The Bear in the Desert

A story about diversity, acceptance and living our purpose, for children of all ages.
by Jim Murdoch

Once upon a time there was a little bear who lived in a desert. I know, you would expect a bear to live in the woods on in the mountains. But this little bear lived in the desert, all alone, except, that is, for his little friend, the spider. Now you wouldn’t expect a spider to live in the desert either, would you? And how did these two out of place creatures end up in a desert, you might ask? Well we’ll get to that.
Anyway, here they were, a little bear and a spider, all alone in a desert wondering what to do in this vast expanse of sand.
“I know what we can do?” said the spider. Bear called the spider, Spider, and Spider called the bear, Bear. So we’ll continue to call them Spider and Bear from now on.
“I know what we can do?” said Spider. Yes, I know I said that already, but just in case you forgot I repeated it.
“What,” said a tired little Bear, lying in the sun with his nose in the sand. It tickled his nose and made him sneeze blowing sand all over Spider and the length of web she had just spun out to a nearby twig sticking out of the sand.
“Oh, bother, Bear. My web is sandy now. I’ll have to throw this away and spin another bit.” Spider was quite annoyed because spiders were usually quite careful not to waste any web. They would always eat what they couldn’t use anymore.
“I’m sorry,” said Bear, sitting up and rubbing the sand from his nose. “But this sand gets everywhere. It gets into my ears, into my nose, into my mouth, and even into my,”
“Ahem!” interrupted Spider. She was a lady spider and didn’t care for such vulgar topics.
Bear wondered what was wrong then proceeded to scratch sand out of his fur.
“As I was saying before you ruined my perfectly new strand of web, I know what we can do?”
“You said that already,” said Bear, rubbing the fur on his belly.

Spider opened her mouth to say something rude but changed her mind.Spider
“Well I am going to tell you what we can do,” she said as she cast another sticky strand over to the twig. It wrapped itself around the tiny twig and stuck. Spider pulled until it was tight then cast another strand over to a pebble in the sand. After a few minutes Spider had spun a web and took her place in its centre.
“There,” she said with pride. “Now we can catch a fly and eat it for lunch. Just then a big black and blue fly flew around Bear’s head three times and flew straight into Spider’s web. Spider jumped into action. She raced to the fly, bit it, paralysing it, spun a few strands around its body, tying its wings to its side so it couldn’t fly away, then proceeded to bite off the bits of web holding the fly to the web while at the same time spinning it around while wrapping more and more web around its body.
Bear was fascinated to watch Spider at work.
“Now it’s all ready,” said Spider excitedly. “Want some?” And she started to suck at the dying fly.
“Yuck,” said Bear, holding his paw to his mouth. Bears don’t eat flies,” he said and walked away so as not to see what Spider was doing.
“What do you eat then?” asked Spider.
“Berries, fruit, fish, roots of plants, oh and I love grub.”
“Grub?” squealed Spider. “You mean the larvae of insects?”
“Yep. Those are very juicy and make me feel strong.”
“I don’t know how you could even think of eating such a thing,” said Spider, shivering so that her web shook making her bounce this way and that way.
“I don’t think about eating,” said Bear, wondering why on earth anyone would want to think about eating. “I just eat them.”
“Oh dear, Bear.” Spider was exasperated. “Eating must be contemplated. It needs planning and a lot of preparation. There is a lot of thinking goes into eating. You really should try it. It makes eating much more enjoyable.”
Bear stopped scratching and looked at Spider. “Think about eating?” he thought aloud. “OK, I’ll try.” So Bear closed his eyes and thought about eating. He thought about eating honey, catching and eating fish, eating the nuts which squirrels hid in the ground, plucking berries from bushes and eating them, and his favourite, digging the soil for juicy grubs and eating those.
“Ooh,” said Bear, rubbing his tummy.
“What’s the matter?” asked Spider.
“All this thinking about eating is making me hungry.” Bear’s tummy rumbled like rocks rolling down a gravel slope.
“What’s that noise?” asked Spider looking around for a hill where rocks could roll down.
“That’s my tummy rumbling.”
“Oh. That’s a silly thing for a tummy to do. Why does it do that?”
“Because it wants food.”
“Spiders don’t have rumbling tummies. We just sit and wait for our food to come to us and it always does.”
“I’ve been sitting here for ages and no food has come my way,” complained Bear, rubbing his tummy some more.
“That’s because you don’t have a web,” said Spider eyeing another delicious fly flying nearby.
“Bears can’t make webs.”
“Then how on earth do you catch your food?” Spider laughed. She simply couldn’t imagine catching food any other way. What a strange bear Bear was.
Bear stood on all four paws, thought for about half a second, then said, “I’ll show you.”
He then proceeded to scrape and dig at the sand, sniffing with his nose and digging some more, sniffing a little and digging some more. After what seemed like an eternity for Spider, Bear yelped with excitement as he plunged his paw into the hole in the sand and pulled out two wriggling grubs.
“Ugh,” cringed Spider.
“Oh,” said Spider as she watched Bear lick his paws and swallow the grubs in a gulp.
“Now that was good, but I’m still hungry,” Bear said.
Just then it began to rain sand. Sand poured down from the sky like an avalanche.
“Hey, Bear, watch out for my web. It’s getting all sandy.”
“I’m not doing that,” said Bear trying to shield his eyes from the flying sand.
The downpour of sand stopped. There in front of Bear and Spider stood a little puppy dog, tongue hanging, tail wagging and panting like he had just run a mile in the sand.

