I get. I don’t want to spend anything because I don’t want to be further in debt where I have to work more hours to pay for the stuff I don’t need."

Bob jerked to his right and locked his door. "Uh, Joe, I think you missed the turn there a couple miles back. This is a bad looking neighborhood. Lock your door."

Joe looked to his left and noticed some Polar Bears standing at a street corner. He had been caught-up voicing his troubles and didn’t notice he missed the turn for the interstate. He noticed there were Polar Bears standing about everywhere. His heartbeat raced. They were stuck in near standstill traffic.
Bob pointed to a gang of Polar Bears and said, "oh my gawd! Those guys are dealing."

Joe looked and watched as one Polar Bear exchanged cash for a catfish with some Brown Bear cubs. Another Polar Bear spotted Joe’s Honda and hustled over. Joe used his left elbow to push the door lock down. The Polar Bear wore pants his pants so ridiculously low that you could almost see his tail. The Polar Bear whispered, "Hey Buddy, want to make a score?"
Joe shook his head no and tried to pull forward but the traffic only moved at one to two mph. The Polar Bear strutted next to Joe’s Honda and yelled aloud to some other gang members, "Hey, watch me walk like a Brown Bear!" He parted the top of his hair like Joe’s and walked in a comical fashion with his teeth showing. Joe wanted to crawl under the car seat. The Polar Bear flashed a Saturday Night Special Pistol from his waistband and Joe felt terrified. He prayed to himself, "If I can just get out of this I’ll be happy with my lot in life. No more complaining."

Fortunately, the stoplight turned green and the oncoming lane of traffic was empty. As the Polar Bear shambled toward Joe waving the pistol, Joe swerved into the empty lane and accelerated to 60 mph. Bob exclaimed, "There’s the freeway!" Joe steered toward the interstate ramp and they found salvation.

Thirty minutes later, as they walked up to the steps to the meeting Bob congratulated Joe for escaping from the Polar Bear. Joe thought he would reward himself with a new Twelve Gauge shotgun for the humanoid hunting trip that he and his brother had planned for this fall. "It’ll set me back a bit and I’ll have to use a credit card to pay for it but I deserve it." Joe tried to push away feeling of guilt about the cost, and he tried to forget about how he would have to work more hours at the job he hated to pay for it.

© Adam Graupe May 2009
totalratbag at

Adam Graupe’s first work, a regrettable essay speculating on the future of "the information superhighway," originally appeared in Futurics in 1997. Since ending a ten year hiatus he has been published in, Slow Trains Literary Journal, Midnighttimes, Pen Pusher Magazine, Scars Publications, Nuvein Online Magazine, Ovi Magazine,and Burst.

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