“A Beary Merry Christmas”

Twinkling Christmas lights shone like stars in the night sky. Christmas music filled the air as sleigh bells jingled and trumpets sounded. Big velvet curtains swished open. There, in the brightest of spotlights, stood the happiest, cheeriest teddy bears in the wide and wonderful world. Both were dressed in fantastically festive red and white costumes – the kind usually worn by Santa and Mrs Claus.

Crowds cheered as the bears walked onto a carpet every bit as red as their outfits. The stars of the show had arrived. Bramley Bear waved to the hundreds of boys and girls lining the carpet, just as he had done so joyously for so many years at the launch of each wonderful Christmas season at Bramley’s Store.

But this year was even more amazing for him because he had another special bear by his side. It was his new friend Bonnie and they were sharing this magical moment together for the first time. It was a magical moment that almost never was.

Just the day before the grand opening, Bramley stood admiring his new Santa suit. He stroked the white fur trim and thought how much softer it was than his own fur.

Suddenly, all around him went black. A Santa sack had been thrown over his head. The next thing he knew, Bramley was being dragged to the ground. He stumbled and tumbled in the darkness, hardly able to mutter the word: “Help!” Someone or something had bagged him.

As Bramley was carried away, he felt his body bouncing up and down in the sack. Whoever or whatever was taking him away was doing so at speed and making him tumble and turn in the bag like clothes in a washing machine. After what seemed like many minutes – but was actually only a matter of seconds – Bramley felt butterflies in his tummy as he was dropped down a laundry chute. He used his paws to force open the sack, popped his head out in to the daylight, just in time to see the lid of a laundry basket close on him. The basket was lifted on to a white van.

“No!” came the cry as the van started to drive off. “Stop that van!”

Just days before, Bramley had presided over the annual competition to decide who would be his partner for the 2019 Christmas season. It was a contest entitled BGT. That stands for “Bramley’s Got Talent”. Each of the contestants had to show they were worthy of a place by the bear’s side by displaying just how special Christmas was to each of them. Bramley was joined on the judging panel by three Christmas experts: one of Santa’s helpers Ed Elf, a beautiful angel tree-topper named Angelica and last year’s contest winner Peetu the Penguin.

Oliver Owl was the first to face the panel. He wore wire-rimmed spectacles and a cape, like Harry Potter with feathers and a beak. “I have prepared a short poem for you all today,” said Oliver, “to show you all what Christmas means to me and why I should partner Bramley this year.”

Oliver cleared his throat with a little cough, then recited his verse:

“You might hear my kind around Halloween.

Owls in the dark, often heard and not seen

As we ‘twit’ and we ‘twoo’ and we swoop and we fly

And we cover each inch of every night sky.

But Christmas is also a time we adore

Merry owls are overlooked, it’s about time for more.

With a flap of my wings and a squawk of my beak,

I hope it’s a feathered friend you now seek.”

Bramley said: “Thank you for your poem, Oliver. You say you adore Christmas but don’t explain what you would bring to the role as my Christmas partner. You are altogether unclear. So, I’ll start this off by saying it has to be a ‘No’ from me.”

“It’s a ‘No’ from me,” said Ed Elf, coming straight to the point.

“Sorry…it’s a ‘No’ from me as well,” added Angelica in her soft angelic tones.

“I’m not sure we need another bird so soon after me,” said Peetu the Penguin. “Four ‘No’s’ I’m afraid.”

“Twits,” tweeted angry Oliver as he flew off the stage.

Next up was Ferdinand Frog, who was soft and plush and not at all slimy. He was possessed of a certain cuteness that made him popular with children in store throughout most of the year, just not so much at Christmas.

“I have a Christmas song for you,” said Ferdinand, who then croaked out a familiar carol with his own twist on the words. Unfortunately, he was not in tune.

“Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way. Oh, what fun it is to see a frog on Christmas Day. Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way. Oh, what fun it is to see a frog on Christmas Day. Hopping through the snow, croaking all the way, Eating flies and saying ‘ribbit’ every day. Make our spirits light…”

Ferdinand was cut off mid-verse by Bramley. “Thank you, thank you! Let me stop you there,” he said. “I think we’ve heard enough.” The flummoxed frog looked at the judges, who were all shaking their heads. It was a collective ‘No’ from them. Ferdinand unhappily jumped off stage.

Bramley and his fellow judges did not approve of the guitar-playing pig, nor the dancing dog.

Then came none other than the Easter Bunny. He had always wanted to get in on the Christmas thing, but had never been taken seriously in his many previous auditions.

“You’re back again,” said Bramley. “I have to admire your pluck.”

“What will you be performing for us today?” asked Angelica.

