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The Berenstain Bears and the Wheelchair Commando
By Stan Berenstain, Jan Berenstain
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1993 Berenstain Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved.
The New Cub
Until Harry McGill moved into the house on Boxwood Drive, his neighbors-to-be didn't know much more about him than his name.
They knew he was a boy, and they knew he was about Brother Bear's age. But that was all. They had found that much out from Millie McGrizz, Miz McGrizz's grown daughter. Millie was in the real-estate business. She had sold the house on Boxwood Drive to the McGills.
"Why does this new cub have to be a boy?" said Sister Bear as she walked home from school with Brother and Cousin Freddy. "I've got boys coming out of my ears!"
Brother groaned and Freddy laughed. Brother groaned because Sister was always saying things to get him going. Cousin Freddy laughed because he didn't have to live with Sister.
Brother thought for a moment, then smiled. "You're just saying that because we've got you outnumbered," he said.
It was true, in a way. Brother, Sister, and Cousin Freddy weren't together all the time, but they were together a lot. They walked to and from school together. Their families went places together. Their mothers were not only sisters but best friends. And although Sister was younger than Brother and Freddy, and in a lower grade, she usually touched base with them at lunch and recess. Even their other close friends thought of Brother, Sister, and Cousin Freddy as a trio.
"The truth is," said Brother, "more girls than boys have moved into the neighborhood lately."
"How do you figure that?" asked Sister.
Brother counted on his fingers. "There's Bonnie Brown, Bertha Broom, and Ferdy Factual."
Bonnie Brown was Squire Grizzly's niece. She moved back and forth between her uncle's mansion and her parents' house in the city, where she sometimes worked as a model. Ferdy Factual was Actual Factual's nephew. He lived a lot like Bonnie. He spent months at a time with his uncle and long periods off on expeditions with his scientist parents. In fact, only Bertha Broom had really moved to town for good. Cousin Freddy pointed this out to Brother and Sister.
"Which means," said Brother, "that the only cub to actually move into the neighborhood lately is definitely a ..."
"Girl," Sister admitted. "Okay, I guess it's all right for the new cub to be a boy. I wonder what he'll be like."
"I hope he'll be like so tall," said Brother, reaching up as high as he could. "I hope he can jump out of the gym."
"But you've already got a center for the basketball team," said Sister. She grinned. "The lovely and charming Too-Tall Grizzly."
"Don't remind us," said Freddy. Freddy was team manager, and Brother played point guard.
"Yeah," said Brother. "Too-Tall has a lot of talent, but he's a selfish player. He hogs the ball. He won't pass off to anyone except Skuzz and Smirk. And he takes too many three-point shots. What's more, he plays dirty."
"Won't his mom wash his uniform for him?" asked Sister.
Brother started to explain that he didn't mean that kind of dirty. But when he saw that Sister was grinning, he knew she was just putting him on again. That was the trouble with Sister: you could never tell whether she was playing dumb or being dumb.
"And he's such a slick dirty player," said Fred.
"Right," said Brother. "He'll grab the seat of your pants when you're about to go up for a jump shot. And his idea of blocking out for a rebound is to stomp on your foot."
Sister shook her head. "I didn't know he was that bad," she said.
"He is," said Brother. "So I hope this Harry McGill is a great big cub who can play circles around Too-Tall on the basketball court."
"You guys are going to have to get real lucky for that to happen," said Sister.
"We can always hope," said Freddy. "After all, who would have thought Bertha Broom would beat out Too-Tall at fullback on the boys' football team!"
The cubs came to the McGills' house. The McGills had not moved in yet. Carpenters were still busy working on the house, replacing rotten window frames and making other repairs. As the cubs passed the house, they saw that the front steps were being removed.
"They're probably rotten like the window frames," said Freddy.
"They don't look rotten to me," said Sister.
"How can you tell?" asked Freddy.
"Because my eyesight is twenty-twenty. And you're not wearing your glasses."
Freddy moved his glasses down from the top of his head. "Hey, you're right," he said. "Those steps don't look rotten at all. So why are they being replaced?"
"Beats me," said Sister.
Brother shrugged. "Me too."CHAPTER 2
A Boy's Best Friend
At the very moment that Brother, Sister, and Cousin Freddy were passing the McGills' new house on Boxwood Drive, Mr. McGill was returning home from work to the McGills' old apartment far away in Big Bear City. Tomorrow was the day he and his family would move to the house on Boxwood Drive.
Mr. McGill worked for Squire Grizzly. He had just been promoted, and that meant that he would have a lot of meetings with Squire Grizzly at the Grizzly mansion. So he and his family were moving closer to the Grizzly mansion.
Mrs. McGill greeted her husband with a kiss. "You're home early," she said.
"Last day at the office," he said. "Did you forget?"
"No," said Mrs. McGill. "I just didn't know that it wouldn't be a full day."
"Yep," said Mr. McGill. He took off his suit jacket and loosened his tie. "After lunch all I had to do was clean out my desk and say good-bye to my friends."
"Speaking of friends," said Mrs. McGill, "can you take Harry to say his good-byes now?"
