I became aware of myself in late October 2005, in a well-heeled liquor store, a flagship location boasting an impressive array of scotch and wine in its specialty area. I found myself among a great many other similar bears, half of us chocolate brown and the other half my light honey-brown color.
It was a pleasant captivity. Sitting among the bottles, I listened to wine consultants, observed shoppers’ food-pairing dilemmas, and took every opportunity to sneak samples. Being a small bear I could get hammered on a few Dixiecups of whatever was on offer.
I also learned to read at the liquor store. I found myself hungry for this knowledge, as I knew I’d have to make my way in a world full of alcohol-free beverages, which of course I wanted to avoid. At first my reading focused strictly on booze, but later I started reading wine magazines and whatever else the liquor store staff left around.
Night time was party time. As the last employee locked the door, we would stretch and then get rowdy. Sometimes we lucked out and found broken bottles still full of hooch. If not we’d have to think hard and find a way to open something. We were pretty good at choosing inconspicuous bottles, although one notoriously stupid brown bear once cracked a 25-year Laguvulin instead of the bottle of Silent Sam I’d proposed. I was sure we were doomed, but ahhhh. It was good.
Some of the bears were teetotalers who frowned on our behaviour. Gradually they moved to one side of the room. If the morning staff noticed any migration among us, they never said anything. To them we were all the same.
The reason we were at the store in the first place was the annual Christmas Bear promotion: for every bear sold, a twin bear would be donated to a needy child. So we all knew the clock was ticking. Sooner or later we’d either leave with a customer, whom we could at least check out in-store—or be sent who-knows-where. I was hoping for the former: at least I’d go home with someone buying liquor.
I think customers had an instinct about me and the trouble I might cause, because my liquor store tenure lasted almost until Christmas. Customers constantly scanned past me or picked me up briefly at best. I didn’t mind because things were pretty good at the store. Other bears’ sales meant fewer bears to share in our late-night rampages. But I was concerned about not selling at all, and perhaps being returned somewhere and—liquidated.
Finally a couple bought me. Their cart was loaded with good stuff, so I just about jumped in.
I don’t know what happened to my liquor store twin. With his bad luck he probably ended up with teetotalers. Shudder…