Friday, April 30, 2010

Friday Fiction: Bearmobile problems

Bear ended up taking a break from the book, and wrote a humor piece about something that actually happened to Bear last Saturday. It turns out God uses even bearmobile problems to help grow His cubs and urge them to new heights ...

Bearmobile Problems!

Some people might not know that bears drive; but in reality, many bears do. They don't, of course, drive boring run-of-the-mill cars, like people do. Instead, they drive bearmobiles -- vehicles which are very similar to cars, but which have some unique characteristics that make them particularly endearing.

For example, Bear owns a small, 19-year-old bearmobile, with its original carpet and upholstery totally stripped out, so that it now has a metal floor and no seats in back. It also has a few other modifications that, although not worth mentioning, stamp it as top-of-the-line bear transportation.

Even though its paint is chipping and there are rust spots here and there between the hail dents...and even though it had a few leaks at one time which have been repaired with left-over caulk from a Den-improvement project ... Bear is most fond of it.

It hardly ever breaks down and it gets great gas mileage.

But Bear wasn't even thinking about her wonderful bearmobile while shopping her local Thrift Store one bright April afternoon. She was too busy and happy, picking up cheap furniture for the Den. She found an old pole lamp with a broken plastic lamp-shade on one of its sockets, and an undamaged shade on the other, top socket ... only 10 bucks, and a sticker on its pole with the word "Works" written on it. Since the store was run by Mennonites, and she'd found them to be very trustworthy people, she knew it really would work, too. So, after screwing its loose pole in tighter, to keep it from wobbling so much, she decided it was a good deal.

I'll just throw away the plastic shades, and it'll give great light from behind my chair, onto my writing space in the Den.

She grabbed it and dropped it off beside where the two cashiers were working, saying over her shoulder as she headed out from behind the counter again, "It's okay to leave this here while I finish shopping, right?"

The two clerks, both with silvery hair, were used to Bear popping in and out behind their counter with stuff like that, so just nodded, smiled, and gave a quick wave of hands while they waited on other customers.

Bear lumbered off, to check around for any other treasures, and browsed through the books awhile. She gathered together a basketful, still not yet thinking about her bearmobile at all. It was a sunny day, and the drive to the store had been amazingly peaceful and cheering, at the end of what had been a very rough week. She could even feel an extra sense of the Lord's encouragement and strengthening, for which she was very grateful, knowing people had been praying for her.

Her next find was a metal storage unit on wheels with two compartments. The top compartment had a lid that opened, revealing an empty metal box about the size of a file cabinet drawer. The bottom compartment was like a metal cupboard, with a little door that was designed to swing open sideways, (likely revealing another empty metal box about the size of a file cabinet drawer). Bear liked the unit a lot, with its little wheels that would make it easy to shove into a closet for storage, and also easy to pull out into the main Den area whenever she wanted to use it. (Dens don't have a lot of space to spare, and bears have to be somewhat innovative in how they do things.)

There was only one problem. The bottom door was locked. And no key in sight. Which meant that no key existed anymore.

Bear tried to get a claw hooked into the edge of the door, hoping it wasn't really locked, after all.

Nope. Definitely locked.

Rats! It's so perfect. And no price-tag. Probably because the key's lost. Bet I can get it cheap.

Bear decided to try one of the keys on her bearmobile key ring, just to see if she could maybe turn the lock a bit and jiggle it open.

So she reached into a pocket ... but felt only cloth and her small bottle of liquid paw-soap she always carries (hating the smells of the perfumed soaps in public bathrooms), and a roll of Tums. Her eyes widened. Strange...

She tried the other pocket ... cell phone only.

That's when Bear began to think about her bearmobile.

Noooooo! If her keys weren't here then they must be...

But she hadn't locked her keys in a bearmobile for seven or eight years at least!

She checked her pockets again. Nothing.

The day had started so well, too; and it was so nice and sunny...

She thought awhile; checked her pockets one last time; and then decided she wasn't going to let this spoil her good mood. After all, the sunshine was still pouring in through the store's huge windows, wasn't it?

Giving up on the metal storage unit, she headed for the door, dropping off the basket of books with the now-idle store clerks, and saying, "I was going to try to get that locked cabinet open with one of my keys, but then found out I don't have them in my pocket, so I need to go out and see where they are. Be right back!"

Both of the clerks were kindly people who Bear always enjoyed hanging out and chatting with. The man usually had an interesting and humorous story about happenings in the store or local events; and the woman loved to discuss the books Bear bought each week, and to comment on her own favorites. They both moved slowly behind the registers, due to their age -- the woman might even be in her 70's. But Bear was never in a hurry.

