The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Birthday Cake, by Dan Rozier
In a big tree house down a sunny dirt road deep in the heart of Bear Country, it was Brother’s birthday. The Bear family—Mama, Papa, Brother and Sister—were sitting around the kitchen table enjoying some of Mama’s famous homemade birthday cake. Papa reached for his third piece.
“Papa, you’ve had enough,” scolded Mama.
“There’s no such thing as too much birthday cake!” Papa exclaimed.
He winked at Brother, the birthday boy, and shoved a third piece into his mouth.
Nighttime came and Brother’s special day left as quickly as it had arrived. It was time for bed. Teeth were brushed, stories read, cubs tucked in. The tree house was quiet. Well, almost quiet. In the big bedroom, Papa Bear tossed and turned as his tummy rumbled and tumbled.
“You shouldn’t have had so much cake, dear.” Mama yawned.
Papa gurgled and turned away.
The next morning wasn’t any better. Papa was up all night with a bad case of the Too Much Birthday Cakes. He stumbled into the kitchen, grabbed the phone, and called his supervisor.
“Mr. Beaver, it’s Papa Bear. Yeah, uh, I can’t make it in today. I think I have some sort of stomach virus. What’s that? Yes, it was Brother’s birthday yesterday. Yes, we had cake. One, I swear, sir. Okay. Okay. Will do. Thank you, Mr. Beaver. I’ll see you tomorrow bright and early, sir.”
“Everything okay, Papa?” asked Brother.
“Yea, Papa just needs to sleep.”
Mama rolled her eyes and brought Brother and Sister some fresh honeycomb.
When Brother and Sister came home from school, something was different about the big tree house. It was quiet. Mama and Papa were in the living room.
“Brother, Sister, come in here, we need to talk,” she said.
“Papa lost his job today.”
“But wasn’t Papa too sick to go to work today?” Brother questioned.
“Well, yes. But while Papa was out with a case of the Too Much Birthday Cakes his temporary replacement, Mr. Muskrat, did a really great job and since he’s not in the Bear Union, he’s cheaper, so Mr. Beaver hired him on full-time–”
Papa interrupted, “Don’t worry, I’ll be back at work in no time. I promise. Mama still has a full-time job as a Pajama Tester. Everything will be fine.”
“Pinky swear?” Sister asked.
Papa pulled the cubs in for one of his world famous bear hugs.
The next morning Papa was up bright and early making breakfast. The smell wafted all the way down the sunny dirt road.
“Who wants salmon pancakes?”
Brother and Sister sprinted to the kitchen.
“I love having Papa home!” Sister shouted.
Mama handed him the Classifieds.
“There’s no time like the present,” she told him.
“Yeah, yeah, I’ll get around to it. Honey syrup?”
Brother and Sister beamed. It looked like everything was going to be okay in the big tree house after all.
Days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months. The leaves had fallen off the big tree house and winter had settled down in Bear Country. Papa still hadn’t found a job.
Papa came home from another interview. He brushed the snow off his fur.
“How’d it go?” asked Mama.
“Well, the interview was in the city, so as soon as I got off the train all of the people started screaming.”
“Again? I really think you need a suit.”
“Mama, for the last time, I can’t. You know overalls are the only clothes I’m allowed to wear. Remember what the witch sa–”
“Hey! Not in front of the c-u-b-s, okay? I’m just saying, it would help you look–”
“Help me look what?”
“Let’s not do this now.”
“Look like a man? You know those days are gone.”
“Just forget I said anything. Dinner is ready.”
Mama, Papa, Brother, and Sister sat down for dinner like they always did. They didn’t eat salmon and honeycomb anymore. These days it was mostly frog.
“Frog again? Gross!” shouted Sister.
Papa slammed his fist on the table.
Mama, Sister, and Brother chewed quietly.
Mama and Papa were in their bedroom. They’d been spending a lot of time there lately.
“Papa, just ask him,” whispered Mama.
“I’m not asking your brother for money. That bastard will hold it over my head until I die.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. Plus…”
“Don’t tell me…”
“…I already told him you’d be calling.”
“You did what?!”
“We have no choice.”
“Why the fuck would you do that?”
Brother and Sister were in the living room when they heard a lamp hit the bedroom wall.
“Holy moly! What was that?” Sister asked.
Brother turned up the volume on the TV.
The next day a very serious bear in a suit came to ask Brother and Sister some questions. Brother was worried, because he never did well on tests. But instead of quizzing them on state capitals and arithmetic, the serious bear’s questions were mostly about meals and safety. When the questions ended, Brother had a brilliant idea. He ran to Papa, who was in the middle of folding his overalls.
“Pssst. Papa. That bear has a suit. Ask if you can borrow it. Then you’ll be able to find a job!” Brother exclaimed.
Papa didn’t look up. He just kept packing his suitcase.
The serious bear left. Papa loaded his belongings into his car. Brother and Sister played jacks and wondered how they did on the test.
In a big tree house down a sunny dirt road deep in the heart of Bear Country, it was a very sad day. Brother sat alone on the front steps of the big tree house.
“This is all my fault,” thought Brother. The dust from Papa’s car had yet to settle. “If I hadn’t been born, none of this would’ve happened.” And, technically, Brother was right.
“You’re the man of the big tree house now,” Brother heard from behind him.
Startled, he turned around.
It was Mama, still or already in her nightgown. No one could tell anymore.
And that’s how all of the Berenstain Bears—Mama, Papa, Brother, and Sister—learned a valuable lesson that day, deep in the heart of Bear Country: Sometimes, there is such a thing as too much birthday cake.
Don’t forget to catch the latest Berenstain Bears adventure, The Berenstain Bears and the Double Christmas.
Dan Rozier is a writer in Ohio. He tweets at barf_city.
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