[CW: Strong language]
It was a remarkable set up - no one could argue that. The three-tiered serving tray had been meticulously polished, it’s silver edges glimmered majestically in the light. One could tell that Annabella had taken great care in laying out a floral tablecloth, each edge pulled tight and carefully tucked, not a single crease anywhere to be seen. Perched in front of each plastic chair were dainty floral tea cups that longed for hot liquid to grace their ceramic edges; matching china sat snug next to them. The door to Annabella’s room was cracked and through the opening smells of warm toasty bread, decadent cream cheese, and nurturing oolong wafted up from downstairs kitchen.
Yes, to the naked eye, this had all the makings of the most elaborate tea party that Annabella had ever thrown.
But frankly, Boo Bear was sick of this shit.
Boo Bear lifted a fuzzy paw, and knocked a small silver spoon across one of the teacups, calling the official start of the meeting. Immediately dozens of glassy, unblinking eyes turned toward him; and the room quieted as they waited for him to speak.
Boo Bear signaled Bubsy, who kicked out one large plush foot and covertly nudged the door closed. It quietly clicked shut, the sound carrying an odd sort of finality to it. Boo Bear caught sight of the glittery tagline emblazoned across the back of the koala’s leather jacket. Born to be Wild, it proudly proclaimed. Boo Bear frowned. Were any of them actually free? He sighed, more solidly remembering his purpose here today.
Bubsy waddled back to his station, pulling out a timepiece that he kept tucked away in his breast pocket. “Well, boss.” Bubsy said. “It’s a go. By my count, we have about twenty minutes before Annabella finishes making the snacks.”
Boo Bear cleared his throat, his voice booming throughout every corner of the room, commanding attention. “I’ve formally called this meeting of the Fuzzies to propose a boycott of Annabella’s tea parties.” He was perched in one of the tiny plastic chairs at the head of the table, but as the weight of the words fully hit him, Boo Bear heaved himself up and started pacing. His fuzzy ears flopped erratically with the intensity of his movements.
A few beats of silence passed as the group processed this bold proclamation. Then, the room descended into chaos. Mr.Books squeaked in surprise and toppled off the bookshelf he was perched on - several other Fuzzies ran over to assist him. Boo Bear held the talking spoon above his head, trying to maintain his control over the floor, but the overlapping chatter had reached a high-pitched crescendo. They had been hosting community meetings for several years now, but nothing this extreme had ever been proposed.
Finally, Boo Bear lifted a paw, silencing them. “Our working conditions have continued to deteriorate. These parties - which were once full of merriment - are now nothing more than a performative sham. Annabella is continually profiting off our good nature, and we should no longer stand idly by!”
Madam Pennyworth carefully put down her needle, the button eye she was in the process of sewing on Sprinkles was clenched firmly in one of her wings. “Boo Bear - we’ve been over this. Annabella is our leader. To propose such a thing is to propose anarchy!” Boo Bear could tell the stress of this proposal was getting to her, because as Madam Pennyworth spoke, she jabbed her needle erratically, and Sprinkles winced from his spot in her lap. Sprinkles covered his good eye in terror as he tried hard not to watch Madam Pennyworth’s frantic movements and the danger they posed to his face. “And to be honest, I don’t see the need. Annabella’s been doing everything in her power to take good care of us.”
“Yeah,” pipped Sprinkles. He had cautiously lowered one of his protective hooves, but was still warily watching Madam Pennyworth. “Annabella always goes out of her way to bring the best snacks!” He pursed his muzzle and breathed in deeply, tapping into the luxurious smells from the kitchen below. “I think I can smell those delightful cucumber sandwiches she always makes. With extra cucumbers, just the way I like it.” Sprinkles neighed in delight.
Boo Bear could feel his blood pressure elevate, the beginnings of a migraine started to creep in. The fluff pulsed hard against his aching head. How could they not see this was all for show? Boo Bear had been with Annabella the longest, a once treasured gift for her second birthday. But now, her neglect had started to show. His threadbare suit sat snug across his cloth, it’s fraying edges felt akin to the frayed edges of his relationship with Annabella. Boo Bear had long been banished from the bed now that he was no longer her favorite toy. Instead of being snuggled close, he spent his nights precariously perched on a drafty windowsill, always in danger of catching a cold. Every night he lay awake shivering, longing for something warmer.
But, Annabella never took notice. She had abandoned Boo Bear now that she had no use for him. Now that he wasn’t shiny and brand new, but world-wearied.
This was something that many of the other Fuzzies had not yet realized. Many of them still basked in the benefits of Annabella’s attention. Still able to lose themselves in the glitz and glamour of her weekly tea parties. But what they didn’t realize was that one day she would be done with them too.
