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Bears for Enrique

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-- Are we going to read The Encyclopedia of Bears tonight, Papi?

-- Well, I thought, since you like The Encyclopedia of Bears so much, you might enjoy a different book about bears for a change. So I got a new story at the library.

-- What’s it called?

-- Goldilocks and the Three Bears: A Fairy Tale from Old Earth.

-- I don’t like stories about fairies.

-- Why not?

-- Because fairies in stories always give people three wishes, and then the people always wish for something stupid and waste their wishes.

-- What would you wish for, Enrique, if you had three wishes?

-- A microscope, a real one, not a toy. And an ant farm with a queen. And 1,000 caramels, but I would not eat them all at once and then wish I hadn’t eaten a thousand caramels, because that is exactly the sort of stupid thing people are always doing in fairy stories, which is why I don’t like that kind of story.

-- I don’t think there are any fairies in this story. I think it would be more proper to call it a ‘folk tale.’

-- Are there any folks in it?

-- Yes, a little girl named Goldilocks. Do you want to hear the story?

-- OK.

-- Once upon a time, there were three bears who lived in a house in the woods.

-- Bears don’t live in houses.

-- Well, it was really more of a cave, but they called it a house, because it was where they lived. There was a papa bear, a mama bear, and a baby bear.

-- A papa bear is called a boar, a mama bear is called a sow, and a baby bear is called a cub.

-- One day, Mama Bear – uh, Sow Bear – made a big pot of porridge for breakfast, but when she tasted it, she found that the porridge was too hot to eat…

-- Bears mostly eat things like roots, berries, insects, and fish. But they sometimes steal people food from campers if they aren’t careful.

-- Well, there you are: Sow Bear had stolen this pot of porridge from some campers who weren’t careful, and it was still very hot. So all the bears decided to go for a walk in the woods while they were waiting for their breakfast to cool off. Meanwhile, a little girl named Goldilocks had also been walking in the woods, and she had walked so long that she was getting very tired. When she saw the bears’ house, she decided to go inside and rest for a little while. Inside, she saw a table with three chairs, a big one for Boar Bear, a medium-sized one for Sow Bear, and a little one for Cub.

-- Bears don’t use chairs.

-- Well, it’s a story, so we’ll just pretend for a little while that bears do use chairs. OK? First, Goldilocks sat down in the big chair, but it was too hard. Then she tried the middle-sized chair, but it was too soft. Then she sat in the little chair, and it was just right. But she was heavier than Cub, so one of the legs of the chair came right off! As well as being tired, Goldilocks was also very hungry after her walk, and there was a delicious smell coming from the bowls of porridge on the table. So she tried a spoonful of porridge from Boar Bear’s big bowl, but it was too hot. Then she tried a spoonful from Sow Bear’s middle-sized bowl, but it was too cold. Then she tried a spoonful from Cub’s little bowl, and it was just right – so she ate it all up!

-- Papi, why would the porridge in the little bowl be just right, if the middle-sized bowl was too cold? Shouldn’t the porridge in the middle-sized bowl be somewhere in between the other two?

-- Huh. That’s actually a really good question … Maybe the middle-sized bowl was wider and shallower than the little one, so the porridge cooled off faster … or, you know, bowls can be made of different things, like ceramics or plastic. So maybe the material Cub’s bowl was made from was a better insulator.

-- Are ceramic bowls a better insulator than plastic ones, or is it the other way around?

-- I don’t know. We could do an experiment in the morning and find out.

-- Can we do an experiment tonight?

-- No.

-- Why not?

-- Because this isn’t time for experiments right now, it’s storytime and then going-to-bed time. After Goldilocks had finished off the porridge in Cub’s bowl, she began to feel very sleepy. So she went up the stairs –

-- Why would a cave have stairs?

-- Well, she went up one of the tunnels, to the chamber where the bears slept, and there she found three beds: a big bed that belonged to Boar Bear, a middle-sized bed for Sow Bear, and a little bed for Cub.

-- Did Boar Bear and Sow Bear sleep in different beds because bears are solitary animals?

-- Yes, exactly. Goldilocks lay down in Boar Bear’s bed, but it was too hard. Then she lay down in Sow Bear’s bed, but it was too soft. Then she tried Cub’s bed, and it was just right. And soon Goldilocks was fast asleep! After a little while, the bears came back from their walk. ‘Someone’s been sitting in my chair,’ said Boar Bear. ‘Someone’s been sitting in my chair,’ said Sow Bear. ‘Someone’s been sitting in my chair,’ said Cub, ‘and they BROKE it!’ Then the bears noticed the bowls of porridge on the table. ‘Someone’s been eating my porridge,’ said Boar Bear. ‘Someone’s been eating my porridge,’ said Sow Bear. ‘Someone’s been eating my porridge,’ said Cub, ‘and they’ve eaten it ALL UP!’ Then the bears went up the tunnel to their bedroom. ‘Someone’s been sleeping in my bed,’ said Boar Bear. ‘Someone’s been sleeping in my bed,’ said Sow Bear. ‘Someone’s been sleeping in my bed,’ said Cub, ‘and THERE SHE IS!’ And Goldilocks woke up to find herself surrounded by three very angry bears, and she was so frightened that she ran straight out of the cave, and she didn’t stop running until she was safely home. And that is the end of the story … and now, can you tell me what Goldilocks did wrong?

-- After trying all the chairs and the porridge, she should have hypothesized that she would like the little bed best, and tried that one first.

-- Well, yes, but I meant she shouldn’t have gone into someone else’s house without being invited and eaten their food and broken their chair.

-- Oh. Right ... Papi, most people would be afraid if they were near a bear, right, even though bears rarely attack people?

-- Yes, most people would.

-- So why do grown-ups always give children stuffed bears to sleep with, and why are there so many stories and vids about bears that talk and act just like people?

-- I don’t know. That’s an interesting question. I think … maybe people like the idea of bears more than they like actual bears?

-- That isn’t very logical.

-- Well, people often aren’t very logical, Enrique. Sometimes … it might be a good idea to be a little illogical yourself, just to fit in.

-- But why would I want to fit in with people who aren’t logical?

-- Why, indeed? I don’t know. Forget I said anything.

-- Papi, can we read The Encyclopedia of Bears again tomorrow night?

-- Yes. Good night, Enrique.

-- Good night, Papi.