Maverick Life

LOVE, UNSTOPPABLE

The adventures of Chuckle Bear and Vincent (Part Three)

Illustration by Marushka Stipinovich

When her grandson was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, Denise Murray decided to write bedside stories to help him cope with the illness. Here, she shares the short stories.

Chuckle Goes To Hospital (His Bravest Story of All)

The purple bear could sense that something was wrong. Vincent just wasn’t his happy, lively self. Chuckle was worried. There were visits to the emergency room at Howick Hospital, then more visits and investigations at the Pietermaritzburg Hospital, and finally they ended up in Durban. 

There, a big machine that takes pictures of people’s insides showed what was wrong. A lump called cancer had grown inside Vincent, and this was what was causing all the problems. 

It was decided that Vincent should go to Johannesburg for treatment from a very clever doctor there.  

There was no way that Chuckle was going to let Vincent go to another hospital alone, and he made sure he was ready to be in the car when Vincent and his mom and dad drove to Johannesburg. In any case, Chuckle had never been to Johannesburg before, and because of his adventurous nature, he enjoyed seeing new places. 

Well, it turned out that going to the hospital was a little bit scary. When Vincent had to go into the theatre to have some samples taken of his lump, Chuckle was at his side. Although he was nervous, he closed his eyes tight and thought brave thoughts until it was over. Being together through the not-so-nice times is the kind of thing that good friends do for one another. 

The other thing the nurses did all the time was prick Vincent’s finger to test his blood. This was a bit OUCH! But Chuckle decided that if Vincent could do it, he could too – and so Chuckle also had his finger pricked. It was a bit sore, but the brave bear didn’t pull away or cry. After all, it was only a small prick.

And on the days and nights when Vincent felt really bad – even bad enough to vomit – Chuckle sat tight in his hospital bed with him thinking about how the medicine was making Vincent’s lump smaller and smaller. He imagined that the medicine was like a big spaceship sending out lazer beams to zap the cancer cells that made up that troublesome lump.  

And with each treatment, more and more of them would be killed off, exploding into dust and disappearing into cyberspace. Vincent also had his own mind games going on. Together, they were working to be the champions. 

And if there’s one thing that both Vincent and Chuckle liked, it was being a champion.

What Chuckle bear found was that going to hospital with Vincent was much more than just another adventure. It was love and bravery in action.

***

Chuckle Bear Meets the Easter Bunny

Chuckle Bear was mighty puzzled.

For days he’d been hearing people talk about “the Easter Bunny”. But without explanation. Chuckle kept thinking to himself, “Who is this rabbit? Where does he come from? And why is he coming here?” 

Talk of the Easter Bunny got more frequent as the weekend got closer. 

On Friday, Chuckle kept his eyes open all day, but not a movement did he see from the house. “Perhaps he comes in the dark,” Chuckle wondered, and felt very pleased with himself for having this clever thought. 

So that night, he crept out of bed and positioned himself at the window.  The moon was big and bright and he could see quite a distance – but there was not a single rabbit to be seen. 

“The long ears will be a dead giveaway,” he said to himself. But after a long and fruitless wait, Chuckle gave up and snuggled back into bed. 

On Saturday morning, he was up bright and early. On a walk around the farm, he looked for clues. There were no rabbit footprints, no bits of fur caught on the thorn bushes, not even a tell-tale piece of carrot or lettuce left behind in a hurry. Chuckle had heard that carrots and lettuce are what rabbits eat. 

But he wasn’t giving up that easily. Between naps during the day he kept his eyes fixed on the hills around the house, but all he spied was the odd cow and the usual birds of prey swooping around the sky looking for a tasty morsel.

That night, Chuckle took up his watch at the window again. The moon was brighter than ever, throwing light on every blade of grass. However stealthily this bunny fellow might be creeping along, Chuckle would be able to see his big ears quite clearly.  

He also listened. But besides an owl hooting in the distance, there wasn’t a rustle to be heard. 

All day there had been irritating talk of the Easter Bunny, and Chuckle felt sure that he must be coming soon. He decided he would spend the whole night at the window this time, and catch that pesky rabbit red-handed in whatever it was that he was coming to do. Who had given him permission to trespass, anyway? 

The hours passed slowly. Chuckle’s eyes kept drooping, but each time he would shake himself awake, determined not to miss anything suspicious.  

Soon the moon began to disappear, and the stars faded a little. Chuckle had just nodded off when his eyes snapped open with a start. He could definitely hear something.

Something that sounded like hop, hop, hop.

