The Fox and the Three Bears
By Cynthia Shearer Forbes
There once was a beautiful and wealthy heiress who wanted to find a husband. She posted her photo and a profile on an international dating site and chose “The Fox” as her username, but everyone knew who she really was. Within a few minutes, she had more than one thousand messages in her inbox.
The heiress ran a search for common interests and reduced the field to one hundred. Although many of the men simply parroted her phrases—“indigenous crafts,” “handmade antiques,” “ending homelessness”—at least they had noticed something about her besides her famous and beautiful face. Next, she studied the photos of the one hundred and picked the ten she liked best.
The heiress did not reply to any of the messages. Instead, she carefully researched the lives of each of the ten men. She discovered that three were the Bearfield brothers—an entrepreneurial trio with business interests ranging from a brewery to an online store for indigenous arts, and they were the founders of a private foundation dedicated to reducing poverty and homelessness.
The youngest brother’s handle was Big Bear. His profile photo was a shirtless, full body shot that looked like it had been lifted from the cover of a romance novel. The heiress felt a tingle of desire as she gazed at it, while at the same time, she wondered if there was anything of substance under his perfect head of hair.
The eldest brother, Phillip Bearfield Junior, who called himself Bear II, looked like a typical businessman in an expensive suit, only sexier than most. He had a five o’clock shadow and full lips that she imagined kissing. Intriguing, she thought…and a little frightening.
The third brother’s username was Little Bear, even though he was the middle one in age. His photo was a simple headshot, probably a selfie. Although his face was not as perfect as his two brothers’, she studied it for a longer time.
“The eyes,” she said. “I like the look in his eyes.”
The heiress had a beach cottage in a neighborhood of summer homes owned by rich and famous people. She usually arrived at the beach in the fall, after everyone else had flown away, but when she discovered the Bearfield brothers owned a house down the road from hers, she devised a plan to learn more about them.
The highlight of the summer season was a party at the house of a popular Hollywood actor. The heiress arrived a few days before the party and stayed hidden in her cottage. The night of the party, she disguised herself as an old woman, wearing a prosthetic mask, a gray wig and ragged clothing. She crept down the beach in the shadows of her neighbors’ houses, all quiet and dimly lit. As she expected, everybody was at the party.
When she reached the Bearfield’s house, she climbed the back stairs, slid open a patio door and slipped inside. Between the kitchen and the living area, she found a wet bar with a fridge full of Bearfield Brothers beer. Rifling through the bottles, she recognized the commercial brands, but others she’d never seen. She picked out three to try.
The first beer she tried, labeled Big Bob, had a picture of a growling bear in boxing gloves. She opened the cap and took a big sip.
“Ugh!” She gagged and spat it into the sink. “That tastes like shit!” She set the bottle on the counter.
The label on the second beer, called Bear King, showed a purple-caped bear on a throne guzzling a beer, his crown at a cocky angle.
“Clever,” she said, but the first swallow left such a bitter aftertaste, she spat out the rest.
The third bottle, labeled Play Day, had a picture of two cubs rolling in a meadow. The beer smelled like wildflowers and when she tasted it, filled her mouth with a pleasant, sweet sensation. “Mmm, that’s good.” She liked it so much, she poured it into a glass and carried it around the house with her, sipping now and then as she inspected the kitchen, closets, bathrooms and furnishings.
“They could use an interior decorator,” she said, surveying the living area. A pair of ceramic vases sparkled on an antique sideboard, but otherwise the room was an eclectic mess. For seating, a comfy-looking but worn sofa faced the wall of windows overlooking the beach, and two unusual chairs faced the big screen TV.
The first chair was a giant lounger upholstered in zebra skin. When the heiress sat in it, her feet dangled a foot above the floor. “Hey, this is Big Bear’s chair,” a recording said from under the seat cushion. “Get your ass off of me!” She laughed, but when she leaned back, the seat dropped and she slid down the slick zebra hair, landing on the tile floor with a plop.
“Fuck you, chair!” she said, kicking it in the side.