“I will be sculpting Bramley out of this block of ice,” the Easter Bunny replied, pulling a screen away from in front of the ice.

Now the Easter Bunny was known to be quite a whizz with chocolate sculptures. Chocolate was his area of expertise after all. But ice?

He set to work. Shavings of ice flew this way and that. He found himself in a mini snow flurry. In no time, the Easter Bunny had created his ice figure. It looked all the world like a face on an egg. It was more Humpty Dumpty than Bramley Bear.

“Erm…I’m not quite sure what I did there,” said the Easter Bunny apologetically.

“You reverted to Easter mode, my friend,” explained Bramley, “just as you always do. You can’t help it.”

“That’s the season in which you belong,” added Ed Elf. “not Christmas.”

“Never Christmas,” said Peetu. “But always Easter!”

“We will forever welcome you in Spring,” said Angelica, sounding more sweetly serene than ever.

“So, it’s a ‘No’ for Christmas then?” asked the Easter Bunny.

“It’s a ‘No!’” declared the four judges in unison.

As he hopped off stage, pushing his ice sculpture in front of him, on walked Bonnie who, unlike the Easter Bunny, had never before auditioned.

“Why have you decided to enter the competition this year?” asked Bramley.

“I have learned so much from you in the last few years,” Bonnie replied. “Only now do I think I know what it takes to be your supportive friend and work partner through the most magical season of all. I hope this convinces you all that I have the right kind of Christmas spirit.”

From behind Bonnie appeared several idyllic Christmas trees, shimmering with fairy lights and baubles. Delightful music started playing. Bonnie danced around the stage, spinning and leaping like a prima ballerina. She then burst into song, singing, to the tune of “Holly, Jolly Christmas”:

 “Have a merry, beary Christmas, it’s the best time of the year. We bears say that Christmas Day is the best day, have no fear. Have a merry, beary Christmas, it’s a time that we hold dear. Oh, be merry have a very beary Christmas this year.”

Bonnie means “pretty, charming and beautiful” and the talented bear certainly lived up to her name on the stage that day. All four judges stood to applaud Bonnie as she completed her performance.

“Wonderfully festive,” said Angelica.

“Superbly Christmassy,” said Ed Elf.

“Dazzling,” said Peetu the Penguin.

“Perfect,” said Bramley, who until now had been thinking he might not find a Christmas friend with which to share the season.

Each judge announced: “It’s a ‘Yes’ from me.”

Bramley declared: “That’s four ‘Yes’s’. Congratulations Bonnie! You will be my partner for the Bramley’s Christmas season 2019.”

Soon after, just the day before the grand Christmas launch at Bramley’s, Bonnie was collecting her freshly cleaned Mrs Claus outfit from the dressing room when she saw Bramley poke his head out of the Santa sack in which he had been snared, only to then witness him being trapped in the laundry basket that was lifted on to the white van.

“No!” came Bonnie’s cry as the van started to drive off. “Stop that van!”

The driver heard the shouting and came to a halt. He opened up the back of the van on Bonnie’s request and, inside the basket, they found Bramley.

“It’s a good job your friend here was looking out for you,” said the driver, “otherwise you’d have ended up in a hot wash at the laundry and may have shrunk out of sight. That would have been a Christmas nightmare.”

Bramley, now holding the sack in which he had been captured, hugged Bonnie and thanked her. “Who put you in the sack in the first place?” she inquired.

“This might be a clue,” he replied, showing her a large feather, with an unmistakable pattern, that was stuck to the sack.

“Oliver Owl?” she asked.

“Oliver Owl indeed!” Bramley confirmed.

Together, they marched off to confront the awful owl. At first, Oliver tried to wriggle out of it, saying: “The feather proves nothing. And anyway, I’ve been nowhere near a Santa sack.”

Bramley quickly countered: “Who said it was attached to a Santa sack? We never did.” They had caught out Oliver and he was forced to admit his wrong-doing. “If I couldn’t be your Christmas friend this year, I didn’t want anyone else to have the opportunity. If you were gone, no one else would have the chance.” Oliver’s wicked plan had backfired on him. He would never again be allowed to join in Christmas festivities.

Bonnie had saved the day. That’s why, when the grand Christmas launch arrived, the event and the season to follow would be more special than at any time before. The twinkling Christmas lights were extra twinkly, the sleigh bells sounded extra jingly.

There in the brightest of spotlights stood the happiest, cheeriest teddy bears in the wide and wonderful world. Bramley had enjoyed this joyous moment so many times before. But this was the most magical of all…because he had another special bear by his side.

The End

Copyright Phil Jones 2019

Original Illustrations Copyright Sue Newton 2019