He was born in the hot, desert wilderness of the Grand Canyon. Abandoned by his parents, he wandered, alone, lost, destitute across the orange-yellow rocks of the canyon’s one-mile deep floor. Kicking up dust-spray from his dried feet, he walked for days, months, years. He truly had become a hobo bear; he had no clue who he was.
But then, out of the desert heat, like a silver mirage, rose a structure he had never seen before. Desperate for water and, if he was honest with himself, desperate for a hug too, he struggled onwards to this brown monolith. A rectangular paradise rising up from the side of the canyon’s southern edge.
Reaching the building, the bear saw there were hundreds upon hundreds of the two-legged humans strolling around it and through it. If this was a shrine the humans were using, then surely it must contain water in it!
He went upto the towering rectangular shape the humans were using to walk through the structure; soaring over him, the bear caught a glimpse of another bear, just like him, in the rectangle. He waved at the second bear and the bear waved back at him. He walked towards the second bear and the bear walked towards him. He flung his arms wide, hoping for that big hug he-
BONK! He bounced off the rectangle shape, his face reddening with embarrasment. It was just like the canyon’s waterholes: a mirror, yet one standing vertically.
The bear sighed, ignored the second bear, because it was actually himself in reverse (and, oh my days, he looked rough…he needed a shower and a shave), and pushed on through the shape with the word ENTRANCE written on it.
What struck him immediately – blinding him so much he crossed an arm over his eyes – were the lights. It was so bright in here! There were so many legs strolling past him at high speed, like moving trunks towering above him, they knocked into him, sending him spinning.
Water. Water! WATER. That’s all he wanted. Some water. After so many months in the dry desert, he wanted-
“How did you get down there, hmm?” the woman’s voice boomed, before she swiped a hand around his waist and carried him across the building. Trying not to panic, he stayed deathly still. He held his breath, hoping she was taking him to water.
She threw him down and he landed, unbelievably, amongst tigers, zebras, buffalo…and more bears like him. All of them were trapped here, frozen and holding their breaths like he was.
“There we are: that’s where you belong!” the huge woman patted him on the head, hard, and left him sitting with all the others she had captured.
Sighing, he realised all hope was lost. All the months wandering had led him to this: to be trapped, forever, on a small and cramped shelf, in a tiny building. No more would he have the freedom to stroll where he wanted, watching the sunset and gazing up at the faraway, twinkling stars.
“Hello, mate,” a man’s soft voice whispered nearby. “You look as if you need a friend. And so do I.”
And then the man – who had quite a lot of hair on his face and wore big, black glasses – gently picked him up, and smiled.
“I’m travelling alone and I really could do with some company. Fancy coming along…Ranger Ted?”
The bear smiled back at the man as they went across the building, then out into the Grand Canyon’s fresh, white sunlight. And as they walked, together, to a waiting pickup truck, Ranger Ted – happy with his new name – let his mind wander to daydreams of far-flung places around the Earth that he would love to visit…and might be able to with his new friend, Anthony.
Ranger Ted had found himself, at last.