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Michael Picarella: The great Bear scare

Picarella Family Report

Posted: February 20, 2009 9:50 p.m.
Updated: February 21, 2009 4:55 a.m.
Clutching his favorite teddy bear — appropriately named Bear — my 5-year-old son showed me a long rip across the furry stuffed animal’s right armpit.

“What’s this?” my son demanded, as if I hurt Bear.

“What’s what?” I asked my son.

I didn’t hurt the stuffed animal. Somehow, I felt guilty.

“This rip on Bear,” he said. “Did you do this?”

“I didn’t do nothin’,” I said. “It wasn’t me, no way, Jose.”

Two years ago, Bear lost an eyebrow. As a result, my son climbed up onto his train table and said he’d jump, that he didn’t want to live anymore. My son showed no signs of this dramatic behavior with the armpit injury. Maybe he’s growing up.

And then stuffing spilled out of Bear’s underarm.

“Oh my God, he’s dying!” My son broke. He jumped up onto the train table and threatened to jump off.

Bear’s injury was no accident. I was sure. I had to find out who hurt my boy’s fuzzy-bunches-of-love. I had to make the criminal pay.

I didn’t have much. An injured bear, stuffing all over the floor and an angry child.

I tried to pinpoint the time of the crime.

My son awoke to singing birds that morning with Bear in his arms. All was well. As far as I knew, nobody but my wife, son and I were in the house that day, though I’d left on three occasions to run errands.

I got my son to admit that one of his friends had come over to play while I was gone. Bingo!

I called an associate of mine who knew a guy at the neighborhood play gym where my boy’s friend once attended. He gave me the dope on the kid, said he had a long criminal past. He’d broken the wheels off toy trucks. He bit the heads off toy soldiers. Most telling, he ripped the wings off a stuffed duck.

My son protected his friend, said he didn’t go near Bear the whole time he was over. I didn’t have enough evidence to call the parents and accuse the little brat. That’s a no-no in California anyway, even with proof. Any New Yorker in my shoes could call the kid a murderer to his parents’ faces and actually enjoy it, no matter the response. But in California, you can’t be so brutally honest. You risk being called rude, and us sensitive Californians can’t take such harsh evaluation.

“Bear is dying,” my son kept yelling. The boy was a crumbling wreck.

I called Grandma to see if she could race over and repair Bear. Grandma was out of town on business. Not good. Grandpa said he could fix Bear. Perfect. That’d calm my boy down. Then I could finally concentrate and solve the crime.

Grandpa arrived and went to work on Bear. I picked up the phone to call my wife who was out with some friends. I’d dig for more clues. The dial tone indicated a voicemail — I hadn’t noticed when I called Grandpa earlier. I listened to the message. Grandpa sent it earlier that day.

“It’s Dad,” Grandpa said in the message. “Gimme a call when you get this.” Then I heard a sharp and unexpected sound from Grandpa’s end of the line, as if he pressed the wrong button in an attempt to hang up the phone. And while under the impression that the phone was really hung up and nobody but Grandma was listening, Grandpa spilled his guts. He’d torn Bear’s arm when he came over that morning while I was out, he said. He called it an accident.

I slammed the phone down on the receiver.

Grandpa was finishing up Bear’s repair. He was quiet. Was he going to say anything about the crime he committed? Was he going to remain silent and play hero repairman? I couldn’t let Grandpa walk away from this. I had to say something. I had to take this criminal down.

“Thanks for fixing bear,” I said to Grandpa in perfect California tongue.

To this day Grandpa remains a free man.

Michael Picarella is a Valencia resident and a proud husband and father. To contact Picarella or to read more stories, go to His column reflects his own opinion and not necessarily that of The Signal.


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