lay on the floor of the family room, stretched to his full Springer
Spaniel length, soft snores fluttering his cheeks. Occasionally, his
front legs moved as though running in his sleep. He awoke with a start
when Jim sat in his recliner.
Must have dozed off there for a minute.'
'Buddy, you've been snoring for an
hour at least. Hope your dreams were good ones,' Jim said as he
looked fondly at his dog. He reached his hand to Buddy and the dog
slipped under it so Jim could scratch his back and ruffle his ears.
'Speaking of dreams, Dad. Bear
wanted to know if ...'
'Buddy, stop it! Stop telling me
what Bear has to say. Bear is a stuffed toy. He can't talk. He can't
even move on his own. It's bad enough I have a talking dog. I don't
want a talking bear.'
'Aw! Come on, Pops. You know you
love it that I can talk. Now that you live alone, you'd be lost without
me,' Buddy said as Jim patted his flanks.
'Yeah. I have to admit I do enjoy
talking with you most of the time. When you're not cooking up one of
your schemes. Or getting into scrapes.'
'Schemes? Me? I don't have schemes.
I don't know what you're talking about.'
'Must I remind you of your marimba
playing ambitions? And your plans for your own flea market?'
'Just ideas. That's all they were.
Just ideas. They never really got off the ground.'
'Then how about Bear's paternity
suit? And his free fall from Carol's Stearman?'
'Mild aberrations, that's all. Just
aberrations. And Bear was cleared of all charges with the DNA testing
'Don't go there, Buddy. Do you hear
me? Don't go there. It's impossible to test for DNA with a stuffed toy.
That has to be one of my most embarrassing episodes with you.'
'Okay. Okay.' Buddy held up
a paw to ward off more conversation about Bear's paternity suit. 'It's in the past.'
'Well,' Jim said with
warning in his voice, 'I don't want any more of
those aberrations. Understand? No more.' Jim
picked up his model-railroading magazine from his lap and pointedly
started to read. He ignored Buddy, who sat in front of him with the
gaze from his soft brown eyes drilling into a spot between Jim's eyes.
Jim continued to read,
his attention seemingly riveted on an article about a man's home setup
of model trains in Reading that was open to the public. 'Not far,' Jim muttered to himself. 'Maybe I could take a run up there Sunday.'
'Hey, I'd love to see that,'
said Buddy, his stump of a tail wagging. 'Could Bear
'If I do go, neither of you are
going. I go alone. Then you two can't get in trouble. I can picture you
and Bear trying to get rides on the model trains. And causing
collisions. No way. You're not going.'
after church saw Buddy, Bear and Jim in the '56 Packard on their way
home from Reading.
'Good idea, Dad, to take the old
buggy for a spin. Got to keep it in good running order. It sure is a
beauty.' Buddy's paw gently caressed the original green
'I'll admit I had misgivings about
taking you two along. But you were both on your best behavior. See how
nice it can be when you don't cause problems.'
Buddy's head was halfway
out the window of the passenger's seat, with Bear tucked under his chin
so he too could enjoy the breeze.
'Right on, Dadeo. Told you we'd be like angels.
That man sure was nice. Letting us come in his house and see his
'I think seeing you sitting at the
window of the Packard with Bear hanging from your mouth did it. It was
his wife though who insisted you see the trains.'
was cool. Gave us cookies and lemonade. Her beast of a dog didn't like
it, but I told him to back off. Who did he think he was? King of the
'Aw, Buddy. What did you say to
him? Darn it, now I probably can't go back there.'
'That pooch was way out of line.
Just because I drank the lemonade out of his bowl, he wanted to throw
the bowl out. Said he might pick up something from Bear or me. Well, I
showed him. Wait 'til he tries to find his bouncy ball. I hid it in the
pocket of a winter coat in their hall closet. Hated to touch it. It was
all chewed up and slobbery. I could hear him crying as we left.
Couldn't find his ball.'
'How would you feel if someone hid
Bear from you?'
'Not the same thing. Bear's my son.
That ball was just a scroungey old ball. Nasty thing.' Buddy
made the motions of spitting out the window. 'Not a
member of his family like Bear is of mine.'
'I see. Bear is inanimate, as is
that ball. I think of them as the same thing.'
'Well, they're not. Okay? They're
'I am very pleased with you, Buddy.
You behaved like a real gentleman in there. No nonsense. On your very
best behavior. It was a real treat.'
'Not sorry now that you brought us?'
'No. I still don't know how you
talked me into it. But it was nice to have the company.'
Buddy gave a high five
sign to Bear and a faint smile crossed his lips. Bear's head seemed to
bow in response.
'Now it comes.'
'What are you talking about?'