The second chair was a deluxe massage recliner. The heiress sank into the sumptuous leather padding, fitted her legs into the slots and pressed commands on the touchscreen. The chair reclined until she was completely horizontal, and the headrest locked against her ears, so she couldn’t lift her head or move it side to side. The touchscreen was now below her range of sight and almost out of reach. She fiddled with it blindly and the chair began to vibrate so hard, the beer came back up in her mouth. She fiddled again and the leather got so hot, her pants felt like they might catch fire.
“Damn you! Let me go!”
She grabbed the headrest and pulled it away from her ears. Finally, she popped her head loose and rolled out of the chair, landing on the floor again.
As she sat catching her breath, the heiress glimpsed the outlines of another chair, tucked into a shadowed corner, as if it were seldom, if ever, used. She went closer to inspect it and was delighted to find a hand-carved rocker made from the wood of a tree that grew in only one forest, inhabited by an indigenous tribe known for their fine woodcrafts. This rocker was old; she knew by the style of workmanship and the rush-bottom seat, woven from a now extinct species of river reed. “What a beautiful chair,” she said as she sat in it. “So comfortable too.”
But when she began to rock, the reeds disintegrated all at once and she fell through the seat. “Oh shit!” She pulled herself up by the arms of the rocker and surveyed the damage. “I’ll have to buy them a replacement…if I can find one.”
The heiress had not yet learned enough about the three brothers, so she went upstairs. The first room she entered smelled of man sweat. The heads of big game covered one wall: an elk, a moose, a water buffalo, deer and other horned creatures. On the wall beside the bed, she found a shelf thick with bodybuilding trophies and photos of Big Bear flexing his muscles.
“Impressive,” she said, admiring his physique.
She fell into the extra-wide bed and rolled across the leopard print comforter, back and forth. “Is that a mattress?” She pounded it with her fist. “Feels more like concrete.”
She turned on the monitor attached to the footboard. The home screen showed Big Bear in camos, holding up the antlers of a dead elk. She clicked on the Photos icon at the bottom of the screen and then on an album labeled Scores, expecting to see more shots of him with dead animals. Instead, the screen filled with rows of naked women—all posing on the same leopard spots where she was sitting. She jumped from the bed and headed out the door without a backward glance.
On the door of the second room, she found an electronic checklist for the maid. “My, my,” she said, skimming the detailed instructions, “We certainly are picky…Do NOT put the toothpaste tube in the medicine cabinet! Place it on the right hand side of the sink, four inches in front of the mirror.”
She walked into a bedroom as bland as a motel room. The color scheme was gray and white with sleek, ultra-modern furnishings and not a single item out of place. She found two framed photos on the dresser: one of Phillip Bearfield seated at the head of a boardroom table, the other of him leaning against a black Ferrari, hand on the hood, grinning. “Nice smile,” she said.
The room was so cold her teeth began to chatter, so she went to the high-tech bed and slipped under the covers, hoping he kept it warm as an enticement. But she sank into an ice-cold pit of gel foam. “To hell with this!” She threw off the comforter, and as she rolled out of the bed, noticed another electronic checklist on the side table—this one titled “How to Please Me*.” Could anyone please you? she wondered as she read the long list of do’s and don’ts. After the asterisk at the bottom was the final directive: “Always ASK before you initiate any sexual activity. Sometimes I’m not in the mood.”
“Poor King Phillip.” The heiress clucked her tongue as she left the room.
The third room she entered looked like the warehouse for the Bearfield’s indigenous crafts store. She strolled past stacks of hand-woven baskets, piles of multi-colored rugs and shelves crammed with pottery and ceramics. Tapestries adorned the walls, each so beautiful, she lost herself in contemplation. Soon the bad feelings inside her were pouring down her shoulders and evaporating, leaving her so light, she thought she might float to the ceiling.
Against the farthest wall of the room, she discovered an antique iron daybed. As she ran her fingers over the delicate white scrollwork, the blue cotton bedspread seemed to invite her to lie down. When she did, the bed was so cozy, she fell into a deep slumber.
In the wee hours of the morning, the Bearfield brothers burst into the kitchen of their house, engaged in a loud debate.
“You’re so drunk,” Phillip said, “You probably would have puked in the sheets, even if you did manage to get her into bed.” He pulled bags of chopped vegetables from the refrigerator.
