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Baby Bear

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Mr. Coneybear wandered home from his job as an elevator operator resplendent in his new mauve socks. He had not been home for two days because that young Dan had gotten into a bar fight and had a black eye.  Again.   He had shrugged philosophically.  They could use the tips at home.

Mrs. Coneybear greeted him at the door.  “Rufus, what happened to you?  Where you get those socks?”

“That nice Mister Wooster gave them to me,” said Mr. Coneybear.  He took off his work suit and put on the battered clothes he wore in the house. 

“That British one?”  She moved to their tiny nook of a kitchen and began dishing up baked beans, corn bread and some fried greens with bacon.

Mr. Coneybear nodded.  “This smells wonderful, Delilah,” he said, sitting down to tuck in. 

The couple ate in companionable silence.  Delilah brought out a custard tart.

“You’re a better baker than the baker,” said Rufus. 

“You’re a better liar than the devil,” she said, laughing.

****

Later that evening, Delilah washed the socks. They were silk and cost more than she and her husband earned in an average month.  She set them atop a pink silk tie and a small pile of monogrammed handkerchiefs.  Her husband gave her ten dollars and a handful of change.

“Rufus? What in the world?”

“That poem man gave me five dollars to keep his aunt from seeing that big fat man staying there.  And that Mr. Jeeves gave me five to do the same thing.  And then all those weird hat men gave us lots of dimes and nickels.”

The couple looked at each other for a long moment.  “I think we can afford it now.”  Delilah wiped her eyes.  ‘There now, it’s all right.”

****

Three weeks later, the couple walked hand in hand on the grass under beautifully kept trees.  Delilah held a huge bouquet of flowers.  They paused at a freshly spaded grave.  A lamb sat atop the tiny headstone that read “beloved Baby Bear.”

“I do wish those British fellows had come last year,” said Rufus, tears streaming down his face.

“It’s no use repining,” said Deliliah. “Baby Bear has a proper burying place.  That’s all we can ask now.”  She didn’t bother to say that the doctor wouldn’t have been able to help them even if they’d had the money.  That was just that way it was in those days. Maybe some day it would be different.

****

The next day, Mr. Jeeves rode alone, holding a large basket full of groceries.  “Mr. Coneybear, are you well?”

“Yes, sir, Mister Jeeves.”

“Mister Wooster missed you yesterday,” he said.

“I had a family obligation as you might say, sir,” said Mr. Coneybear. “For my little son.”

“I do hope it went well,” said Mr. Jeeves.

“Well as could be, sir,” said Mr. Coneybear.  Mr. Jeeves tipped him fifty cents.

The elevator operator sighed.  Delilah said they could have another baby, but it would never replace the little one they had lost. 

The next week, Mr. Jeeves gave Mr. Coneybear a box of little cakes.  “For your son,” was all he said. 

Mr. Coneybear thanked him. Young Dan was glad to have them because he’d gambled away his lunch money.  Mr. Jeeves never knew the difference because there were some things that even he could not understand.