The bear in the middle is Ursula. She always felt she was destined for a special purpose – maybe as a gift to a sick child or as a favorite toy.
Though she was passed over again and again, Ursula kept a cheery and hopeful disposition.
But at last a year had gone by since she had been unpacked and shelved. The store manager gathered up the unwanted toys and put them in a bargain bin in an effort to unload them before Valentine’s Day. As the day wore on, every toy was picked except Ursula…
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12 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Challenge: Bargain Bin Valentine”
by Sara Stark
The hope Ursula clung to died as the store manager extinguished the lights and locked up. Today had been her last chance. Now she’d end up in the trash, because seriously, how long could he keep her around?
No one wanted her. Her fur wasn’t the sparkly pink little girls loved, nor was it the blinding white young men chose for their new loves. It was brown, bear brown.
She closed her eyes, wondered how many days she had left. Weariness from the false cheer, from the happy face she’d displayed for so long overtook her and she drifted into hibernation, free from sadness and fear.
“Wake, my sweet girl.”
Eyes blurry with sleep, Ursula didn’t recognize the face or the voice. “What? Who?”
“Artemis, silly bear.” As she leaned over the bin, the woman radiated beauty and power. And goodness. “You didn’t think you were left behind because you’re of no value, did you? I have plans for you, important plans.”
As Artemis lifted Ursula from the bargain bin, the world changed. The store dissolved. They stood amongst ancient ruins, washed white by the sun. Dark blue seas shimmered in the distance.
“Welcome to Brauron,” Artemis said. “You’re needed here. We guide girls on their path to womanhood.”
~ o ~
The next morning, when the store manager opened up, he couldn’t remember who bought that last bear. But never mind, at least he wouldn’t have to throw it in the garbage.
Time to put out the Easter bunnies.
The storekeeper looked up to see that same wide-eyed little girl with her face pressed up against his store window. This was the third time this week. Wasn’t anyone watching after her?
At first he had been irritated by the smears and handprints all over his clean window. Then after noticing the shabby condition of her clothes and her general unkempt appearance, he became more concerned. He thought of his own little girl who had died tragically just two years ago. His wife had left him soon after, leaving him alone, so alone.
His body stiffened as he snapped out of his dark thoughts. At least I can do one kind deed on this Valentine’s Day. He snatched up the bear and he hurried outside.
“Little Miss! I have something for you.” He said holding out the bear.
The girl looked at him blankly.
“Go on, I give this to you. Take it.”
She shyly reached out and took the bear. Then looking down she turned around.
A moment later she turned back around with a smile that lit up the whole sky. “Thank you Mister! Thank you so much.”
The man walked into the store with a smile on his face too, the first one in a long time.
Slowly he opened the drawer under the cash register. He removed his 44 automatic he had snuck back home after he was discharged from the army. Without another thought he put the barrel in his mouth and pulled the trigger.
Darryl left the gift store holding Ursula under his coat as if he was smuggling contraband. “Ha!” he blurted. He got into his car, straightened his tie, and sat Ursula up on the steering wheel. “You were the last one in town, and I got you! Finally – Tiffany won’t be able to say no to me!”
Sinking back into the driver’s seat, he envisioned Tiffany with her flowing auburn hair and her emerald eyes. He thought of her love for everything chocolate. All year long, he’d bring her gifts of every conceivable kind of chocolate. She’d always reply with, “Already have it.” This time would be different – this time he had not only the last bear in the area – but all of them.
Starting the engine, he glanced in his rearview mirror to see the bears stacked to the ceiling. “There’s no way anybody else could have gotten one.”
Darryl pulled into Tiffany’s driveway. He marched up the front walk and pushed the doorbell.
“What have we here?” Tiffany purred.
“A chocolate-scented bear.”
Her eyes widened. “Really?” She snatched the bear away from Darryl then held it to her face, taking a deep breath. “Indeed it is! Come in.”
It was the first time Darryl had ever made it across the threshold.
“Would you like a drink?” she asked, heading into the kitchen with Ursula.
Darryl collected his thoughts, then followed her. He entered the kitchen in time to hear her burp.
A tuft of brown fur blew out from between her sumptuous lips.
Ursula felt so alone. All her stuff bear friends had been sold to children waiting with open arms for them. She had to keep her spirits up because she knew she was special. She needed to find that special family too. She thought if she had a tambourine or drums to play she would get noticed faster. But there was nothing near her. She vowed to get a good night’s sleep by cuddling up to the blanket next to her. In the morning, when the store re-opened, people would pass by her and someone would notice her. After all tomorrow was Valentine’s Day.
The next day the store opened and the shoppers came through excited about Valentine’s Day. A couple was strolling down the aisle talking.
