Monday, March 8, 2010

Chapter Five - The Bears are ALIVE!

When Juri woke up, it was still dark. 
Something had woken him up.
There was something making noise underneath his bed!!  He didn't see his Mama or Nathalie in the room, and he couldn't find his bear!  Hadn't he fallen asleep with him right under the covers? He knew he did! 

Juri tried not to be scared as he sat up in the strange bed. Surely the noises he heard were just normal hospital sounds - right?

He took a deep breath and leaned over the edge of the bed.

He looked left.


He looked right.


But wait.... what was that? He heard a little "pffttt" from up on his bed.  Very slowly Juri raised his head back up.  He felt his covers lift up a little bit by his feet.  

Was it his imagination?  He was so frightened he could barely breathe. Where was Mama?  Where was Nathalie?  He wasn't at home so he did not feel it would be nice to holler for them - he would wake everyone else up! But what was he to do?


THERE IT IS AGAIN!   He felt something stir by his feet.   He quickly pulled his feet up and sat with his knees to his chin.

He knew he wasn't imagining it.

With all the bravery he could muster up, Juri took a deep breath and held it.  He lifted up his covers and ....

"Pffffttttttttttttt!"  Juri's new teddy bear Pupcatz stuck out a little furry pink tongue and made a funny face at him!!!

Juri couldn't believe his eyes.  Surely his teddy had not REALLY made a face.   Although he had spent a lot of time hoping for his toys to come to life, none of them ever had, and he was certain that they weren't suppose to.  Only in his imagination!

But here was Pupcatz, clumsily making his way up to Juri at the top of the bed. 

Juri wasn't scared anymore.  Just amazed.  He leaned forward to get a closer look.

Pupcatz leaned forward too.

He reached out and poked Pupcatz in the tummy.

Pupcatz leaned forward and poked Juri in the tummy.

Juri pulled Pupcatz's ear.   Pupcatz climbed up onto Juri's lap and pulled his ear!

"This can't be!" Juri said out loud.  "You're a teddy bear! How come you can walk and move and make funny faces?"

Pupcatz shrugged his shoulders.  He opened his mouth as if to say something, and all of a sudden Juri's Mama came into the room.

"Juri, maly, what's wrong?  Why aren't you sleeping?"

Juri looked down at Pupcatz - he had been about to say something!  But now he lay on the bed, silent and motionless.  Juri didn't know what to say to his Mama.  He did not want to seem silly!

"Nothing's wrong Mama, I just had a strange dream and so I woke up, but I'm ok.  I will go back to sleep now."

Juri lay back down and grabbed Pupcatz.

"I'm tired Mama, I'm going to go back to sleep now."  He hoped his Mama would not be suspicious.  Usually if he woke up in the middle of the night he always tried to get his Mama and Dad to let him watch TV or stay up reading for a while.  Hopefully she would not think something was amiss, and she would go back to her seat in the lounge.  He wanted Pupcatz to come back to life!

"Ok, I'll be right outside if you need anything."  she pulled Juri's covers back up and kissed his forehead.

Juri pulled Pupcatz out from under the blankets.  

"Ok, she's gone!" he whispered to the bear.
And to his amazement Pupcatz blinked twice and SMILED!
 "Can you speak?" Juri asked the bear.

Pupcatz nodded.  But put his finger in front of his mouth as if to say "shhhhhh!".
And then he hopped off Juri's bed silently and ran across the floor, and out the door! 

Juri didn't know what to do!  He wanted Pupcatz to come back!  Where was he going?  But within a moment he had his answer. Pupcatz was back, and he was holding chocolate chip cookies!  And a glass of milk!  How had he known that Juri was so hungry?

Grumble grumble grumble.

Oh! That's how! He must have heard Juri's tummy while he was under the blankets!

Pupcatz skillfully climbed back up onto the bed, magically not spilling any milk or dropping any cookies. 

Juri and Pupcatz had a midnight snack together on the bed before Pupcatz tucked Juri back in. 

Pupcatz leaned over to Juri's ear.

"Try to sleep again now.  We will have more fun together tomorrow."

And as excited as Juri was to have a real LIVE talking teddy bear, his eyes slowly shut, and he drifted back to sleep.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Chapter Four

Once Dr. Smiley told the nurses that Juri would be staying with them a while longer, they went about finding a proper bed and room for him to stay in.  Mama went off to call the rest of the family and tell them what was happening.  Nathalie stayed with Juri and tried her best to make him feel better.

"Juri, maly, wanna play I spy?" Nathalie was trying to think of anything she could do to distract her little brother.

