the three bears who know better

One morning, Papa Bear, Mama Bear, and Baby Bear went for a walk in the forest waiting for their breakfast porridge to cool.   It had been a happy walk, and they returned to their cozy home very hungry for their breakfast. They were dismayed when they walked into their kitchen and found their porridge had been tasted and dripped on the table, and Baby Bear’s little bowl of porridge was empty, quite all gone!  They were even more upset when they went into their front room and found Baby Bear’s small chair tumbled and broken into pieces on the floor!  When they went upstairs, the three bears were puzzled when they found that Papa and Mama Bear’s beds were messed and jumbled.  Baby Bear ran to his bed and there he found the unwelcome visitor lying asleep in his little bed.  The three bears stared in astonishment at the golden-haired girl sound asleep in Baby Bear’s bed. “Well, well, well,” murmured Mama Bear. At that sound, the little girl awoke to the sight of a very large Papa Bear, a medium-sized Mama Bear, and a smaller Baby Bear staring down at her.  The little girl gave a loud and alarming shriek!  She instantly scrambled from the bed, rushed past the bears, and flew down the stairs, screaming all the way out their door!


Daddy Bear was a very big bear, but very fast!  “I’ll be back!” he exclaimed as he ran down the stairs and out the front door.  Slipping from tree to tree, he turned into a big brown shadow as he quietly followed the little girl with the golden hair through the forest.  Soon he could she was bewildered and a little lost, but with time and looking here and there, she found a path that took her to a house outside the woods.  A man and woman were there and roughly grabbed the little girl when she appeared, calling her Goldilocks and scolding her loudly as they took her inside.  Daddy Bear could hear that the little girl had disobeyed when she went into the forest, which was definitely off limits.


Once Daddy Bear returned home, he told Mama and Baby Bear what he had seen.  Then, together they cleaned and fixed the mess Goldilocks had made and sat down for a lunch of wild blueberries, and they made a plan, deciding exactly what they would do.


Early the next morning as soon as their breakfast was finished, the three bears left their home and headed to where Goldilocks lived.  Soon enough, they were hidden in the shadows of the tall trees, watching her home. Baby Bear rolled on the soft forest floor while Daddy Bear scratched his back on the rough bark of a large tree.  Mama Bear sat in the green grass.  They saw Goldilocks outside playing in her yard, and she didn’t go near the forest.  The Three Bears ate a lunch in the shadow of the trees, but soon enough, they returned home.  It was on the third day of watching the house where Goldilocks lived that the bears heard a rumbling sound, and then the side of the house peeled open and a box on wheels rolled out of the house and disappeared down the winding road, while the side of the house slid shut.


“That’s one of those people-things called a veeckle!” Daddy Bear solemnly explained.  “They’re gone for now.  Let’s try the door!”


Daddy and Mama Bear each picked up a box they had carried with them while Baby Bear ran ahead and tested the knob on the door.  The door squeaked and groaned open and the three bears peered inside.  There was no one there, and they quietly entered the people-house.


              “Oh, my!” Mama and Daddy Bear gasped at the sight before their eyes.  Toys and books and colored sticks were strewn across the floor.  Clutter everywhere! There were dirty dishes and crumpled tissues on the sticky table in front of the cushioned sofa, and the table was held up by a bucket on one end where a leg had once been.


              Stepping their way through the next door, they found the kitchen was in worse shape than the front room, with two bedrooms that matched in untidiness and messiness.


              “Mmmm,” murmured Mama Bear, “no wonder the child made such a mess of things.  She’s never been taught any different!  Well, let’s do what we came to do!”


              Mama Bear went into the kitchen, took out her cleaning supplies, and began clearing and cleaning and washing dishes, scrubbing the table top and counter tops, humming as she worked.  Daddy Bear opened his box and removed his tools while Baby Bear carried dirty dishes into the kitchen and picked up the trash and toys from the front room floor.


              The Bear family worked the rest of the morning, always listening for the return of the veeckle the people had rolled away in.  It was afternoon when the Bear family left Goldilock’s home with satisfied smiles on their kind bear faces.  Just before they left, Baby Bear tacked a paper sign on the kitchen door that he had drawn with the colored sticks.


              Now the Bear family waited on the edge of the woods, and soon enough they heard the rumbling sound of the veeckle bumping down the road and the side of the house slid open.  The veeckle came to a sudden dusty screech as the people inside the car stared at their house!  The bears could hear as the man yelled, “What the heck?  Look at our yard!”  Three doors were thrown open as the mother and father and Goldilocks jumped out of the veeckle to stare at the sight before them.


              Their trashy yard was not trashy anymore!  It was neat and clean.  The porch and steps were swept spotless.  When they opened their front door, it came open easily, there was no groan or squeak.  The front room was shipshape, and a new leg was on the gleaming table in front of the sofa.  They found the bucket outside the kitchen door still wet from the water that had been used to mop the kitchen, which was spic and span.


              Both bedrooms had been put into tidy order, each one of them as neat as a pin.


              The bears could hear the people’s exclamations of surprise and wonder, and they smiled at each other, very pleased with themselves.  The happy Bear family turned and disappeared deep into the woods returning to their home.


              Back at the people-house, the human mother and father were still exclaiming and wondering whoever could have done such an astonishing amount of work for them. Their house looked perfectly lovely!


   It was Goldilocks who noticed Baby Bear’s sign tacked to the kitchen door, decorated with stars and trees and hearts and flowers he had drawn.  But, it was the words in the center that caused her cheeks to burn bright pink.  Even though she never said a word, she instantly knew those three bears had done the good deed, and that knowing changed Goldilocks in a way nothing else ever could have.


              Baby Bear’s simple sign said,


                                                                                                  Always Leave a Place
                                                                                                                   Better Than You Found It


    Goldilocks carefully kept that decorated paper sign Baby Bear had colored. As the years went by, she had it  framed and it hung in every house she ever lived in (which she kept neat and orderly) for the rest of her life.


                                                                                                             THE END