In a café with flowered half-curtains Brent saw a stuffed bear with a great belly alone, at the window table, on his only plate a hardened bagel and laid above it, where the butter knife would be, a bamboo fork of a size that might have been used to serve salad. The bear wore a shirt that proclaimed, like the name of a baseball team, Concern for Others!! — the exclamation points seeking to restore an imperative lost in translation. And thought, we each of us have our private tales of woe, don’t we? Somewhere for each of us waits a bagel with cracked skin and a deserted café and the indifferent service of a girl imprisoned by a counter, picking her nails in the light that falls, from under the cabinet behind, over clouded grinder and silver carafes as evening darkens the paneling. What lady bear had failed to show, and how many couples would he suffer beside in the course of the night? Had they ever even met—were they friends some argument had parted—or did he wait with the awkward fork as a woman in a film had once waited with a flower in the pages of a book? How long had it been from being bought or won to demotion by a harried owner father from a daughter’s bed to this promotional drudgery? Bear baiting, indeed, Brent thought–but no clients were biting. What sort of café was it where bears dined alone? Or world, for that matter, full of such cafés? And walked on, no more willing than the mother passing on a scooter to stay for so much as tea and consolation, but hurrying home to his own sorrows, his kitchen and the view of night from his window, and all that no one else, least of all the bear, knew about his life.
Concern for Others!!9 05 2007