Goldilocks plucked at the tatters on hem of her dress. How many were gone? Red, Jack, and oh God, now Jesus, he should have been their ace. How could it even be possible to go on without him?
Baby bear waddled up and put his head on her lap. She rubbed the fur around his muzzle and scratched behind his ears.
“What are we going to do now Goldie?” he murmured.
“Don’t fret,” she lied. “We still have Edward and Bella, even if all their sparkling is exhausting to look at. We’ll manage.”
“You’re right Goldie. You’re always right. Best not to think of it at all.”
“Not good. Papa has been trying to comfort her, but she won’t have it. She misses Pooh. She keeps trying to look for him. Papa can’t even sleep anymore. Every time he nods off she will slip out of the cottage. He has found her twice over by the honey tree. The last time she had already filled a giant balloon and tied it around her waist. I’m scared that she’s going to hurt herself.”
“We can’t have that, she doesn’t have Pooh’s fluff. We should collect the balloons. If those are put away at least we don’t have to worry about her falling from the sky. We’ll need help. Let’s get the kittens.”
Baby bear rolled over and stood up. Together he and Goldilocks walked across the meadow to where the kittens were crawling through the bushes.
“Did you find anything?”
“No, not yet, what about over there?”
“No nothing. Do you remember what he smells like? It’s been too long. I think I’m starting to forget,” the last kitten whimpered.
“Kittens,” said Goldilocks, “will you help us look for balloons?”
“What do you want with balloons? Are they warmer than mittens?” they replied in unison.
“No they aren’t. We are just hoping to keep Mama Bear from killing herself. She has become…unhinged.”
“Not Mama Bear! She was always a strong one,” they replied.
Goldilocks lowered herself heavily to the ground and sat. “I know.”
“Well, we can help find balloons, just as soon as we find Jesus.”
“Didn’t you hear? He’s gone. The golden fish saw it happen.”
“Noooooooo!” they wailed.
“Come now little mews.” Goldilocks plucked up the kittens by the scruff and put them in her lap. She stroked their fur ‘til calm settled in and they began to purr. “There, there. You have given me an idea. Maybe we should go talk to the golden fish. Perhaps there is another side to this tale.”
Goldie raised herself up from the ground, pausing to stretch her legs. Her hips had locked up from the chill of the earth. Without being asked Baby stepped forward so that she could support herself with his shoulder and rise without falling. Once erect, she skimmed her hand over her skirt, trying to smooth the wrinkles out of the remaining fabric above the crinolines. Not quite presentable but it would have to do. With her hand still on Baby’s shoulder and the kittens trailing behind they crossed over the meadow again, picked up the stream and followed it to the sea.
“Baby, I can’t remember. Do we still have to catch him?”
“No, not anymore. It makes his arthritis act up.” Baby reached out his paw and patted the surface of the water like it was a drum.
In due time a small golden fish rose to the surface. His eyes, which had once been bright like diamonds, now held a core of frost as though pearls had been set inside them. His crown tipped off to one side, but he didn’t seem to notice or care.
“What is it?”
“Your majesty, we came to ask you about Jesus. Please tell us what happened.”
The golden fish circled around a few times as though trying to avoid an internal current before he spoke.
“Not much to tell. He was here and then he was gone.”
Baby tilted his head and raised his lip just enough to expose one of his petite canines. “Your majesty, I know you well and you are not being honest with us. Tell us the full tale.”
“Baby bear, I can hear those teeth. You cover them this instant.”
“Tell us the full tale or I find out what a royal dinner tastes like.”
The golden fish circled.
“How about I grant you a wish for not asking?”
“Your Majesty,” said Goldilocks, “you know that we will just wish for the full tale, so you might as well just tell it.”
The little fish groaned. “I’ll tell you. Just…just…I’m afraid that you will go too.” The king swam forward onto the sand until his belly rested on the bottom and his head peeked out over the surface of the water.
“Jesus was here on the beach. We were talking about the vanishings. He was saying that he had seen glimpses of the lost. He didn’t think that they were gone at all, but rather changed…altered. And just as he said that his feet started to sink into the water.
“He sounded a little confused at first. Then I heard him smile. He looked at me and told me not to be afraid but to welcome something. His voice was garbled, but I thought I heard him say something like ‘get their attention’ and ‘being born anew’. I felt Mary over his shoulder.”
“The mother?!” the kittens gasped.
“No the other one. He was so happy to see her. I think…I think I heard them dancing. She said something about how she had been waiting for him and they were just gone.”
“But how could the stories being changed effect him? I thought he was … different,” said Baby.
Goldilocks didn’t hear Baby. For a moment she just stood there, waves lapping at her feet. “Balloons,” she said, “we need balloons now!”
“No Goldie, don’t go!” yelled the golden fish. “Please, please don’t leave too!”
“Look at you my sea king,” she said. “How long have you been here? A millennium? You’re half blind with arthritis so bad you belly up to the sand rather than fight the current. And look at me, I’m in tatters and my hips lock up if I sit to long. This world, this existence is too hot, too hard, too soft and too cold. It’s time to go. That’s why the stories have been vanishing, but they aren’t disappearing, they are being rewritten! They are being remade, new. And I’m going too.
“Baby bear, we’ll need some string, and we have to hurry. Mama hasn’t been trying to kill herself, she has known what to do all along. She’s trying to get their attention.”
Together they turned and ran. In the distance the golden fish cried, ‘but how do I do it?! How do I make it work for me?”
Goldilocks couldn’t answer that for him.
They raced back along the stream, over the meadow and into the forest. When they got to the house they found Papa sleeping and Mama nowhere in sight. He woke with a thud as they pushed him off his chair.
“What? What?! Where’s Mama?” he said.
“Hurry Papa, she’s gone, and if we don’t catch her right now she is going to be off from us all together. We have to get to the honey tree NOW.”
They spilled from the back door like candy falling from a torn piñata. Huffing and puffing, tottering on sore hips, nursing bad backs. They made it to the honey tree just as Mama Bear finished tying a huge balloon around her waist.
“Don’t try and stop me,” she said, her paw raised high and ready.
“We…we…,” Goldilocks gasped, “ we want to come with you.”
“Praise Jesus, finally,” said Mama Bear.
Trussed with large balloons on their backs, it was time.
“Let’s hold hands,” said Mama, “that way hopefully we have a better chance of staying together.”
“Should we say a few words Mama?” said Goldilocks, “you know, to say goodbye?”
Their feet were already rising up from the ground.
“I don’t know,” said Mama. “Maybe we should just pray.”
They swayed in the air. Hands and paws locked tightly as they floated upward.
“Dear writers,” Goldilocks began, “please remember us and be gentle… we only wish for everything to be just right.”