Keeper Karl sat on the pavement path by the wolf enclosure and stared at Newt with a look of fear, surprise, mixed together with the littlest bit of sheer joy. He reached out and patted the little polar bear on his fuzzy white head and repeated his question, “Am I dreaming? Did my little bear just talk?”
“Of course I did, Keeper Karl.” came the reply from Newt who followed suit and sat with a plop on the path so he could focus all his attention on the man in the blue coveralls. “I cannot explain why I can now talk with you as it is a mystery to me. But let’s not dwell too long on things we cannot understand right now. We can finally have a right conversation!”
“Yes, indeed we can,” replied Keeper Karl, who gazed at Newt with the look of a man who has been shown a great and marvelous mystery that he really cannot understand. He smiled at the little bear and added, “So why don’t you join me on my morning rounds as I finish feeding the animals. We can walk and talk.”
“Oh, yes please,” came the eager reply from the small bear.
And so they walked back to the great round building at the center of the zoo to gather up the rest of the breakfasts for all the animals on a large pushcart, and then spent all the rest of the early morning delivering food around the zoo and talking with each other. The two unlikely friends, and yes they had become fast friends, talked and talked and talked. They talked about the animals at the zoo. They talked about how cold it was in the Arctic Animal Rescue Station where Newt had lived as a young cub. They talked about why Keeper Karl trimmed his beard. There was so much to talk about and so much that each wanted to discover about the other, that neither of them noticed very much else.
When all the breakfasts were delivered, Newt helped Keeper Karl unlock the big iron gates that guarded the front entrance of the zoo. All the children and their parents who had come to visit the zoo this morning were amazed and delighted to see Newt with his fine red collar and lead.
One small and brave little boy asked Keeper Karl if he and his twin sister, who was peering out from behind him, could pet Newt. Keeper Karl, glanced at Newt who nodded enthusiastically, and then the kindly zoo keeper told both children that they were welcome to pet Newt. The boy stood directly in front of Newt and talked softly too him for a few minutes before reaching out to touch his soft, white fur. Newt instantly purred with happiness and twinkled his black eyes at in the kindliest way he could at the two children. The little girl who stood behind her twin brother watched with a mixture of caution and delight on her face. And so Newt walked between the two children and bumped his head playfully into the girl, who squealed happily and began to pet him. The little boy said, “See Suse, there is nothing to be worried about. He is a friendly baby polar bear!” The little girl nodded in reply, for she rarely talked unless it was just the two of them. The little boy, always the first to try something new, asked Keeper Karl, “What is his name?”
Keeper Karl squatted down so that he was eye level to the three youngsters (the twins and Newt), and replied, “His name is Newt. He is new to the zoo and was rescued during a storm in the Arctic in which he became separated from his family. You are welcome to come visit him whenever you can manage. What are your names?”
At this question, the little girl stepped back behind her brother just a bit, and the little boy squared his shoulders and smiling at the zoo keeper said, “I am Fred and this is Susan, my sister and my best friend in all the world. We are twins. I like playing outside, collecting sticks, and really exciting stories and my sister loves…”
“Fred!” cautioned Susan, who did not like others to put words in her mouth. She really wasn’t shy, although that is what most people thought. She just liked to spend the time to understand a situation before interacting in it.
Fred turned gave his sister a reassuring hug, a heartfelt apology, and then announced that his family was glad to meet everyone but was now ready to go explore the zoo. The little family gathered up and headed off to see the wolves and the monkeys.
Newt and Keeper Karl watched the family head off into the zoo, and shared a smile as they both remembered their shared secret: they could now understand each other!
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