Once upon a time there was a young girl named Goldilocks because she was blonde and her parents lacked imagination. They were also very indulgent, so Goldilocks grew up with everything she needed or wanted except a solid sense of boundaries and propriety. She often hugged those who didn’t want to be hugged, took food off of people’s plates without asking, played with other children’s toys even before the other children were done with them. She wasn’t an awful child, but she was an annoying one.
Now, one day, Goldilocks went wandering alone in the woods. Her parents had specifically told her never to wander in the woods alone, but they never punished her, so what were they going to do, now? She flitted from tree to tree and rock to rock, finding things that caught her interest and just as quickly became boring and forgotten, until, she suddenly realized she was lost. Seriously lost. Remember that time you were in Target with your mom and you were bored because she was looking at dresses, so you just sort of moped around, but then you looked up and she was gone? Like that, only worse.
Goldilocks was apprehensive, but she didn’t know enough of the world to be properly scared, so she picked a direction and determined to follow that home, or at least to a road. And off she went. In entirely the wrong direction.
Now, at that time, there was a small family of bears living in those woods in a tiny cottage in a clearing. It’s a strange thing for bears to live in any kind of house, but these weren’t ordinary bears. They had begun as circus bears, but, due to an unreliable set of circumstances had somehow gained the ability to speak and manipulate objects like human beings. Needless to say, this resulted in a lucrative, if momentary, popularity, and the bears, after a brief run at the talk show circuit and a reality series on A&E, retired to this quaint cottage in the woods near Goldilocks’s home town.
On this particular morning, Momma Bear had tried her hand at making porridge. She had recently begun a health kick, and had read that porridge was healthier for bears than bacon and eggs or even oatmeal, so Poppa and Baby Bear were stuck for it, since the circumstances that made them human-like had robbed them of their ability to forage for berries and honey. As they sat there, looking down at their bowls of what looked like wallpaper past with steam wafting out of it, it occurred to Poppa Bear that he may have a way out of his dilemma.
“I think my porridge is too hot,” he announced, suddenly.
“You may be right,” Momma Bear said, noticing the many tendrils of steam. “Maybe we should go for a walk and let it cool down.”
“It’ll still be porridge when we get back,” pointed out Baby Bear, mopily. Poppa Bear glared at him and he settled down. They gathered their things and went out for a walk, not bothering to lock their door, because who would burglarize a house out in the middle of nowhere?
Just after they left, so soon that it defies belief that neither party saw the other, Goldilocks wandered up to their door. She knocked. Goldilocks knew to knock because she didn’t knock one time when she was looking for a toy and interrupted her mother wrestling with the milkman. Her mother must have won, because they never had to pay for milk, but her mother explained to her that the milkman would be embarrassed if she interrupted them again. So, now she always knocked at a closed door. She knocked again, because maybe they were wrestling extra hard and didn’t hear her.
She knocked a third time, because, why not? and when there was no answer, she tried the knob. The door opened.
Inside, she saw the table laid out with three bowls of porridge. She tried the largest one first, but it was too hot and burned her tongue. Before she tried the middle-sized one, she dumped some ice from the fridge into it, but she had dumped too much and it was much too cold. Also, it was still porridge. She tried the smallest, and it was just right. Especially after she poured half a cup of sugar into it. She ate it all up.
No longer hungry, she wandered into the living room, where she found three chairs. The biggest one was a giant easy chair with massive speakers and a vibro-massage. She sat in it, but the leatherette upholstery was too stiff and the automatic recliner controls were idiosyncratic. The middle chair was an overstuffed Queen Anne with a puffy seat and more pillows than she had ever seen outside of a hotel room. She sat in it and immediately disappeared into its fluffy depths.
Crawling out, she found a smaller chair. This was a tiny chair that Poppa Bear had built when he was in his handyman phase. He built it for Baby Bear, but Momma Bear wouldn’t let her child use it, because she doubted Poppa’s skills.
And rightly so, the chair collapsed as soon as Goldilocks sat in it.
All this exploring and the excitement with the collapsing chair, had tired Goldilocks out, so she went looking for some place she could lie down and take a nap. In the first bedroom, she found a King-sized bed with an adjustable mattress. She lay on one side, but the controls were locked and that side was set so high it was like lying on top of a counter. She crawled over to the other side and sank in like she was crawling on a marshmallow. Leaving that room, she went to the smaller room across the hall, where she found a twin bed with a standard, inner-spring mattress. She lay down and was asleep almost instantly.
The Bears arrived home. It had been Poppa’s plan to stay out until the porridge was fully inedible (instead of being just mostly inedible, because, porridge), but Baby Bear had forgotten Binky, a stuffed rabbit with one eye and one ear, and he wouldn’t shut up until they came back for it. They noticed the door was ajar, which caused Momma Bear to make a snarky comment to Poppa, who had been last out the door. Even if they didn’t lock, it was very important to close the door to keep raccoons out, because raccoons are jerks. Always remember that, children, raccoons are jerks.
They were going to wait at the door while Baby went upstairs for Binky, but Poppa noticed something. “I can’t imagine why, but it looks like someone had been eating my porridge,” he said.
“Someone dumped ice in mine,” Momma Bear said, “and they missed with a couple of cubes and now there’s a huge watermark on the table!”
“Someone ate mine all up,” announced Baby Bear. “So that means I get dessert, right?”
Momma and Poppa exchanged a look. “Maybe later,” Momma said to her son. They proceeded carefully into the living room. Poppa Bear rushed to his chair to flip it back down and turn the massager off. “I just can’t even,” he said when he had finished.
Momma didn’t hear him, she was busy picking up pillows and placing them carefully where they belonged on her chair. Then she noticed the ruins of Baby’s chair. “I told you,” she said. “That thing was a menace.”
Now Poppa was really concerned. He was sure he’d closed the door, but what if he hadn’t, and a raccoon had gotten into the house. It had happened once before, and the little jerk had broken half the good china, had eaten all of their cookies, and was licking their bagels when Poppa came downstairs to see what the ruckus was. It hissed at him, scratched him on the nose, then waddled out of the house like it had every right to be there. The worst part was that it was pretty clear that the raccoon didn’t even like bagels; it was just licking them so no one else could eat them, because raccoons are jerks.
Poppa stepped into the kitchen and picked up a spatula to use as a weapon. Momma, catching Poppa’s intent, picked up her good iron skillet, then put it down and picked up a cheap Teflon skillet she didn’t like. Up the stairs they went, Poppa and his spatula, Momma and her skillet, and Baby an his growing conviction that grown-ups are insane.
In the master bedroom, nothing seemed any different. The covers were mussed, but, surely, a raccoon would have caused more damage. Momma picked up more of her pillows. Suddenly, Baby cried out from his room. “Someone’s been sleeping in my bed, and she’s still here!”
At that, Poppa and Momma rushed across the hall to find Goldilocks, just waking up. “Eeek!” she cried. “A bear!”
“What is wrong with you?” Poppa cried.
“Don’t you have any sense of boundaries?” Momma added.
“Is that my Binky?” Baby asked. Goldilocks had been hugging the doll while she slept and was still holding it. She’d been drooling, and the head was sopping wet.
“Oh, sorry,” she said, offering the doll to the small bear.
“You keep it.”
Everyone laughed, nervously, but the exchange had broken the ice. The bears learned that Goldilocks wasn’t intentionally awful, she simply didn’t know any better. Goldilocks began to learn what appropriate behavior is, and she and Baby struck up a terrific friendship that lasted for years until Goldilocks discovered actual boys.
Of course there is a moral, here, boys and girls, one you should always remember: Raccoons are jerks.