Meeting Honey Bear

Honey Bear Adventure I – The Fair


CHAPTER ONE

The Introduction

ONE LEAF IS ALL THAT REMAINED    on the tree in Ireland and Elijah’s front yard the day they met Honey Bear Johnston. 

It was a Saturday and usually on Saturday they went down to their neighborhood park to play. 

As usual, their mom went along with them and, as usual, she was sitting on a blanket on the grass reading her book while the kids did what they usually did – swing on the swings and talk to each other. 

What they didn’t know was that their mom had arranged for them to meet a very special friend on this day. 

As the two kids swung and talked they suddenly noticed something that was not usual and was hardly believable. 

There, across the park, sitting on a bench was an extremely large grizzly bear! 

At first, they didn’t believe their eyes.  I mean, how often do you see a grizzly bear sitting on a park bench?  And then, as they swung and stared, no longer talking, they both noticed something else – the massive bear seemed to be sitting like a person would and he was looking straight at them!

They tried to get their mom to look up from her book.

 “Mom, mom look at that bear,” Ireland whispered as she motioned for her mom to look in the direction she was pointing.

Their mom looked up from her book and simply shrugged her shoulders at them.  The two kids looked at each other and silently got off their swings and walked over to her.

“Mom, can’t you see him?” Elijah asked

“See who dear?” their mother replied.

“The big bear sitting on the park bench there,” Ireland said.

Their mom looked up at the park bench and as she stared at the bear the children saw the corner of her mouth slowly rise in a smile. She then laughed to herself as she glanced up for a moment in remembrance.

“I think…” she continued, pausing for a second, “I think you should go and say Hello to him.”

“Really?!? – You want us to go up to him?” Elijah said grabbing the sleeve of her shirt.

“Sure, why not – you never know what you might learn and when do you ever see a bear sitting on a park bench?  At least go over and have a look at him,” she said.

“Can you come with us? Do you think he is safe even? “Ireland asked her mom.

“No sweetie, I can’t go and besides I am at a really good part in my book. You guys can go, though, I am sure he is fine and is probably some mascot from a school around here.  I will watch you from here,” she said as she tilted her head to look down at her book.

The bear and the two kids stood across the park from each other, staring, neither of them moving.

Ireland whispered to her brother, “Look at his eyes. He looks friendly enough you should go and say ‘Hi’ to him.”

“Why should I go?  You are the oldest,” he replied.

“Ok, we will both go then,” she said taking his sweaty hand as she started walking.  Inside both of them, they were very scared and it felt as if they had ice water in their veins.

As they got closer to him they could hear him breathe and scratch his fur.  

They were much too frightened to look directly at him, though, and that is when he spoke!

“Hello there,” came a deep, gentle voice from the bear. 

The two children looked up at the bear in disbelief.  He smiled at them and said, “How are you guys today?”

Ireland squeaked out, “We are good, how are you?”

“Oh, I am having a great day thanks for asking,” he said.

“What are you doing here?” Elijah asked him.

“I am here because your mom asked me to come,” the great bear answered back.

“She did? But are you real? We have never seen anything like you before,” Ireland said glancing back at her mom who was pretending to read her book.

“Are you someone’s pet? How did you learn how to talk? Are you a real bear?” Elijah blurted out all at once.

“All questions will be answered in time.  The shortest answer, though, is that I came to play with you and take you on adventures,” the bear replied.

“We would love to play with you!” Elijah almost shouted unable to contain his excitement.

“First off, though,” the bear said. “I need to know your guy’s names.”

“Well my name is Elijah,” Elijah said quickly, “and this is my sister Ireland.”  Ireland of course blushed when her brother said this.

“Well, those are great names,” the big bear said in his great deep gentle voice.

He stood up to his full height towering over the children.  The children gasped when they saw how big he was.  The top of his head was easily above the swing set.

“Wait a minute though,” Ireland suddenly said. 

“What is it?” The bear answered as he looked down at them.

“We don’t know your name.”

