art by Jason Stirret
by Melissa Mead
"Let's take a walk while our porridge cools off," announced the largest of the three bears in a voice that carried through the clearing. All three bears left the cottage and settled in the blind to wait. The girl crept out of the woods soon after.
"The poor thing's so thin!" said the middle bear.
Her larger colleague chuckled. "You'd be feeding every subject in the forest if you had your way, Mama Bear."
"I wish you'd stop calling me that."
"Serves you right for calling me Baby," said the smallest of the trio. "Whoa, what a crash! What's she doing--wrecking the place?"
They waited until everything fell silent before returning to the cottage, eyes and ears alert.
"Subject tasted my porridge," the largest bear noted.
"And mine, but not enough for much of a dose."
"She ate mine all up," said the smallest bear in a tone of satisfaction. "I told you to add honey."
"Now to find her," the largest bear grumbled. "She sat in my chair..."
"Tore the cushion on mine," said Mama. "The sedative must've been taking effect."
"I'll say! My chair's smashed to bits. I'll bet she fell on it."
"That must've been the crash we heard," said Mama Bear. "Any sign of her, Papa?"
"Not in my bed."
"Here's our little culprit," said the third bear with a happy growl. "Sleeping like a cub. Between five and eight years old, I'd guess. Mama, can you get the measurements without waking her up?"
"And draw a blood sample. Watch!"
In short order, the golden-haired girl was weighed, measured, and tagged, and the blood sample drawn. They were implanting the tracker when someone knocked on the door.
"Got another one?" said the fox on the doorstep.
"Yep. Juvenile female, looks healthy," said Baby Bear. "We're sending her to the Maplewoods preserve."
The fox shook his head. "I know it's none of my business, but I still think you should consider issuing hunting permits. These humans are overrunning the planet."
This story was first published on Wednesday, March 13th, 2013