The man put a hand up to his grey beard for a moment, thinking, then chuckled, folded his arms, and peered at her through black-rimmed glasses. "You thought one of your keys might work on that old lock?"

But the woman, leaning against the edge of the counter, had a worried expression that contrasted sharply with the purple floral pattern on her somewhat faded dress. "You've lost your keys?"

"Doubt they're lost. Be right back. It's okay to leave my books there, right?"

They nodded in unison.

Bear got out to the parking lot and tested the door on the driver side. Locked. Since it was an older bearmobile, the doors had those old-fashioned type of little buttons along their top ridges by the windows, that you press when you're inside to lock the doors (and that pop up and down when the key turns in the lock from the outside). Bear could already see that both buttons were pressed down. But she circled to the other side, hoping to spot the keys somewhere.

Yes! There they were.

In the ignition.

Rolling her eyes, she headed back into the store, silently thanking the Lord she had Triple A Bearmobile Insurance and that one of their services was breaking into locked bearmobiles in just such circumstances as these.

She was on the cell phone before she even made it back to the counter, listening to tinkling AAA Bearmobile Insurance music that was designed to soothe frazzled callers as the minutes tick by while they're waiting "on hold".

Bored with the song already, she said to the clerks, "My keys were in the bearmobile, all right."

The woman's troubled eyes brightened and she smiled. "Oh, I'm so glad! You got them OK, then?"

"Well, not exactly. They're in the ignition. But no worry. The doors are locked."

"Oh my. The engine's not running is it?"

Bear thought about that. Why would she leave the engine running while shopping in a thrift store? Was this woman getting a bit senile, maybe? But then again, why would she lock her keys in the bearmobile, while shopping in a thrift store? Might be a rational question after all...

"Uh...No. It's not running."

The woman looked relieved again. "Oh! That's good! You won't run out of gas."

Bear had to smile. "Good point. It could be worse. Plus, I have triple A."

Somewhere around that time, the music in Bear's ear stopped, and a young woman's voice replaced it, saying in the most perky manner imaginable, "Hello! This is your triple A service department! How may I help you today?"

It sounded too lilting to be the voice of a real live person. Maybe a recording? But it had asked a question, and Bear didn't think recordings usually asked questions. So she decided to test it out by answering.

"Umm ... Hi there. I locked my keys in my bearmobile."

"We can help with that!"

Since the woman didn't seem inclined to say more, although Bear waited, Bear finally said, "Well, I had figured you could."

"Are you in a safe place?"

Bear looked around. Old clothes hanging on racks, a vacuum cleaner standing among broken and thread-worn furniture, shelves of brightly colored plastic trucks and stuffed animals, a couple of smiling store clerks who gave away free Bibles...

"Uh ... Well, yes ... it seems pretty safe to me ..."

"Are you sure?"

Bear checked again. "Yeah. Actually, I'm standing in the middle of a thrift store."

"Oh good! That does sound safe ... Is your bearmobile running?"

People must lock keys in running vehicles more often than Bear knew about. "Uh ... no. Not running."

This made the woman's voice even happier sounding. "Oh good!"

She asked a bunch more questions, (getting an exact description of the bearmobile and where it was parked), then promised she'd send someone out "within an hour" and that an automated recording would call Bear's cell phone five minutes before the repair person would actually arrive, so Bear could be by the bearmobile, waiting.

Bear shrugged, pocketed the phone, and decided that the best thing to do when stranded inside a thrift store that had now been officially declared a "safe place" was to keep shopping.

She looked longingly at the locked storage unit, wishing again for her bearmobile keys, but decided to give it up, under the circumstances. Then headed over to check out the dollar videos.

Eventually Bear started feeling pretty run down from the mixture of thrift store fragrances: clothes with old laundry detergents in them, tools with oil on them, dusty upholstery ... She began to long for fresh air. So she decided to finish up and wait outside, in the sunshine.

It was while paying for her items and chatting with the clerks, that she spotted a man by her bearmobile, through the store's windows, apparently trying to open its door.

"Oops! Gotta run! Either Triple A has arrived, or someone's trying to steal my bearmobile."

They laughed and waved her out. The woman called after her, "Hope it's Triple A!"

But the man working on the locked door was not at all cheery. He had a black rubber rectangle wedged in at the top edge of the door, that he had pumped some air into, forcing open a small crack. And he had slipped a long hook in through the crack. He was sweating in his tee shirt, hair mussed by the wind. As he pulled on the hook, Bear could hear him forcefully muttering things under his breath that sounded likely to be at least R rated.

