(We're pretending I'm a polar bear again.)
At this time last year, I decided to have a pool party for all the animals in the zoo. My polar bear friends said it was silly - that I should send only a few invitations for others to visit our habitat.
"No," I insisted, paws clutching my blue ball to my white belly. "There's enough room! And this way nobody feels left out! Everyone is welcome to come to the pool party." Then I narrowed by polar bear eyes and growled menacingly and watched Adam and Best exchange resigned glances before telling me to go ahead.
And, for a while, it was wonderful. We splashed and frolicked and taught the walrus some polar bear games. The caribou came in herds and the wolves sprawled in the sunshine. We had seals and otters and whales attend and the seagulls and eagles jockeyed for the best spots in trees that surrounded our pool. And I was happy, even when dealing with problems, because everyone had a chance to play.
In the summer, the zookeepers came and said the pool party must end. Arranging my face in a polar bear pout, I crawled over to the pretty pool in the center of our habitat and, with a glance at Adam for support, cleared my throat and stood on my hind legs.
"Attention," I requested and waited until everyone - the otters and caribou, eagles and seals, wolves and walrus - looked at me affectionately. I smiled weakly, for I believe in giving animals gifts so they'll like me and had never tried to rescind a present before, and tried to explain.
"The zookeepers feel there are potential problems with our parties," I noted and watched the walrus frown. "Um, apparently we might fight with each other. Or I guess someone might drown. Or get hit in the head with a ball when we play Bounce. So they say we have to stop."
And there was a great roar of protest - squawks and growls and squeaks and pawing the ground angrily. I tried to calm them, wringing my paws fretfully, and looked to Adam for help.
"I will speak to the zookeepers," he said loudly and the herd of miscellaneous animals quieted to an uneasy murmur. So Adam and the walrus and a wolf went to the zookeepers and they spoke at length.
"You may have until the end of the year," a zookeeper told us when she visited our habitat, standing on a large rock to look down upon the herd. "But our concerns are valid and we will not grant additional waivers. Is that understood?"
She nodded when everyone cheered, animals returning to the sparkling water and bright sunshine and thinking the end of December was far away indeed. And if the zookeepers had caved once, they likely would do so again. So we splash today and worry tomorrow! Polar bear punch (you know, the fizzy kind with rainbow sherbet?) for everyone!
It is now December 31 and while I should be planning my New Year's Eve kiss (polar bears rub noses, I think - human Katie has no plans whatsoever), I am instead dealing with intense anger from my zoo friends.
I dutifully painted a sign a week ago, tracing letters to read 'Party Ends December 31. I'm sorry.' And I put it at the edge of the water, arranging it carefully so that it was clearly visible to all who continued to splash in our pool and laze under our heat lamps. I saw the caribou glance at it and whisper among themselves. The eagle narrowed his regal eyes. The wolves growled and knocked it down, but I apologized and told them I understood but the zookeepers wouldn't budge. And I righted the sign and patted it sympathetically, worried about the building displeasure from my former friends.
"Just a few more months?" I asked the zookeepers. "Because everyone's so angry?"
"No," they replied simply. "It's risky and wrong. You should never have done this at all. And it ends now. In fact," they continued, unmoved by my polar bear tears, "put up more signs so everyone is fully aware."
So I littered the edge of the pool with notices, my snout facing the ground as I hung my head against the insults and complaints. I winced as the animals glared. Nodded as they complained. Tried to explain that the zookeepers wouldn't budge.
"We," they cried, "outnumber the zookeepers! We're the reason people come here! To admire our bodies and behavior - because we're so pretty and interesting and important and cool!"
"I know," I offered earnestly. "I do. But the zookeepers have guns. And they've said we can obey or they will kill me - leaving a heap of broken fur and flesh and fluids. And I don't want to die!"
They glared at me and began to talk among themselves. I heard snippets of conversation - how they'd tell Adam I was a terrible bear. How not having pool parties would ruin everything. How I should have done better or more in some unspecified way so that this catastrophic event did not occur. And I am swamped with guilt and misery as they sneer and complain and tattle on me.
"I'm a good bear," I told PrettyHair when she wandered over to sit with me while I hid in a corner of the cave. "I try very hard and do impressive work and I was trying to be friendly when I invited everyone! It's not my fault the zookeepers said no. But everyone is mean to me - disappointed in me - and that's the opposite of what I wanted." And I wrap my furry arms around my ball protectively, resting my head on it in a defeated slump.
She straightened her pretty pink bow and patted me with her paw. "It's a bump in the iceberg," she offered. "It does suck but there was a lot of good that came from having everyone at our pool. So think of the good parts and just do the best you can through the end. Because you are a good bear."
I nodded, accepting the pat on the head but remained in my spot, curled sadly as I watched the animals depart angrily, making plans against me. It's better than being shot, I decided, but still not fun.
So feel free to pat my polar bear head if you'd like. Because I'm sad.