He’s My Best Friend And He’s Also A Bear

Frankie Orzo was a strange boy and he came from an equally strange family.  He spent a lot of time by himself.  Too much time, his teachers all agreed, but his Great-Aunt Lela, who was his legal guardian, wasn’t concerned.

“Boys have to go their own way,” she said, placidly rocking in the old wooden chair she kept on the porch for just that purpose.

She only said that because she hadn’t yet realized what way Frankie was going.

Frankie’s grown-up cousin, Louise, who also lived with Great-Aunt Lela, wasn’t concerned, either, but that was because she was too busy with her bees.  Louse was a bee-keeper and had fourteen hives out behind the house.  This was one of the chief reasons no one ever came to the house, which of course, just left Frankie with even more time by himself.

A lot of boys would have bored living with two old women and a bunch of bees, but not Frankie.  A lot of boys would have been lonely with nothing to do but roam the woods behind the house after homework was finished, but not Frankie.  Frankie was never bored or lonely.  That’s because Frankie had a secret.

Frankie’s secret went unnoticed for a long time, but nothing stays secret forever, and eventually hints began to appear.

One day on the playground the Harrison brothers were bullying Frankie as usual when suddenly, Frankie reached his arms out to the biggest Harrison brother and wrestled him to the ground.  No one was hurt, but the Harrison boys cried anyway, of course, and Frankie was taken to the office and questioned.

“Where did you learn to wrestle like that?” Principal Mills asked.

“My friend Oswald taught me,” Frankie said.

As no one had been hurt and wrestling was not technically the same as fighting, Frankie was sent back to class with a warning to be more careful.  Principal Mills checked the school records and verified that there was no student named Oswald, but he was a busy man and couldn’t give it much more thought than that.

A week later, Louse came out the back door to find Frankie with his arm inside one of the bee-hives.  While she watched, she carefully pulled his hand out, dripping with honey, and walked away without a sting.

“Where did you learn to handle bees like that?” Louse asked, when she was done telling Frankie off for messing with her hives.

“My friend Oswald taught me,” Frankie said.

“Who is Oswald?” Louse asked, wondering if there was another bee-keeper in town.

“He’s my best friend,” Frankie said, and Great-Aunt Lela rang the dinner bell, cutting off all further conversation.

Two days later, as Frankie was walking home from school, Mrs. Hanson’s dog dug under the fence and confronted Frankie on the street.  Frankie was pale as a sheet, but he stood his ground and as the dog approached, Frankie growled so fiercely that Ripper turned tail and scuttled back under the fence.

Mrs. Hanson, who only saw the last part of this as she pulled into her driveway, was alarmed.

“Where did you learn to growl like that?” she asked Frankie.

“My friend Oswald taught me,” Frankie said.

“What kind of friend would teach a boy to growl?”

“He’s my best friend, and he’s also a bear,” Frankie said.

“Well, I don’t know who this Bear family is, but your grandmother ought to be warned that you are associating with low types,” Mrs. Hanson huffed, and she trotted straight inside to make the call before Frankie could say that Lela was actually his Great-Aunt.

When Frankie got home, Great-Aunt Lela was still rocking placidly on the porch.  She didn’t get up or yell or do anything other grown-ups might have done, but she did say that Frankie was to invite his friend Oswald to dinner, the next night, no excuses.

Frankie did not think this was a good idea, but for all her placid rocking, when Great-aunt Lela made her mind up about something there was no changing it.

The next night, when Great-aunt Lela rang the dinner bell, Frankie came into the yard right on time.  Oswald was just behind him.

Louise screamed.  Great-aunt Lela dropped her bell.

“What is that?” Louse yelled.

“This is Oswald,” Frankie said. “He’s my best friend and he’s also a bear.”

The big black bear nodded over Frankie’s head in a friendly way and tried not to stare longingly at the bee-hives.

“He’s an actual bear,” Great-aunt Lela stated the obvious.

“And an actual friend,” nodded Frankie.

Great-aunt Lela sank into her chair, but she did not rock, placidly or otherwise.

Frankie was a very strange boy, but he was still a boy.  It was dinner time and he was hungry.

“Is it time to eat?” he asked.

Louise stared.

Great-aunt Lela sighed a very, very long sigh.  Then her chair rocked just a little.

“Better bring the dinner out here on the porch, Louise,” she said.

Louise was too stunned not to obey.

Eating on the front porch with a bear as your guest is a very strange thing to do.  Finding that you rather enjoy it is even stranger.

Fortunately, Frankie Orzo had always been a strange boy and he came from an equally strange family.


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