The Talk

“There comes a time in a man’s life where hair starts growing in odd places and he gets these strange urges…”

“MA!  Eww, no.  I’m married.  Just stop.”

Frithvail carried on scrubbing the floor.  The house needed cleaned.  Things to do.  Oh yes, things to do.  “We’re having the talk and you’re going to put down the cat and have it with me.”

“Ma, I know how to make babies.”

She lifted her brows, skewering him with a look.  “Oh?  Because I’ve been here a week and… oh my, what’s that?  No babies!  You have that weird man in your spare room and a yard full of pets and Brooke, but babies?  Where’s the babies, then?  You’ve been married for years and nothing to show for it but a whole lot of sweaters.  But maybe I missed him.  Maybe he’s in a cupboard somewhere.  You just get your baby, hand him right over here, and this stops right now.”

“Ugh!”  He started feeling the growl bubble up.  It had dozed snug as a limp-sleeping kitten for months and now, it wanted to get out and … do indecent things.  Things involving hair and claws and the sort of things animals did to other animals that… yeah.  “We… do what married folk do to make babies, all right?  I know about hair and … bedding and courses.  That’s right, courses.  Those weren’t bandages, Ma, and you didn’t keep cutting yourself every month.”

She looked amused.  “Oh, so you wanted me to explain that when you were five and sniffing things that weren’t your business?”

He sulked.  “No.”

“Fine.”  With a sigh that didn’t sound like her sigh, she said, “Your father would have been the one to have this chat with you.  I’m really not the one…”

“Then don’t.”  And there he was hovering with tea.  What was it with these people and tea?  She wasn’t thirsty.  She’d left her heart at the bottom of a lake, that’s what.  You don’t fix it with tea.

“No.  It’s almost time that you need to know.  I don’t want you waking up some day and… having the changes there, and nobody to explain.”

“Ma.  I got hair.  The mustache?  That’s everywhere.  We’ll make you a grandchild when we make it, so just… simmer down and clean something.”

“Oh nice.  Very nice.  Shut up and listen before I tie you to a chair.  And don’t think you’re too big for it, Broddi-o, or I’ll just show you.”

The growl was ranging now and his throat hurt from holding it.  “Fine.  Just… say whatever you’ve got to to make this stop.”

She sat back, then said, plain as day, “You know your Da’s a Beorning, like his Ma Berys.”

He suddenly got quiet.  And she knew she was too late.

“Well.  Then stop asking stupid questions about hair and urges.  Have you woken up a bear yet?”

He boggled.  “You knew?  You knew and you didn’t warn me?  Why, Ma?  What a stupid thing to…”

She snapped him off right there.  “You ran off.  Now, I know why you went, and it turned out with you alive and breathing, but you ran off before you were old enough for the talk, so don’t you go putting that shit on me.  No way, no how.”

“Ma… you said…”

“Shit, yes.  I can also say sod, fuck, wank, bob, lubsucker…”

He pressed his hands over his ears and said, “STOP IT, stop it, STOP IT!”

She lifted her brows and prepared to sign.  He sighed and put his hands down.  “Shut your trap and listen for once.  Right.  So you’ve figured out by now that you’ve got a skin-change.  Don’t mean you’re a real bear.  If any of the other bears ask you to mate or get into some stupid dominance fight, don’t you give in to peer pressure.”

“… I can’t believe we’re having this conversation.”  He felt himself turning red.

“You just play submissive and you get away from the other bears.  Stick to the unpopular streams.  Mating season’s coming up and I don’t want you doing anything you may regret later.  When you smell a female in heat, just tell yourself ‘I’ve got a wife’ and go home.  Use it.”

His blush drained to white as he asked, “Mother… why were we all born in Midwinter?”

“Well thank Fate and the Boatman, you can count.  Now, you’ll have a few days after you sniff a female in heat to come to your senses.  Lady bears like to be courted first, so make sure you don’t stay Bearskin too long in the Spring.  You smell that smell, head right on home.  Promise me?”