'Whenever you say Dad as a
question, I know something is coming that I'm not going to like.'
'Aw. Geez. Why are you always
suspicious of me?'
'I think I have good reason to be.'
Jim waved at an SUV that streaked by with a hand raised out its window
to signal the driver's appreciation of the restoration of the old car.
He stole a peek at Buddy, who sat erect in the passenger seat, the seat
belt Jim had fashioned for him allowing Buddy a slight range of
Buddy, spying a Cocker
Spaniel in a passing car, whistled out the open window. The Cocker's
head turned to give him a wink as they passed each other.
'Stop that! Buddy! Just behave. If
you want to flirt, you'll have to do it on your own time. Or I'll tell
Gwennie on you.'
'Aw, don't tell Gwennie. She has a
real jealous streak. And not much of a sense of humor. Fine old girl,
but she doesn't understand me. I just like to make the girls feel
someone appreciates them. Just a harmless good deed.'
'Flirting is just doing something
'That's right. When a handsome dog
like me whistles at you, you know you are fine.'
'Apart from your good works, you're
also noted for your humility, right?'
'Something like that.'
'Okay,' Jim said with a
smile on his face. Shaking his head at Buddy's inflated sense of ego,
he continued, 'What did you want to talk to me
about? We were discussing dreams earlier, I believe.'
'Yeah. Dreams. Well, Bear's dearest
dream has been to see his mother and twin brother again.'
'Thought they were both dead,'
'Turns out they're not. They're
alive and kicking and would like to come see Bear. Maybe spend some
quality family time together. How about it, Pops? Can I tell Bear it's
a go for them to visit?'
'Sure, why not? Yeah. They can
visit. How much trouble can two more stuffed bears be? But I warn you.
The first inkling of trouble with the law and out they go.'
'Why should there be any trouble?
Grin and his mama Sock It-Toyah are law abiding bears. No problemo.'
'I thought you were kidding,'
Jim said, shaking his head and laughing at Bear's brother's name. 'I guess their last name is It-Toyah. What a hoot.'
'Don't laugh. Grin and Bear It are
identical twins and upstanding citizens to boot. Mama Sock It-Toyah was
married twice but kept the name It because of the boys, so she uses the
last names from both her marriages.'
'Where have Mama Sock and Grin been
all the time Bear has been with us? And how did Bear wind up in a store
'Well, it's a long story. You see,
Mama Sock was an operative with the CIA and ...'
'BUDDY! Stop right there. Don't
make up a background for them. Let's just have a nice visit. I'll
accept them as Bear's family. When they leave, is Bear going with them?'
'NO. NO! No way. That's a negative.
Definitely not. He's staying. He may be adopted, but he's my son and he
stays with me.'
As Buddy's worried eyes
teared up, Jim said, 'Okay. Of course, he stays.
Sorry about my insensitivity. I just wasn't thinking.'
Buddy wiped his face
against Jim's shirt sleeve. By now, tears had started flowing and he
was visibly upset. As he turned to allow Bear to console him, he gave
Bear a big wink that Bear returned with a slight movement of his head.
Buddy had pushed the right buttons again.
evening as Jim came through the door to his house from work, Buddy met
him in the family room. A big smile lit the dog's face and his stubby
tail kept wagging.
'They're here, Dad. They're here.'
'Who's here, Buddy? Oh, that's
right. Bear's mother and brother were to arrive today. How did they get
'Pops, UPS is for packages. They
came in a cab. Bear is so excited.'
'That I'd like
'What? What would you like to see?'
'Bear excited. That's a first.'
'Bear is very emotional. You
haven't been paying attention to him and he cries to me at night about
'Please, Buddy. Don't insult my
intelligence. Bear is just that - a bear. A cloth bear. No more.'
'Boy, Pops, you just refuse to see,
'Come on, Buddy, I'd like to meet
my house guests.'
Buddy followed Jim into
the living room where Bear, Grin and Mama Sock were sitting on the love
seat, huddled together, holding each other's paws.
After introductions were
made and Jim, with tongue in cheek, formally shook Mama Sock's and
Grin's paws and welcomed them to his home, he was startled to see a
slow smile creep across Mama Sock's bear face. Shaking his head, as
though to clear out unwanted thoughts, Jim turned to Buddy.
'By the way, Buddy. I noticed a car
pulling out of the driveway when I came around the corner. Who was
'Two CIA men and a member of the
FBI. You would have thought they'd leave Mama and Grin alone until they
at least got settled in.'
'BUDDY! Knock it off. Enough is
enough. Next you'll be telling me that Mama had a tape recorder
embedded in her stomach and she was planted in a foreign embassy.'
