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Rated: E · Fiction · Animal · #2265123
From the series ‘Fairy Tales of the Old Zoo’ by Nika Bathen
I'm not an author. I'm just a translator from Russian

Illustration is here https://invir-lazarev.livejournal.com/3135.html

'Bears on Wheels' from the series ‘Fairy Tales of the Old Zoo’ by Nika Bathen

The bear cubs, Pusha and Vahmurka, appeared in the zoo in the autumn bringing unavoidable trouble. Their mother had probably died in the spring, either from ill health or as a hunting trophy. Tourists picked up the orphans and took them to the nearest village. A village animal technician, a kind soul, sheltered the kids in his shed - for the amusement of himself and his grandchildren. At first, the little animals hid in the straw, fearing brooms, roosters and village cats, but soon the bear cubs grew up, and began to eat like horses and show their teeth. Therefore, their owner had loaded them into his jeep and driven them to city zoo. The zoo management was unhappy with the situation, but in the end, they somehow found a free place in the bear enclosure. Year after year, the zoo director was going to issue an order banning the acceptance of wild animals that were found by the locals, in particular bears, wolves and foxes, but each time he postponed dealing with this problem.
The vet examined the animals and said that the new arrivals were healthy girls. The newcomers were given the names Pusha and Vahmurka. So they now had a new home.
The two sister bears were like two peas in a pod. They were plump, fluffy, and so funny as they waddled when they walked. But they were absolutely different in nature. Vahmurka was lazy and not at all curious. She was not interested in anything except her sister and food; she played little and slept a lot, preparing for winter. But everyone in the zoo, from the janitors to the director, fell in love with the charming Pusha.
Cute bear cubs were not uncommon in the zoo, and for the first year or two of their life they willingly hugged, made contact and played with people. Only time would reveal their dark animal nature. Still, there was something very charming about Pusha.
The little eyes of the teddy bear were cheerfully glistening with curiosity. She would extend her paws to people and ran towards those who entered; her entire body wagging. She used to lick their hands like a clumsy puppy, used to tuck her little muzzle under their armpits and to poke their faces with her wet nose. And it wasn't just about treats-- Pusha loved to eat, but she was extremely pleased to see zoo guests. She was a natural born actress.
She was turning over her head, trying to catch her short tail, splashing in the tub like a raccoon, rolling an apple with her muzzle on the floor, getting up on her hind legs and walking in front of the bars, just like a young lady at a village party. She tried to get her lazy sister Vahmurka to play catch. The visitors applauded her, and the little actress puffed with satisfaction, her tongue hanging out.
As all bears always do, Pusha and Vahmurka went into hibernation in December, and when they woke up, they were pretty grown up and terribly hungry. The janitor, Uncle Miha, had no doubt that the character of the sister-bears would turn bad. Vahmurka really became grumpy. She growled at brooms and hoses with water, and once almost grappled with the vet. The cute Pusha had not changed at all, only varied her programme. Imitating the visitors, she learned to take a bow and wave her paw. Balls and balloons made the bear ecstatic.
Uncle Miha used to give Pusha milk from a wine bottle, and hug her. They used to walk "arm in arm" in front of the zoo audience.
Thanks to these tricks, the fate of the young bear changed.
A wild animal tamer, Angelina, came to the zoo to get a tiger cub, but she did not like the stripey baby - he was frail and too timid to work for a circus.
The zoo director suggested that Angelina have a look at their ‘actress’ Pusha.
Bears in the circus were not unusual. They were willingly used in circus acts, but at the same time, they were disliked for their unexpected outbursts. In addition, the audience was starting to get sick of the bears. In spite of this, Angelina became interested in Pusha. Angelina came from a long line of tamers and her animal- trainer instinct rarely betrayed her.
The zoo director didn’t ask too high a price. The carriage cage for the bear was brought in. The frightened Pusha was separated from her sister for the first time in her life.
At first, the bear rushed about, roared and shook the bars of the cage, then she huddled up in a corner, and covered her head with her paws just like a human being would. While she was being taken to the circus, the cage shook and vibrated for a long time; unfamiliar and fearful odors came through the bars. Finally, Pusha was brought to a noisy and unpleasant place. The bear refused to walk out through the open door, but they pushed her out with hooks. Her new cage was cramped and uncomfortable. The strong smell of other beasts confused Pusha. Loud sounds were like sandpaper on her ears: the neighing of many horses, the roar of the lion, the howling of monkeys, the barking of dogs, and the screech of trumpet music. What about the bears? Yes, very close to Pusha, a brown female bear calmly chewed her carrot, and in the cage opposite, a huge gray-haired male was watching closely. He growled softly, then grunted reassuringly, and Pusha felt a little better.
