Matilde and the Wise Bear
By Valerie L. Egar
In the fullness of the moon, when her parents were finally asleep, Matilde snuck downstairs. She laced up her warm boots and wrapped a woolen scarf around her head. She slipped her purple coat over her long pants and heavy sweater and buttoned it tight. The night outside was freezing and she had a long way to walk to find the wise bear.
Matilde pet her red cat who was sleeping on a soft pillow by the fire. “I love you, Kasimir,” she said. “I’ll be back by morning.” She shivered and thought about going back upstairs to bed, but that wouldn’t do. The first full moon of the first month was the only day the wise bear spoke, awakening briefly from his deep winter slumber to answer questions for those brave enough to find him and ask. Matilde opened the front door and stepped into the cold night.
With her walking stick in hand, she followed a path through the forest and felt the path get steeper as it began to wind up the mountain. She was grateful for the full moon’s silver light guiding her.
Higher and higher Matilde climbed. Her toes felt cold in her boots even with her woolen socks. The cold nipped at her nose and made her eyes tear. Finally she saw the opening of a cave. Moonlight shone into the cave and Matilde approached the entry cautiously. “Hello?” she whispered.
“Rrrrrrr!” A mighty growl echoed off the cave’s walls and Matilde jumped back.
She took a deep breath and approached the cave again. “It’s the first full moon of the year,” she said. “You’re the wise bear and I have a question.”
“Go away!” growled the bear. “I have no time for little girls with silly questions.”
Matilde held her ground. She knew she was getting somewhere, because the bear was talking, just like the legend said. She stamped her foot. “How do you know it’s a silly question when you haven’t even heard it yet?”
“Girls always ask silly questions,” grumbled the bear. “’Does Billy like me more than John?’ ‘Would I look prettier if I were blonde?’ ‘Will I marry a rich man?’ I have no time for that nonsense. Go to a fortune teller!”
Now, Matilde was angry. “If you’re so wise like everyone says, why are you so STUPID about girls? I suppose boys only ask important questions like which football team is going to win. You’re a fraud!” Matilde turned to go.
The bear sat up and wiped the sleep from his eyes. “OK. You’ve made your point. I’m grumpy when I first wake up. “
“That’s no excuse.”
“OK. I’m sorry. Silly questions annoy me and you’re right, boys ask them, too.”
“My question isn’t silly.”
The bear yawned. “Well, I hope you didn’t wake me up to ask one of those hard questions no one can answer like, ‘What is truth?’ or “What is beauty?’ I’m no philosopher. I hate questions like that, too.”
“You’re awfully picky aren’t you?”
“Not really. If people haven’t figured out what those things mean in thousands of years, how am I supposed to know?”
Matilde sighed. The bear was nothing like she imagined and she wasn’t sure meeting him was worth the cold hike up the mountain.
“So what’s your question?”
Matilde looked into the bear’s eyes. “I want to be a writer. I want to write stories that make people smile and books that people like so much they share them with friends. Do you think I can be a writer?”
“Do you have a pencil, or a pen?” the bear asked.
“Do you have paper, any kind of paper?”
“And you say you have ideas?
“Yes, lots of them.”
The bear shrugged. “Then you can be a writer. What are you waiting for?” The bear yawned and slumped over, falling back to sleep.
Matilde tucked the pillow she’d made and filled with sweet grass under his head to say thank you.
All the way home she repeated over and over, “All I need to do is begin.” The year was new and she was ready.
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Copyright 2018 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied or reproduced without permission from the author.
Published January 7, 2018 Journal Tribune Sunday (Biddeford, ME)