“Make it stop.”

“Promise me.”

He said, muttering, “Promise, Ma.”

“Now, you’ll come out of hibernation earlier than the other bears, and this will cause some social problems.  Let ’em be until summer hits.  Your wife doesn’t want you coming back from ‘fishing’ with half a face.”

“Ma!  … oh Fuck, did Da…”

“Watch your language, young man.”

“You don’t.”

“You’re my son and you’ll watch it.  Now.  Your father was faithful because he was a smart Beorning…”

“He was … a real Beorning?”

“Of course he was.”

“You knew?”


“And you didn’t say?”

She gave him a hard stare.  “It was bad enough with you lot spreading your dinky family legends.  You’ll know when you have your own children that it’s bad news for little ones to know you’ve got a second skin until they can handle it.  You tell them when they’re old enough to keep their trap shut.  Preferably before they run away.”

He winced.  Chastened, he muttered, “Fine.  Just get this over with.”

“Well.  There’s more, but this is the important thing.  Don’t Bear up around civilized folk.”

“… seriously?  NO!  I had no idea.”

“Watch your smart mouth or I’ll watch it for you.  I mean it.  No marking, no scratching trees, not even to scare off robbers or pirates.  No bear.  Your father did it once and he almost killed one of his men.  Lucky it was dark and the man didn’t see enough to remember.  You save it for when it’s safe.  Be smart.  Be responsible.  Having a change of skin is not a toy, or some fun way to impress women, or ….”

“Ma!  I’m married!”

“And about that.  She’ll need to eat more and she might have some oddness if she’s got bear-kin growing in her belly.  Only one of mine that wasn’t like that was Wynne, thank goodness.”

“Oh my Smaug…

“Dafydd made it just long enough to have his first furry year.  He wasn’t your kind of gentle either.  Real dominant bear was your brother… don’t know if it makes it easier or harder for a boy to handle, but he kept getting into bar fights when the bear hit him hard and he couldn’t let it out.  And what he got up to in the woods was just revolting.  You know your Da was just like you?  Not just in the Beorning sense, but in that loathing for violence.”

“… stop having a go.”

She made sure her voice was steady and her eyes were dry.  “Just like.  His Da made him go fight because he was sure the goblins would be back any day and wanted a Beorning working for the King.  He told the King about it, and your Da could never leave.  Never ever.  “Too dangerous” is what they said.  “Strategic asset.”  That’s why they let Wynnelet in, really.  After Dafydd, they didn’t believe us saying our children were normal.  Though we don’t tell her that.  Anyhow, your Da should never have joined up, because that man was the sweetest, gentlest soul ever to walk Arda.  Until he got stuck into a life where the people giving orders didn’t know a thinking, feeling bear from a battleaxe.  So.  When I say he understood eventually, I meant it.  And when he said the Lake needed you and not just any lad, that’s what he meant.  So.  Shut up and listen.  If Ceceil’s babes take after you, she’ll carry them a month short of normal and she’ll eat like a horse.  So make damn sure you think about that.  And if you go with a bear lady, nobody knows what you might make so don’t.  do.  it.”

“Ugh, Ma, no!”

“Don’t.  Also, don’t try to bed your wife when you’re a bear.”


“It’s rude and people get hurt.”

Horror moved in to stay on his face.

She continued, scrubbing the boards ruthlessly with her cloth-wrapped brick, “And you better tell her.  She seems decent, and she’ll understand eventually.  She’s no shrinking pansy-arse minnow.”

“Uh, Ma.  She knows.”

His mother glances up long enough to lift her brows thoughtfully.  “Well.  That’s convenient.  I’m glad we had this little chat.  I think you should go away for a while and eat some salmon.”

He made a strangled noise and fled.  In the empty house, for the first time in forever, Frithvail Cook managed a decent laugh.  She could still laugh.  And alone, she could cry.


About celeveren

If you're here, you know why.
This entry was posted in Bearing It, Silliness. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Talk

  1. Amimain says:

    This is hilarious and beautiful.

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