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.
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”.