To read a brief background on what this story is and how the hell it came to be, go here first.
The time was the Bear-1920s (which happened to occur during the human 1980s, as the entire Bear civilization had set itself back several decades during the Great Hibernation Accident of 1880). The place was Bear-Hollywood (which everyone knew was human Canada). And there was one bear who was prepared to do anything to be a star. The way he went about this was mostly by shining a lot of shoes, which, in all fairness, no one had ever told him was the path to stardom. But Shoe Shine Bear still believed, deep within himself, that if he shined enough shoes that he would one day become a star.
“Plus,” he would say to bears whose shoes he was already in the process of shining and who were thus very much trapped and forced to listen to his story, “my name is already Shoe Shine Bear, and it would be a great pain to change it now, nyah, see?” Because this is the way bears talked in the Bear-1920s.
And so Shoe Shine Bear went about shining shoes for years right outside the gates of all the major Bear-studios, which, much to his annoyance, resolutely refused to transform him into a star. There were several times he considered giving up, packing up his comically small box of shoe shining supplies, and going home. But, “My name was still Shoe Shine Bear, ya see? What else could I do? Wash cars? Pfah!” he would tell to the still-trapped customer who by this point would be very seriously considering gnawing off his own feet to escape Shoe Shine Bear’s never-ending narrative.
And so Shoe Shine Bear kept at it, shining shoes by the Bear-ton (which is also, inexplicably, exactly equal to one human ton, even metaphorically). All in all, this was not a bad mode of employment, as bears took a lot of pride in their shoes and had an innate desire to keep them fastidiously clean. This, combined with their habit of mauling hunters in grisly ways, ensured that Shoe Shine Bear’s business was booming, which made him proud enough. He was happy to be earning his own way and making honest money, having grown up listening to long tirades from his father about the merit of hard honest work. “Bears these days are all the same,” he would grumble at the breakfast table, sticking his greying muzzle into a mug of Bear-coffee, “expecting Bear-handouts all the Bear-time instead of doing hard Bear-work.” Shoe Shine Bear’s father’s rants were always somewhat distorted from his preference for using “bear” as a prefix for too many words, an accent he had picked up working long Bear-hours on the Bear-docks, but the point had still been made clearly enough to Shoe Shine Bear that he was proud not to be one of these lazy bears his father Bear-detested.
And so he kept his modest business going, not even knowing that his chance of stardom was rapidly approaching. In fact, he was so unaware that it literally almost hit him in the face; he looked up from organizing his array of shining supplies to see a solid gold boot staring him straight in the face. He knew that this shoe could only belong to one bear.
It was none other than Bear-Hollywood’s brightest star, Bearold Lloyd. The pun was a complete coincidence and would go unnoticed by bearkind as they paid very little attention to human affairs and celebrities, but if it had been he would have been executed on the spot. Bears hate puns and had outlawed them in the Bear-1830s (otherwise known as the Squirrel-3000s, because squirrels are terrible at timekeeping and nobody ever knows what they’re up to anyway).
Shoe Shine Bear found himself speechless, which, at any other time, would have been met with cheers and tears of joy from any of his regular customers. As it was, it went totally unappreciated by Bearold Lloyd.
“Well, don’t just sit there gawking, boy. I’ve got a picture to shoot in half a bear-hour and there’s hunter all over these.”
It was hard for Shoe Shine Bear not to gawk; even underneath what had to be several layers of hunter blood, the trademark golden shoes of Bearold Lloyd were unmistakable. He had had them made after his first hit and they had become his trademark.
“Step right up,” Shoe Shine Bear motioned to his chair and allowed the Bear-celebrity to sit and prop his feet up. “I bet you’re wondering what a bear like me is doing shining shoes in a place like this,” Shoe Shine Bear added hopefully, wanting a chance to launch himself into his narrative that had been the unfortunate fate of so many customers. “I am not at all interested in that,” was an answer that had never stopped Shoe Shine Bear in the past, and it failed to stop him now.
He decided to give Bearold Lloyd the full nine Bear-yards, starting with his childhood dreams and ending with a shockingly intricate account of every shoe he had ever shined. When he was about halfway through his running description of a pair of particularly nondescript shoes, he found himself interrupted by a sharp, ringing snort. He realized that Bearold Lloyd, out of self defense, had fallen asleep and was now snoring loudly. As Shoe Shine Bear looked at the unconscious celebrity, his father’s voice rang clear in his head: “this is your Bear-chance, Bear-son. These don’t come along every Bear-day.” Before Shoe Shine Bear knew what was happening, he had grabbed both now-immaculate shoes from Bearold Lloyd’s sleeping feet and was running down the street towards the nearest studio.
As he rounded a corner he slipped the shoes, which were almost entirely the wrong size, onto his own feet, and started looking around. Bearold Lloyd had said he was shooting a picture somewhere around here… He came upon a sound studio, full of angry looking Hollywood bears and all sorts of equipment. He took a deep breath and approached them.
“It is I,” he declared, “Bearold Lloyd.” The assembled crowd turned to look at him, and a moment of silence fell upon the area. It was broken by the Bear-director. “You don’t look very much like him,” he said in a growl, revealing a tone of high suspicion and also a bit of hunger because they hadn’t had Bear-lunch yet. Shoe Shine Bear’s heart skipped a beat and he began to sweat. He wondered if this was the end, until a second voice broke the silence.
“Look at his shoes, though.” Every Bear-eye fell upon the remarkable glittering shoes of Bearold Lloyd. The Bear-director looked for a second, then gave the best approximation of a shrug he could, given the shoulders that were available to him. “I guess it has to be him then.”
Shoe Shine Bear almost started to breathe again when another voice arose, this one full of deep disapproval. It was the producer, a stork who had worked his way up in the ranks of Hollywood. He was known for being sharp and good at his job and thus was allowed to go unmauled, even though everyone agreed he was a bit of a buzzkill.
“That is most certainly not Bearold Lloyd. Bearold Lloyd is a brown bear, and this bear is not that brown at all.” He looked at the Bear-director, who stared back at him with eyes full of rage.
“Are you telling me,” he growled at the stork, “ that you are doubting the shoes right now?”
The room grew incredibly tense. Bears trusted shoes above anything. Their motto had been, and always would be, “If you can’t trust a shoe, you can’t trust anything.” This could be applied to startlingly few situations and thus left the bear population largely without guidance in most situations, but anyone who spoke up about changing it would be inevitably mauled. The stork realized his grave mistake in questioning the trustworthiness of a pair of shoes and knew that his only choice was to let the matter pass, or else risk being mauled. He squinted at Shoe Shine Bear.
“Oh, I guess it is him. My mistake.”
At this the assembled crowd growled their assent and went back to their various tasks. The Bear-director lead Shoe Shine Bear in front of the Bear-Camera (which, being made primarily of twigs and honey, was actually rather ineffective at capturing anything in the way of moving images), and thus his career was made. Bearold Lloyd’s career, under Shoe Shine Bear’s new guidance, experienced a new resurgence, as the public opinion had always been that Bearold Lloyd was just a bit too brown. Even at the time of his highest fame, Shoe Shine Bear would always take one day to remove his golden shoes and resume his work at his old shoe shine stand, wanting to never forget his bear-roots.
Without his shoes, Bearold Lloyd was never able to prove his true identity, and had to either hold his peace or be placed in front of a Bear-tribunal for the crime of Doubting The Honesty Of Shoes.