“Oh,” he slowly replied.  “My real name is quite long; it is ‘HONEY BEAR JOHNSTON’ but, yes, people just call me Honey Bear.”

Huu-nee beaar Joooohnston,” Ireland sounded out the words he had said.

“Yep, that’s right. My name is Honey Bear Johnston,” he said as he turned toward the playground.

“Now,   are you guys ready to go play?” he asked.

“Yes, there is one down the street,” Ireland replied.

“Ok, let’s go!” Honey Bear said and they all turned and ran for the playground.

Honey Bear played with the kids for more than an hour.  He pushed them on the swings, slid down the slide with them, played tag, and helped them cross the monkey bars.  They did pretty much everything you could think you could ever do on a playground.

The kids were having the time of their lives! No longer bored; their cheeks were all rosy and they were running around screaming and laughing.

Eventually, all three of them sat down on a park bench to have a rest.  Honey Bear was in the middle with either kid on each side of him.

Without even thinking, Ireland reached over and laid her hand on Honey Bear’s forearm and a funny thing happened when she did that.  The fur in her hand felt coarse and its color was a very dark brown.  But, as her hand stayed there, she watched as the hair touching her hand suddenly started to change.  At first, it started to change color. It became a lighter and lighter brown.  Then, it became softer and curly. 

She hugged his arm and snuggled her face down into the soft curly light brown hair as Honey Bear’s arm completely changed. 

Ireland didn’t know it, but Elijah was doing the same thing on Honey Bear’s other arm.

Both kids were so busy cuddling they didn’t notice that Honey Bear’s whole body was changing color and he was transforming into a lighter bear the longer they held his arms.

The kids and Honey Bear sat there for what seemed like a long time just enjoying cuddling until Honey Bear finally said, “What other fun things can we get up to?”

Ireland raised her head and said, “We don’t know, we usually just play on the playground.”

“Do you guys have bikes?” He asked them.

“Yeah we have bikes,” Elijah answered back.

“Ok, Why don’t you go and get your bikes and meet me back here then,” Honey Bear said.

“Sure!” They both said as they turned and quickly ran back to where their mom was gently folding her blanket to get ready to go back home.

CHAPTER TWO

The Fair

AFTER THEY RETURNED TO THE PARK, Honey Bear was already waiting for them.  His bike was beside him and now he had on a backpack.

He said, “OK, follow me,” as he climbed up onto his bike and started to ride away in front of them. 

The kids looked at each other and smiled as they thought it funny to see such a big bear riding a bike!

His bike was bigger than an ordinary bike but it still looked tiny compared to him.  His big paws couldn’t even fit on the peddles and the tires looked as if they were going to pop as they rode off down the street.

Honey Bear was easy to keep up with and he always slowed down for the children when they came to a hill.

After a little while, they ended up at the back entrance to the State Fair.

They got off of their bikes and followed Honey Bear as he walked his bike over to where a security guard was sitting.  They couldn’t hear what Honey Bear said to the guard, but a few moments later he waved them to come over.

“You can leave your bikes with mine behind the guard shack here.  Don’t worry, Art here is a friend of mine and he will watch them for us.”

The children set their bikes up beside Honey Bear’s bike and then followed him through the gate that Art was holding open for them.

The kids were excited. They had never been to the fair before. 

They soon found out too that there is no one better to go to the fair with than Honey Bear.  It seemed as if he knew someone in every booth and ride. 

He would say, “thanks Sam,” or, “thanks a lot Cindy,” or, “appreciate it, Jeremy”.

They went on every ride they could stomach, the Ferris wheel, the kiddie coaster, the Tilt’a’Whirl (that one kind of made Elijah sick), the Go Karts’, and the train.  They even rode the ponies (Honey Bear didn’t though because he was too big).

As they were walking from ride to ride they came to a massive wooden roller coaster.