And it looked like he'd been at it for quite some time.

Bear set the lamp down on the raised sidewalk at the edge of the parking spaces, and the book bag alongside it, saying, "Sorry I wasn't out here. They said I'd get an automated call five minutes before you got here, but I never did."

The man gave her a quick, somewhat hostile, glance; then pulled on the wire that was attached to the hook a couple times, sharply. She heard a "thunk, thunk" inside her bearmobile.

He glared at her. "Don't the inside door handles on this crazy bearmobile even work?"

"What do ya mean?"

"When you're in the car -- can you even open the blasted doors from inside?" He seemed about to add more, but pressed his lips together tightly, clearly restraining himself.

It was then Bear realized that he'd already successfully snagged the handle on the inside with the hook, but the door wasn't opening as expected.

She thought about it. "Well... Let's see. Yes, they work ... Hmm ... But now that you mention it, they don't open the door when the lock button at the top of the door is pressed down like it is. I always have to lift the button when I'm inside, in order to get out. They're not broken. That's just the way they work."

"But that can't be right. This is a Ford!" he said, almost shouting. "Fords don't..."

At that point, the lamp tipped over with a loud CLANG as the metal pole hit concrete. The two plastic shades popped off and started rolling away down the sidewalk, blown along by the wind. Another smaller plastic part of unknown purpose trailed along just a bit behind them.

Bear watched them go.

"Your lamp fell," he said.

"That's okay. I was gonna dump those shades anyway."

He shook his head, and pulled the hook out of the door handle, and upward, to try and snag the button. But it didn't look good to Bear. The button was shaped like a triangle with a flattened top, and had nothing on it for the hook to snag onto. Sometimes, on a winter's day when her paws were cold, she even had trouble pulling it up while she was inside the bearmobile.

She could hear the lamp shades bumping and clattering along the pavement behind her, still being propelled by the wind. Looking over her shoulder, she saw that they had made their way into the intersection, and seemed intent on crossing the street. She debated whether it was time to lose the day's cheerful mood yet, or not. "Uh... I'll be right back. Better grab those shades."

He grunted, the hook having already slipped off the button several times. Then muttered something about her bearmobile that this time Bear was sure was R rated.

Thankful for the opportunity to leave the scene for a minute, she ran off, chasing after the shades, which had now made it across the street, and were angling over towards some parked cars.

Sitting on the edge of the raised sidewalk nearby, was a woman in an old cotton dress and beads, with braided black hair and wrinkled, dark skin. She nodded with satisfaction, her brown eyes sparkling, as Bear went past. "Good! Better get 'em!" Her wide smile showed three missing lower teeth, which somehow made her seem very friendly to Bear, and helped Bear decide that the day was still sunny and cheery despite a few glitches.

The woman pointed at the little unidentifiable part rolling along, closest, so Bear scooped it up on the fly; then, checking traffic, dashed across the street just in time to see the largest shade roll under a parked sedan.

Terrific. She was going to have to get down on her knees on oily pavement... (Bear hated getting oil on her fur.)

Finally she had the shades in paw, in a nice neat stack, and was again approaching the woman, on her way back. Looking for something reasonable to say in circumstances like these, Bear grinned and tried, "Ever have one of those days, when..."

The woman smiled and nodded, acting as if Bear was the best entertainment she'd seen in a long time. Then turned to watch the rest of the action taking place at the bearmobile.

The man did not seem at all entertained though. By the time Bear got back, his shoulder muscles were bunched in a way that made Bear suspect he was thinking seriously about slugging the door. "I've never had so much trouble breakin' into a bearmobile! It usually only takes a minute. This is ridiculous!"

Setting the shades down in the bag with the books, Bear decided it would probably be wise not to tell him how good that sounded to her. Not too many thieves were interested in old bearmobiles. But still ... she mentally added another star to the list of her bearmobile's positive attributes. Then walked over and stood watching as he tried repetitively, and unsuccessfully, to snag the little button. Clearly he was not going to succeed at this rate; and his constant muttering was getting louder.

This put Bear into a dilemma of sorts. Obviously, at this point, the best thing to do was to ask God to help and enable the man to open the door, in the Name of Jesus. However, although this man was only a bit taller than Bear, he had muscular arms and powerful looking shoulders; and, from some of his vocabulary choices, Bear tended to think it unlikely that he knew the Lord. Bear figured, if she prayed aloud, that any last restraints holding his anger in check might blow ...