Angelina hadn't fed the bear for two days. She expected that Pusha draw in her claws from hunger. Then the fearless Angelina entered the cage with a bowl full of apples and oranges. She wanted to feed the newcomer from the palm of her hand to tame her. Angelina was incredibly surprised when Pusha, yearning for the company of people, first ran to fawn on the woman, and only after having received her portion of attention, did the young bear begin to eat. The bear's behavior moved the experienced animal tamer to tears: she easily achieved an animal's submission, but rarely met true affection. The bear's thick brown hair glittered pleasantly, and an intelligence was visible in her small eyes. Even Pusha's bearish ‘grace’ fascinated Angelina.
“Well, let's see how you are in the arena, girl," Angelina thought.
Her first entrance into the circus ring shocked Pusha. She had gotten used to being protected by her cage and suddenly she found herself in a huge, empty, and brightly-illuminated space, stinking of dogs and lions. Her companions, Kazbek and Gerda, had already settled in their places, waiting for the orders of their trainer. Somehow, Angelina persuaded Pusha to climb on a pedestal, but at the first loud noise, the bear tried to escape. Kazbek helped Angelina; he blocked Pusha's passage with his massive body and returned her to her stand, carefully pushing her with his nose. Angelina did not force her; Pusha only had to watch her new teammates.
The phlegmatic Gerda reluctantly rode a kick scooter, walked listlessly with an umbrella and twirled it around, imitating a dance. But Kazbek worked hard. He got up on his front paws, grunting, caught hoops and rings, and presented Angelina with a basket of flowers. He dutifully spread out on the ground, so the trainer could put her little white boot on his scruff. For this, the bear received praise and honey cookies. Pusha could smell something sweet, which made her excited. She wanted cookies too, but Angelina pretended that the new bear did not exist in the arena. The special treat had to be earned.
At the next rehearsal, Pusha allowed her trainer to put a fluffy skirt on her and fasten a hat on her head. Riding a kick scooter was a simple matter for her, and she had learned to dance well at the zoo. Angelina praised her talented student and gave her a tasty treat. After a couple of lessons, Pusha figured out how to diversify her circus act: after she had caught the hoop, she did not shake it off, but began to twist it. That was super funny. The circus attendants began to applaud. A dog trainer Violetta, who was peeking through the slit in the curtain, turned green with envy.
Angelina kissed the bear on the satisfied-looking muzzle with a full heart. Happy Pusha snorted and began to bow in all four directions, causing another burst of laughter. Hulking Kazbek grumbled and stamped; his eyes glittered happily when he looked at Pusha. Gerda sat indifferently on her pedestal.
Pusha took a long time to get used to loud music, but the caresses and treats really helped. For Pusha's debut, Angelina chose a daytime performance on weekdays, since she was afraid of the bear's very sensitive nature. Nevertheless, it went just fine. Pusha was dancing, twisting hoops, waving her paws in greeting and flirting with the audience. She loved the attention of the public. The second and third performances also went without a hitch. On the fourth, an excited spectator threw a huge bouquet to Angelina, which scared the hell out of Pusha and the bear ‘threw up’ on her stand. Soon the loud people in the circus became normal, and Pusha did not give any more trouble in the arena.
Adults and children, with whom she was photographed during intermissions, as well as ring attendants, dresser and cleaning ladies - all of them loved Pusha. The bear did not snap at anyone, and did not try to bite someone or hit them with her paw. When one day a curious raccoon ran up and climbed into her cage, attracted by the smell of sliced fruit, Pusha did not hurt the little thief. She allowed the circus attendants to cover the raccoon with a net and pull him out.
She memorized the schedule of rehearsals and performances; if for some reason she was not taken out to the arena by the appointed time, she would shake the bars and snort huffily. Angelina visited her star every day: she brought her sweets, personally combed out her hair, talked to her like a best friend, and sometimes took her out to walk around the circus tent at night. Angelina was really attached to the bear.
Soon Gerda was taken away from the circus. Pusha, who had dozed off after lunch, woke up to a terrible roar and saw her partner being dragged with hooks into a carriage. Kazbek tried to attack the people through the bars, hoping to defend Gerda. It was all in vain. People always get what they want.
After that, Angelina did not appear in the circus for several days. She returned pale, tired and irritable. The gloomy Kazbek, in response to Angelina's harshness during the rehearsal, also began to growl and swung his paw at the woman a couple of times. Pusha, on the contrary, tried to comfort and please her beloved human - she was rolling in the sawdust and shoving Angelina with her muzzle, as if telling her, “do not lose heart”. Pusha hoped that soon everything would go back to normal. But it did not. The obedient Pusha received more and more attention from her trainer Angelina, but the older bear developed problems. Kazbek became capricious, worked slowly and reluctantly. Sometimes he did not listen to Angelina's commands, and one day he just got up and walked back to his cage right in the middle of the performance. Angelina shouted angrily at the bear and swung a whip at him - the trainer should never beat her animals, but at that moment, she was ready to do so.
