Flash fiction: Grin And Bear It

Instant writing task at a recent writers’ group workshop. Fifteen minutes or so to write something about the bizarre fact that the Tower of London (that’s a 1000-year-old castle, not one of those fancy new office blocks) was once home to a polar bear. While most chose to write about the bear’s feelings of being held captive, I decided to focus on the poor sod who had to look after it.

polar bear tower of london
Statue of the Tower of London’s polar bear


My master said we’ve got a bear coming. I thought, we’ve got bears. Four of ‘em. One’s a scruffy little black one and the other three are big grumpy brown buggers. I’m not keen on ‘em.

“Bears is bears,” I said.

“Not like this one,” says he. “The King’s getting this one in special, got its own ship docking next to the Tower this afternoon.”

“Why’s it special?” I asked, only slightly curious. We’ve got a beautiful leopard and some fancy birds and a huge lion. I like them best. You can still see bloody bears on chains up and down the country. Nothing special. Of course, they can be a bit terrifying when they get wound up – and outside some of the inns of England there’s always some daft soul who thinks it’s a good idea to hit ‘em with a stick.

But I went to watch the unloading anyway. I’m going to have to look after the bugger so I might as well get started early.

When they brought it up on deck I thought I was seeing things.

“Is it a ghost?” I asked my master.

“No, it’s a snow bear,” he replied.

Just then it reared up, pulling hard on the ropes holding it safe. One of the sailors was yanked off his feet. I swallowed uncomfortably.

“And the King thought this was a good idea, did he?”

My master turned towards me. “The King expects his prize bear to be well looked after. It’s cost a lot to get this here. You wouldn’t want to have to find that kind of money to replace it, would you?”

I stared at this nine foot tall ivory monster. “It’s not the bear’s safety I was thinking of”.


Source: Tower of London

4 thoughts on “Flash fiction: Grin And Bear It

    1. Yes, I’ve never been much of a fan of zoos and animal circuses. I suppose in reality the bear may have been a cub when captured and hand raised, but still, it’s a bloody big hunk of teeth, muscle and claw when fully grown!

      Liked by 1 person

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