Some years ago, on the outskirts of Lovis, Norsca
A stout woman with grey-streaked hair looks out the window over the basin in the cottage’s kitchen. With a laugh, she says, “Cheff, come and look at this. Goldie and Scratch are playing warriors again. It’s adorable!” Her husband, a tall, slender man, comes to stand next to her. He puts his arm around her shoulders and hugs her to his side. As he looks out the window, he starts to laugh, too.
“Myrna, you’re right, that is just about the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. We’re going to have to tell Sigmund about it when he picks up Scratch this evening,” Cheff agreed.
In the vegetable garden, neatly hoed out and ready for the spring planting, a girl of about ten and an adolescent brown bear are galloping about, roaring at the top of their lungs. The girl is plump and has messy yellow hair gathered into a braid. She’s holding a stick and stabbing it at imaginary enemies as she rides her cousin, Scratch, through the fresh dirt. Every once in a while she will revert to human speech to yell things like, “Die, Jotun scum!” or, “Those are our berries, you fish-stealing fox!” It is clear that she is the ringleader of this little game, but Scratch is obviously enjoying himself.
The children finally tire of their game and tramp indoors, scattering dirt all over the floor before they flop down on the rag rug in the den. Goldie uses Scratch as a pillow until the young bear sits up and begins patting his chest and arms in a pattern. “Ma!” shouts Goldie, who seems to have some trouble with volume modulation, “Scratch n’ me want some juice!” The bear sneezes and looks meaningfully at his human cousin, who grudgingly adds, “Please!”
Myrna bustles in from the kitchen, a small tray in her hands. She sets it down next to the children and says, “How about juice, bread, and cheese? And a bit of raw salmon for Scratch,” she adds lovingly. “Since his manners are so good.” The bear makes an eager noise and signs thank you to his aunt. She gives him a kiss on the top of the head and tells the children to dig in. Goldie forgets to mumble her thanks until her mouth is already full of bread, but her mother doesn’t mind. It’s the thought that counts, and Goldie’s manners were always better with Scratch around.
By the time supper rolls around, Goldie and Scratch are passed out on the floor of the den. Loud snores erupt from the human child, with softer rumbles emanating from the bear. A thud against the door summons Cheff from his workroom, and he opens the door to admit a very large adult brown bear. “Hey, brother,” he greets their guest, giving him a rub on the shoulder. Sigmund looks at the children sleeping together and melts. With an inquiring murmur, he signs busy conquer armies today? at Cheff. The man laughs and recounts the adventure in the gardens to his ursine brother. Myrna calls out from the kitchen that Sigmund is welcome to stay for dinner, but the bear declines with a regretful roar. With Cheff’s help, Sigmund slings the unconscious Scratch over his shoulders and lumbers off to their den.
With the loss of her pillow, Goldie wakes up and yawns. “Come and eat, love,” her father says, helping her to the kitchen table. As the family eats, Goldie tells them all about her day with Scratch. “Someday,” she vows, “I’m going to be a great warrior, and Scratch will carry me into battle.”
Her parents just look at each other and smile. Goldie has quite the imagination.