Mama Bear was telling Baby Bear a story. “And then the wolf ate the sheep and lived happily ever after,” she said.
“But why didn’t the sheep know it was a wolf?” Baby Bear asked.
“I told you, he was dressed up as a sheep, so they thought he was another sheep,” she said.
“Sheep aren’t very smart, are they?” Baby Bear asked.
“No dear,” Mama Bear said. “They aren’t.”
Soon Baby Bear was snoring softly. Papa Bear was curled up half-asleep next to him. And then inspiration struck. He sat up, blinking. “Hey, Mama Bear,” he said. “Do you think it would work on fish?”
“What would work, dear?” she asked.
“The dressing up thing that the wolf did. Do you think it would work on fish?”
“Hmmmmm.” She thought for a moment. “I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to try. But how would you dress up as a fish?”
“Well, how did the wolf dress up as a sheep in your story?” Papa Bear asked.
“I imagine he used the wool of a sheep he’d caught earlier,” Mama Bear said.
“Well that won’t work. Fish don’t have wool,” Papa Bear said. He grumbled unhappily.
“Well, all the fish I’ve seen are shiny and grayish,” Mama Bear said.
Papa Bear looked confused. “How would I look like that?” he asked.
“Your fur gets shiny when it’s wet,” she said.
“And I could roll in some grayish dust,” Papa Bear said. He smiled a big toothy smile. “I’ll try it tomorrow.”
“I hope it works,” Mama Bear said. They cuddled together around Baby Bear and soon the cave was filled with snoring.
In the morning, the bears went down to the stream. Papa Bear jumped in and roared. “That’s cold,” he said. He hurried over to the nearby trail and rolled in it. The dirt clung to his wet fur. Soon he was colored a dark chalky gray.
He stood and faced his family. “ Do I look like a fish?” he asked.
Baby Bear laughed. “No,” he said.
“Maybe a little,” Mama Bear said. “Why don’t you go to the river and see if the fish are fooled. They aren’t very smart.”
“Like sheep,” Baby Bear said.
“Yes, dear,” Mama Bear said. “Like sheep.”
Papa Bear crouched by the side of the stream and waited. The fish didn’t come any closer. “Do you think they can see me this far away?” he asked.
“Maybe they think you’re a rock,” Baby Bear said.
“I’ll get in the stream and move around a bit,” Papa Bear said. But, as soon as he was in the stream, the dirt washed away. “This was a terrible idea,” Papa Bear said. “Let’s go look for berries. It’s too cold to stand in this stream any longer.”
The idea was forgotten for a time. And then, several weeks later, Papa Bear was patrolling the boundaries of their territory, when he smelled people. People were always trying to come and take over. He hurried over to chase them away.
That’s when he saw it. One of the people was lying in a large, shiny, grayish bag. He looked like a giant fish. It was perfect. He roared to scare the humans away quickly.
He waited, making sure not to get any closer. When he got up close, humans often became petrified with fear and tried to pretend to be dead. It was sometimes inconvenient to be so fearsome. He didn’t want the human to play dead in the fish costume.
The humans weren’t moving. He roared again. They scrambled up and began gathering their things. Nope. He grumbled and took a step closer. They ran and left the fish costume behind. Papa Bear couldn’t wait to try it out.
He carefully brought it home and showed it to Mama Bear and Baby Bear. They were very impressed. He had to rip a hole in the bottom for his feet, but otherwise it was perfect. He decided to try it out the next morning.
He put on his fish costume and jumped into the slightly warmer stream. He waited a moment and the fish came closer to investigate. He was just about ready to see how many he could catch with one swipe, when something plopped into the water and the fish scattered.
Papa Bear looked up through netting. A human was backing away, eyes wide. Papa Bear launched himself out of the costume, roaring. The human ran. Papa Bear chased him a little bit and then returned to the stream.
The costume was ruined. Mama Bear pulled it from the stream and sighed. “Do you think you can find another one?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” Papa Bear said.
“Hey, Papa,” Baby Bear said. “Look at this.” He was inspecting the human’s net. The net was unharmed, left on the trail where it had fallen off Papa Bear’s head. “Do you think we could learn to use one of these to catch fish?”
Papa Bear smiled a big toothy smile. “I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to try,” he said.