Then, there on the lawn, right before his eyes, Chuckle could hardly believe what he was seeing! A big white rabbit stood there. He looked as though he was walking on diamonds, but they were just dewdrops on the grass around him. And he was carrying a basket. 

Chuckle craned his neck to see what was inside. The basket was filled with bright colours that were egg-shaped. 

The bear couldn’t contain himself. He had to know more – so, breathing in to make himself as thin as possible, he squeezed through the small window and fell out onto the ground below. 

“Hello, there,” he said to the rabbit.  

Well, a voice coming from a bear was the last thing the Easter Bunny expected. He jumped in fright and some of the coloured things fell out of the basket. 

“Who are you?” he asked. 

“I should be asking you that,” said Chuckle. “I’m Chuckle Bear and this is my family’s house – what are you doing here? We don’t welcome strangers who are up to no good.”

“Everyone welcomes me,” said the rabbit, “I’m the Easter Bunny, and I’m delivering Easter eggs.” 

“Here, try one.”  With that, he unwrapped one of the chocolate eggs and handed it to Chuckle.

“Pleased to meet you, after hearing your name so often,” said Chuckle, with his mouth full of chocolate. “Hmmm, these taste pretty good.” 

“Don’t you know that it’s bad manners to talk with your mouth full,” said the Easter Bunny. “Sorry,” said Chuckle, “I think I forgot because I’m over-excited and I’ve never tasted one of these before – may I have another one please?” 

“Sorry,” said the rabbit, “that was my only spare. The others are all marked with the names of the children who live around here. And, in any case, too much chocolate isn’t good for you.”

“Can I help you deliver?” asked Chuckle. “Thank you,” said the rabbit. And without further conversation, the two of them scurried around, hiding easter eggs hither and thither around the neighbourhood, wherever children lived. 

One egg was put in the fork of a tree. Another behind a flowering bush.  Two were left in a vegetable garden amongst the cabbages, three in a deep bird bath that had no water in it, and several in the thick wild grass on the hillside. Trying to outdo one another in hiding places, Chuckle and the Easter Rabbit got quite competitive, and they were having so much fun that they almost didn’t notice the sun peeking over the horizon.

“Goodness me, the sun means that I must run,” said the Easter Bunny. “My work is done for another Easter. Thanks for your help Mr Chuckle – see you next year.”

And off he hopped, as fast as his springy legs could carry him.

Chuckle trudged back to the house, still licking stray bits of chocolate off his lips. But then he realised… oh dear, he couldn’t get back inside because the window was too high for him to reach. So he made a cunning plan. 

Using the dewdrops to wet his fur, he rolled in some sand to look as though one of the dogs had dragged him outside and dirtied him. He lay down in one of their favourite resting places and waited. 

When the family woke up and came outside they saw Chuckle lying there with a sad look on his face as though he’d been out there alone all night – cold, damp and scared. (Meanwhile he was nearly bursting with trying not to giggle, or give a big grin.)

“Poor Chuckle… naughty Milly, naughty Molly,” said mom as she reprimanded the dogs, quickly rescuing him and cleaning him off before handing him back to Vincent. 

Now it was Vincent’s turn to be mighty puzzled! He was sure that Chuckle had been in bed with him when he went to sleep the night before.

But this wasn’t the time for too much wondering or mystery solving – there was more important business to attend to. An easter egg hunt was coming up. 

Chuckle Bear’s secret was safe. And now that he’d met the Easter Bunny for himself – and tasted chocolate – he could hardly wait for next year.

***

Chuckle Bear Goes Walkabout

Now you must understand that Chuckle Bear and Vincent are inseparable most of the time. 

But occasionally it would happen that Vincent might be busy with his flight simulator, or his playstation, or maybe completely absorbed watching a nature programme or a favourite movie on the TV. 

During moments like this Chuckle would get just a teensy-weensy bit bored with sitting around whilst Vincent was occupied. And he’d tiptoe off, just for a while till he was needed again – not to get into mischief or trouble, of course, but just to have a little wander around out of curiosity and his sense of adventure. 

On one of these occasions, Chuckle took a walk down the driveway. It was afternoon, and as he rounded one of the corners he happened to turn his head and something caught his eye. There was a big rock in the distance, glinting in the lovely sunlight that you only get late in the day. But more than that, from where he was standing it looked as though it had a space behind it – like an entrance. 

Quick as a wink, Chuckle dashed through the grass (and it was very long thatching grass, so not so easy to pass through), and when he got to the rock, he found that he was absolutely right. There was a space behind the rock, leading into a tunnel.