"Where is he? On the computer?"
Mrs. McGill nodded. Mr. McGill went quietly down the hall to his son's room and opened the door just enough to peek in. There sat Harry in his wheelchair in front of the computer. His fingers were flying over the keyboard. Mr. McGill closed the door and returned to the living room. "Harry's sure gotten to be a whiz on that thing," he said to his wife.
Mrs. McGill looked up from the magazine she was reading. "Too much of a whiz, if you ask me," she said.
"How do you mean?"
"He used to go to the rehabilitation center to play wheelchair basketball every week," said Mrs. McGill. "Now he spends so much time on the computer that he doesn't seem to have time for his friends anymore."
"But he bulletin-boards with cubs all over Bear Country on that thing," said Mr. McGill. "He plays chess with them too."
"Bulletin-boarding with strangers isn't the same as having friends, dear," said Mrs. McGill. "And playing chess across town by computer isn't the same as being with someone. Besides, only a couple of his chess friends are real friends."
"But his real friends are in wheelchairs just like he is," said Mr. McGill. "It's a lot of trouble for them to get around. No wonder they like to keep in touch by computer."
"Well, I don't think it's very healthy," said Mrs. McGill. "It isn't healthy never to be with other cubs or to have only other disabled cubs for friends. Harry's got to learn to get along with non-disabled cubs too."
"You're right, dear," said Mr. McGill. "But it isn't as if Harry hasn't tried to make friends with non-disabled cubs. You know what he says about that."
"I know," said Mrs. McGill with a sigh. "They stare at him and ask him how he got 'hurt.' And even when they act friendly, they don't want to be real friends. They'll talk to him at school, but they never invite him to parties or to the Burger Bear for milk shakes. I guess they just think he's too different from them to ever fit in. So they never really get to know him. And now he's given up trying to make friends with them."
Mrs. McGill looked up at her husband. "What's Harry going to do when he grows up and has to work with others? How many of his fellow workers will be in wheelchairs?"
"Well," said Mr. McGill, "at least things will be different out in the country. There aren't any other disabled cubs at Bear Country School. If Harry wants any friends at all, he'll have to make friends with non-disabled cubs."
"Or maybe he'll decide he doesn't want any friends at all," said Mrs. McGill gloomily. "Except for his computer."
Mr. McGill went to the window and looked out. "Hmm," he said. "I never thought of that." He turned and went down the hall to Harry's room. From inside came the click of keyboard keys. He knocked on the door.
"Yeah?" called Harry.
Mr. McGill opened the door and leaned into the room.
Harry looked up for a moment from the monitor. "Hi, Dad," he said. "What's up?"
"I'm ready to take you in the van to say your good-byes."
Harry frowned. "But I've almost got Billy Black in checkmate," he said.
"You can sign off for now and finish the game after dinner," said his father.
"Couldn't I just type in a good-bye message after the game?"
"I think Billy would feel a lot better about it if you went to say good-bye in person," said Mr. McGill. "Besides, there must be other cubs you want to say good-bye to."
Harry typed a sign-off message to Billy and switched off the computer. He turned his wheelchair so that he was facing his father. "Well," he said, "there's Max Grizzinski. That's all."
Billy Black and Max Grizzinski were both disabled cubs. Mr. McGill had an urge to ask, "Are you sure there isn't anyone else?" But he thought better of it.CHAPTER 3
A Warning from Mama
When Brother, Sister, and Cousin Freddy passed the house on Boxwood Drive again the next afternoon, they saw that the front steps had been replaced with a cement ramp.
"Hey," said Fred. "What do you suppose it's for?"
"Don't know," said Sister. "But whatever it's for, it would be great for roller-skating. Instead of putting on my skates outside, I'd put them on inside. Then I'd skate down that ramp and off I'd go!"
"I'd use it for skateboarding," said Freddy. "And maybe, in the winter, for sledding. What do you think it's for, Brother?"
Brother thought for a moment, then said, "I don't know. But I don't think it's for skating, sledding, or skateboarding. I'll ask Mama about it at dinner tonight. She'll know."
And she did. "I heard from Millie McGrizz that Harry McGill is disabled," said Mama. "That new ramp is there to help him get in and out of the house in his wheelchair."
The cubs were very quiet. Brother just said, "Gee." Sister didn't say anything at all. She stared off into space. She was busy thinking her own thoughts.
Mama could see that the cubs were shocked. She thought they were maybe even a little frightened about what she had just told them. She pictured Harry McGill's first day at Bear Country School and saw Brother and Sister staring at Harry as if he were something strange and scary. That would never do. Harry would not be able to make any friends that way. And the other cubs would miss out on getting to know him.
"Well, being in a wheelchair isn't so unusual," said Mama. "You've seen Barry Bruin's grandfather. He uses a wheelchair. And so does Miz McGrizz's sister, Nellie."
"That's different," said Brother.
"What's different about it?" asked Mama.
"Barry's grandfather and Nellie McGrizz are old," said Brother. "And Harry is my age. He has his whole life ahead of him!"
"Yes, that's true," said Mama. She tried to think of another way to talk about the subject.
