Stories

Every globetrotter’s dream is to travel to the point in the northern hemisphere furthest away from the equator – the North Pole. To this very spot, where the sun doesn’t set between mid March and September, where the wilderness is white and the tears in men’s eyes turn to ice, Mr Pye is due to travel today.

The gods subjected travelling companions to the pleasures of travel. A gentle teddy can be lucky or unlucky on his travels – ours of course is almost never unlucky. Quite the opposite. He is accompanied by a freshly qualified polar explorer, who is actually not very loquacious in the company of men but always enjoys patiently explaining things to Mr Pye.

‘Why do women freeze before men? Women have more fat and therefore produce less heat’, he is just explaining. ‘They also radiate heat quicker.’

So that’s why my girlfriends are so fond of going south, concludes Mr Pye.

The polar explorer has suffered since his childhood from a dust mite allergy. And for this very reason he sees to it that our gentle teddy takes part in regular trips to the North Pole, for the mites, as tiny as they are ugly, freeze to death there in no time. ‘Oh take me to the merry land, where so much ice abounds’, he sings vibrantly as he prepares for the off.

‘Be grateful that you aren’t human’, he breathes into Mr Pye’s ear as he removes his shirt. ‘The human body puts up a fight when it gets too cold. It’s triggered by special sensors in the skin, which register the cold and activate the body’s defence mechanism via the nerves. First the person shivers – a sort of muscular reaction which produces warmth but unfortunately uses a lot of energy as well. Then the skin dries out – below eight degrees it stops making fat, you see, and starts to crack. Yes, and if all the shivering doesn’t bring any relief, the body takes countermeasures: the muscles become more rigid, the concentration slackens and unconsciousness occurs.’

Mr Pye comes over all queasy. He would really like to come up with an appropriate quotation: People don’t go to the North Pole. They go to the office, have a row with their wife and eat soup! But unfortunately the author’s name has escaped him and now somehow the quotation has, too. At all events, normal people obviously don’t find things easy. How cold can they get before freezing to death? Perhaps it isn’t at all wise to go to the Arctic. Of course the journey only gets really exciting if you don’t know in the morning whether you’ll be having supper in a well heated polar station or wandering around on your own in the boundless icy wilderness of the Arctic. Ocean with no sign of a station to shelter you. But what happens if you lose your gloves to a sudden blast of the polar wind and your hands immediately freeze solid and are in no condition to open your rucksack or – worse still – to operate the radio?

‘Flesh freezes in seconds at minus 40 degrees,’ the polar explorer bangs on, ‘Fingers don’t take much longer. Of course cold also has a protective function. Therefore the brain and other parts of the body which all run on oxygen are quite, rapidly run down so that hardly any oxygen is needed. But deep cold can also kill you very quickly.’

While Mr Pye is thinking he’d rather not visit the North Pole, the polar explorer continues to prepare for the journey. ‘Our polar station,’ he says in a reassuring voice, ‘is a proper miracle of high tech. It has an antibacterial shield, separate refrigerated zones with varying temperatures, an intelligent energy saving system and catalysers which prevent unpleasant smells. You can survive in there for a fortnight, and the curative effect is immense. The dust mites which trigger my asthma are despatched to their happy hunting grounds along with any moths that happen to have got into your fur.’

OK, if that’s the way it is. Mr Pye is already sitting in the freezer and admiring the Arctic, which of course is nothing more than a Great Bear to him. But where on earth is the polar explorer off to now?

. . . . .

By the way, there are bears that can sing songs, encourage people and answer questions. Some of them seem happy, others sad; a few claim to be bored, while the really bright ones appear to be interested in everything. About two billion teddies exist on earth. One of them is a fairly hairy type with a long sort of sewn up muzzle, to whom one can confide anything: Mr Pye.Nothing is known of his birthplace; of the rumour that he was adopted by a crippled seamstress and spent his early years from 1903 to 1907 by a river, he has in principle nothing to say.

According to unconfirmed collectors’ reports, Mr Pye stayed for a while in an international city; that may have been fifty or ten years ago and/or in a capital city. Our gentle teddy refuses to confirm such personal biographical details and remains unflustered about the matter precisely because he wishes to go down in history as an ageless cosmopolitan.

Whether Mr Pye speaks several languages, has studied psychology, likes sitting in pubs, wears tinted contact lenses, prefers genuine mohair to cheap plush, suffers from attacks of migraine or moth and has special quirks or none at all, one should not inquire of him. To say nothing of attempts to discover his true gender. In Mr Pye’s circles, such things are unseemly.

Was it Mr. Pye that the President of a World Power used to talk to in particularly serious situations? Did he possibly have a pseudonym for a while and go motor racing up to 1967? Can he claim to have been the favourite travelling companion of a famous authoress? Did Mr Pye even inspire a musician to write the hit Just Want To Be You Teddy Bear? Maybe, or maybe not.

So what can we be sure of? First, of this much: Mr Pye has no sympathy for trick or any other personal questions. He refuses to bare his soul to anyone. But as for personal research into any possible events in his vicinity he always sits or stands at the ready.

. . . . .