“Fuck you,” Bobby said. “I can hold my liquor.”
“Want a power smoothie?” Philip said to John, the shortest of the three, as he fed veggies into the blender.
“No thanks,” John said, with a heavy sigh. “I was really hoping to meet her tonight.”
“Me too, bro,” Bobby said. “I’ve never fucked an heiress. I bet she’s a squealer.”
“You’re disgusting,” John said. “No woman with half a brain would get in bed with you.”
“Z’at right, Little Bear? How many times have you scored, anyhow? Twice in your whole life?”
Phillip turned from the blender with a tumbler of green froth in hand. “You two clowns are way out of you league. The Fox? Really? What kind of man gets a world-class bitch like that, huh? An alpha male, that’s who. A man at the top of the pack, with balls the size of grapefruit.” He pointed at his crotch with a knowing smirk.
“I gotta have another beer,” Bobby said, and he headed for the wet bar.
John said, “I wonder what she’d do if I knocked on her door and introduced myself?”
“That’s a lame strategy, dude,” Phillip said. “Let me tell you—”
“Hey! Come look at this!” Bobby called. Phillip and John hurried to the wet bar. Bobby held up the open bottle of Big Bob. “Somebody’s been drinking my beer.”
“And mine,” Phillip said. He poured the open Bear King beer down the sink.
John picked up the empty bottle of Play Day and turned it upside down. “Somebody has good taste.”
“I’m callin’ the police,” Bobby said.
Phillip held up his hands. “Look. I bet it was those punk-ass teenagers down the street. While all the parents were out partying, they got bored and decided to break into some houses. I say we tell the parents and demand some kind of…suitable retribution.”
“Yeah, they can kiss my ass,” Bobby said. “Damned snot-nosed punks.”
“They better not have touched anything else in this house,” Phillip said, leading the way into the living area.
John said, “The antique vases are still here.”
When Bobby plopped into the lounger, the seat cushion said, “Somebody’s been sitting in your chair, Big Bear.” “Hey!” Bobby said. “D’ja hear that?”
Phillip gripped the back of the massage recliner. “Somebody’s been sitting in my chair, too. It’s vibrating like hell, and the leather’s hot.” He touched the control screen, shutting it down. “Now that pisses me off.”
“We oughta call the police, dude,” Bobby said.
“Yeah…maybe. Or maybe we get to watch some punk kids mow our lawn and scrub our toilets.”
“Well, look here,” John said. “Somebody sat in my chair, too, and busted out the seat.”
Phillip and Bobby joined him in the corner. Phillip snickered. “I told you that chair was a piece of junk, man. You got ripped off.”
Bobby said, “How much did you pay for that piece of shit?”
John waved them off. “It’s easily repaired.”
“All right. Upstairs,” Phillip said. “Make sure nothing of value has been stolen—or broken.” He marched up the stairs and his two brothers followed.
They went into Bobby’s bedroom, scanned the walls and poked their heads into the closet and drawers. “Somebody’s been in my bed!” Bobby cried, staring at himself on the home screen of the footboard monitor.
Phillip charged into his bedroom and shouted: “Somebody’s been in my bed too!”
While Bobby joined Phillip, John went on to the third room. He found an old woman sleeping in his bed and gently shook her awake.
The heiress stared into a pair of familiar eyes, but she couldn’t recall where she’d seen them. “Who are you?” she said.
“I’m John Bearfield. You’re in my bed.”
“Oh!” She sat on the edge of the bed, remembering her disguise and her plan to learn more about the Bearfield brothers. “I—I don’t remember how I got here.” She looked around the room in feigned confusion.
He patted her on the back. “That’s all right. I’ll take you home.”
Phillip stomped into the room with Bobby on his heels. “Anything missing in here?”
“We have a guest,” John said.
Phillip stood by the bed scowling, hands on his hips.
“What the fuck!” Bobby said. “How’d that old hag get in here?”
“The back door was unlocked,” the heiress said.
“Oh yeah? Well, you’re trespassing, bitch.”
“Let’s get her downstairs,” Phillip said, grabbing one of her arms.
Bobby clutched her other arm and they dragged her out of the room and down the stairs.
