The Not-So-Amazing Dancing Bears by Jason Darrell

"You lot are beyond useless!" Cuth'bear yelled, stomping his cotton-padded foot on the moss-covered forest floor. The Teddy 'bear-come-choreographer cursed the futility, pirouetted 180°, and sashayed back to the Grade II listed building he and his dance troupe called home.

It was happening more often. After little Maria disappeared for her Wednesday play date, the 'bears would head into the woods, as they'd always done. The picnic 'n' punch in their paws provided the preamble for dance practice, as always. But recently, someone had taken to spiking said punch.

The result? Sacrilege! 32 not-so-amazing bears became hopelessly sozzled out of their furry little heads, with nary a dance step executed, nor a pas de deux entreated.

Instead, the 'bears would use the gingham blankets to pretend they were SuperTed, face-plant into the leaves upon which those blankets had erstwhile lain, or ignore everything to get fresh with each other.

Yes, there were girl and boy 'bears. But it was so difficult to tell; in vino veritas, libido obfuscated gender.

Oh, Cuth'bear knew the culprit. And why he did it. Bill, of course. And no wonder after all the 'bears teased him for not having a proper "'bear" name. But that was no excuse for sabotage! Next time, Cuth'bear would be prepared.

***

"Are you lot ready?" Cuth'bear asked the following Wednesday, struggling to contain his mirth.

Mass cheering and paw-rubbing confirmed they were. Bill was the exception, skulking to the side, unaware that the smirk would soon be wiped off his face.

How so? The previous night, Cuth'bear, with the assistance of his brothers Dibble and Grub (also un-"'bear" names, but socially acceptable by association), had supplanted all the vodka for flat lemonade. So far, Bill remained seemingly ignorant.

Dibble and Grub had been up for the sortie, of course. But with a caveat: they kept the extricated vodka.

To Cuth'bear, they appeared to have disposed of the evidence already. Nonplussed, he set out, Dibble and Grub each leading a team of 16-strong 'bears, which constituted the troupe. Once in the safety of the woods, they plunged into the picnic.

It took them less than a minute to figure out that the punch lacked its usual kick. For a change, they were alert, and both the blankets and 'bears remained unmolested.

Despite their whinging, the sober troupe put on an amazing performance. Al'bear and Eliza'bear tangoed with searing passion, abstaining from copulating amidst the copse. Bear'trand and Bear'tha managed to keep their paws where they belonged during the foxtrot.

Even Bill, whom Cuth'bear thought would play merry hell, was a vision of exacting precision. And the troupe-choreographed showstopper moved Cuth'bear to tears!

The timing couldn't have been better. In three weeks, it was the Toytown Stickly Come Dancing final. 'By Jove,' he thought, 'We may just have a chance.'

***

"Got the stuff?" Bill whispered, knowing what he risked sneaking past the humans and leaving the house alone at night. But desperate needs…

"You know what to do," replied a muffled voice from inside the tin box.

"Not this again?" Bill muttered. But, it was a small price to pay for the reward; he began winding.

The tines twanged, the coil tightened, then, Prang! The lid audibly popped and out sprang Jack. Do 'bears shit in the woods? Absolutely. And this 'bear nearly pooped right there in the garden shed where he'd arranged this clandestine transaction with Jack-in-the-Box.

Bill cursed as Jack laughed uncontrollably atop his erratically boing!ing spring.

"Your moonshine, sir," Jack tittered, handing over the brown paper bag once he and his spring had settled.

"I'm sure one of the Action Jacks back home is a welder," Bill growled, snatching the 100% proof booze before disappearing into the night, chased by Jack's echoing snickers.

***

So, here they were: in the final. Bill's expected retaliation hadn't materialised; Cuth'bear assumed — hoped — his adversary had relented for the troupe's sake.

Indeed, Bill had even volunteered for BoomBox duty, essential for the troupe's act. Dibble and Grub had been put in charge of the refreshments. And now they were all in the theatre's belly, undergoing final prep for the showstopper.

Dibble and Grub circulated the orange juice; their merriment, Cuth'bear assumed, was joy resulting from reaching the finale.

The one fact Cuth'bear had overlooked was that his brothers were easily bought. Hadn't he used it to his own advantage not four weeks hence?

So, when the buoyant mood turned flippantly flirtatious, ripples of dread crept over Cuth'bear's fur. A familiar lascivious look glinted in the glass eyes of the 'bears: finally, it was here: Bill's revenge!

In one way, it was a relief. But it also bode much worse. Normally abstinent, learning his lesson long ago, Cuth'bear had let his guard down. Tonight, he'd unwittingly swigged several alcohol-laden measures; now, the supercharged screwdriver was skewing his increasingly insouciant judgement.

He wanted to chastise Bill, but it was too late. Cuth'bear had become euphoric, giggling with the rest by the time the Tannoy announced their final routine.

"Come on," he tittered, "we can still do this!"

A positive roar echoed around the changing room; Bill was already off up the stairs ahead of them.

Now came the scorned 'bear's piece de resistance. Assailing the landing, he stopped, turned, set down the BoomBox, and hit play. The tune that titivated the machine's tweeters roused another cheer from the troupe.

The Gap Band's low guttural chant filled the stairwell, cascading onto the ascending 'bears. Taking their cue almost hypnotically, they shuffled across to each side of the stairs in their respective teams. Even Cuth'bear deposited himself as choreographer extraordinaire midway up the royal blue staircase.

The song's timbre escalated, its infectious beat underpinning the legendary repetitive chorus: "Oops upside yo head, I say, oops upside yo head…"

Before long, the spectacle had descended into what one reporter subsequently headlined "Ken and Barbie Win Stickly Leaving Bears Behind With Come Dancing Improv (Oops!)"

Cuth'bear and his troupe weren't invited back.


Published in Issue #26


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