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The picnic was in full swing by the time Ron arrived. He stood at the edge of the clearing, squinting in the sunlight.

“Ron! Hey Ron!”

John ran over to greet him.

“Hey, long time no see! How are -“He stopped, looking at Ron’s eye. “Aw hell, what happened?”

Ron shrugged. “Accident. Got a fag?”

John looked solemn as he produced a packet of cigarettes and a novelty lighter. “Sorry, Ron,” he said as he lit his friend’s cigarette. “I guess you don’t want to talk about it, huh?”

Ron took a deep drag on his cigarette and blew smoke into the air. “It ain’t so bad,” he muttered. “Worse things happen, y’know?Just… I had a nice few years of peace and quiet, then bam! New baby. She’s two now.”

“Two? Ouch,” John winced in sympathy. “Terrible age. But you know the rules, Ron, no talking about her at the picnic!”

Ron grinned and shook his head. “I remember the rules, mate. Hey, is that Steve over there? Damn, he looks more miserable than me.”

John looked around. Steve was sitting at the foot of a tree, his head slumped down, chin on chest. “Oh hell,” he muttered, before shouting to two other picnickers who were chatting near Steve. “Hey! Jeff! Barbara! Help Steve out, would ya?!”

John and Ron watched as Jeff and Barbara carefully lifted Steve’s head off his chest and balanced it on his shoulders. Once settled, Steve gingerly raised an arm to slowly wave at John and Ron.

“Poor Steve. Worst case of empty neck I’ve ever seen,” John said. “They say his owner has a real hug of doom, just locks her arm tight around his neck every night. All the stuffing in his neck is just… squeezed away.”

Ron put his paw on his friend’s shoulder. “Hey, John. You know the rules. No talk of owners. Today’s our day.”

John straightened up, holding a paw carefully over the clumsily stitched patch on his stomach to make sure the stuffing didn’t burst out.

“You’re right, Ron. Teddy bears together. Let’s go have a beer.”

© Kari Fay