The kids tilted their heads way back and watched as the tiny coaster cars slowly carried people to the top of the rickety ride.  The coaster car would pause for a moment as it reached the summit before plunging into a terror-filled free fall with the people inside screaming for their lives.

“What is this ride?” Elijah asked.

“Exist…” Ireland said trying to read its large neon lit-up sign that shook every time the coaster car flew by it.

“Existential Crises,” Honey Bear said.

“What does that mean?” Ireland asked.

“It means it is really scary,” Honey Bear answered.

“What a dumb name for a roller coaster,” Ireland said.

Honey Bear laughed.

“Can we go on it? Please! Please!” Elijah said jumping up and down.

“No, I don’t think we are big enough,” Ireland said chewing on her fingernails.

“Sure we are. Look!” Elijah said running over and standing next to a sign that read ‘You Must Be This Tall To Ride,’ clearly showing that they were tall enough.

“Come on Ireland it will be fun.  Let’s go,” he said grabbing her hand and dragging her to the ride’s entrance.

“I don’t think I want to go on it.  Why don’t you and Honey Bear go without me,” she said.

“I can’t let you stay here by yourself,” Honey Bear answered.

“Oh come on Ireland.  Just go.  I can’t believe that we wouldn’t go on the best roller coaster in the world because you are scared,” Elijah said in a whiny voice.

“I told you I don’t want to,” Ireland answered back.

“You are just chicken – CHICKEN!” he said starting to walk around her in a circle flapping his arms like wings.

“I am not a chicken!” She said getting angry at her brother.

“Well then prove it by going on the roller coaster,

 Chicken,” he said grinning.

“Stop calling me chicken!” she exclaimed.

“Honey Bear, make him stop calling me a chicken.”

Honey Bear just stood there waiting, not saying anything either way.

Elijah changed his approach.

“Come on Ireland, please,” he pleaded. “I’ll owe you.”

Ireland stood for a moment trying to decide if she would go or not. 

Elijah looked at her with big, pleading eyes.

“Ok, I’ll go.  Just stop looking at me like that” she finally said.

So with much fear and trembling she slowly followed Elijah and Honey Bear toward the entrance of the creaky old coaster.

CHAPTER THREE

To Ride Or Not To Ride

AFTER THE THREE OF THEM WERE inside a coaster car (somehow Honey Bear fit in with them), a little chrome bar was lowered across their laps to hold them in.

The coaster car jerked a few times before it started its slow ascent.

The clickity-clack of the chain that pulled them up the steep incline could be felt through the bottom of their little sparkly blue and white coaster car. 

Ireland was holding on to the bar for all she was worth.  Her face was white and she did not say anything on the journey to the top of the ride.

Elijah, on the other hand, couldn’t stop yelling and boasted that he was going to raise his hands the whole time and not hold on at all.

Finally, their car reached the top and for a moment they could see the whole fairground from their perch.

It was at that moment, that Ireland suddenly realized that this was the same roller coaster she had remembered hearing about. How last year something had gone wrong with it and one of its coaster cars had come off the tracks killing everyone inside.  She felt tremendous dread rise inside her and she believed her very existence depended on her getting off the ride.

She started to say, “I don’t want to do th…” when their car plunged downward.

It felt as if her insides were trying to grab her skeleton in a desperate attempt to hold on to something.

She could not breathe as every muscle in her body contracted as they free-fell.

Elijah, on the other side, had his hands raised and was screaming, “This is awesome, this is awesome,” over and over again.

Honey Bear just smiled.

After the initial descent, the rest of the ride was not as scary for Ireland.  When they went in a circle fast she even started to enjoy it. She was screaming now, but still never letting go.

The coaster car did one final turn before the brakes slowed them down to a jerky stop.

The bar holding them in snapped forward the moment the car stopped.

Ireland, smiling, stepped out and had to stop for a moment as her legs felt like jelly.

Honey Bear held her shoulders for a minute until she regained her balance.

“So, what did you think?” He asked her.

“It was not that bad after the first fall,” she said smiling.

“Let’s do it again, let’s do it again,” Elijah shouted.