"No.  I don't feel like it.  I just want to go home." Juri's eyes were still tearing, and one lonely tear ran down his cheek.

"I know you want to go home, but you can't.  You have to stay here so they can make you better.  That way when you come back to the clubhouse you will be able to run and jump and play with the rest of us." Nathalie wished she could scoop him up and take him away from here, but she knew things were too serious for that! She couldn't believe what was happening to her family.  This just wasn't fair! 

"But what about Bennett? I need a bear to stay here with me! The only time I don't sleep with a bear is when we are at home and all 3 of us are sleeping in our room together.  Whenever I go for a sleep over I always take Bennett!

Nathalie pondered for a moment. "Do you want me to go to the gift shop and get you a new bear?"  She checked her watch. "It should still be open..."

Juri thought about this.  Would a new bear do?  Would he feel comforted even though it was an unfamiliar friend, with an unfamiliar smell and feel?  

He decided, yes.  A new bear would be better than no bear at all.  "Yes, please! But don't be too long, I don't like it in this room."

Nathalie gave her brother a quick hug and ran off to the gift store.  
When she returned with the new bear, Juri was fast asleep and Mama was sitting quietly in the corner of his room. 

"Sleep well little buddy."  Nathalie gave Juri a kiss on the forehead and placed the new bear carefully beside him under the covers.  She watched him sleep for a moment.  He looked so small, even smaller than usual, and so pale.  She felt so scared seeing him this way. He was so still, so unmoving; it made her feel an uncomfortable pit in her stomach.  She turned quickly on her heal, banging into Mama's knee as she swung around.

"Ouch! Nathaluska watch what you are doing!" Mama rubbed her knee.

"See? I'm not the only clumsy one in the family!" Juri whispered in his freshly awoken voice.  "Who's this?"  He noticed the bear that Nathalie bought him.

"There's your new bud, buddy!" She hoped he would like his new friend.  "What are you going to name him?"

"Um..... " Juri was always very imaginative with his toys' names.  "Pupcatz!"

"Pupcatz? That's a funny name!  Why Pupcatz?"

"I don't know, just Pupcatz the Bear! Just because I like it." Juri clutched Pupcatz close, and Nathalie knew she had found a winner.  Her little brother often found comfort in his toys, and she knew that he would feel more comfortable in this very unhappy circumstance now that he had a cuddly friend to hold onto.

"Ok Zlaty Juri, you have to go back to sleep now.  You need your rest.  Nathalie and I will go and sit just outside in the waiting room until the nurse finds you a proper bed and room. Ok?  Now you have your new bear, everything will be ok.  Sleep now moj zlaty. " Mama stood up and nodded to Nathalie to leave with her.  They both kissed Juri goodnight and went out into the hallway.

Juri looked around.  The hospital room was dark now, and the curtains that separated his section from the others were gently swaying as if they had a life of their own.  Normally he was not afraid of things that go bump in the night.  He was a brave little boy;  but tonight, in this strange and scary place, he was worried about the swaying curtains, about what may be lying under this strange and high hospital bed.  Surely with so much space underneath the bed there had to be some kind of monster hiding down there. 

He tried not to think about it all.  He squezed his eyes shut tight and grabbed onto Pupcatz.  Hugging and squeezing his new bear, he began to feel a little bit better.  He started  imagining that he could feel Pupcatz hugging him back.  And after a while, he did!  With Pupcatz hugging him tight, Juri managed to fall back asleep, despite the moving curtains and the extra-large monster cave of a bed he was sleeping in. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Chapter Three

After the MRI was done, the nurse from the emergency room came back to bring Juri back to his exam room. She wheeled him in a wheelchair this time and tried to make it fun by zooming fast down the straight empty corridors of the hospital. Normally Juri would really enjoy such a fun ride, but not today. He had been in the hospital for HOURS already. When was he going to get to go home?

They passed the nurses' station in the kids' cancer ward. There were dozens of crayon coloured pictures pasted in a bright collage across the front of the nurses' desk and Juri noticed the little boy that he had been joking with was busy taping a up a new picture.

"Hey! It's you! Remember me?" Juri was happy to see a friendly face. But what was the boy doing in this ward? Surely it was a mistake - he seemed so healthy and normal, just like Juri himself!

"Hi! Like my picture?" The little boy grinned as he showed Juri his drawing - three tomatoes running away from a Rhino carrying a credit card.

"Wow! That's great! You are really good! What's your name?"

"I'm Larry, what's your name?"

"I'm Juri. You should come over to my house later so you can meet everyone at our clubhouse!"

