R.J. and the Yellow Scarf
It was the seventh of February, 1978. Class had ended for the day at the Nutwood Community School, and Phillip Fox and his friend Ogey Otter were ready to unwind.
"They have got to do something about those desk seats," said Phillip, "My poor tail always hurts at this time of day."
"Lighten up Phillip, the important thing is we are not in school anymore," said Ogey, always being a cheerful scamp, "So, a whole rest of the afternoon for both of us, what do you say about a trip to the toboggan run?"
"I don't really feel like going there, not after getting knocked down by Pincher's snowballs last time," said Phillip.
"GASP!" Ogey started pretending to choke, and Phillip nudged him.
"Ogey, knock it off," ordered Phillip.
"Sorry, but just every time I hear that name, my life starts flashing before my eyes," said Ogey, "So what else you want to do?"
Phillip thought about it, "Well, since I think it's far too cold to be outside, how about we go to Cledwyn's Cave for a game of table footie? Mr. B always gives us cocoa."
"Phillip, you are such a horrible friend, first you make me choke and then you make my mouth water," said Ogey.
"Is that a yes or a no?" asked Phillip.
"What do you think it means? You're the one that gets better grades," replied Ogey.
"Well, aside from the negative distortion, I'd say you meant positively towards it," said Phillip.
"Actually Philosophical, what I meant was I'LL RACE YOU THERE!" yelled Ogey as he ran off, concerning Phillip.
"No Ogey! Stop! There's-
"Ice on the ground," Phillip finished his sentence as Ogey skidded and slammed into a pillar box. Phillip walked over worried. "Ogey, are you hurt?"
"No, I'm perfect," said Ogey, "but it would be nice if Royal Mail would put this thing somewhere else."
"If they did put it somewhere else, you would skid all the way to Aberdeen," said Phillip, giggling a bit as he helped Ogey up, "Come on Ogey, let's go play that game."
Cledwyn's Cave was a shop in Nutwood's town square owned by fifty-eight year old Rupert Bear. The shop specialized in toys and sporting goods, and was popular with Nutwood's children. When Phillip and Ogey arrived, they saw that Rupert was closing the shop early.
"Hello Mr. B," said Phillip, "You're not closing already are you?"
Rupert was startled, "Oh, Hello Phillip. Hello Ogey. And yes I'm afraid I am."
"Mr. B, it's not six o'clock yet," said Ogey.
"Sorry boys, but I don't think my faithful assistant is going to make it over from the dentist in time," said Rupert, "I have to return home, I have family that will be moving in."
"Family?" asked Phillip, "I thought your children grew up."
"Well you see Phillip, my daughter and her son R.J. have to leave Liverpool," explained Rupert, "The father of the house was sent to jail and without his income they can't afford the bills. This means they have to give up their house."
"That's terrible," said Ogey.
"My daughter was a stay at home mum and if she had to go to work, she would not be around for R.J. like she would want to be," said Rupert, "Another thing is that Liverpool hasn't been doing well economically as I've heard, and she might not get a job with her experience level. So I have decided for as long as R.J.'s father is locked up, it's only right that I welcome them in."
"Is R.J. our age? I would like to meet him," said Phillip.
"Well I believe he is actually," said Rupert, "But I'm afraid you can't meet him today. We have a lot of boxes to move, and it would be best for my grandson to settle in before we overwhelm him."
Just then, Rupert's assistant Toby Badger walked up. "Hello Rupert," he said, "Sorry I'm late but they had more than one cavity to take care of."
"Not a problem Toby," said Rupert, "Well it appears the shop will stay open after all. Oh and Toby, make the boys some cocoa. It's awfully cold out here."
"Certainly sir," said Toby as he unlocked the store, "Come in lads, easy on the way in." Phillip and Ogey followed Toby into the shop as Rupert got into his Mini and drove off.
Taking it slowly, Rupert looked around at the various changes that occurred around Nutwood. Once a small village of scattered houses around a central town square was now a slightly larger town, with newer homes and roads that had been built over what used to be farmland.
As he drove, Rupert remembered a time from decades ago when he was a young bear who loved to run around the countryside with his friends. Even stranger were all the various adventures he would have and all the enchanted beings and animals that he met. As time passed he saw himself taking on new responsibilities and realized that life was not as beautiful as a grown man.
