Episode One – The Phantom Menace
Barnsley Bear shuffled in from the kitchen with a tray, carrying a pot of steaming tea, his favourite china cup and a plate of freshly-baked honey biscuits, which he laid on the small table beside his chair. Then, with a groan of satisfaction, he sat down, ready to watch his favourite programme.
As he reached for the remote-control and the television flickered to life, he thought to himself that his was the most comfortable chair ever made, and he shuffled his bottom until he was perfectly settled.
Anne Robearson greeted him from the television with a stern glare which made Barnsley nearly spill the tea as he poured it.
"Steady on, Anne!" said Barnsley, chuckling, as he dunked a honey biscuit. "I don't think the old ticker can take shocks like that."
He liked 'The Bleakest Wink' but that ginger bear frightened him. Once, he had such a terrible nightmare that he woke up in a cold sweat, and couldn't get back to sleep until he checked under the bed to make sure she wasn't there.
"You are obviously an idiot," sneered Anne at one of the contestants, raising another chuckle from Barnsley, who sipped at the piping-hot tea. "As a binbear, you don't know that the atomic weight of Nitrogen is 14.0067 and NOT 15.9994... which is obviously Oxygen? "
The contestant began to cry.
At that moment, there was a tap-tap-tapping at the window... very much like the sound a dyslexic woodpecker would make.
"What on earth?" Barnsley asked himself.
He put down the cup of tea, and lifted wearily from his chair to investigate the noise.
With more puzzlement than shock, he watched the half-brick smash through his living-room window on a trajectory that led it to bounce from the top of his head and knock him solidly backwards into the arms of his comfy chair.
"Goodbye!" said Anne Robearson, winking from the television screen before Barnsley slipped into unconsciousness.
* * * * *
When Barnsley awoke, the Ambulancebear was covering a nasty wound on his forehead with vinegar and brown paper.
"Ouch!" said Barnsley, as his vision began to return.
"Sorry about that," said the Ambulancebear, securing the stinging paper bandage with butchers' string. "Management cutbacks I'm afraid."
The whirling image of Detective Sergeant Panda floated into view. "Listen Barnsley, I'm not mucking about with your problems any more. This is the nineteenth time bricks have been blown through your windows this month, so I suggest you contact the council. If I have to come over here again, I'm arresting you for murder - and you just see if I can't make it stick."
"But I didn't call you!"
Something solid swiped across the back of Barnsley's head and he looked around to see PC Polar turn away and replace his baton. He was eating the last of the honey biscuits.
"Needless to say, Barnsley, if you so much as think of calling us again..." continued DS Panda, "it will be the last phone-call you make as a free bear."
"But I don't even have a telephone... Oof!"
Barnsley rubbed the tender spot on the back of his head as PC Polar began to whistle innocently.
"Very well," said Barnsley, with a sigh of resignation.
"Good, good," said DS Panda, flashing a crooked smile. "Now," he carried on, turning to the Ambulancebear, "I suggest you have this bear checked out in hospital. We wouldn't want him dying on us now, would we?"
PC Polar sniggered.
"Well, I normally would," said the Ambulancebear, putting the ball of string back into his Tesco carrier-bag. "It's these cutbacks, though... the Hospital Manager had to sell the ambulance so he could get a nicer car. You know how it is; you can't get funding if you don't make the right impression, so he needs it for conferences and whatnot. I'm on my bike. Can’t you take him in your car?"
DS Panda muttered something sharply at the Ambulancebear.
"Right away," said Barnsley, wobbling to his feet. "Sugar and milk?"
The three uniformed bears looked at him with bewilderment.
"Four coffees? I think I've got a jar of Goldielocks Blend somewhere."
The Ambulancebear patted Barnsley on the shoulder. "You get some sleep. It seems you're having a little trouble hearing, so if you get any discharge from your ears later on, just plug it with cotton-wool and get yourself to the hospital in the morning?"
"Put the lights and siren on, Polar," whispered DS Panda to his assistant as they left with the Ambulancebear. "I'm late for my dinner because of that hairy wanker."
Barnsley sighed. He hated to cause trouble.
With a visit to the cupboard, he placed a wooden board over the smashed pane and nailed it into place. The wintry breeze still crept in.
After sweeping up the broken glass and washing his dishes, he turned off the television and the lights, and clambered up the stairs to his warm bed, which was cold.
* * * * *
With bleary eyes, and a wide yawn, Barnsley surveyed the damage in the light of day. There was nothing that couldn't be fixed with a little work, and he liked his little odd-jobs; they kept him busy. His only concern was a patch of dried blood in the carpet. It was too late to simply mop it out. He would need to make a visit to the village shop for some cleaner.
With that, he put on his coat and scarf - making sure he remembered his keys - and walked out of the front door, pulling it tight behind him.
It was a bitterly cold morning, but looked jolly seasonal with the layer of frost that covered the trees and buildings. The sound of swearing birds filled the air as Barnsley, with a spring in his step, paced down the street. It was all the circle of life, he thought, as he whistled to himself. Without the beauty of winter, he wouldn't have the joy of summer.