And it just might not be a very safe thing to do.

But was she being chicken if she prayed silently? Maybe God wanted this man to get a witness of His power in a seemingly hopeless situation? Besides, if she prayed silently, maybe God wouldn't answer, figuring she was being faithless and unbelieving -- i.e., chicken.

While she was still pondering all the pros and cons, the little string lariat that the man was now using to try and snag the button again slipped off, and he looked about ready to quit the whole thing if something didn't change soon.

Bear had to make a choice.

Though feeling guilty, she decided that maybe it would be best to err on the side of safety ... i.e., chickenness.

So, closing her eyes, she prayed silently, but desperately, Father God, please enable this man to get the lock open. Clearly he can't do it himself, and I really need the bearmobile unlocked, and I know I should probably pray out loud, but I'm not sure what to do, and this guy's pretty big, Lord; and could you please have mercy anyway and just open the door, in the Name of Jesus?

Then she opened her eyes and watched hopefully.

Just a minute later, the man shoved the end of the heavy wire (that was holding the little lariat) against the button, creating just the right pressure at just the right angle, so that when he jerked upwards -- even without the lariat being around the button at all -- the wire itself pulled the button up.

He appeared stunned.

"YES!" Bear said. "Way to go! You did it! Good work!"

Not seeming to believe the door would actually open, he slowly reached for the outside handle, paused, and then pulled up.

The door swung open.

He just stood there, staring at the door. Then grabbed all his tools, and without a backward glance at Bear, headed for his tow truck.

"Don't you need my Triple A number or want me to sign anything, or anything?"

"NO!" he climbed into his truck, refusing to look at her.

Bear started to follow him, but then thought better of it; and ducked into the open doorway to grab the keys from the ignition and drop them safely into her pocket before the door slammed shut again in the wind.

Once she had her lamp and books stowed, she thanked the Lord much for opening the door for her.

But she still felt guilty too, and wondered what would have happened if she'd prayed aloud, instead of silently. Plus, she'd told the man "Good work!" giving him the credit instead of the Lord, when even he clearly knew it hadn't been his ability that had opened the door.

The woman sitting on the sidewalk smiled and nodded and waved as Bear pulled away from the curb. And it was only then that Bear realized she might be homeless. And that Bear hadn't even thought to pray about what to say to her at all. And wondered what frustrations she might be facing in her day.

Bear sighed. She was going to have to work harder at this praying stuff, for sure, if she ever wanted to be used of the Lord as much of a witness at all.

So many missed opportunities ... So many unfulfilled possibilities ...

But the Lord was gracious, and the smiling sun shone warmly on her fur as she drove onwards, heading for the grocery store to pick up more supplies for the Den.

Laury Hubrich over at His Mercies Are New is hosting Friday Fiction this week. So be sure and drop over there as well, to find links to the whole selection of entries, and/or to add a link of your own and join in the fun! We all welcome comments and discussion!

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Bear's news and free multi-media Christian resources: Bear's Writing Den

8 comments:

Laury said...

I'm so glad you got into your vehicle. Yay! I love thrift stores, too.

Rita's Random Ramblings said...

I love this story from start to finish, I will share it with my granddaughter later today. The message was great food for thought! Hugs, Rita

Sherri said...

This was very entertaining! Plus, the honesty in the "prayer struggle" is great! I think all us "young bears" as we grow into "old bears" learn to rest in His love a bit more - knowing He will complete the work He began in us. If we don't do it right one time He'll be faithful to help us get it right another time.

Hoomi said...

Just as an aside, many newer vehicles will automatically lock the doors when the engine is running. Some people will get out to "do something quick" with the engine running, and the auto-lock will engage. Or their pre-schooler in the passenger seat will push the electric lock button. It happens, and much too frequently, so this is why it's such a common question. A fun read, even if it was based in some misfortune.

Catrina Bradley... said...

I loved reading about Bear's adventure, and the answer to prayer, and the conviction from the Spirit. (And I love thrift stores, too.)

Sharlyn Guthrie said...

I want to know if bear is going to go back and try to open that cool metal cabinet on wheels. :) Fun story!

Bear said...

Bear admits to hoping that cabinet is still there when she visits the Thrift Store again next week. She's thinking she could buy it, then unscrew the bottom panel and get at the inside of the lock that way to get it unlocked, maybe. :-)

Sara Harricharan @ Fiction Fusion said...

Delightful adventures-lol! Loved the details--and I hate being locked out of my car too--not fun at all! Thanks for sharing--love the sense of humor.

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