“I think we are going to take a little break. Maybe we can sit down and find something to eat,” Honey Bear said.

“I think so too Honey Bear.  Thank you,” Ireland said.

“OK, I am hungry anyway” Elijah answered following them through the ride exit.

“I think the food is over this way,” Honey Bear said walking off in the opposite direction.

The kids followed after him as they wound their way back through all the rides they had been on.

As they turned a corner they found themselves in front of a ride that they had not seen yet.

It was bright silver and looked like a giant octopus that spun around with capsules on each of its arms.  The capsules spun in all directions as well.  As they watched, the whole octopus lifted up and began to spin around too!

The ride became nothing more than a blur of spinning lights and inside of them more spinning lights.

“This is awesome, I love rides that spin.  What is this ride called?” Ireland asked.

Brain Blender,” she heard Elijah say as he pointed at a sign lit up with flames.

“I don’t want to go on this.  I hate spinning rides,” Elijah said.

For a moment Ireland and Honey Bear just looked at him in silence before Honey Bear said, “Seriously?  After all the grief you gave Ireland about the roller coaster?”

“I am scared of rides that spin like that, though,” he said looking down at the ground.

‘Well, I was scared of rides that fall from the sky and I went on it so you could go,” Ireland stated.

“I think you should go,” Honey Bear said.

“But I am scared,” he said.

“I still think you should go. For your sister,”

“Yeah, you owe me,” Ireland added.

Elijah stood for a moment with a look of defiance on his face but whether it was because he didn’t want to let Honey Bear down or because he felt bad for his sister he finally said, “Ok, I’ll go.”

“Yay,” Ireland said with delight as she led them to the Brain Blender’s entrance.

Once again, the three of them somehow squeezed into one of the capsules and Ireland was all smiles as the ride started slowly.

“Wee! She screamed as it started to pick up speed.

Elijah held on to the harness bar as tight as he could. 

“This is not too bad,” he thought to himself at first.

A few seconds later, though, as it gained more and more speed he did not feel the same thing.

He started to panic as he lost all sense of where he was. All he could see was ground-sky, ground-sky, ground-sky continually.

He felt like he was going to throw up and he began to cry hoping that the ride would end soon.

He could overhear Ireland screaming with delight every time the capsule made a particularly gut-wrenching spin.

Honey Bear looked down at him and put his great paw on his white-knuckled hand.

“You will be OK Elijah. The ride is almost over.  Just hang on,” he said encouragingly.

A few minutes later (although it felt like a few hours to Elijah) they could tell the ride was starting to slow down.

The octopus sat back down, right-side up and the ground no longer exchanged places with the sky.

A moment after the capsule came to a stop, there was a hiss of escaping air as the door to the capsule swung open and the harness holding them in sprung up allowing them to exit.

Elijah could not leave the ride fast enough but a good thing for him Honey Bear held on to him because the moment his legs touched the stairs he started to fall to the side like you do when you get off of a merry-go-round.

Honey Bear had to help him the whole way off the ride and it was all Elijah could do to not throw up.

“That was fun!” Ireland said showing no signs that the ride had affected her at all.

“That was brutal! I never want to do that again,” was all Elijah could say back to her.

“I think we need to rest here for a little while,” Honey Bear said sitting down on a park bench.

Elijah agreed and sat with his head in his hands as it still felt like he was on the ride.

 After about fifteen minutes he started to feel better but not a hundred percent. “I think I am done with rides for the rest of the day Honey Bear,” he groaned.

 “Well, that is good because I am feeling peckish.  I think that we should get something to eat.” The kids giggled when he said peckish which means hungry.

“How about you?” He asked. “Are you guys peckish  yet?”

Of course, the kids were hungry, but they did not bring any money.

Ireland turned red and she looked at the ground as she said, “We are hungry Honey Bear but we don’t have any money for food.”

 “Sweetie, don’t worry.  When you are with me here you can have anything you want.”