Pushing through the shop doorway, with a tinkle of the bell above his head, Barnsley loosened his scarf and approached the counter.
A beautiful young lady-bear stood behind the till.
She'd made quite an impression on Barnsley since she came to work in the village as part of her care-in-the-community rehabilitation programme.
"Hello there, Miss Bear," greeted Barnsley with a blush behind his fur.
"Good Morning," replied Miss Bear, before shouting "Woof!" at the till.
"I'm afraid I had a little trouble last night."
"What's with the... the... the... BUMPS on your head?" interrupted Miss Bear. "It makes you look like a ferr... a ferr... a FERRUCKING triceratops!"
"Oh Miss Bear, you do make me laugh with your observations."
Miss Bear looked past Barnsley with unblinking eyes. A slug of drool dribbled from the corner of her mouth and dangled from the fur on her chin.
"Well, I had a mishap last night and took a few bumps on the head," said Barnsley. "I have a bloodstain on the carpet, and I wondered if you stocked any stain-remover?"
Miss Bear blinked fast, returning to the land of the living.
"Yes? Can I f-f-f.... help you?" asked Miss Bear, before barking again.
"Erm. Perhaps I should have a look myself?" suggested Barnsley with a warm smile.
"Perhaps you should WHAT?" yelled Miss Bear at the counter.
Barnsley edged away from the till, and walked to the back of the shop. Miss Bear was definitely the loveliest bear he'd ever set eyes on, but he sometimes wondered if the assurances from the police and medical-assessor were true. But, he smiled, if her ex-boyfriend hadn't fallen on the scissors, that jury would have convicted her. That's the way the law worked.
Searching the shelves, Barnsley found a bottle of 'New Improved Remove-o-Blood'. The advertisement on the television said that it was even better at removing bloodstains from fabric than 'Remove-o-Blood', and that would be perfect.
He walked back to the counter, and Miss Bear slammed the till.
"Just this," said Barnsley, smiling and placing the bottle on the desk. "What do I owe you?"
"Thirty pounds!" screamed Miss Bear. “I don’t do it for less than thirty!”
Barnsley frowned. "But it says eighty-five pence on the bottle."
Miss Bear smiled, and keyed the eighty-five pence into the till. "Lovely weather?"
Back on familiar conversational ground, Barnsley took a twenty pound note from his wallet and handed it to Miss Bear. "I think we may have snow for Christmas this year." He looked through the window to the early-morning frost of Christmas Eve, and smiled at the hope of it being layered with white for the following day.
With a slap of her hand against the counter, Miss Bear stared at Barnsley.
Fifteen pence lay there.
Barnsley blinked hard. "But I gave you a twenty pound note?"
"Prove it," hissed Miss Bear, stuffing a crinkly piece of paper down the front of her trousers.
"Erm... I only had a twenty pound note..." said Barnsley, opening up the leather wallet and looking down to ensure he hadn't made a mistake.
As he checked, he heard the shop door slam behind him. Looking out through the window, and onto the street, he saw Miss Bear waving her arms in front of a large truck that had slid to a halt on the icy road before her.
Barnsley wondered what on Earth had happened. He rushed, as much as his tired legs would allow him, to the shop door, and pulled it open.
"He wanted me to kiss his dirty gerbil!" wailed Miss Bear to the truck driver, who was already climbing down from the cab. She pointed over to Barnsley.
The truck driver - a very large brown-bear - looked across to Barnsley with disgust. He rolled up his sleeves and stomped in the direction of the shop.
Barnsley quickly went back inside. He didn't like the look of things.
The truck driver pushed through the door and broke the bell, sending it spinning into a shelf of cornflakes. He sneered at a cowering Barnsley.
"She's playing a trick. I didn't do anything, honestly," whimpered Barnsley, stepping further and further into the back of the shop. "There's some sort of mistake."
The muscular truck driver cornered Barnsley and bared his teeth. "I'll show you what happens to mistakes."
Suddenly, a loud grumble startled both bears, and they turned around to see the headlights of the truck smash through the window of the shop...
* * * * *
The roaring fire lit the room with a soft orange glow. Barnsley lifted his son onto his knee, giving him a warm cuddle.
"And that was how I met your Mum." He smiled as he kissed the top of his boy's head.
Barnaby Bear looked up to his Father.
"After the coma, I was so surprised..." continued Barnsley.
Barnsley chuckled. "After the shop was destroyed she wasn't allowed to work there any longer. Can you imagine my surprise when the first face that greeted me, when I work up in hospital, was that of that same lovely bear from my own local shop?"
Barnaby was cross-eyed with perplexion.
"A clever man in the government thought it would be a good idea for those people under community supervision to help out in the hospitals, and he made your dear mother a nursing assistant,." explained Barnsley. "It's still a mystery who threw those bricks, though."
"Dad?" asked Barnaby.
"Yes, my boy?" Barnsley said, giving his son with a warm cuddle and a soft smile.
"You really are a ferrucking idiot, aren't you?"