Sister also sat thinking hard about something. Suddenly a hopeful look came into her eyes. "Maybe he'll get better," she said. "Maybe the doctors can fix him up."
"I ... er, don't think they expect that to happen," said Mama.
The look on Brother's face changed from thoughtful to curious. "How did it happen?" he asked. "How did Harry get hurt?"
"I'm not sure," said Mama. "I think it was some sort of accident."
"What kind of accident?" asked Brother.
"A car accident?" asked Sister.
"A plane crash?" asked Brother.
"Maybe he fell off a cliff!" said Sister. "Maybe he got shot! Maybe ..."
"Now hush!" said Mama.
"What did I say?" said Sister.
"It's both of you," said Mama. "You mustn't get carried away thinking about Harry's injury and his being in a wheelchair. It will be much better for everyone if you treat him just like any other cub."
"But he isn't just like any other cub," said Sister. "He can't walk!"
Mama looked at Papa. Papa shrugged. Mama sighed. It was hard to explain some things to cubs. "Trust me on this for now," said Mama. "We can discuss it more later. Now let's clear the dinner table."
But the cubs had a lot of homework that evening. So they never did get to continue their discussion with Mama. They did their homework in the living room while Papa sat in his easy chair reading the afternoon newspaper. But both cubs were still thinking about Harry McGill. That made it hard to concentrate.
Sister groaned when she came to her math homework. Now it wasn't just Harry McGill making it hard to concentrate. It was fractions too. She just didn't understand them.
Papa looked up from his paper. "What's the problem, Sister?" he asked.
"One-fifth," said Sister. She frowned down at her math book. "I know what one means and I know what fifth means. But when you put them together ... I just don't get it."
"Hmm," said Papa. "What don't you get?"
"Well, there's one TV set in the room," she said. She pointed to the bookshelves and counted along the bottom shelf. "And I see the fifth book on the bottom shelf. But you can't get 'one-fifth' by putting the TV and the book together."
"No, you certainly can't," said Papa. "You're talking about fractions. That's easy!" He thought for a moment. "Now think about that TV and forget the book. It's one whole TV set, right?"
"Right," said Sister.
"Suppose you took that TV set apart," said Papa. "That would split up the whole TV into parts. You'd have the TV tube. You'd have all the wires, and the nuts and bolts ... you'd have all sorts of stuff lying around ... in fact, you'd have a big mess on your hands!" Papa frowned. "What was I talking about?"
"Fractions," said Brother without even looking up from his own math homework.
"Oh, yes. So we started with one whole TV set, and we ended up with a big mess of TV parts ... and ..." Papa's voiced trailed off. He frowned again and scratched his head. "Hmm ..."
"Think of the book and forget the TV, Sis," said Brother. "Suppose that book had a hundred pages. And suppose you took each twenty pages and paper-clipped them together. Then you'd have five equal parts of twenty pages each. Each of those five parts is one-fifth of the book."
Sister's frown broke into a smile. "So twenty is one-fifth of a hundred!" she cried.
"Exactly," said Brother. "You've got it."
Papa chuckled. Then he was quiet for a moment. "I had it too," he said. "I mean, I use fractions all the time in my work, measuring boards and stuff. I just couldn't explain it. Never was any good at explaining things like that."
"I guess that's why you didn't become a teacher, Papa," said Sister.
"Well, you're right, in a way," said Papa. "When I was your age, I used to think about becoming a teacher someday. I've always admired people who could explain things. But I wound up becoming a carpenter instead."
"But you're a very good carpenter," said Sister.
"Best in Bear Country!" Papa smiled and gave Sister a little hug.
Mama came in from the kitchen. "As soon as your homework is done, it'll be time to get ready for bed, cubs," she said.
After finishing their homework, the cubs got into their pajamas and brushed their teeth. Papa read Sister a bedtime story. Brother thought he was too old for bedtime stories. But that didn't stop him from listening.
Then Mama came upstairs to tuck them in. Brother had already fallen asleep. Mama kissed her sleeping cub gently on the forehead. But Sister was still wide-awake. Mama could see that she had something important on her mind.
"A penny for your thoughts," said Mama. She sat on the bed beside Sister.
"Maybe I could just ask him," said Sister. She stared at the ceiling.
"Maybe you could just ask who what?"
"Harry McGill," said Sister. "Maybe I could just ask him how he got hurt."
"You'll do no such thing!" said Mama. "And if I hear that you did ... Well, just don't do it." She smoothed the covers and kissed Sister on the forehead. "Now close your eyes."
"Okay, okay," said Sister. She pulled the covers up to her chin and closed her eyes as Mama quietly left the room.
Excerpted from The Berenstain Bears and the Wheelchair Commando by Stan Berenstain, Jan Berenstain. Copyright © 1993 Berenstain Enterprises, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Contents1. The New Cub,
2. A Boy's Best Friend,
3. A Warning from Mama,
4. Off to a Bad Start,
5. Queenie Goofs Again,
6. Report Card,
7. Brother and Sister Catch On,
8. Card Game,
9. The Breakthrough,
10. The Challenge,
11. The Battle of the Century,