'How did you know that? I never
told you. Mama, I didn't.' Buddy turned to Mama Sock as his
right paw rose in the air. 'I swear it, Mama. I
never told him about that.'
Sock looked at Jim and Buddy with an implacable stare. After a moment,
Jim began to feel decidedly uncomfortable. He turned to go into the
kitchen to start his dinner.
'Dad. Wait. Wait.' Buddy's
voice had a desperate edge to it. 'Please tell Mama
that I never told you about that.'
Buddy looked so upset,
that Jim bowed to Mama and said, 'Mama Sock, Buddy
never told me about your role in the field of foreign intrigue. That
was pure guess work on my part.'
He looked at Buddy,
spread his hands wide to show he was complying with Buddy's wishes and
beat a hasty retreat to the kitchen. What am I doing, he thought? I'm
catering to my dog's wild imagination. I must be nuts. I actually
apologized to a stuffed bear! Living with Buddy is finally getting to
me. I'm cracking up.
Buddy skidded into the
kitchen right behind Jim. 'Hey, thanks, Dad O. You
got me out of a bad moment. Mama Sock thought I'd really told you about
that whole tape recorder in the stomach thing.'
'Buddy, I don't want to hear any
more about this whole espionage thing. No more! Do you understand? NO
MORE. Mama Sock and Grin can stay but there is to be not one more word
about the CIA or FBI or tape recorders. Do I make myself clear? Or they
go. And I think Bear can just go with them.'
'Unh. NO. I can't believe you said
that.' Buddy sank back on his haunches and gasped for breath. 'Send my baby boy out into the cruel world. He's not ready
to fend for himself. I have so much more to teach him.' A tear
escaped Buddy's eye and his paw came up to wipe it away. 'I tell you
he's not ready.'
'He'll have Mama and Grin to look
out for him.' Jim shook his head as he stared into the open
refrigerator. 'What do I want for dinner? I don't
know.' He slammed the door and turned to Buddy. 'You've made me lose my appetite with that nonsense. I've
had it, Bud. Up to here.' Jim's hand came up to slice the air
just over his head.
'Got ya, Dad. Got ya. No more talk
of anything but family tales. I can't send my little fellow out into
the world. He's not used to what people are like. He wouldn't survive.'
'Cut it out, Buddy. Working on my
sympathies doesn't cut any ice. Stop making up stories. What were you
going to tell me? That Mama Sock listened in on high level conferences
and the info she collected on her tape recorder went to the White
House? Give me a break.'
'Okay, I won't tell you that she
was a secret operative and helped to prevent World War III. Does she
get credit for that? Oh, no. Just got thrown out of the Agency because
she married and had twin boys. How's that for gratitude? No thanks from
a grateful government. Just a pink slip in her pay envelope.'
'Buddy! Watch it. You're pushing me
too far. No more. That's it. Or out the door they go.'
hand swept toward the back storm door, his thumb extended as though he
were hitchhiking. Buddy's paw went to his heart. He gasped once again
and tried to talk. He took a moment to compose himself. And then said, 'I can't believe you mean that. You'd put my little boy
and his family out in the cold?'
'Buddy, it's 78 degrees out there.'
'You know what I mean. The cold,
cold world. I'm going to get Grin and Mama settled in the guestroom and
then Bear and I will be back to sit with you. We'll watch TV. Is that
English veterinarian show on tonight? That's one of my favorites.'
'Good. We'll watch that. And then I
think I'll make a sandwich. And then hit the sack. I'm tired tonight. A
busy day at work.'
Jim's relief that Buddy
had gotten off the subject of spies was obvious. 'That
dog's fantasies could give Disney enough ideas for a year's worth of
movies.' Jim shook his head, realizing that he did that a lot
when he had dealings with Buddy.
that same night, with Bear asleep at Buddy's feet and Jim dozing in his
chair, Buddy watched a James Bond movie. 'Boy, this
is tame stuff after you talk to Mama Sock,' he muttered to
himself. He carefully picked up Bear, trying not to awaken the small
creature, and the two of them went to bed.
As Jim prepared for bed,
he thought he could hear voices coming from the guestroom. 'That must be Grin and Mama Sock. Good grief. I'm buying
into Buddy's nonsense. Those two things can't talk. Any more than Bear
can.' He went to sleep and dreamt of covert operations and spies
and hidden tape recorders. And once when he awoke in the middle of the
night, he could swear he again heard voices.
At breakfast the next
morning, as Jim sat and finished his coffee, he asked Buddy, 'Are our house guests up yet? Will they be here when I get
'Sure they'll be here,'
Buddy said. 'Where are they going to go? They cant
leave here without being spotted. You just don't realize the severity
of their position. Mama was able to get Bear out of the safe house only
to see him plucked up by a wholesaler. That's how he ended up in that
store window where we found him.'