“Anything?” she whispered.

“Anything!”

“Well in that case,” Elijah announced feeling much much better, “I want one of those burgers that are as big as your face.  And…  I want some cotton candy and some ice cream and…”

“Haha,” a deep laugh came from Honey Bear and he smiled big.  “One thing at a time there partner,” he said.

“How about you Ireland?  What would you like?”

“Oh, I don’t know, there are just too many choices.”

“Well, I guess we will just have to try a little of everything then,” Honey Bear said as he walked over to the nearest food booth.

They went to almost every booth and tried everything you could imagine.  The kids even tried some food from other countries like pad thai, piroshki, and yakisoba.

Whatever the kids didn’t finish Honey Bear would.  The kids couldn’t believe how much he could eat but then again he was a really big bear.

After they couldn’t eat or drink another bite they decided they should walk around the fairgrounds and look at all the exhibits.

The children walked along hand in hand with Honey Bear skipping and laughing.   They could not remember when they had been this happy.

CHAPTER FOUR

The Contest

AS THEY WALKED ALONG THEY CAME TO a big red barn and on its door, there was a  painted cardboard sign that said ‘Honey Taste Testing Contest Today’ in bright yellow letters.

“Honey Bear you should do that,” Ireland burst out.

“Yeah, I bet you would be great at it,” Elijah said.

“Well,” Honey Bear said slowly.  “I am a bear so I do really like honey and I have eaten enough to know what is good honey and bad honey.  So, sure why not.”

Elijah pulled open the large wooden door and all three of them stepped inside the big barn.

Inside, there was a man near the front on a stage speaking through a microphone.

There was quite a crowd packed in the barn and the children could see a long table on the stage with four people sitting behind it and one empty chair.

The man was saying that the tasting test would start shortly but that one more judge was needed to make it 5.  As he was saying this he looked over at Honey Bear and the children.

“Well folks,” he said, “I think that we might have the best honey taste tester in the country here with us today!  Honey Bear Johnston, will you please do us the honor of helping judge our humble contest?”

Everyone in the building turned and looked at them and then burst into applause.

Honey Bear and the kids made their way up to the stage.  Honey Bear sat in the empty chair at the table and someone put two folding chairs next to him for the kids.

Once everyone was seated, the man with the microphone said, “As you all know this is the final round tonight and we have three contestants left.  Can the first contestant please come up to the stage?”

A tall, lanky farmer dressed in dirty coveralls with a dirty hat stepped up to the stage and in his hands, he had a clear mason jar filled with deep translucent yellow honey.  He proceeded to open the jar, scoop a little plastic spoon full of it and set it down in front of each judge.

Each of the five judges, including Honey Bear put the plastic spoon in their mouth and sat there tasting the honey.

After a moment, the man with the microphone asked the judges what they thought. 

“Oh, it is very, very good,” one lady said.

Another one said, “I think that is some of the best honey I have tasted.”

The man turned to Honey Bear, “And how about you Honey Bear what do you think?”

Honey Bear paused for a moment.  The children looked up at him.

“Well, this honey is of very high quality.  I think that it is taken from hives that are near cherry orchards.  Yes, I think that this is some of the finest cherry blossom honey I have ever tasted,” he said as he looked at the farmer.

The farmer nodded his head and took his hat off.

“Wow,” the man with the microphone said. “I told you he is the best honey taster around.”

Everyone in the audience burst into applause.  The children hugged Honey Bear’s arms and were so excited and proud to be up on the stage with him.

“OK,” the man with the microphone said motioning the crowd to quiet down.

“Now for our second contestant.”

A short chubby farmer stepped forward with a tall jar that had clear bright yellow honey in it.

Like the previous contestant, he gave each of the judges a plastic spoonful of honey from his special jar.

After a few moments, the judge asked for their opinion again.

“This is the best so far,” one man said.

“Can I get another spoonful?” Another lady joked.

“Honey Bear what do think?” The man said into the microphone.

