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Paws off!

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“Would you look at that,” Figgis said as he hovered inside the ward, looking out of the double doors onto the corridor.

Glover, who was still in his bed, placed down his mirror and joined Figgis by the door, peering out to spy on Norman who was in the hallway, talking to a young pretty nurse.

“What is it with that pipsqueak and all the pretty nurses at this hospital?” Glover sighed.

“They wanna mother him. Florence Nightingale effect most probably. She’s from paediatrics so she’s got that mothering instinct. Most probably thinks Norman belongs more in there with her than in here.”

Glover stroked his moustache. “Yes, clutching that teddy bear isn’t going to do him any favours in the real world.”

“Does in this hospital. She loves it. That’s why he’s carrying it about, spreading it about all over the place.”

“You make it sound like an infectious disease.”

“May as well be. Every female nurse that’s passed that teddy bear has stopped to talk to Norman. And I say good luck to him. Here…quick, he’s coming back.”

They raced back to their beds and jumped under the covers just as Norman arrived in the ward, smiling. He placed his teddy bear pride of place on the pillow and then climbed under the covers of his own bed.

“You’re pleased with yourself,” Figgis said.

“I’ve got a date, Fig,” he replied.

“Date for what, an operation?” Glover asked, knowing full well what he had meant.

“No. I mean I have a romantic date with nurse Heidi. She’s so beautiful. We’re meeting in the canteen tomorrow for lunch.”

Glover snorted. “All the luxuries of the Ritz. You can share a packet of custard creams and wash it down with builder’s tea.”

Figgis sat up and leaned over toward Norman. “Nah he’s just jealous. A nurse hasn’t looked at him since…well…when was the last time a nurse looked at you other than to check the whites of your eyes and your blood pressure?” He was now facing Glover instead.

“Be quiet, Figgis, I’m still in my prime. Like a juicy succulent steak.”

“A bit tough and grisly, more like! Anyway, I’m pleased for you, Norman, that Heidi is a good-looking girl.”

“She is. And she calls me Normy.”

Glover and Figgis exchanged glances and smirked together.

“Have you seen my bear, Fig?” Norman said the next morning, leaning over Figgis and shoving him until he was awake. His voice was high-pitched and panicky.

“You what?” Figgis rubbed his eyes and sat up. “Blimey it’s barely daylight, what’s all the fuss?”

“My bear, he’s gone.”

“Gone? Gone where?”

“I don’t know, that’s what I’m telling you. He was here last night, next to me and now he’s vanished.”

“I shouldn’t worry. He’s most probably fallen under the bed.”

“First place I looked.”

Minutes later, rising from his covers with a yawn, Glover looked over and double-took, wondering why he could see the bottoms of both Norman and Figgis sticking out from underneath Figgis’ bed.

“Full moon at this hour?” he said laughing at his own joke.

As Figgis leaned upwards, his head made contact with the frame of the bed. “Flamin’ nora.” He rubbed his aching head as he and Norman clambered out from their searching place.

Norman sighed as he peered around the room and started to open and close cupboards in rapid succession.

“One does hesitate to ask what you two were doing under there.”

Norman’s eyebrows were sat low on his face and his normal smile was now a frown. “It’s Teddy, Archie. I can’t find him anywhere.”

“A bear doesn’t walk off by itself, Norman.” He took a deep yawn. “You probably left him in the day room reading Rupert.”

At that moment, Gupte arrived in the ward, muttering under his breath, hunched over and wagging his finger.

“Norman, do I look like your postman?”

“I don’t know,” Figgis laughed. “What does your postman look like Norman?”

“Be quiet, Figgis. Someone left this letter for you, Norman. But I am not your delivery service.”

“Why would anyone leave me a letter,” Norman said, taking the envelope and rubbing his chin in thought. “No post mark.”

Tearing away at the small envelope, he was alight with curiosity. Perhaps it was his new love sending him a romantic note. But when he pulled the paper out and unfolded it, his mouth hung open in surprise, his eyes scanning the words carefully. “Oh my god!”

“What is it, a dear John?” Glover asked.

“No, worse.” Norman held up the piece of paper where little colourful cut-out letters were stuck with glue to the page and the note read. ‘Leave her alone or the bear gets it.”

“The bear gets what?” Gupte said.

“A bleedin’ picnic,” Figgis said sarcastically, “gets a whacking, what else?”

“Oh dear.”

“Blimey, some people don’t play fair.” Figgis snatched the paper from Norman and then looked at Glover. “Sure this wasn’t you, Archie?”

“I’m offended that you’d think I’d create something so rudimentary. It’s not my style, Roy. I would challenge a man to a duel for the right of a lady’s hand not put together a pretty collage.”

“But why take my bear?” Norman said.

“To get you to keep your hands to yourself.” Figgis glanced over the note again. “Yep, yep, definitely a psychopath. Look at the frantic cutting out and the messy glue splurging out the edges as if they were in a hurry. And the continuous use of red as if he’s warning you of danger and blood. He’s out to get you mate and your bear too.”

“Crikey!” Norman slumped further onto his bed. “What am I going to do?”