As he passed by the leftover north tower of Nutwood Castle he remembered the old Professor who once resided there, a good but funny old man that made many crazy inventions. He died shortly before World War II started. Rupert and his male friends had entered the armed forces by that time, something for which he remembered all too well.
In 1940 he was assigned to the front lines in France, a position which resulted in injury and forced him to leave the battlefield. Then seven months later, his best friend Bill Badger was killed by a blast which saddened him immensely. The loss of his friend Bill caused his childhood to become all but a memory.
Once he recovered from his injury, Rupert was assigned to Liverpool where he took part in providing aid to bombing victims. This would also be the place where he settled with his partner Ruth whom he married in 1942. Together they had three children, Bethany, Henry, and later Trevor whose birth claimed Ruth's life.
After Trevor moved out, Rupert left his job and returned to Nutwood. There he would start a new life as a toymaker and would later open Cledwyn's Cave as a way to profit from the toys he made. The idea was for him to reconnect with the youth he wished he had never lost, and it succeeded well. His shop proved popular enough with the children in town that he found himself in one of the happier times of his life.
Happy as it was however, Rupert was also lonely. All his old friends were busy with their own lives, and all the grown ups he knew from childhood had long passed away. But it was not going to be lonely much longer, for his life was changing again. He was now going to become a fatherly figure to his grandson R.J. Bruin. The R stood for Rupert after his grandfather, J stood for Jacob which is his father's first name, though Rupert often prefers to think of J for Junior.
Rupert arrived at his house, a gray stone two story cottage that had a modernized interior. The house had three bedrooms, one downstairs where he slept and two upstairs which up until now had been used for storage. After going upstairs, he went through his boxes which contained various items he collected over the years such as shells from Rocky Bay, photos of his family and his friends, and an old kickball. In one box he found the old yellow scarf that his mother knitted for him, causing him to tear up a little.
Just then, he heard a car horn outside. He closed his boxes and went downstairs to meet his daughter and grandson.
"Hello there," he said as he came outside.
"Hello Dad," said Bethany as she walked up and hugged him.
"It's lovely to have you in Nutwood Bethany," said Rupert. Then he went over to his grandson who was wearing a red short sleeve shirt with a yellow collar and a thick yellow stripe going across, "R.J. you always look taller every time I see you."
"Hello Granddad," said R.J. who gave him a big hug.
"Did you enjoy the scenery on the way to Nutwood?" asked Rupert.
"Well, the trip was rather long but it was quite an amazing sight," said R.J. "This is my first time in Nutwood. It's not that much different from Liverpool is it?"
"There are a number of differences around here, but some things are still the same," said Rupert.
"Well either way, it won't be the same without my dad around," said R.J. as he started to cry; "It isn't fair."
"Oh, you poor little bear," said his granddad as petted his back, "Everything is going to be alright R.J. Your mother and I are going to take good care of you."
"But I just wish he didn't have to go," said R.J.
"So do I, but the important thing is that your father is not dead and you and I both know that he's a good man," said Rupert, "At least remember that there will be some weekends where we will pay him a visit."
"True," said R.J., "and I made a promise to write to him, that way he'll never lose touch with me."
"R.J. I need your assistance," said Bethany, "I want to get these clothes out of the car and ready to put away. Our bedroom furniture should be arriving on the trailer within the hour."
"Yes Mum," said R.J.
"Speaking of which I haven't yet finished moving the boxes upstairs," said Rupert, "I'd better do that."
"That's alright Dad, we'll help you with that shortly," said Bethany, "R.J. try not to drop the clothes. We are on a snow covered path."
"Don't worry Mum, I'm holding them tightly," said R.J. His mother Bethany Bruin was usually strict about chores and keeping house. Sometimes R.J. could never quite tell if anything he did was the right thing to do in her mind. Needless to say, he knew how much she loved him, and was grateful to still have her in his life.
But a very different life indeed, for Nutwood was not a place like Liverpool. Already R.J. knew that it was certainly smaller and a lot stranger. There were fewer shops to shop at, most of which were locally owned and not the well-known chains he was familiar with. He would also have to attend a school for all grades instead of a single primary school, as Nutwood's population didn't support construction for multiple schools.
Yet among the changes were some good things as well, such as the increased open land that he could play in should he make any friends. But of course, that was the real question in his mind. Would he ever be able to make friends the same way? And if ever he returned to Liverpool could he go back as the same bear that he was? There was no telling what was going to be in store for him.