'BUDDY,' Jim warned. 'It's too early in the morning for this.'
Buddy dropped to
one knee and pleaded, with both front paws on Jim's leg. 'This is no con, Pops. Im serious. If the foreign factions
find Mama and Grin, it's curtains for them.'
'What will they do? Tear the
stuffing out of them?' Jim laughed and patted the anxious dog on
the head. 'Come off it, Bud. You've taken this far
'Well, I've contacted some people I
know and they've promised to give them new identities and a new home.
Staying here is just temporary. Just another day or so. A seamstress is
coming later today to change their looks. A tuck here and letting out a
seam there. They'll be entirely new bears. Unrecognizable. I've even
talked them into giving Bear a tummy tuck. As a sort of bonus. He's
getting a little too pudgy. Not good for his health.'
'Buddy, what are you on? I don't
see how you can come up with this stuff. You should write a book. Be a
best seller. Kind of hard, though, getting the world to believe that a
dog wrote a thriller.'
'I'm not working on the plot for a
thriller. This is real life, here. Do you hear me? Real life. The It
family is in danger. And I'm going to do what I can to protect my son's
mother and twin. Foreign agents are desperate to get their hands on
Mama and our country wants to find them to make sure they don't talk.
They're not safe.'
'Yeah, sure, Bud. Okay. I'm going
to work. Let's see where this story goes by the time the day's over.
Now that I'm getting in the swing of this, I'm starting to look forward
to the next chapter. Could have sworn, though, that I heard voices
coming from the guestroom last night. Come up with a reason for that
for me, hunh, Bud?'
Jim opened the door to
the garage. As he did so, he said, 'See you tonight,
Buddy. I hope you all have a good day.' As he started his
Mercury Sable, he noticed movement in his rear view mirror. As though a
wraith had passed over the glass. But when he turned around to look,
all he saw was a neighbor driving by. He shrugged his shoulders, waved
to the neighbor and went to work.
Jim pulled into his driveway that evening, he thought he saw someone
standing in the center of a large stand of rhododendron bushes at the
edge of his property. As he watched, the figure dropped to its knees
and crawled further into the thicket.
'Must have let that story Buddy was concocting get to me.
Starting to see things now.'
'Buddy, I'm home. How was your day?
How are our guests?'
'They're gone. Bear is desolate. He
had been hoping for a little longer with his birth family.'
'What happened? I thought they were
to be here a little longer. I'm sorry, Bear. Must be disappointing,'
Jim said with a grimace as he realized he was playing into Buddy's
story. What the heck. In for a penny, in for a pound. 'Bear,
how about if we go out for some ice cream? Might cheer you up a bit.'
'Bear loves ice cream. But I'm
afraid that won't do the trick this time. The new safe house was ready
sooner than was anticipated and my people came for Mama Sock and Grin.
They had a few moments to say goodbye and we watched them leave. A
truck that said The Skunk Man on its side took them away.'
'The skunk man? Who the devil's
'You know. That guy you call if you
have a skunk taking up residence on your property. He traps the skunk
and relocates it. The truck smelled pretty much like what it was used
for. But none of the neighbors seemed to pay any attention to it and
Mama and Grin ran out and got in it.'
'Do you know where they went? Maybe
we could pay them a visit on our vacation.'
'No, it's a secret. Even Bear and I
don't know where they've gone. Unless the world situation changes,
we'll never see them again. Buck up, Bear. It's for the best.'
'Boy, this has to be the most
elaborate story you've ever come up with. You almost had me believing
it. You're really good, Buddy.'
'This is no story, Daddy. This is
A knock on the door
stopped Jim from commenting any more. As he walked to the front of the
house to answer the doorbell, he said, 'I hope that
ends this story for good, Buddy. You know you can take a good thing too
far. Any more would just be too much.' Jim felt relief that the
whole time of make-believe was over and he could get back to normal
life. As normal as life could be living with a dog that could talk.
he said to a cluster of men on his front door step.
'Mr. Yocum, is Buddy Yocum here? We
need to talk to him. We spoke to him on the phone and he wouldn't give
us any answers. We hoped coming here in person would change his mind.'
'And you are?'
The tall blond man in the
trench coat answered as he dug identification from a pocket, 'I'm Barry Collins of the CIA. This is Fred Long of the
FBI. The dark haired man back there is John Duross of the Royal
Canadian Mounted Police and the angry looking one is Jacques Lafitte of
Jim stood in his doorway,
unable to move, his mouth slack with shock, and stared.
Buddy stood beside Jim
leaning against his leg to give him support. He smiled at the men and