“Well, these things can be solved, Norman. If we work out what magazines he used, scissors too. Who was after that nurse of yours? Did she have an ex-boyfriend or something?”

Glover laughed. “Oh, for heaven’s sake, both of you going on. The worst thing that can happen is the bear snuffs it.”

Scrunching up his face, Norman turned away from Glover. “How can you be so cruel?”

“Well Norman,” he chuckled, “it’s quite simple. He’s not real. He’s just a toy and grown men do not cry over lost toys.”

Figgis snorted. “Don’t they ‘eck. We’ve been through this before. Your lot all had teddy bears. The RAF could’ve had its own lost bear division.”

“Those men were in planes, Roy, flying into certain death.”

“Well…Norman’s in a hospital bed. He may be on the ground but he’s got just as much chance of dying in here, mate.”

“Do you think I should go and talk to Heidi?” Norman asked.

Gupte held him back. “Norman, you’re meant to be resting, not bear hunting.”

“Gupte’s right,” Figgis said. “You don’t want to scare her either. She could wake up in the staff room with a bear’s head next to her coffee.”


Red faced and irritable, Dr. Thorpe blustered into the ward later that morning, carrying a large piece of paper.

“Norman, what is this?” He rolled out the paper which was a crudely made poster with words written in crayon and with a basic drawing of a bear on it.

“It’s a ‘missing’ poster, doctor. Someone’s kidnapped Ted.”

“Ted? Who on earth’s Ted?”

Norman pointed to the drawing of the bear.

“I don’t care what it is, this is a hospital not a police station!”

Figgis sat up in his bed. “I dunno, there’s been a fair few crimes committed in this place.”

“Shut-up Figgis!”

“His bear’s been kidnapped,” Glover said from his bed next to the window. “Norman’s using posters to get the word out.”

“Oh, so that’s what Gupte was rambling about. I wondered why he was rabbiting this morning about Norman being bare.”

“I’m bear-less, doctor. Someone’s taken him.” Norman sighed. “And now they’ve sent me this.” He held up a single brown teddy bear paw. “They’re pulling him apart, seam by seam.”

“Goodness gracious,” said Thorpe, peering over his spectacles. “I do not stitch people up so they can commit this kind of blatant atrocity.”

“So, you’ll do something?” Norman asked.

“Sorry Norman, I’m a doctor of medicine not a doctor of teddy bears. And I’m very busy, I haven’t got time to worry about that sort of thing.” He turned on his heels and left the ward as quickly as he had entered it.

Sighing deeply, Norman held the paw to his cheek, rubbing it against his skin.

“Look at what you’re doing, Norman, it’s not very dignified,” said Glover.

“My father gave me this bear right before he went to get the milk!”

“The absentee father? Best to forget all about it then, it can only bring bad memories.”

“He’s been my companion for so many years. Not to mention a noble ally against mother.”

Climbing out of his covers, Figgis sat on bed next to Norman and patted his shoulder. “He’ll turn up. Sure, he’ll be paw-less but plenty of patients have gone home with less from this hospital.”

Norman smiled half-heartedly and then looked at his watch. “Crikey, its time for my date with nurse Heidi. Do you suppose I should risk it?”

When Norman returned from his date (after much coaxing from Figgis and Glover to attend), he was surprised to see his teddy bear sitting in his bed, minus the one paw but otherwise unharmed and perfectly healthy.

“My bear!” Norman exclaimed as he checked him over for signs of damage. “What on earth is he doing here?”

“We got him back for you, Norman,” Glover said proudly. “We played the old Holmes and Watson.”

Norman walked over and stood between his two friends’ beds. “Thank you both so much. Where was he? Who had him?”

“You had a bit of competition for nurse Heidi’s affections,” Figgis said.

“Was it her ex-boyfriend?” Norman said.

“No, ex-patient.”

“What? But she works in paediatrics.”

“Exactly. He’s twelve.”

“Twelve?!” Norman hugged his bear, not knowing whether to laugh or cry. “How did you find out it was him?”

“Well, it didn’t take much detective work,” Figgis said with a sniff, “he had access to paper, magazines and glue, besides the daft kid came here in person asking after you.”

“Yes, and when we told him you were on a date with nurse Heidi he started crying,” Glover added. “Turns out he has a little school-boy crush.”

“Does he? So, he was my nemesis all along? Well it was still a cruel trick. My bear was maimed.”

“Well that’s what we told him. You can’t go around kidnapping bears when things don’t go your way. He’s learnt his lesson, Norman, you can be sure of that,” Figgis said.

Norman hugged the bear tightly, taking the time to feel the soft fur against his cheek. “Well I’m glad. I would hate for Ted to go missing again. Absence really does make the heart grow fonder, doesn’t it?”
“Well, never mind the bear, Norman,” Glover said. “How did the canteen date go?”

“Oh that.” He sat down on Glover’s bed.

“Not go well?” Figgis said.

“Not really. Turns out she preferred the bear.”

Figgis and Glover looked at one another, desperately trying to remain composed, trying to supress their laughter.