Two bears, Steve and Ted, walk into a bar.
“Hope they don’t ask for ID,” says Ted.
“They don’t check bears for ID.”
“How do you know?”
“I just know,” says Steve, the older of the two. “By the way your tie is askew.”
“Thanks. I like it too.”
“I mean the big piece in front is supposed to be longer than the skinny piece behind it. A lot longer.”
“I’m making a statement,” says Ted blithely. Blithe is a difficult look for a bear to pull off, but Ted has spent a lot of time practicing in front of a reflecting pool.
On his wrist he sports a Rolex knockoff, while Steve carries a brief case. Each wears a pair of gym shorts. In addition to his tie, Ted flashes three flat strands of gold around his neck.
“You’re not supposed to wear gold chains with a tie.”
“The chains are for a casual event. The tie is more formal,” says Steve. “You can’t be formal and informal at the same time.”
“Who died and made you Hugo Boss?”
Seated at the bar, Steve feels relief that they are fitting in. He’s glad they asked advice from Morty, the shaggy bear from just over the mountain. He’d been going into town since forever and nobody ever looked twice at him.
The secret? Blend in. Wear a watch, carry a brief case. Hide the wooly zones. Morty even helped outfit them with stuff taken from wandering minstrels over the years.
No one will look twice at you, Morty told them. They’ll assume you’re a couple guys who rented bear suits but the zipper got stuck and you can’t get them off.
“What’ll it be, gents?”
The bartender eyes Ted and Steve closely.
“Two Moosehead,” says Steve. “Or Mooseheads. Never sure which is grammatically correct. I left my Chicago Style Manual in the car.”
Morty believed in realistic conversation, the kind of arcane stuff a bartender would never think a bear could know.
The bartender deals coasters and places an open green bottle on each. Ted looks closely at the label. “Geez, I think I know this moose. It looks like Sandy.”
“You know, boys,” says the bartender, laying down the tab, “we don’t get many bears in here.”
“Eighteen dollars?” says Ted staring at the tab. “For two beers? No wonder.”
“Uh, we’re not really bears,” says Steve. “We were invited to this costume party…”
“Lemme guess,” says the bartender. “Your zippers got stuck and you can’t get the costumes off. Right?”
“Er, yes,” says Steve, unnerved. “Quite embarrassing.”
“Well you boys are in luck. See that gent over there?”
Ted and Steve turn to look at an unshaven old man alone at a table, nursing a beer and a toothpick. Staring straight at them.
“He’s a retired zipper repairman. Helped get a guy out of a stuck gorilla suit just last week.”
“You don’t say,” says Steve, feigning enthusiasm. Ted adds “Maybe he can help us get out of these suits.”
Steve eyes Ted in disbelief, throwing him the ut-shay up-say ozo-bay look.
“Gosh, look at the time,” says Steve. “Sorry, we’ve gotta run.”
But the bartender holds up a hand.
“Friendly piece of advice?” He leans in. “I made you guys the minute you walked in.”
“Was it the smell?” asks Steve. “We used after-shave. Only, you know, we didn’t actually shave.”
“I drank mine,” says Ted. “Had a nice bite to it.”
The bartender looks directly at Ted. “Nobody but a bear wears bling with a tie. What you’d call a faux pas.” Like many barkeeps who failed high school French, he butchers faux pas.
“Oh yeah?” Ted lays his right claw up under the bartender’s nose. “You think this is some wimpy fox’s paw?”
“Trouble, Marv?” It’s the geezer with the toothpick, now cradling a Mossberg 12-gauge.
Steve grabs Ted and pulls him out the door, with Ted shouting “I eat fox for breakfast.”
All the way back to the forest Ted keeps turning to Steve, who is smoldering.
“What?” he asks. “What?”
©Patrick A. McGuire and A Hint of Light 2014, all rights reserved.