Football? On principle, Mr Pye reserves his opinion on emotionally-charged subjects. He puts up no resistance when taken along to home and international football matches, however. Even on miserably cold days he sits calmly and comfortably on the lap of his football-crazy girlfriend and waits for the goals, own goals and penalty goals which turn a football ground into a madhouse. Even when there hasn’t been a goal by the 88th minute and the fans are already quite hoarse with impatience, he still sits there calmly and comfortably, for a well-bred teddy doesn’t go in for last-minute panic.

At home matches, anyway, he most enjoys watching the deceptively genuine-looking bear with the fat furry backside who rides laps round the pitch at half-time on a motor-bike. This loudly hooting bear usually gets far more applause than the players on the pitch. And when the fans demand at the top of their voices: ‘Show us your bollocks!’, Mr Pye is always pleasantly relieved that the mascot keeps his furry costume firmly closed.

What particularly excites Mr Pye at the football ground are the unpredictable leaps of his girlfriend, which result in him first suddenly tumbling from her lap and then being picked up and kissed all over. ‘Gooooooooal!’ Strangely, however, she remains there as if nailed to the seat whenever a small group of differently dressed fans in the other stand jumps up and shouts ‘Gooooooooal!’ She probably wants to spare me too many tumbles from her lap, he surmises.

There are also matches in which goals are scored which never once make his girlfriend jump up and dance her drunken victory dance on the benches. ‘We’ve lost, Mr Pye,’ she then says meekly. ‘If our defence goes on inviting shots like some fairground shooting-gallery, we’re going down.’

During last Sunday’s game no fewer than five wonderful goals were scored, which were all extensively and knowledgeably commented on by his girlfriend, but which seemed to leave her emotionally completely unaffected. She didn’t jump up once and didn’t mention going down either. At his questioning look she smiled understandingly and said: ‘It’s a friendly international between two foreign teams. We’re only here because the tickets were free.’

Mr Pye was lost for words. Surely only football can be as mad as that. The referee makes a quick decision and whistles irrevocably for a goal, and the spectators either go berserk with joy, collapse as if they’ve been struck by misfortune, or fail to react at all. We all need goals, he subsequently reflects, but a goal is only a goal.

Nonetheless, it is uncommonly delightful to sit there quietly enjoying life on one’s girlfriend’s lap surrounded by colourfully dressed maniacs and watch a fat bear riding round in a circle at half-time. Goals or no goals, it couldn’t really matter less. It’s all part of life’s rich pattern.

. . . . .

Many Bears Are Simply Too Fat, runs the headline in a daily paper, which a milliner has just enjoyably rubbed his face in. Excuses are not his style and are vain in any case, because the slim young woman leaves him no time to get a word in.

‘It’s bad enough that more and more people are overweight,’ she says. ‘Now their teddies are starting to get a taste for high calorie fast food as well. Here it is in black and white: bears that live in close proximity to people are on average one third heavier than their cousins living in the woods. They don’t move around enough, so they put on thick rolls of fat and get lazier and lazier with all that cuddling.’

Mr Pye is not sure whether to be pleased or embarrassed about this. As far as he knows, bears are by nature ungainly walkers with short, thick necks. Whether an Ursus arctos or an Ursus americanus weighs a pound more or a pound less, he couldn’t care the slightest little bit.

‘lt’s enough to drive you crazy,’ continues the milliner with passion. ‘We are finally living free from any threat to our lives from wild animals, we can lie down on the sofa after work and read all about miracle diets, and then this. Who wants to sit next to an overweight and lethargic teddy?’

Mr Pye tries to furrow his brow in sympathy, but doesn’t quite manage it.

‘I think you could do with a nice little diet!’
A thought flashes through Mr Pye’s mind: this woman doesn’t understand the laws of biology. Of course he is always ready for a lark of any conceivable kind, but not to go on a diet! A diet would cause ravenous hunger and attacks of gluttony to torment him; and the most serious damage to his health, like a heart attack, meningitis and the collapse of his immune system would be the tragic result. He would really like to ask his mistress what sort of a diet ravaged gentle teddy she owned, with his chronically high blood sugar level, arterial sclerosis and diabetes mellitus – but he decides as a precaution to signal something like agreement by a deep growl, and, when hugging his girlfriend in future, always to hold in his tummy as unobtrusively as possible.

. . . . .

Was Mr Pye ever subjected to an identity check, paw-printed and photographed? When our gentle teddy heard this – in his opinion not very funny – question at a bear festival, he thanked his maker for his, as it were, buttoned-up composure. A stem-looking woman in a grey suit clearly had plans for him. At any rate she took him with her onto the platform, switched on an overhead projector and introduced herself to the many bear-lovers present. Mr Pye felt very ill at ease in front of so many people, particularly as the questions which this woman was asking in his presence somehow just remained there in the room.

‘About the eyes: if made of glass, are they just inserted rods of extruded glass? Is the edge translucent or underpainted? Are the buttons made of metal, plastic or porcelain? Do the eyes close or are they even lit by battery?’

What is all this nonsense about? Mr Pye would have very much liked to interpolate, but a gentle teddy doesn’t do that.