“I’m going to make a care basket. All we need is a teddy bear, a blanket, and I already have her favorite book right here.” The woman said
“That’s a great idea honey. “ said the man
Ursula’s ears perked – here’s my chance. Oh please pick me ! I’m exactly what you want.
They came closer to where Ursula was and almost reached her when the man said.
“What about a Barbie Doll ?”
“No let’s stick to the plan – look at this – this bear will work and right here is a blanket.”
“The bear even has a red heart; she will love that.”
Ursula was thrilled; finally she would meet the little girl that would cherish her. It was the best day ever.
I’m the cutest Teddy Bear hug me and you’ll know I care. They have called me Ursula but pay no mind I’ll answer to anything you’ll find. I have got a really big heart and from you I’ll not part.
More loyal than any dog or cat hugs is all I need, which I’ll accept with greed. I don’t need toilet training and your house won’t need rearranging. One spin around the washing machine and I’m once again clean.
I was made for you to love I think we’ll fit perfectly, snug as a glove. Rescue me from this bin it’s your life I need to be in. You can dress me up in whatever you want I’ll ignore the other bear’s taunts. Wheel me around in your little pram I’ll be your lucky charm.
These are the vibes I’m telepathically sending to this gorgeous little girl, hoping she’ll give me a whirl. Attempting to make my eyes twinkle if I had fairy dust, I’d sprinkle. Oh I’m in her chubby little hands, my heart instantly expands. She says “Mummy this is the one” my destiny has begun. Her name is Kate I have found my soul mate.
Today she’s bringing me on a Teddy Bear’s picnic, with excitement I’m sick. I’m so happy I don’t even mind the nappy.
Ursala was just about to give up hope of finding a home and a little girl to love her when a fiery bunch of curls appeared over the edge of the bin. A face with two green eyes, a little nose, and a huge smile missing four teeth peered down at her. She was the most perfect little girl Ursala had ever seen.
“Daddy! Daddy! Over here,” the little girl said bouncing on her tiptoes and waving furiously to her father.
“What is it, Emily?” said Emily’s father joining his daughter at the bargain bin. “Did you find something?”
“Yes! I want that bear!”
“Are you sure?” he asked lifting the bear from the bin. “It looks kind of old.”
“I’m 1,000% sure, daddy. I’m going to play with it every day.”
Emily’s father had heard that before. With a sigh, he handed Emily the bear as they walked to the front of the store to pay for it. Finally, Ursula was going to have a good home and be loved by a little girl like she had always dreamed.
A month later, Ursula lay on the floor of Emily’s room with a gaping hole in her chest where Emily had ripped off her two hearts. She waited until she heard Emily snoring softly before standing up. Life in the bargain bin hadn’t been so bad after all.
She didn’t look back as she flung herself out of the open window to begin the long trek back home.
Lonely, forlorn, Ursula rested against the wall of the bargain bin. She accepted she wouldn’t be picked today, probably not tomorrow neither.
Though she had given up hope hours ago, she still perked up a little at the sound of the shop bell. She sat a little taller in the bargain bin and wished for a nice shine to her button eyes.
A shadow crossed and filled the top of the bin, and then long blond locks followed by a face hidden in the shadow of the hair appeared at the top of Ursula’s home. Could it be, her stuffing heart skipped a beat as she continued to hold her breath. The girl reached down to the bottom of the bin and pulled Ursula out by the ear. “This one will have to do, Mother,” she said.
“We should have it wrapped.” The woman’s voice sounded much like the little girl’s, though a bit older, world-weary. “They will wrap it for free.”
“Whatever,” the girl said.
“You did this,” mother said. She pulled Ursula from her daughter’s hands and set it on the gift-wrap counter. “Next time maybe you will think about your actions.”
Darkness consumed Ursula as paper folded over her head. The paper muffled the sounds as they carried her through the shop and then out the front door, but it did nothing to soften the blows as she was slammed into counters and then the doorframe.
He almost clung from behind as i make a swift turn down a dark narrow alley; four blocks away from a beat-down and that of solace.Running as fast as my legs can take me and panting as loud as my lungs will let me. Miraculously making it over a gauze fence and away from a tossed log as the loud thud behind send a shiver down my spine. “He is a hand stretch away from getting hold of me, he is going to kill me ” Thinking of giving up on the futile escape only to realize i was seconds away from the shop.I need to get Ursula for my Kid Sister.Apparently the latter isn’t motivation enough.”Bam!” he shoves me to the ground then dips his hand down my puffed up pocket pulling out a sock full of pennies. “Dad please!!” i exclaim, “Didn’t i warn you to never call me that? he retorts, throwing away my favourite cap down a garbage bin close by, smacks me on the head and walks away drunkenly with a loud laugh.I dusted myself up, run to the shop front but it is closed; what was i thinking? i didn’t have any money.Glancing peeringly through the transparent glass and up the shelf where Ursula usually laid only to find it blank. Thinking of how disappointed my sister would be,i walk up to the garbage bin to pick up my cap and guess what i find? Ursula the bear!!
