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What do you see in the life of an exhibit? A boy returns to the nursery of two cubs to explore the journey of a photograph, caught by a whirlwind driven by a looking glass.
He withheld the symbolic moment of a time long lost, as he stood aside the far reaches of the wardrobe – a forgotten corner beneath the layers of jumpers and sweatshirts marking the transition of lifehood, like the icy winds of a winter’s gale drowning the past in shadowed vapors. Snowflakes. It was a little brown baby, jumping just a slight inch upwards, what with his bright-eyed cry of laughter. The boy sat beside, uttering a laugh so uncabined and unrestrained his now parted lips could once again breathe the dusty meadows anew on the apex of a much portentous sight! But the silence pursued. He paused, while the brown wee fed on the boy’s own bottle, raising his paws in the sun-kissed demeanor of a prancing grizzly.
The Opening Line
This title is under the Peabody Collection
The brown little thing was won through a battle of steel iron, wrought hammers, and hoops found in the arcade. Like a haughty little paratrooper he gallivanted down the shelves, allowing himself to be presented in the most winning smile. In the arms of the boy he nestled, to fight the fears of sullen night with an unabashed smirk, an earnest muzzle, a mischievous paw, and eleven hundred sprouts of golden ruffled fur. The two became inseparable, and the boy made him win in all the games they played. There was the local cook-off within the circle of the bizarre menagerie. But neither the frogs nor the birds would stand a chance against the sunshine ball of fur and his phantasmagorical cup of coffee – a dish so chosen for his brilliant fur coat. Not the flamingo’s strawberry shortcake or the princely frog’s key lime pie. Then there were the carnival games and the woodland best animal contest, where the golden bear somehow won the best sweets and candy, in no small part due to the wanton eagerness of his curious sparkling forehead.
But then came a strange new member. A little black creature with deep, dark, round, beady eyes. There was just something about him, inside that deep reddish-brown fur coat. He looked like a squirrel, what with his extended arms and legs that made him look like he was carrying an acorn or pine nut whenever he was seated. Captivated by mystery, and the solitude of silence, the boy stared. He gazed particularly at the triangular mark pointing his round football face down to his little felt nose. A most gentle creature, sitting in quiescence while tilting his languid head to inspect the inspector. Thus for a long time, the grizzly lost his glow.
As the seasons changed, over many springs and salmon runs, the two bears settled. The genteel pint of bittersweet dark chocolate became adept at climbing and hiding while the rambunctious honey bun developed an all too fastidious prance in bouncing up and down on both head and bottom. Yet they would still fit in the palm my hand, for they could not grow. With a zest of haughty energy, the golden plume blossomed into a precocious know-it-all in all areas, not limited to differential calculus and advanced thermonuclear astrodynamics, while the timorous chocochip swirled into a reflective pensive of literary brooding.
They shaped him. He gave this world a name – PAWdale. His sisters joined in and soon an experimental society with unlimited resources flourished. The arrogant golden-brown scientist Bruiny (Dr. B. Whittington) established a legal money printing process which allowed him to manipulate the global economy. But what was really exciting was that pink, pulsating mouth amid the herd – the ginormous symbol of towering oppression which the queen hippo used to terrorize her so-called commoners.
Before long, Pawdale had PhDs, undiscovered elements, 500th-Century English, Bruiny’s 5 Laws of Motion, and Gravitational Comet Tractors. The crew, tasked to force by the sunshine grizzly, formed a secret cabal, organizing protests in their weekly G8 meetings, infiltrating offices and systems in their bid to provide stultifyingly simple solutions to the world’s most complex problems.
Thus Pawdale thrived. It became a means for the adolescent to enter his sisters’ worlds. Through stories and tales, they bantered over the superficiality of global events and what should be done, all under the eventide starlight of another eventful day. His coffee bear would chair the weekly G8 meetings, while the sisters each had their roles with the monarchist bumbling hippo and the goofy frog-prince of frivolity – whose real-world representations were caricatured in jest.
But beyond the joys of the garrulous storytelling he had with Pawdale, it was his two bears who shaped his growth. They became an extension of his self. Bruiny was the fiery bomb of ambition and opinion, while the dark brown Kokie, whose beady eyes gazed languidly, was the bard of poetry and wisdom. And it was the eyes, those gazing eyes...
Walking closer down the hallway, I look up at the two brown bears encased in the exhibit. My, they are huge, unlike the image of the suckling cub in my picture resurrected from their sideways gaze. At once I saw again the golden ruffled fur and the curious glee of seagull-chasing happiness in the cub-like creature of my eternal childhood. I stared right at the big bear and he stared right back at me through the glass. I looked into his eyes, till I came to the semblance of the beady eyes looking directly at me.
‘A man who loves the ways of the past, the works of Dickens, Austen, Brontë, and Shakespeare grace his black wooden bookshelf. But there is no other book he likes better than that blue-covered one. ‘Wuthering Heights’, it is called. Times they would see him with a nightlight, struggling to unravel the meaning behind those metaphors. I would hear him say how he could have written it in a previous life...
From my point of vantage, three paintings grace his room. No, they are not all originals silly – just laminated printouts. There is the Mona Lisa, the Scream, and a real oil painting he bought from a merchant dealer in Cambridge. His older sisters would rather avoid the first two, but he insists on them – one for its languid peaceful dream-like quality, the other for its thematic functions. He would always gaze at the hands of the Mona Lisa, and perhaps marvel at those eyes which seem to follow him everywhere he goes.
At times he would disappear into the dining hall, where I would hear a clumsily construed piece of Schumann or Arensky. Nice compositions they are, but he has yet to master piano. He would often tell his sisters how the Intermezzo of Faschingsschwank aus Wien, Op. 26 by Schumann sounds. He liked the mystical quality of the E-flat minor, and the right-hand leaps that so projected a graceful image of poignant love, as I would hear him muse.
But one thing I have not figured out is that personal vision board he hangs in his room. Within it is a poem titled ‘A Little Piece of Me’, which he wrote himself. In it lie some grand ideas on the golden chariot and the ultra-history of men, which try as I could, I cannot comprehend. His deepest, innermost thoughts lie locked within those words. Even his sisters would sometimes wonder. That is one thing, one final piece of the puzzle, which I cannot resolve. I have my own theories, but even if I knew, I wouldn’t tell. You would have to befriend him to find out.’
And so he looked at me, and I at him, pondering how the world would look like through alternative perspectives – through different people, different objects, or a dark brown bear sitting on a bookshelf ledge. The two large specimens beyond the veil, made nothing more of cloth and wool, had such life in them. I turn around, casting one last glance at the two furry pals chasing seagulls, remembering the pictures of memories from decades past, before pulling down the light switch of the Peabody, where hundreds more would come to see themselves through the looking glass diffusing these halls.