Should he investigate further, or shouldn’t he?  Chuckle hesitated. He didn’t like tunnels much. But he was SO curious.

Taking a deep breath and gathering up all his courage, he stepped in and followed the tunnel. As he went further and further he started to hear sounds which became louder and louder. 

Then suddenly the tunnel opened up and he found himself in a cave-like room. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. 

It certainly was a cave, but it was also a huge toy room. This must be the biggest toy room in the whole world, Chuckle thought to himself. With the most toys in the whole world. They were all playing and laughing and tumbling and singing and having the most enormous amount of fun. 

As he stood there blinking in the light, hundreds of pairs of eyes turned to look at him. 

‘H-h-hello,” Chuckle choked out.

“Hello,” all the toys chorused back, “who are you and what are you doing here?”

“I live on the top of the hill,” Chuckle replied, “and I found the entrance to your cave by accident whilst I was out walking.” 

“So you’re friendly and you haven’t come to harm us?” asked a big white fluffy cat as she walked around and around Chuckle, waving her tail back and forth, twitching her whiskers, and just letting Chuckle get a glimpse of her very sharp teeth, in case he perhaps wasn’t a friendly bear after all. 

“Oh, I’m very friendly,” said Chuckle, smiling nervously. 

“Well, that’s okay then,” said the cat, “you can stay and play with us.”

So Chuckle did. And he had a wonderful time.  

Interestingly, one of the many other bears there really caught Chuckle’s attention. It was because his coat was a very bright shade of green. In fact, at first Chuckle suspected that this fellow could be Kermit the Frog dressed in a bear suit. Bright green is an unusual colour for a bear, you must agree. But no more unusual than Chuckle’s purple colour.  It was their difference from bears of ordinary colours that immediately drew them together.

And the more they talked and played together, they felt they could really become firm friends.

Chuckle was so swept up with it all that he lost track of how late it was getting, until one or two of the toys started yawning and lay down to sleep.  “It must be getting dark already,” he said. “I must rush.” 

“May I come back another time?” Chuckle asked.  “Of course,” chorused the toys – and Ferdinand in particular. “Come back any time at all, we’ll be here.” 

As Chuckle hurried back to the house, he was fearful that Vincent had really missed him and would be worried sick. This thought made him hurry even more, stumbling over his own feet and falling about like a clown in a circus. 

As he drew nearer, he could see that the lights in the house were on and the door was closed. Chuckle crept up the ramp to the deck, not knowing how he was going to get in. But luck was with him, and he was saved in the nick of time. The door burst open – the dogs were being let out for a bit of a run. 

Molly spied Chuckle out of the corner of her eye, and before he knew it, he was in her mouth and she and Milly were playing tug of war with him.

“Ow, that hurts,” shouted Chuckle. “Mind my legs… you’re ripping my head off.”

Luckily, his torture didn’t last long. Winning the game, Molly rushed inside with Chuckle and he was quickly rescued by Vincent. Thank goodness.

He needed a good sponging before he could be cuddled again, but Molly and Milly got the blame for how dirty and wet he looked. Thoroughly exhausted after his exciting adventure, Chuckle was the first one of the family who fell fast asleep that night. 

He knew it was naughty to have gone walkabout without permission, but he’d had such fun. And, by the skin of his teeth, he hadn’t been found out!

***

Murray credits the idea behind the following stories to Margery Williams author of ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’; and the unknown author of ‘The Rainbow Bridge.’

Chuckle Bear Learns About The Rainbow Bridge

One day, Chuckle decided to visit his bear friend, Ferdinand, in the magical toy-room cave down the hill. 

The head of this magical toy room was a very big and very old bear called Barnabus. He had seen a lot of life, and was extremely experienced and wise. He could answer any questions that the other bears put to him, and he could also keep the younger ones enthralled with the many stories he had to tell. 

So you can see why Chuckle liked to visit this toy room occasionally. 

But one day, when Chuckle popped in, he could see that Ferdinand wasn’t well. A type of bear sickness had taken hold of him. His arms and legs were floppy and not working so well. He was shedding his bright green fur, leaving wide bald patches on his body. And he was complaining about a pain in his stuffing. Chuckle could even see some of the stuffing leaking out through the stitching that was holding Ferdinand together. 

Chuckle was very worried about Ferdinand and turned to old Barnabus for an explanation and advice on what he could do to help his friend feel better. 

Barnabus nodded solemnly, blinked his kind old eyes, and patted a place for Chuckle to sit down next to him. Chuckle settled in. 

