My name is Frankie Banana Butt and I have a terrible affliction. It is so horrendous of a sight that my fellow citizens of Walla Walla Bing Bang stare outwardly and whisper behind my back. They think that I do not hear them, but I do. I know what I look like. Whether they believe it or not, I do possess a mirror. I look at my disfigurement and sigh. Why I was cursed from birth, I will never know. What my poor mother and father did to deserve a son such as I, is beyond my knowledge to comprehend. I am a simple man. I see how they suffer because of me. Today is my eighteenth birthday. I think it is high time I do something, if not for the town of Walla Walla Bing Bang, but for my dear parents.
I heard that the doctor who lives on the mountain will help me if I complete a set of tasks for him. No one has ever been able to finish his feats. Also, strangely enough, they never come back once they set out on their journey. I guess they were too embarrassed to show their face again. That saddens me. I would have been their friend. There is no need to feel shame around me. Especially since I have my, you know, issue. The people who live in town might come across as judgmental, but they are all really sweet once you get to know them. Why it has been years since anyone has cringed when they see me coming! I like to think that they are living up there with the doctor. You know what, when I get there, I will have to tell them how wonderful it would be if they come home with me.
I have decided to leave in the early morning hours when the air is cooler and my parents still sleep. I have not told them of my decision. This feels wrong to me. I have never held anything back from them but I am a man now. I think I will leave them a note so they do not worry.
“Mom and Dad,
I am going to see the doctor about my affliction. I’ll be home soon so do not fret. I finished all of my chores so you would not have to deal with that burden. See you soon.
There. I feel better.
In the early morning hours, the world is so peaceful. The shops are all closed at this hour. Even Mr. Sanders is still snoozing for I do not smell his mouth-watering breads baking. As I make my way out of town, towards the mountain in the distance, I look one final time back at my home. I cannot help but to smile. These are such lovely people. When I return, I will be one of them, completely. My heart swells with joy as I leave my past behind and walk towards my future.
I’ve never been down the dirt road through the woods outside of town. Mom says that the woods are far too dangerous of a place for one such as myself. She says that there are wild creatures out here that would love nothing else than to get a taste for one sweet as I. I guess that would be mighty painful of an experience but at least the wild fellow would not go hungry. Mom also says that there are places where the road is washed out. In order to get to the other side, I would have to leave the road and travel in the woods a bit. She says that it is far too easy for one like me to lose his way.
The further along the road I travel, the less I can see. The moon was lighting my way for a while but it is hidden behind the trees. I wish that I had remembered to bring a flashlight. I am a little discouraged right now. I could keep going but I am so clumsy that I will probably break my leg in a hole. A little under an hour into my journey and I already have to stop. So much for trying to get an early start. Oh well. Nothing can be done about it. I’ll just sit under this tree by the road and wait for daylight. It should be here in a few hours. I think I will take a nap while I wait. My, this tree has some strange plants growing next to it.
I’ve gone and done it now. Whatever those plants are, they are mighty itchy. I have a rash all over both of my arms. I wish mom was here. She would know what to do. There is nothing for it. I am going to have to either turn back and get it taken care of and risk losing my only chance at a normal life or push forward. I have never given up before and I’m not about to start now. Besides, the doctor will know how to fix this. I’m sure he will do it if I ask. Meanwhile, what is that strange noise that I hear in the distance?
The noise is like none other I have heard before. It seems to be coming from down the road. I start to walk towards it. The closer I get to the sound, the more I realize that it coming from one of those wilderness creatures that mom warned me about. I stop and listen again to the cry. The more I listen the more I am convinced that it is the sound of something in pain or worse, scared and desperate. It isn’t alone either. I take off running towards the animal in distress, my heart heavy with worry.
As I crest the hill, I have to halt quickly. The other side is one of those wash-out places. Trapped at the bottom is a baby bear. It is desperately trying to climb back up the other side where its mom is pacing. The ground is so soft that the infant slides right back down, giving out a pathetic cry. Momma bear answers the cub. My heart wrenches at these sad calls. Somehow, I have to help them. Without a further thought, I leave the road and start to search the woods for something to help the pair.
I do not have to walk very far. Strange vines grow up lots of the trees. I give one of them a tug. It separates from the tree with a little work. It appears to be strong. Maybe, I can make a big enough slip knot and lower it down to the cub. My dad and I did this with one of our dogs that fell down the old well. The trick, my dad said, was to get it around the body and not the neck so that you don’t hang the poor creature as you try to raise it out of the well. Admittedly, that cub is a lot bigger than our dog, but I know I can do it.
