Once upon a time, there was a young boy by the name of Jason Stadtlander who sat at his desk in 6th grade and was given the assignment to write a creative story based on one of the objects sitting on the teachers desk. Without looking at any of the other objects, the teddy bear immediately caught his attention.
I saw that bear sitting upon the teacher’s desk and for me the bear had a story, had a life that no one else in the room knew. So, I grabbed my pencil and wrote my very first short story “Loss of Innocence”.
Here is that story for your reading pleasure.
Loss of Innocence
By Jason Stadtlander
(Written for 6th Grade Class in April 1986)
Sarah could hear a muffled thump from her nine year old’s room upstairs. She got up from the table and walked to the edge of the stairs. “Parrin? Everything okay up there?”, she called
A muted “Yeah Mom, just dropped something.” called through the closed upstairs door.
She stood there looking up the stairs for about thirty seconds, then shook her head and walked back to the table to finish her shopping list for tomorrow. Earlier she had checked in on Parrin and he had been playing on the floor. He had all of his toys spread out and was having his usual battle of the stuffed animals over the plastic soldiers. She supposed he liked to do that just because it was something of contrast. Toys that were hard and cold battling something soft and cuddly, she thought it amusing.
Upstairs Parrin had all of his soldiers lined up in a U formation facing his bed. His slightly worn B-Bear (short for Benjamin the Bear, which Parrin’s father had helped name) was sitting against the twin bed facing the soldiers. “I’m coming to stomp down your legions!” Parrin said in a deep, menacing voice. He picked up the bear and made it slowly stomp towards the soldiers with heavy feet. This was a game that he regularly played with B-Bear. In his mind’s eye he pictured the old movie that his friend Jeff had shown him; Godzilla. He also thought it was funny seeing all of the little men flying about as a giant bear stormed thier way through.
The soft bear jumped out of Parrin’s hand and ran over to the dresser, and plopped down beside it. He frowned and looked up at the boy. Parrin looked at his old friend and asked, “What’s wrong? We had almost defeated the evil brigade.” There was an aura of innocence and wonder in his voice.
B-Bear looked at the child for a drawn moment, his deep brown eyes not losing contact with Parrin’s green innocent eyes. The bear thought about the years that he had spent with Parrin. The games they had played, the warmth of his touch in the middle of the night as he hugged him close to his chest. The boy was a kind, loving child and always treated the bear as his best friend, carrying him everywhere and confiding in him his deepest secrets. B-Bear’s mind wandered back even further to the time when Parrin’s grandfather browsed through the FAO Swartz toy store in Boston, so long ago.
Joe didn’t want to return home to his little girl empty handed, so here he stood looking at the rows of animals and other toys. The bear had been sitting on a narrow shelf along with two dozen other bears that looked identical to him and Sarah’s father had walked over and examined all of the other bears carefully and picked him up. The bear had been elated to have been chosen out of all his other neighbors on the shelf. “I like this one, she’ll love it.”, Joe said glancing back at the other bears and then giving a nod to the bear in his hand.
“But he looks like every other bear on the shelf.” his wife replied.
“No, this one is special. He has… personality.” he said smiling.
A then four year old Sarah had been overjoyed when her parents got back to Knoxville and gave her the warm plush toy, his ultra-soft, plush fur shimmering and his eyes sparkling like none she had ever seen. He was magical. Sarah and “Jake” would be friends for almost a decade until he started to collect dust and was eventually put into a box where he sat in the dark for over a decade, until one day there was a new child to introduce him to. The bear couldn’t remember feeling as alive as he had the moment he was taken out of that old box and presented to Parrin. The boy’s eyes had lit up with amazement and awe as he grabbed the bear and held it close to him. “Oh! Thank you Mommy! Thank you so much!” he cried
“Be very careful with Jake, he’s old and a little fragile. Okay?” she said
“Ok mommy, I will. But do I have to call him Jake?”
“Hmm. No, I guess not. You can call him whatever you want just take good care of him. He was mine when I was a little girl” she said
Parrin was sincerely shocked, “YOU were a little girl?”
Sarah laughed at the earnestness of her four year old son and replied “Yes honey. I was a little girl and I was very well behaved when I was little.”
Parrin’s father cleared his throat and grinned. She looked at him with a smile and told him to ‘just be quiet’.
“What would you like to call him?”asked his father
“He does look old doesn’t he? Like that guy on the ten dollar bill.” Parrin stated
“You mean Benjamin Franklin?”
“That’s his name?”
“Yep, one of our country’s forefathers.” replied his father
“Benjamin. Yes, his name is Benjamin.” Perrin announced
B-Bear glanced down at the floor and back up to Parrin who was looking at him patiently. “I’m just… tired. I’m not as young as I used to be.” said the old bear.
“Do you want to sleep? I can tuck you in bed.” The boy replied.
“No, unfortunately it’s a bit more then that Parrin.” There was a long pause. He wasn’t sure how to articulate his thoughts. “You see, I’m getting old. I have lived a long and full life. I’m afraid I won’t be around a lot longer.”
Parrin looked like someone had hit him with a brick. “You’re saying you’re DYING! You can’t die! You’re B-Bear! You are my best friend! I won’t let you die.”
Tears welled up in the boy’s eyes as he locked gazes with the bear across the room.
The soft bear got up and waddled over to Parrin, who was now sitting next to the bed and had several lonely tears streaming down his face. He put his soft paw on Parrin’s leg. “Don’t worry, death is just part of the natural order of life. It’s something that will happen to everyone eventually. As long as you always keep a part of me right here.” He touched the boy’s chest. “Then part of me will always exist. Please don’t be sad, we have had many good years together and I want you to remember the good times.”
Parrin, who had not made eye contact since the bear left the other side of the room looked down at his old friend. “But I don’t want you to die. It’s not fair.”
“Life is seldom fair. But I will always be in your heart.”
Suddenly the door opened and Sarah looked down at her son, his ragged old bear was laying against his leg. Parrin had tears in his eyes. “You okay?” his mother asked.
“Mm hmm. Just got something in my eye.”
She looked at him for a moment, sensing something was not quite right but felt he wanted to be alone.
“Well, you need to get to bed. Okay?” she said
Parrin got up and went to brush his teeth, came back into his bedroom and changed into his Pajamas. He laid down deep under the covers, bear in hand. He reached over and switched off the small lamp on his bedside table and lay looking at the ceiling for a moment. “I love you B-Bear” he said softly.
“I love you too. Good night Parrin.” Said the bear.
As Parrin drifted off to sleep the bear in his arms slowly stiffened and took the shape of the wire frame that was inside him. His bright shining eyes glassed over and became the solid brownish orange glass that they had once been. His soft, wet nose became velvety leather. B-Bear’s soul was absorbed back into the child. That night, Parrin had gained a new level of maturity and with maturity, some things are lost forever.