Juri loved to have friends over so they could see the magic that happened in the meadow. Not many of his friends had such an elaborate playhouse all for themselves, and he liked being the envy of his pals!

"WOW you have a clubhouse! COOL! But I have to stay in the hospital for a while now. Maybe when I get to go home I could come over?" Larry looked so sad that he had to turn down the play date.

"Why do you have to stay here?" Juri didn't understand. Larry  seemed fine! Weren't hospitals just for sick people?

"I caught cancer in my blood. I have to stay here so they can help make me better."

Juri didn't understand. He had heard of cancer but he didn't know what it was. All he knew was that his new friend Larry looked really sad all of a sudden. The sparkle in his eye that had been there when he was showing Juri his drawing was dim now, and his head hung low.

Juri looked down at Bennett sitting in his lap. Bennett had helped him to feel much better when he was scared earlier coming to the hospital and going for the tests. Maybe Bennett could help Larry too?

"Here. Keep Bennett with you. He always makes ME feel better!"

Larry looked up in surprise and grabbed Bennett and held him tight.

"He's soft - thanks! I lost my bear the last time I was in the hospital."

"No problem!I have more at home." Juri was happy to see a small smile start to spread on Larry's face.

"Juri, we have to get back to see Dr. Smiley now." The nurse started walking down the hall.

"Bye Larry! I'll see you soon! I'll get my Mama to come and get your phone number so you can come over when you go home!" He felt good about himself, having made his new friend feel better.

"Juri, that was very nice of you!" The nurse and his mama were smiling. He knew he had done a good deed.

Juri was very tired after all the tests that he had to have done. And talking to Larry had tired him out even more. He dozed off for a bit while the nurse pushed him back to his curtained exam room. When he woke up he could hear Mama talking to Dr. Smiley outside by the nurses' station.

"How can this be happening?" Juri heard his Mama say. He strained to hear more, but couldn't make out what they were saying. He felt scared - his Mama's voice sounded so small, so unsure. He was not used to hearing that tone from her. She was always so strong.

Juri began to imagine that Nelly was here with him. It must be getting late - Bennett should be tucked in by now, he thought. Nelly would have some warm milk and some cookies ready for snack and all the animals would be cuddled together in the clubhouse waiting for their bedtime story. Sometimes, in the summer, Juri's Mama would let him and his sisters sleep out in the clubhouse. Nathalie would invent stories, and Nelly would act them out - they all laughed and joked into the wee hours of the night. How he wished to be there now!

Mama and Dr. Smiley came back into the exam room to see Juri.

"Juri, I'm sorry, but you will have to stay here in the hospital with us for a while longer." Dr. Smiley was not smiling anymore.

"Mama?" Juri noticed that his Mama's face was streaked with tears. "What does it mean Mama? What's wrong with me?"

"Juri, we have noticed something growing in your brain that isn't supposed to be there. We need to keep a close eye on you for a while, and do some more tests, to see what we can do to help you out." Dr. Smiley looked so sad.

"But I feel FINE now! I want to go home!I don't want to stay here! It's scary here!" Juri began to cry. He did not want to stay in the hospital! And he had given away Bennett! Who would keep him company now!?

"Juri, môj drahy, you'll be ok. I will stay with you." Mama stroked Juri's hair and held him tight.

"I need Nelly! And Bennett! Who will sleep with me?!" Juri was really crying now. He did not want to stay here! He would be so afraid!

"Don't worry môj maly. We'll get you a new bear. And I will stay right here with you."

But Juri WAS scared. And he didn't know if a new bear was going to help.
Why was this happening to him?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Chapter Two

As they waited in the emergency room, Juri passed the time by telling jokes to his Mama and his teddy bear, Bennett.

“Three tomatoes were walking down the street, a Papa, a Mama, and a Baby. The baby started to lag behind, so the Papa Tomato walked to the back and said “KETCHUP!” A little boy, a few years younger than Juri, started to giggle as Jurko told the tomato joke.

Juri was not the type to be self conscious. He enjoyed the little boy’s attention and quickly thought of another joke to tell.

“How do you stop a Rhinoserous from charging?”…
“You take away his credit card!”

That did it, the boy erupted with laugher and the twinkle in the two boys’ eyes cemented their friendship.

Before they had a chance to speak any further, Juri heard the nurse call his name.

“Well, that’s me, gotta go!”