After a while, two young bears were brought from the north - Tupa and Boy. The newcomers did not show any special talent, but they did their best and behaved well. The hardworking Pusha helped them to do their best. She nudged them with her nose, and was scolded for disobedience. The youngsters began to join the circus act. Angelina almost stopped taking Kazbek for rehearsals. A couple of times, the old bear got access to the arena with his pitiful roar, but Angelina no longer paid attention to Kazbek, did not praise him and did not feed him with cookies. The poor fellow was forsaken.
The new act ‘Three on Three Wheels’, was brought to perfection in rehearsals. Tupa and Boy learned to ride unicycle around the arena, chasing a beautiful lady in a white tutu. The prima donna Pusha was rolling in compliments and treats. Angelina praised her, took pictures with the bear for the papers and promised her a great future. The bear was doing her best; she was worked to a frazzle.
One day, when Pusha returned after a long rehearsal, she found out that the cage opposite was empty. The floor had been washed and the straw had been changed. Only a faint scent remained from Kazbek.
The same night, Pusha had a nightmare of a carriage into which people were dragging Gerda with hooks. They were ripping shreds out of her skin, yelling, and snapping their long horsewhips ... but this was no longer Gerda, but she herself, Pusha, who was clinging to the bars of the cage with her claws. Angelina, was calmly standing nearby, playing with a chain, and whistling a circus march...
Opening the cage's lock turned out to be easy for Pusha. Sneaking past the sleepy watchman was like taking candy from her sister Vahmurka.
The bear was nearly overwhelmed by sharp and terrible smells of the city; her sensitive nose caught the bitter creosote stench of railroad’s sleepers with the smells of gasoline and iron. She did not know the way; she could only follow the call of her heart.
For a little over two months, Pusha had been making her way forward at night, trying not to stray far from the railway. She ate whatever she could find in garbage dumps. Pusha tried not to go deep into the forest: the smells of the wild wood attracted her, but also frightened her. The bear did not remember her wild free life and did not seek it. She just wanted to go back to her enclosure at the zoo.
Three times, she had to fight off packs of wild dogs, and one such fight cost her her ear. She was about to be shot, and she had got some pellets under her skin. Pusha became emaciated. She rubbed to a pulp the pads of her paws on the asphalt of the highway and gravel; her wounds festered, and her stomach ached.
She was chilled to the bone from long cold rains and more and more often fell into a deep doze. The air smelled of winter and death — just a little more, and her journey would end forever.
She got caught in the suburbs. That day, Pusha was hungry as she had never been hungry before and broke into a bakery. She started to beg for food, stretching her clawed paws over the counter. The buyers were running away screaming, the saleswoman locked herself in the back room, and someone called the police. The troublemaker was about to shoot, but a compassionate police captain noted the unusual behavior of the bear. “She has run away from the zoo, for sure," he thought. Pusha was fed to the full with stale bread, and drunk with vodka mixed with condensed milk. Then they tied the sleepy bear up, loaded her into a jeep, and Pusha was taken to her zoo.
It was hard to recognize the ex-star of the zoo in the emaciated, shabby female bear, but the janitor, Uncle Micha, did it. The vet sniffed her wounds and applied bandages. Pusha was quarantined for two weeks. There she grew fat and went into hibernation ... When Pusha woke up, she found herself next to her sister. The phlegmatic Vahmurka first slowly licked Pusha's muzzle, and then went to lie in the sun, as if they had never been apart.
The tamer Angelina came to the zoo in the summer. She was looking for bear cubs for her show and, on learning that her runaway prima donna had returned to the zoo, she wanted to take Pusha back to her circus. The zoo director refused her briefly and rather rudely, “Animals do not run away from good owners.” Angelina shouted at him and threatened him with a court case, but in the end, she had to leave empty-handed. Angelina looked into the bear enclosure just before leaving the zoo. Pusha pretended not to recognize her ex-beloved human.
The bear became withdrawn and distrustful after all she had been through. Although she did not hurt the zookeepers, she did not obey them either. To draw her out of her cage to clean it or to carry out her physical examination was rough work with unknown consequences for the zoo staff. Only Uncle Miha could manage to get Pusha to go to the nearby aviary with the help of cookies and gentle words.
It seemed that she had lost her interest in tricks, but bravura music from the loudspeaker sometimes awakened her memories. The zoo director saw the four-legged artist was dancing and stomping to the music.
Pusha became touchingly tender with her sister: now she shared her treats with her, slept next to Vahmurka, and called her to wrestle in the dust. The marks of her wounds were hidden in her thick and shiny fur. The visitors to the zoo considered Pusha the most beautiful among bears and willingly treated her to sweets. There were always crowds of people at her cage, and photos of the club-footed sisters were posted in local newspapers many times.
Sometimes at night, Pusha put on shows for the amusement of her neighbors- the wild animals and zoo cats. She balanced on a log, juggled with an orange, danced a waltz, walked on her front paws and did other funny things. She loved the attention of the public.
Now the bear has grown old, has acquired gray hair and a paunch, but she is still considered the most beautiful and precocious. So, if you're in the mood for going to our zoo and visiting the actress Pusha, don't forget to bring cookies!


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