‘When and where bought, and at what price? Have you got the documentation? How reliable is it? Is it date-stamped? Is it protected by any marking? What is the exact size – that is, sitting and standing? Do the individual limbs move or are they fixed?’

Mr Pye didn’t move an inch, particularly as the lady emphasized her taxonomy by pointing embarrassingly at parts of his body.

‘Now the voice: growler or bleater? Is there a phonograph inside with a song and words? For the fur, all sorts of material were and are used: genuine and imitation mohair, felt, wool, cotton, real fur, silky satin, Trevira, Niki, plush, Dralon, synthetic web plushes, man-made fibres of every kind. A textile specialist ought to draw up the specification.’

The woman paused for a moment and drank a gulp of water. Mr Pye used the opportunity to make frighteningly large eyes at her – but she immediately continued unflustered:

‘How about the insides? Straw? Wood shavings or wood-wool? Cotton perhaps? Is it synthetic? They used blobs of foam from 1955 on. Polystyrene was only introduced as a filling in 1969.’

Your suit isn’t made out of pure cotton, anyway, concluded Mr Pye, and was then thoroughly astonished to find her pulling at his ears.

‘The important thing is: are they sewn on or an integral part of the head? And the nose — is it embroidered or painted? Made of felt or of plastic? Has he got a large mouth? Is it pointed or round and short? Is it open? Can you see the tongue or the teeth? Has he got a tail? Is it long, short or a stump?’

Mr Pye stared involuntarily at the sizeable crowd of people respectfully applauding the expert and felt like an age-old teddy who would grimly bare his white glass teeth when pressed in the tummy. But the woman in the grey suit remained unimpressed. She was just explaining to her audience that 78% of all teddy bears have at least one decaying tooth…

. . . . .

Mr Pye has gone! Simply disappeared! The little girl sat in a heap on the bed and wailed non stop: ‘Where’s Mr Pye gone?’

Hour after hour of feverish searching went by – but no sign of Mr Pye. It was as if the earth had swallowed our gentle teddy up. Unbelievable. Never before had he been late for bedtime. He was always so punctual, one could set the clock by him. It wasn’t like him to push off just like that. And where could he have gone without his shoes and his passport?

When the house had been searched from top to bottom, each nook and cranny thoroughly inspected, and still there was no sign of Mr Pye, everyone was at a loss to know what to do. ‘He can’t just simply disappear like that,’ sighed Father as he fetched himself a beer from the fridge.

It took almost two hours to comfort and lull the little girl to sleep. All the other favourite toys in the nursery – a fairly elderly cuddly animal, a checky little cloth lion and a furry kangaroo with a torn pouch – were angrily shoved over the edge of the little girl’s bed. ‘Mr Pye,’ she howled, ‘Where’s my lovely Mr Pye? I want Mr Pye!’

After a further day full of agonising uncertainty, an indescribable fear began to take hold of the members of the family. The girl trembled and begged: ‘Mummy, do something!’ A call to the lost property office revealed that several teddies had been handed in there in the last few days. But a visit soon established that none of them resembled Mr Pye even in the slightest.

‘It doesn’t often happen that a teddy just leaves his family,’ said the man comfortingly. ‘Try again in a week’s time.’

Mr Pye remained nowhere to be found, even after a further visit to the lost property office. ‘He really has vanished,’ deemed Father testily. ‘No,’ said Mother softly, ‘I think he hid himself cleverly, like a cat would, in order to die in peace. We should have a funeral service, otherwise the little one won’t ever come to terms with her feelings. The best thing to do would be to get her another teddy like Mr Pye, so that she doesn’t go on clutching desperately at false hopes.’

But the little girl wouldn’t hear of a replacement teddy. ‘Mr Pye will never die,’ she sobbed. ‘I want to have Mr Pye back.’

At dead of night (she was sleeping in her parents’ bed, because she couldn’t manage to sleep alone and without Mr Pye under the cover), she suddenly woke up. ‘I know what’s happened to him!’ she cried, her voice turning joyful somersaults. ‘We were playing hide-and-seek!’

. . . . .

Is Mr Pye head over heels in love? May well be, but not for instance with a local girl, but with an uncommonly charming luxury hotel. It lies very close to a much visited royal residence, which can be easily reached from anywhere.

So far Mr Pye has not has the chance to see and try out the 20 room hotel for himself, but he badly wants to do so at the next opportunity, because the concept of the hotel seems very seductive to him.

It’s incredible what they have there: highly tasteful and beautifully furnished rooms with television, DVD, video and parabolic aerial; a webcam connected to the internet for every guest, so that relatives all over the world can assure themselves of his health at all times, and of course a gourmet kitchen which will prepare every imaginable dish in a rich variety of delicate, flavours.

A night’s stay costs only 25 Euro, Mr Pye has found out – a truly unbeatable offer. Only special services such as for example watching favourite television programmes in the soothing company of a hostess are charged extra.

Mr Pye is hugely enthusiastic. It’s true the hotel is at present only open to discriminating cats and dogs; but the hotel manager, he hopes, will surely make an exception for a sociable gentle teddy with a girlfriend who’s ready to pay.

. . . . .

 

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