Ursula assumed she was being punished. Why else would her mother have brought her to this `place` and left her. Ok, Ursula knew she could be a pain in the butt sometimes, especially when Ma was entertaining one of her Male friends.Ursula`s dad? Oh he upped and left years ago, shacked up with a long-armed furry piece from Peru. Met her at some bear convention ma told Ursula. Anyway I guess without a father she went completely off the rails, staying out late, drink and drugs, stuff like that. Ma stood it for so long but I guess there`s only so much a mother bear can take. So here she is, lying on a shelf with splinters in her butt, hoping some kind soul will come along and give her a good home. Will she miss her mother? Honestly? Well, no not really. She knows that sounds terrible but she craves for a bit of love and affection. Poor girl can`t remember when she was last hugged, cuddled or taken to a nice warm bed and read a story. So she`ll just lie here and smile at anyone and everyone that happens to come by. Who knows she might even join a family with other bears to play with. Ursula reckons that will be just great!
I walked by the bargain bin and noticed every toy was picked except Ursula. The fact the bear has been overlooked time and time again, reminded me of our dog.
It was Valentine’s Day nine years ago. We lost our yellow Lab to a sudden illness, and our home felt incomplete. We used to laugh when she would play soccer with her bowl at feeding time. There were many tears at her passing.
We both realized we could not exist without another dog. When my wife and I went to the animal shelter there were too many dogs available. Most were barking and jumping in their pens. After looking at the many animals my wife was confused, and so was I. She asked me if there was one that caught my interest and I told her the one white dog that never barked. She questioned – the one with the pineapple growth on her mouth?
When we asked about the dog, the attendant said she had been there months. We went back over to her and she was still leaning up against her kennel, but lifted her paw this time. It broke my heart to think she might never be taken.
Suzy has been a love ever since.
I went over to lock the shop door and noticed a young boy staring in the window. He reminded me of Suzy’s sad expression. It gave me an idea.
Ursula has finally found what she had been waiting for.
Ursula just knew that there shouldn’t be any real reason to be hopeful as the footsteps of shoppers around the wire bin became fewer in frequency, so she began to daydream. In her dream the footsteps totally stopped for several minutes and the silence was almost deafening. Wondering where the store manager might put her next was interrupted by the sound of excited footsteps rushing in her direction. They got louder and louder until Ursula knew they were right there next to the bin. Without any warning at all anxious little hands reached in, scooped her up and in a flash Ursula was staring into the smiling face of a ten year old! Spinning around in an excited dance, the ten year old and Ursula began to bond, this was a dream come true. The young hands pulled Ursula close in an enthusiastic bear hug as they stood there together rocking back and forth. Ursula could feel the beating of the child’s heart, she could feel the warmth of the sweet kisses and knew, just knew that this was exactly what she had been waiting for all her life. Was this really a dream? She was finally going to have a loving, happy home. In the dark of the shopping bag Ursula could hear the footsteps now on pavement and the sound of a car door opening. As the bag was excitedly being ripped open, Ursula found herself face to face with the razor sharp canine teeth of Rocco!
International intrigue is relative and Grandma Nan is our clan’s claim to fame in the world of cross-border smuggling. After Grandpa died Nan decided to move from Canada to the United States. Furniture went to auction and the rest of the household goods went to the local church to sell in their thrift store. The question became, what to do with all Nan’s Beanie Babies? She had over a thousand of these plush little stuffed animals, cataloged and carefully preserved in ziplock baggies. Ty Inc., the maker of these much sought-after toys, did not allow international travelers to bring more than thirty dolls across borders. Nan had a plan. She would enlist the help of friends at the International House of Pancakes on the Canadian side and friends in the United States. Each person would take thirty Beanie Babies the eight miles to a Shell station in Vermont. The IHOP hostess, a waitress, two truckers and some Phish Heads were soon in cahoots with Nan and me. After twenty or so trips back and forth her collection was safe and secure in her new home in Chatham, MA. On the very last trip the whole gang met up at the IHOP where a picture of Nan was ceremoniously placed on the wall honoring her exploits. Under the picture are two Beanie Babies, one with an American flag and one with a Canadian flag. They each wear a little black felt mask looking like bandits.
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