“So you spread all that sand over us,” said Spider. Dog, for that’s what Bear and Spider decided to call the puppy dog, yelped, spun around and kicked some sand with his back paw.
“Such a silly dog, Dog,” said Spider, looking at her ruined web. “Why would anyone want toPuppy Dog spray sand in the air? Don’t you know that it will come down again on our heads?”
Dog bounced and wagged his tail, yelped and said, ”Fun!” Then he ran in circles around where Bear stood and Spider sat on her web. “Fun, fun, fun,” said Dog.
Bear thought that was fun and danced around like Dog. But after a few seconds he grew tired and sat down beside Spider.
“Phew,” Bear said. “This fun is much too tiring. It makes me hungrier.”
“All that waste of energy,” said Spider, “When he could be building a web.” Spider was busy tearing down the sandy web and planning the next one.
“Maybe dogs don’t build webs either,” said Bear, laying his chin on his paws.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” said Spider, sending out the new strands for the best web ever. “Do you suppose Dog digs for his food like a bear. Ha!” Spider laughed at the idea. Having one creature digging for grubs was quite bad enough, two creatures digging for food was preposterous.
“Hey, Dog,” called Bear to the dog. “How do you get your food?” Dog looked at Bear, looked at Spider, yelped and turned and ran away over the hill of sand. Bear wanted to see where Dog was going so he scrambled up the sandy hill with Spider on his back and they watched as Dog ran and ran until he came to a group of strange creatures who walked on their hind legs and had no fur. One of them took something and gave it to Dog. Bear was amazed, these stand up creatures give the dog food. Dog doesn’t even need to dig for it. And he doesn’t even need a web to catch it. Dog ran with something in his mouth back to Bear and Spider and set the odd looking food on the sand.
Bear looked at it and sniffed. “That smells nice. What is it?”
“Biscuit!” yelped Dog.
Spider walked over and tapped it. “Completely inedible,” she said.
Bear was about to grab the biscuit but Dog took it whole in his mouth and munched it till he had eaten all of it.
One of the stand up creatures called out. Dog’s ears perked. “Master,” he said, “give food.” He danced and spun and ran off back to his master.
“Huh,” said Bear. “I wish a master would give me food.” Bear looked around. From the hill he could see lots of stand up creatures, little ones and big ones. And there was water. Lots of water. And on the other side there were trees, lots of trees.
“This desert is not so big,” said Bear.
“Let’s go over to those trees,” said Spider. “I can build a really big web there and catch lots of flies.”
So Bear, carrying Spider on his back, walked away from the tiny desert by the sea back into the woods from where he wandered only a short time ago. He walked with Spider on his back sniffing the air as they went.
“I smell berries,” he said. Then he stopped.
“Why are you stopping?” asked Spider. She had spied a lovely tree with long branches and already was planning how she would build her grandest of all webs on it.
“I am thinking,” said Bear.
“About eating?” asked Spider.
“Yes. Isn’t it funny how all creatures eat different food, and isn’t it peculiar how each creature gets its food different from the others?”
“Yes, I had noticed,” said spider now with a complete plan of her new web in her head. “But I really must get building my web. Can you walk me closer to that big tree, please?”
“OK,” said Bear who was quite tired from all that thinking and the smell of berries was almost overwhelming. “And I need to find those berries, I’m hungry.”

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