We were on a bumpy plane ride, the four of us: Andrew, Mama, Papa, and Huggy Bear. Below us, all we saw out the window were clouds and clouds - white puffy clouds. We were on a vacation to Mexico, home of the Spanish and Mayans and iguanas and sunshine.
It had been an early morning - getting to the airport before sunrise, lugging our backpacks from security to gate to gate. We were all tired, and looking around, we weren't the only ones. As our neighboring passengers drifted off to Napland, we started to feel the Sandman's pull ourselves. And with Huggy Bear on our laps, there was nothing to stop us.
Now it's hard for 3 people to cuddle one teddy bear, especially across armrests. (We had drifted to sleep before lifting them out of our way.) And since sleeping parents aren't as friendly as awake parents, it was Andrew who was jarred awake by Huggy Bear being tugged away from his grasp.
Of course, it's not hard to steal a teddy bear back when everyone's asleep, but that was the thing: Looking up, Andrew noticed EVERYONE was asleep. Snoring, drooling, talking in their sleep - all the other passengers were sleeping.
Then, outside the window, Andrew spied a super super tall tall building in the clouds, and the plane veered directly towards it. Huggy Bear saw it too, and Huggy Bear and Andrew exchanged glances. Everyone else in the plane snoozed on.
The plane landed softly like the clouds were cotton, and it floated to a stop beside the super tall building.
"What are you doing awake?" the flight attendant asked Andrew. Andrew looked over at Huggy Bear, but Huggy Bear was pretending to be asleep.
Andrew pretended to be asleep.
"Do you really think that's going to work?" the flight attendant asked.
Andrew opened his eyes again. "Where are we?" he said.
"Do you want to come take a look?"
So Andrew followed the flight attendant, and he and the plane's crew disembarked from the plane. Andrew took one look back and saw Huggy Bear had slipped away from Mama and Papa's arms - Huggy Bear was coming too!
When they stepped off the plane, there was the most delicious smell - vanillas, gardenias, lavenders, magnolias - sweet floral scents engulfed them. And when they walked into the building, they found the most beautiful garden. The entire building was a greenhouse of delicious flowering plants. The walls that looked solid from the outside were transparent from the inside, and sunlight bathed the stories and stories of blossoming blooms with soft, cottony light.
In the center of the room were plush, comfortable chairs for the pilots, crew, and flight attendants. There was even a chair each for Andrew and Huggy Bear. Everyone else sat down, sat back, and closed their eyes, so Andrew and Huggy Bear did too. They leaned back and sniffed and sniffed and enjoyed all the luscious smells.
Andrew didn't fall asleep, but he was so very relaxed and so very comfortable that he couldn't move, and it's a good thing too, because this is what happened next:
Andrew and Huggy Bear started to hear a sound - a soft, distant buzzing sound. And ever so gradually, the sound, the buzzing buzz, became louder and closer, but not too much that it startled Andrew or Huggy Bear. It was never nothing but gentle, humming buzzing.
And then Andrew and Huggy Bear felt their bodies buzzing, and the image of a Giant Bee made up of thousands of tiny bees entered their minds. And the floral scents were buzzing in their noses, and they felt the Buzzing Bee enter the cloud-garden building.
But the Bee didn't come through the door, because the whole building and plants and people were buzzing in such a way that they were like clouds and they weren't there at all, except that suddenly the bees were there too and then everyone and everything was more than there because they were all of them the building and flowers and bees and people and sunshine and smells and buzzing and teddy bear all at the same time.
Then Andrew remembered the plane - and he hiccuped, and it was like a bounce of turbulence from the bumpy flight. And everybody and everything started laughing all at once - building, bees, flowers, people - together. And the people's eyes began to open and notice each other.
And crawling on and over their entire bodies (which they couldn't move yet) were thousands of fuzzy, tickling bees, and the bees were on and over the flowers and chairs and people and everything, including Huggy Bear. Andrew might have felt scared or trapped, but he could feel each fuzzy little leg on the skin of his arms and it tickled him so much - his ears and his face and and his nose and and and...
Huggy Bear sneezed. Everyone in the chairs woke up: not that they had been asleep - more like that they had been more than awake - but now they were just plain awake but still smiling from being tickled all over.
Andrew reached out and Huggy Bear came over to his chair, and they snuggled and looked at each other and remembered all the bees on them and what it was like to be a flowering plant in that moment, and also a building, and sunshine.
"I wonder what I smell like to the bees," Andrew said out loud. And the captains and crew and flight attendants all nodded in their uniforms. They all understood because they had been flowers too. (And for that moment, everyone had all been each other.)
As they left the building and entered the plane, the people and teddy bear were like turtles squeezing out of one shell and into another, or like a hermit crab living between two shells. Settling back into his seat on the plane and connecting his seat belt, Andrew felt like that turtle or crab pulling itself entirely back and inside its security shell. Maybe Andrew was like a turtle and Huggy Bear was like a hermit crab. Huggy Bear curled as tight among Andrew, Mama, and Papa as possible.
The plane began to move and the journey continued. Eventually the passengers woke up again and played on their iPads or had a drink and a snack or read a book. They chewed gum as the plane descended. They said, "Thank you," to the flight attendants and the captains as they departed the plane. The flight attendants winked at Andrew and Andrew winked back. Huggy Bear's eyes couldn't wink (only blink), so H.B. gave high 5s.
Cancun was hot and humid and tropical. Sun and breezes and coconuts marked the taxi ride from the airport to the hotel. The beach was lined with hotels, and the taxi dropped Andrew's family off at one hotel between two others and drove away, joining the stream of buses and taxis.
The sun bore down on the family as they explored the town surrounding the hotel. With their vacation home (hotel) established, they wandered in search of food, the sun beating down on their hats and caps. (Huggy Bear stayed at the hotel and derived his sustenance from Dreamland.)
After getting lost and turned around but not too much, the family found an air-conditioned taquería with six flavors of salsa, a couple of them more blazing than the sun. The tacos and burritos were delicious, satisfying that need of strangers - of finding food in a strange place.
On the way back to the hotel, the family bought some food stuffs at the grocery store. Then the family made their way back to the hotel with clear direction and with the not-as-hot sun twi-lighting their return.
That night, Andrew told his family of his adventures in the clouds while H.B. copied them here into their journal. The family talked about their home in Kentucky, and how it was nice to have that home but also to go on adventures. Like it's nice to go swimming, but not too much past the prune-y stage. And then it's also nice to get out of the pool and dry off and finally waddle back to a known dry place with dry clothes not too far away.
Inspired by their discussion - the family went to the hotel pool, came back, got in their pajamas and brushed their teethies - and went to bed where H.B. was waiting for them, trying to teach itself to wink....
Carlos F. Mason Wehby uses his middle initial so people won't think his first last name is his middle name. He can't believe he got excited and took his son to see Star Wars 7 only to watch Kylo kill Han. Meanwhile, he walks his dog around suburban Kentuckiana with his family and hopes for Avatar 2 to come through. "Huggy Bear in the Clouds" is Carlos' reaction to David Foster Wallace's "Another Pioneer."