“Chuckle, just being here for Ferdinand, and letting him know that you’re his friend and that you love him, is the best thing you can do for Ferdinand whilst he’s sick,” said Barnabus.

“Will he get well again?” asked Chuckle. 

Barnabus thought a while before replying… “We’re all doing everything we can to make Ferdinand well again, and we have to trust in that.”

Chuckle still wasn’t satisfied. “What if he doesn’t get well?” he asked.

Barnabus thought again, then he asked, “Have you ever heard of the Rainbow Bridge, Chuckle?”

“No,” said Chuckle, shaking his head. 

“Well, as you know,” said Barnabus, “everything and everybody will only live for a certain time on this Earth as we know it… then they do something called ‘die’.

“The thought of dying usually makes everyone feel very scared and sad, but they needn’t be. 

“You see, Chuckle, the interesting thing is that it’s only our bodies that die – our coats, our stuffing, our batteries and that kind of thing. The real ‘us’ is the special and unique spirit inside of our bodies. It’s the part by which we think, and love one another, solve problems and make decisions. It’s what makes us laugh and cry, and have feelings. That’s our real ‘life’ and that can never die. 

“When our batteries go fizz-pop and ooze gunge, when our bodies disintegrate or explode, when our coats split or tear and fall apart spilling our stuffing all over the place, or just wither away badly enough, we’ll be called ‘dead’. 

“But here’s the exciting news. When the time comes that our bodies can’t any more give a good and proper home to our spirit, it will leave our body behind and cross the Rainbow Bridge to a world on the other side where only spirits live.

“I’d say that will be just as exciting as going into space in a rocket, wouldn’t you, Chuckle? I can see it now… being in a space capsule and whizzing past the fiery ball of the sun, looking for the man in the moon whilst gliding by, and then slowing down through the Milky Way, and finally docking next to the brightest bridge you’ve ever seen… the Rainbow Bridge!” 

By now, Chuckle’s jaw had dropped in amazement at what he was hearing. He quickly pulled it back into place again, feeling embarrassed that he was sitting there with his mouth open. I mean, a fly, a bee or even a larger inquisitive insect could easily have flown into that gap, it was so big.

“Go on, tell me more,” said Chuckle, getting his composure back. 

“Well, I’ve never seen the Rainbow Bridge myself,” said Barnabus, “because spirits still in their bodies can’t cross it, but I’ve been told that there’s a wonderful place on the other side. Every person, animal, and even toys that have been really loved in this world live there together. Nobody is ever sick or sore or sad. 

“Even more amazing though, is that whilst you and I can’t cross the bridge to that world because we still have our bodies, the spirits who live there are all free to cross back and come into our world whenever they like, to visit us. 

“Because they are spirits they are invisible to our eyes, but we can feel them in our hearts because we’ve loved one another in our body-world, and like spirits, love also never dies.” 

Chuckle suddenly felt worried as he looked at his sick green friend.

“Are you telling me all this because Ferdinand’s spirit is going to leave his body?” he quietly asked Barnabus.,

“I can’t answer that,” said Barnabus. “There’s a Higher Power that’s in charge of the spirit world. That Higher Power has different names to different people. Some call him God, others call him Nature, or the Life Force. It will be that power that knows if and when the time is right for Ferdinand to cross over the Rainbow Bridge. But I personally feel that he’s going to be well again soon – and next time you visit he’ll be ready to play again.” 

Suddenly Chuckle felt so much better. His friend, Ferdinand, might be sick, but whatever happened, he was in the good and loving care of his toy-room family and friends, and most of all, in the care of the Higher Power. 

And even if and when the time came when Ferdinand did cross the Rainbow Bridge, Chuckle knew that if he kept his heart open, his friend would come back to visit – very, very often. 

***

The Rainbow Bridge

Just this side of heaven is a place called the Rainbow Bridge. 

When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, the pet goes to the Rainbow Bridge. There is also a special place here for the stray and ill-treated animals. There are meadows and hills for all our special friends, so that they can run and play together. There is plenty of food and water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable. 

All the animals who have been ill and old are restored to health and vigour. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content except for one thing – they miss someone very special to them who had to be left behind. They all run and play together, but the day will come when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. 

The bright eyes are intent, the nose twitches, the ears are up, the eager body begins to quiver. Suddenly he or she begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, legs moving faster and faster. You have been spotted. And when you and your special friend meet, you cling together in joyous reunion. The happy kisses rain upon your face, your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet so long gone from your life, but never absent from your heart.

Then – together, you and your special friend cross the Rainbow Bridge. DM/ML

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