Juri & Mama followed the nurse down the hallway and into the curtained exam room. She showed him the gown he had to wear, and left him to change. He was cold in the gown, so Mama pulled a blanket from the bottom of the hospital bed and wrapped it tighly around him. The heat of her arms and sound of her heartbeat as she wrapped him up were so comforting. Even though he had been joking around in the waiting room, he still felt strange and afraid.
Juri was hugging Bennet tight when the doctor came in the room.

“Well, hellow there young fellow – you must be Juri.”

Juri was taken aback – the doctor had reached out and shook Bennett’s paw – greeting him as if he were the patient, and not Juri!

“No, no! I am Juri! That is Bennett!” Juri cried out.

“Ah! I thought something was fishy! Never had I seen such a furry little boy before!” The doctor chuckled at Juri’s alarm and patted his shoulder.

“Not to worry – I can see you are a clever and funny boy! I am Dr. Smiley – let’s see what we can do today to make you feel all better.”


Dr. Smiley helped Juri down from the hospital bed and onto a scale.

“Now, what was Juri’s weight the last time you weighed him?” The doctor asked Mama.

“As I recall he was 78 lbs. in March. But I have noticed that he is wearing his belt on the next hole now. Has he lost a lot of weight?”

“He has. About 12 lbs. which for a boy and an active boy such as he is, is quite notable.”
Dr. Smiley saw Mama’s face drop with worry.

“Not to fret – we will do some blood work and other tests and see what we can’t discover.”
While the doctor continued to soothe Juri’s Mama, he methodically took Juri’s temperature, measured his blood pressure and pulse and checked his reflexes.

Juri just kept his hold on Bennett the whole time – even when the nurse came to take his blood and escort him for an MRI. Holding on to his bear made him feel that a part of him – even if just his imagination , was still in the meadow in the clubhouse with Nelly and his sisters and the rest of his make-belief friends.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Chapter One

In a time not far past, and in a place nearby to here, there lived a little boy named Juri. He had two sisters, one younger named Luda, and one older one named Nathalie. During the summer, while school was out, Juri, Luda and Nathalie loved to play in the meadow that was behind their home. They constructed a fort out of fallen trees, sticks and branches. For hours the three would play and play, making up stories of fairy-tale creatures and lands. They would invent animals that came to life in their imaginations and played along side them in their clubhouse. They had each other and so many imaginary friends and so everyday of the summer was filled with parties and fun in their clubhouse. 
One morning the children were rushing through breakfast so that they could rejoin their imaginary world in the meadow. 
“I can’t wait to see what Nelly has baked for us today!” Juri could barely contain himself. 

Nelly was the big mama bear who fed the children, and took care of the other animals who had to stay in the clubhouse for the night. The children’s mother said that absolutely no animals were to come into the house, so Nathalie, being the oldest and most thoughtful, decided that they should imagine a mother who stayed in the clubhouse to make sure the younger animals did not get scared at night. 
“Juri, môj drahy , finish your breakfast before you fill your stomach thinking of imaginary pastries! They won’t give you enough energy to play all day – the eggs and toast in front of you will!” Mama fussed over the children, and Juri in particular. 

Despite the fact that he was not the youngest, she worried most about him. He had been sick when he was a baby, and this had left his immune system weakened. She was always fretting over him, and despite his efforts to appear grown up, he liked being babied. 
“I know Mama, I know – I’ll finish it.” And with one scoop he picks up the rest of his scrambled eggs in his last piece of toast and stuffs it in his mouth. He stands up so fast that his chair tips over and hits Nathalie as she passes behind him on the way to the fridge. 
“Juri, OW! Watch out you goof ba…” Nathalie stops mid sentence and stares at her brother. “What’s wrong Juri?" She has never seen her brother look so white. And right before her eyes, before she can even think, he crumples to the ground. 
Mama rushes over to Juri, and as she reaches his little body he opens his eyes. He sees his sisters and Mama standing over him, looking worried. 
“What happened guys?” 
“Nothing môj maly. You’re fine. But, all the same, we will go to the hospital and make sure. Which toy would you like to bring? Natalushka, go and get it for him.” Mama starts packing up some snacks for Juri; she always carried goodies for her babies in her big handbag. 
Juri feels scared, and when his sister brings him his teddy bear, he clutches it tight. He did not feel so funny anymore – couldn’t he just go out to the clubhouse and have some of Nelly’s cookies? They would surely make him feel 100% better. But as he watches his Mama fret and fuss and make arrangements for Luda to go to their Oma’s house while Nathalie came with them to the hospital, he felt a strange feeling – even stranger than the one he felt before he woke up on the ground. He felt that today would be the last regular day for him – and he didn’t know why.