The Browns' Dinner Party - Poem by Joseph DeMarco
The Browns were a family. They were, more especially, a family of bears. They were not a big family. There were three brown bears. There was Momma Bear, Daddy Bear, and Junior Bear. They were not your normal bears either. They were sort of like the kind of bears you read about in children’s books, who wear clothes and go shopping or throw dinner parties. They didn’t live in a cave either. They lived in a house on the edge of the woods. One Saturday, the Browns (mostly Momma Brown Bear) thought it would be great to have company over for since Junior had been born, they had had to cut back on going out and having parties. The Browns invited three couples over that night. Mrs. Brown Bear was very excited while preparing the feast.
“What’re we having? ” Junior Brown Bear asked, sticking his wet nose into the oven.
“Tut, tut, ” said Mrs. Brown Bear. “Upstairs and wash your paws before dinner. Our guests will be arriving soon.” She shook her head. That cub had been acting funny lately; he picked at his food, he never finished his dinner.
The first couple to arrive was from the farm down the street. They were Mr. Pig and Mrs. Cow. They waddled through the door and Mr. Pig immediately made a beeline for the appetizers. He stuffed himself with pork rinds.
“You know what those are made out of? ” Mrs. Cow asked.
“What? ” Mr. Pig said, looking suspicious, crumbs falling down his chest.
They were interrupted as the next couple arrived. They were from the suburbs, Miss Cat and Mr. Dog. These two did not get along well and were constantly bickering and barking. The last couple to arrive was from the woodlands, Mrs. Fox and Mr. Wolf.
The couples moved to the parlor for drinks, and chatted about the economy and how the forest was shrinking. They had some more appetizers, and eventually they sat down to have dinner. When Mrs. Brown Bear carried out the main course, what was on the plate was appalling to Mrs. Cow. She shuddered, as all four of her stomachs almost vomited at once. There, next to a side of garnish and several steamed vegetables, staring up at her, were the eyes of a person.
“Human, ” she shrieked. “You’re serving human.”
“Well, yeah.” Mr. Brown Bear said. “Why not? The economy is bad, and there are more humans in the world than any other animal.”
Mr. Wolf came to the rescue. “I’ve eaten human before. A bit stringy, but I do say it does the job.”
Then Miss Cat chimed in, “I’ve eaten human before, too. Remember when Miss Bixby died? Nobody came around to feed us for months. If we hadn’t eaten her, we would’ve starved to death.”
Mrs. Brown Bear started to slice the human up, and even the wolf had to admit he didn’t want to look into the eyes of this confused and frightened animal. They were all glossy, and they were full of empathy.
“Well, I won’t do it, ” Mrs. Cow said. “Perhaps you have some greens I can snack on, you know, something that doesn‘t bleed.” Luckily they did. So Mrs. Cow got greens and everything seemed resolved. Everything was resolved, that is, until Junior started whining, “I don’t want to eat human either. It’s gross.”
“Finish your hand, ” Mrs. Brown Bear told Junior Brown Bear.
“Eew, ” Junior Brown Bear screamed, turning the clammy thing over on his plate like a dead fish. He picked it up and let it fall limp.
“Cub, ” Mr. Brown Bear said, “bears eat meat, and humans are meat.”
“But it’s gross, ” Junior Brown Bear protested, “and some humans are nice. Once this human gave me this delightfully sweet thing called a Choco Lot, or something like that. It was the best thing I’ve ever tasted. Besides, bears also eat nuts and berries.”
And his mind was made up. So even though his parents wouldn’t let him leave from the table without finishing his human, and even though he didn’t get any honey for dessert, Junior Brown Bear refused to eat his supper.
Eventually he was sent to his room and as he stomped up the steps, Mr. Wolf commented, “Odd bear. Doesn’t even eat meat.”
Mrs. Fox stared at him.
“What? ” the Wolf exclaimed. “It’s all pretty much the same, the carcass of a dead animal. I mean, come on, meat is meat.”
Some of the party nodded their heads and agreed, others quietly disagreed.
Getting up, Mr. Brown Bear decided 'I better go talk to him.'
When he got upstairs, the cub was sulking in a corner.
“Cub, did I ever tell you about your Grandpa Brown Bear? ” Mr. Brown Bear asked.
Junior Brown Bear looked up with teary, hopeful eyes. “Nope, ” he said.
“Well, your granddaddy was the biggest, brownest bear in this neck of the woods. One day he went fishing up at Salmon River. Was having a great day catching plenty of fish, when he ran into a lumberjack.”
“Dad, what’s a lumberjack? ” Junior Brown Bear asked.
“They are these real mean, real hairy humans that go around chopping down all the trees.”
“Why do they do that? ” Junior Brown Bear asked.
“I dunno, ” Mr. Brown Bear answered honestly. “Anyway, this lumberjack was big and mean and more importantly carrying a shotgun. Well, ” said Mr. Brown Bear, “he took one look at your granddaddy and cocked the shotgun and unloaded.”
“What happened? ” Junior Brown Bear asked.
“Well, let me see, I’m not sure. Now I’m not saying they ate your granddaddy, but last I saw him he was mounted on the wall like a mural or a photograph, ” Mr. Brown Bear informed the cub.
“That’s not true. It’s just another cubs’ tale to scare little ones, ” Junior Bear said confidently.
“Oh, it’s not a tale, “ Mr. Brown Bear said. “I swear on the ever disappearing forest that I saw your granddaddy’s head mounted and it’s a sight I’m gonna take to my cave…‘Cause, cub, sometimes you eat the human, and sometimes the human eats you.”
“Dad, they really eat bears? That’s appalling, ” said Junior Brown Bear.
“I know, cub, I know, ” said Mr. Brown Bear, rubbing the top of his son’s head, acknowledging the irony of two important facts:
Fact #1: Meat is meat!
Fact #2: All meat was once alive. Therefore, it must be killed to be eaten. Meat must involve murder! ! !
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