To My Favorite Sleepless Bear,
The day I first saw you, Aunt Tilda whispered in my ear the secret of the magic apples.
You were just a little furry cute thing then. But Tilda Bird said, don't listen to what the men say. That bear is entrusted to you, and you alone. He's a small bear, and you're a small bird. So you have to stick together.
When I saw the sun I realized I hadn't paid attention. I should have remembered you'd be going to hibernate today. I'm so sorry.
It's my job to watch out for you. I'm supposed to bring you magic apples, this time of year, every year. You're my bear and I should have done so much better. The first snowfall was so beautiful and I got distracted. I was playing in the sunlight and I lost track of time. I got lost over the place where the river bends twice.
Nobody else knows the secret of the apples or how much you need them.
I flew as quick as I could when I finally found the way back. In just a few hours the whole world would be going to sleep.
When I finally got to the apple tree there were only two apples left. Marty Bird said the tree didn't make as many this year and that was the reason. She said it was too rainy and cold for apples. I flew to the highest branch and made sure they were the magic ones.
Marty asked me, what's so special about those apples? But don't worry. I'd never tell her.
I always bring you five magic apples. You need their magic powers. So it was very important that I find three more.
Only two places in the whole world have magic apples. The second place is in farmer Danny's garden. Do you remember how I planted the apple seeds in the garden for you when we were little? When you were a baby, I carried a seed there in my beak, so magic apples could grow. It's very far, because we've come such a long way since we were small. But since there weren't enough apples on our tree this year that was where I went.
Farmer Danny put a big dog by his tree to scare off the birds. But I knew that wouldn't stop me. I went to the place where Farmer Danny always drops the apples on his way to the market because he's big and clumsy and the cart is missing a back wheel. Farmer Danny doesn't even know that he picks magic apples from the garden. Then again, most people don't know about the magic right under their nose.
I remembered how to get there mostly, it was across the lake and over the big bridge. I only got a little bit lost. When I got scared I just remembered how much you meant to me.
Farmer Danny wasn't anywhere to be found. Even the scary dog was gone.
Finally one of the field mice told me that Evil Goat had been there. And had eaten all the dropped apples from the apple cart. Twice as many as he needed, said the mouse. Enough to make his stomach sick. Then he ate Farmer Danny and his whole family too.
I really don't like that Evil Goat. He's always making noises at the birds and going on about himself and eating more than he needs to. And goats don't eat farmers, not even Evil Goat. Most likely Farmer Danny and his wife and all the animals had eaten too many magic apples already and gone to bed for the winter.
I know why Evil Goat is evil. That's a secret too. Only the birds know the truth.
Then the mouse said, goodbye, I'm going to eat the last little bit of cheese and liverwurst I have left. And he said, you better get out of here quick unless you want to pick a fight with Evil Goat because he's probably coming and I know for a fact he eats birds with big claws. He's in the chicken coop now making chicken stew out of all the chickens.
I flew myself right to the chicken coop. Chickens have such a hard time anyway. They cluck and run around in circles and get so upset. And that's without an Evil Goat to make them so scared. They were all curled up in the corner.
Evil Goat looks right at me says, with a big snarl, “These are my chickens and I'm having all of them for supper.”
I showed him the magic apples I was carrying with me. I said, “Why don't you come and get one of these instead?”
If there's one thing Evil Goat's always wanted, it's to get his hooves on a magic apple or two. They're too high up in the tree for him. He's never gotten to have one before.
I dropped that magic apple right in front of him. I said, “Come and get it, Evil Goat!”
And he said, “There's nothing so special about that magic apple,” but I knew he was just jealous and wanted one.
I knew you needed the apple so much but I couldn't let Evil Goat eat the chickens.
Wouldn't you know he left those chickens alone and came right for the apple.
I flew away. I knew things would be OK, after that. I looked down and there was Evil Goat, just munching away in the snow.
Evil Goat is only evil because he's so tired. It's a secret, but that's why. They say he's a hundred years old. This time he really thought he'd gotten something good.
But what Evil Goat didn't know was that everything's happier that naps in the winter. Sometimes even the most evil goat just needs a magic apple. That's the secret that I can't tell anyone, that only you and I can know. I don't think Evil Goat had slept in ninety-nine of his one hundred years. Only the birds know the truth about Evil Goat. And only the birds know the secret power of magic apples. When I looked back I saw Evil Goat, fast asleep in the snow. The magic apple was going to help him rest at last.
But now I only had one apple left and I know how much trouble you have falling asleep for the winter. You're a very anxious bear. You're always worrying about winter and getting too cold.
Would one apple even be enough?
I raced back to you as fast as I could. Maybe I could find you at your cave. If you couldn't settle down for the winter it would be all my fault.
When I got there your cave was all closed up. I listened for you, and you were snoring on the inside. It seemed like you had fallen asleep without me, or the magic apples.
Ever since you were a baby, you needed me to bring you magic apples to help you fall asleep for the winter. Maybe you don't need me as much anymore. We are both growing up, after all.
Sometimes as we grow we think we need magic less and less. Only the birds know the truth about things like that. Everyone needs a magic apple, even small bears who are growing bigger every year.
I thought about taking the apple south with me. Did you really need it anymore, after all?
Then I changed my mind and left the one apple I had at the door of your cave. Every winter the grass and the flowers and the place in the river with two bends all have to eat their magic apples, too. They go to sleep and rest and in the spring they wake up. It's not only apples that are magic, after all.
The magic apple was red against the cold white snow and I watched hard as I flew until I couldn't see the apple anymore. This winter if you wake up too soon, I hope it helps you rest.
As I flew south I looked back for you and the apple but all I saw was snow and sunlight.