“It’s the same thing, day after day,” Boo Bear lamented. “She even speaks for us! Pitching her voice in such an unflattering way to mock us! After all these years of devotion to her, don’t we deserve her respect?” Several of the Fuzzies nodded in agreement. “And Sprinkles! You speak so highly of these sandwiches. But when was the last time you were able to taste their sweetness for yourself?
“Yeah,” Bubsy said from his spot on the watchtower. “Annabella is always offering us ‘more tea,’ but notice how hers is the only cup that is ever actually full?”
Several others leaned forward, listening with rapt attention. Madam Pennyworth’s face contorted in disdain.
Boo Bear passed the talking spoon to Mr. Books, who had signaled for it. “I mean – it’s not exactly safe around these parts – is it?” Mr.Books said gruffly, pointing at one of his missing ears, where some of his stuffing had gruesomely started to pop out of his head. Boo Bear grimaced. All of the Fuzzies were still reeling from the attack by Spot, the Smith’s family dog. “They all fawn over the Beast.” Mr. Books shook his head so hard in disgust that he squeaked. “But Spot attacked me, unprovoked! He acted like I was just a toy to him! A toy! I sat captive in his drooling mouth for hours.” Mr. Books flopped forward, defeated. Sprinkles leaned over and started patting his back consolingly. “Anyone of us could be next.”
“Exactly!” Boo Bear spun around so quickly, he teetered precariously on the table’s edge, the floor slipping dangerously into focus. But Boo Bear pressed on, pointing dramatically at Mr.Books. “Unsafe working conditions surround us! After Mr. Books was attacked, Annabella did nothing! She just watched from the sidelines.”
Suddenly, Buttercup leaned forward and her pink mouth opened and closed in uncertainty as she tried to formulate her words. Until this moment, Buttercup only had been quietly listening from her perch inside one of the dainty teacups, her speckled snout peeking up above the cup’s rim. Boo Bear nodded at her reassuringly. “Boo Bear is right!” Buttercup squealed. “Our community’s safety has become our own responsibility. Who was it who organized a neighborhood watch so we could alert ourselves when the Beast was coming? Us! What precautions is Annabella even taking to ensure such an attack is not going to happen again?”
“And Annabella,” Boo Bear stretched out her name as far as he could. Madam Pennyworth rolled her googly eyes so hard that one of them got stuck. She reached up and whacked her feathery head and the eye dislodged. “Sits here comfortably and plays tea party with us - like it’s some kind of fantasy land! Like there aren’t dangers lurking in every corner. Like our lives are just expendable!”
“I think you’ve been spending too much time in Father Smith’s study.” said Madam Pennyworth. “Those dusty books are starting to give you all sorts of nasty ideas.”
Boo Bear bristled. “Since when is liberation nasty? The fight for justice is our goodness given right!” He turned to address his fluffy audience once again. “I call for a vote.”
“I second the call,” said Mr. Books.
Buttercup squeaked. “I third it.”
Madam Pennyworth opened her mouth, a protest on her beak. “You all know the rules, Madam Pennyworth,” said Boo Bear. “All those in favor say aye.”
But before Bubsy could tally the votes, the introduction of a sudden voice made them all freeze. “Thanks, Mom.” Annabella hollered, her bangles jingling loudly as she ran up the stairs. Bubsy peered through the door crack, forming an X with his paws. The Fuzzies’ universal symbol to abort their mission; someone was coming.
Boo Bear felt a sense of defeat rising, as the crowd frantically dispersed. Mr.Books flung himself face first onto the bed. Sprinkles crossed and uncrossed his legs, as he tried desperately to look casual. Finally, Annabella’s footsteps halted, and the door swung open.
Annabella beelined for Boo Bear, and he felt his breath catch. How could she know what Boo Bear had been planning?
Boo Bear braced himself for retaliation, but it never came. Instead, Annabella scooped him up lovingly in her arms. “There’s my favorite bunny rabbit,” she crooned. “I have just the thing for you.” In her hand, Annabella held a freshly knitted, warm winter sweater. “I’ve let that old suit fall apart huh? I’m so sorry my sweet Boo.” She planted a gentle kiss on Boo Bear’s forehead, and pulled the sweater over his head. It even smelled of cookies - Boo Bear’s favorite.
Annabella moved on to the table, gathering all the Fuzzies together as she moved. It was time for another spectacular tea party. As she carefully poured out cups of tea, Boo Bear wrapped his arms around himself, nuzzling his new sweater. It’s comfort surrounded him like a warm hug.
Boo Bear sighed in contentment. Maybe the revolution could wait one more week.