"Yeah, they'd go, like, 'Hey, what's with this guy,
acting so special?' and keep away from him. Especially Tonkichi,
the tough guy. He really hated Masakichi."
"Yeah, really. Meanwhile, the people would say, 'O.K.,
he knows how to count, and he can talk and all, but when you
get right down to it he's just a bear.' So Masakichi didn't
really belong to either worldthe bear world or the people
"Didn't he have any friends?"
"Not a single friend. Bears don't go to school, you
know, so there's no place for them to make friends."
"Do you have friends, Jun?" "Uncle Junpei"
was too long for her, so Sala just called him Jun.
"Your daddy is my absolute bestest friend from a long,
long time ago. And so's your mommy."
"That's good, to have friends."
"It is good," Junpei said. "You're right about
Junpei often made up stories for Sala before she went to
bed. And whenever she didn't understand something she would
ask him to explain. Junpei gave a lot of thought to his answers.
Sala's questions were often sharp and interesting, and while
he was thinking about them he could also come up with new
twists to the story he was telling.
Sayoko brought a glass of warm milk.
"Junpei is telling me the story of Masakichi the bear,"
Sala said. "He's the all-time No. 1 honey bear, but he
doesn't have any friends."
"Oh, really? Is he a big bear?" Sayoko asked.
Sala turned to Junpei with an uneasy stare. "Is Masakichi
"Not so big," Junpei said. "In fact, he's
kind of on the small side. For a bear. He's just about your
size, Sala. And he's a very sweet-tempered little guy. When
he listens to music, he doesn't listen to rock or punk or
that kind of stuff. He likes to listen to Schubert, all by
"He listens to music?" Sala asked. "Does he
have a CD player or something?"
"He found a boom box lying on the ground one day. He
picked it up and brought it home."
"How come all this stuff just happens to be lying around
in the mountains?" Sala asked with a note of suspicion.
"Well, it's a very, very steep mountain, and the hikers
get all faint and dizzy, and they throw away tons of stuff
they don't need. Right there by the road, like, 'Oh, man,
this pack is so heavy, I feel like I'm gonna die! I don't
need this pail anymore. I don't need this boom box anymore.'