“Hey! Go easy!” John called from behind. “She’s just a poor old lady with dementia.”
They ushered her into the living room and Phillip shoved her onto the sofa. “Stay!” he barked.
“Calm down,” John said, taking a seat beside her. “I told her I’d take her home.” He turned to the heiress. “Do you know where you live?”
She looked at the two men towering over her and was glad to be sitting next to John. “On the streets.”
Phillip wagged a finger in her face. “What are you doing in the Cove? This is a gated community. How did you get in?”
“I—I can’t remember.”
“I’m callin’ the cops,” Bobby said.
“What about the foundation?” John said. “We’re supposed to be dedicated to helping the homeless.”
“So? This one’s a thief and a trespasser.”
“John’s right,” Phillip said. “If we throw her in jail and the media gets a hold of the story, the Bearfield brand could take a hit. It’s not worth the risk…Come on, Bobby, let’s make some phone calls and find somewhere Johnny boy can dump this psycho bag lady.” He whipped out his cell phone, headed for the kitchen and Bobby followed.
The heiress glanced sidelong at John. He shook his head. “Those two are acting like idiots.”
“I’m sorry I broke your chair,” she said.
“No problem. In fact, I’m glad you did.”
“Why? It’s a beautiful chair.”
“Because I’m planning to give it to someone as a gift. Now I know the seat needs to be replaced.”
“A gift for a lady friend?”
“Not exactly. I mean, she is a lady, but we’ve never met, except online. I’m planning to give it to her when we do meet—someday.”
“That’s risky business, buying an expensive gift for a woman you’ve never met.”
“I know, it seems crazy—probably is crazy. I saw her on TV recently, on a morning news show, and I fell in love with her—head over heels.”
“On TV? Is she famous?”
“Uh-huh, and extremely wealthy—but I don’t care about that. I love her smile … her laugh—so honest! And when she talks, you can just feel her passion. She’s someone who wants to leave the world a better place than how she found it. To some people, that sounds corny, I know—but hell—it’s the only thing that makes any sense to me.”
The heiress was stunned. Is he talking about me?
“Sorry to ramble on,” John said. “Where would you like to go tonight? Is there a particular shelter…or somewhere else?” He pulled out his wallet and handed her two one hundred dollar bills. “Here. I want you to have this—oh, and here’s my card. Feel free to call me if you need anything.”
She took the card and the money and tucked them in a pocket. “You’re so kind—” They watched as Phillip and Bobby stormed back into the room. “—but I don’t know about your brothers.”
“We can’t reach anybody,” Phillip said. “It’s fucking three AM.”
“Just let her sleep here on the couch,” John said. “We can deal with it in the morning.”
“Like hell!” Bobby said. “We’re throwin’ her out on the beach.” He grabbed the heiress by the arm again and jerked her to her feet.
“Stop it!” John said, but Phillip pushed him aside and took her other arm.
They dragged her onto the back porch. “I’ll take her arms,” Phillip said. “You get her feet.” They carried her to the landing, where they swung her back and forth.
“She’s frail, you idiots!” John cried. “You’re gonna break her bones.”
Phillip counted. “One…two…three!” and they launched her into the air.
The heiress landed hard at the foot of the stairs. Phillip and Bobby laughed as her wig flew off, and she tumbled across the sand, flailing.
“Look! She’s bald!” Bobby howled. John shoved him aside and raced down the stairs.
The heiress pushed to her hands and knees and then staggered to her feet. “Are you okay?” John said, rushing to help her gain her balance.
“I think so.” When she smiled at him, she felt the bottom of the mask pop away from her neck.
John eyed the silicone cap covering her scalp. “You were wearing a wig.”
“Yes.” She pulled the cap off, and her own short waves fell loose.
John tilted his head, studying her neck. “Are you—uh—wearing a mask too?”
She laughed and peeled off the mask.
John stared. “Are you?...”
“The Fox?…I am.…Would you like to walk me home, Little Bear?”
He did. And that’s how the heiress found a husband.
#Unreal #Fiction #CreativeWriting #Literature #FairyTales #Fables #Satire #Feminism #LitSubmissions #QuailBellStories
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