Once again Honey Bear paused a moment and slowly licked his lips.

“Well, this honey is some of the highest quality and sweetest honey I have ever tasted in my life.”

“Yes, I think that this exceptionally sweet honey comes from hives that are near tulip and daffodil fields.”

The short farmer smiled and nodded at Honey Bear.

Once again the audience applauded loudly and the children hugged Honey Bear.

“Well, this is getting exciting,” the man with the microphone exclaimed.

“And now for our last contestant,” he said as a normal-looking medium-sized man stepped up to the stage. 

In his hands, he had a tiny jar with dark brown honey in it that he was holding very carefully.

He gently stopped in front of each of the judges and gave them a much smaller sample of honey than the other contestants had.  He was careful to not let any drip on the table or down the side of the jar.  He treated the honey as if it were gold.

Everyone in the audience could tell that there was something special about this honey by the way the judges reacted. 

They were all speechless sitting there licking their lips and the spoon for any last little bits they may have missed.

All one of the judges could say was “Where did you get that honey? Where did you get that honey?” Over and over again.

The man who had brought the honey just shook his head and would not say anything.

“Well, Honey Bear, what do you think?” The man with the microphone said to him.

Once again Honey Bear paused but this time he didn’t say anything for what seemed like a long time. 

Everyone in the audience was on the edge of their seats and the children were holding onto his arms.

Suddenly, he got a big smile on his face and he looked over at the man who had brought the honey.

“This is wild honey, isn’t it?”

The man smiled and slowly nodded his head.

Honey Bear continued, “This is wild honey that comes from somewhere way up high in the mountains where wild flowers grow for only a couple of months a year. Only the strongest of bees can make it up there to get the honey.  A place like ‘Paradise’ I think.”

The man nodded and said, “Yes Honey Bear I was way up in the mountains on a hike to a place called ‘Lion Rock’.  It is a rock outcropping that the wind has battered and shaped into what looks like a great stone lion.  After a grueling hike that took hours, I finally made it to Lion Rock and as I approached it to have a rest, I saw some bees coming out of a hole near what would be the stomach of the great lion. 

So, I lit a little campfire in front of the hole so that the smoke would protect me from the bees and I was able to get just enough honey to fill this little bottle.  When I tasted it I knew that it was very special and that I could win this contest.”

The crowd erupted into its loudest applause yet.

The man with the microphone said, “Judges you have two minutes to discuss and tell us who the winner is.”

The judges huddled together for a moment and everyone could see them nodding their heads.

Honey Bear stepped forward and the man gave him the microphone.

“All the honey we tasted today is of the highest quality,” he began.  “But we feel that the honey from the mountain wildflowers is the best.”

Whistles and shouts could be heard from the crowd as the man came to the stage to receive a big blue ribbon.

Honey Bear leaned over to the kids and said, “We should probably get you home.”

After saying their goodbyes, the three of them quietly left the barn and walked back to Art to get their bikes.

The ride home seemed to take a long time and the children were super tired as they finally turned up the road to their house.

As they pulled up to their driveway and got off their bikes, Ireland had tears in her eyes as she looked at Honey Bear.  “Are we going to see you again?”

Honey Bear smiled at her, “Come here guys,” he said and held out his giant arms.

The kids dropped their bikes and ran into them.  They could feel him transform as he hugged them tightly. They both buried their faces into his soft curly hair and started to cry.

“Why are you crying?  This is not the end.  It is just the beginning of many adventures that we will have.  I will be around but I can only come out to play sometimes and you will never know when I will show up until I do.”

With that, he hugged them one last time and they picked up their bikes and walked up the driveway.

They turned around to wave at him one more time as he rode off down the road.

The two kids never forgot that day and they were excited that Honey Bear told them that this was just the start of adventures with him.

As both of them climbed into their beds that night and fell asleep, they dreamt of cotton candy, roller coasters, and honey-tasting contests but the best dream of all was when they dreamt of Honey Bear holding them tight and cuddling with them.


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