I come back to the wash out to find the momma bear still pacing. She catches scent of me as I approach. Her head whips around and she snarls at me in warning. I know she is scared. I don’t blame her. I need to show her that I am not a threat. I’m not sure how to do this. Maybe I can talk to her like I do the cows when I want them to give milk.
“Easy there, girl. I just want to help.” I say as I take a small step forward.
She answers with another low growl.
“Easy. Easy. I know you are scared. I’m not going to hurt you or your baby.” I take another step.
The hair on the back of her neck stands up, stiff with her intent.
“I know. I know. Your baby is trapped.” I say as I begin to lower the vine down into the hole, maintaining eye contact with the mamma.
I almost have the vine at the bottom, when she catches sight of what I am doing and roars at me. I stand my ground as I feel a tug on the vine. The baby bear is pulling on it. Before I can stop myself, I start to laugh. My sudden laughter confuses the momma bear. I laugh even harder as she looks at me then to her baby who is having a ton of fun playing tug-o-war with my vine. After several moments, I get myself under control again.
Wiping tears from my eyes, I shake my head in joy. “Thank you both. I needed a good laugh. Now, let’s see if we can’t get your little one out of this hole.”
I bend down and try to wrestle the vine back from the eager cub. It seems my unexpected outburst combined with the playful nature of her cub, has calmed the momma. She wines down at her little one who has finally let go of the vine. I pull it back up and access the damage. The slip knot is too small for one. Secondly, the cub’s teeth did a number on the vine. I don’t trust it to hold its weight any longer. Lastly, there is no way that I am going to be able to get the thing around its body with it trying to play with it. I need another plan.
I dangle the vine back down for the cub to play with while I think. This seems to calm momma down some. She sits and watches her baby play. Every once in a while, she will swipe at the vine and make it fly away from her cub. As I sit and watch, I realize that the cub will pounce on it every time that she does this. I looked around to see if there is something nearby that I could tie my end of the vine to so I could get another one. There is nothing. Well, that isn’t exactly true. Momma bear is here.
Oh boy, if mom and dad could be here right now. Mom would pure faint over what I am about to attempt. Carefully, I approach the momma bear. She glances towards me and growls softly in warning.
“Momma bear, I am going to need your help. I need you to let me tie this vine around one of your legs while I get some more vine. Will you let me do that?” I say as I approach her slowly.
The cub below is having a fine time as I drag the vine across the washout. Tiny growls of playfulness issue from its small mouth. My furry lady regards me closely as I reach out to pet her. My hand is steady even though my heart is racing. I smile at her as I gently stroke her behind the ear. She growls once more at me but with less heart as I find that special place all creatures like to be scratched best.
“That’s a good girl. Can I see your paw, please?”
Believe it or not, but she gives me her paw as I tie the vine around it.
“Thank you.” I say as I scratch her once again behind the ear. “I’ll be right back. You sit tight.”
I once more go into the woods in search of more vine.
After several tries, I finally find one long enough to serve my purposes. When I return, momma bear is right where I left her. She looks us as I approach and cocks her head comically to one side as if to ask what in the world was I doing.
I laugh a little and reply, “Keep the wee one distracted with your vine and I will get the baby out with mine.” As if she understood, she returned her attention back to her cub.
I watched them play for a few moments until I found the right spot to place my vine. Once I was ready, I lowered it down and waited for the little one to jump into the circle. I did not have to wait long. Just as neat as pie, I was able to fit it right into place. The cub let out a small cry as the vine encircled its mid-section. This startled momma bear who turned on me for a moment until she realized I was pulling her cub out of the pit. Boy is this one heavy baby. I am pulling with all of my might but I don’t think it is going to be good enough. Neither does momma bear. She grabs the vine gently in her teeth and helps me pull. I can see the head of the little one appear over the edge of the hole. Just a little bit more. Ah-ha! There is the front legs and freedom!
I fall onto my butt as the little one runs from the hole towards us. The next thing I know I am being covered with slobbery bear kisses. I can’t help but laugh. After the wettest thank you of my life is over, I remove the vines from mom and baby. Momma bear gets inches from my face and licks me from chin to forehead along the side of my face, giving me a strange cowlick look on one side, before escorting her cub into the woods.
“You’re welcome my new furry friends!” I shout out gleefully as I watch them leave.
My arms still itch like crazy. My face is sticky from dried bear spit. The hair on one side of my head is sticking straight up and you know what, I’ve never been happier. I begin to whistle as I follow this old dirt road, once again moving towards my future.