TALE SPIN: LOUIE’S RISTORANTE

Fan-fiction adaptation by jb

     Based on the Disney Adventures #1 comics short; story by Bobbi J.G. Weiss

Disclaimer: The following story is based on the television series, characters and situations, created by Jymn Magon & Mark Zaslove, Tale Spin  © 1990-1991 Buena Vista Television/Walt Disney Company and W.D. Publications. This is an adapted work of fan-fiction, using characters and property of the Walt Disney Company without consent and for non-profit use. Some artistic liberties were taken to add more dramatic and humourous effect on the storyline.  

 

    SOCK! BAM!! POW!!!

    A canine pilot had grabbed a fox by the leg and swung him around wildly, taking out three other pilots in one sweep, sending them scattering clear across the room…  

    SMASH!!!

   A root beer keg had shattered upon a patron’s head by another patron, knocking him unconscious, while being showered with the brownish beverage and broken wooden staves…

    CRASH!!

    By the side, a rhinoceros hurled a chair over his head that hit the wall, missing his intended target…

     OOF!

    An unfortunate bear patron dazedly tried to regain his senses in a pool of sassafras syrup after being caught in the mêlée...

    …And meanwhile in the background, the house band played a slow blues number, hoping to distract the customers, as some of the patrons danced with the hired private dancers tried to ignore the bar fight in progress.

    It was just another average night at Louie’s Place...

    “WHERE’S THAT BEAR??!” roared a voice over the din.

     The Rustralian accent echoed throughout the nightclub, belonging to a corpulent razorback boar clad in a pith helmet and khaki jacket that covered him completely. He was in more than a furious mood, as he searched the place for his quarry.

      He then spotted the nightclub owner, Louie, to which he charged toward with great speed, grabbed him by the lapels and held him up above the floor, his feet dangling.

      “Where’d that fat bear go?!” he growled.

      Out the back door, thought Louie nervously, if he’s smart!

     “Just calm down, cuz!” he said, trying to placate the rambunctious razorback by keeping him occupied while his friend made a clean getaway. “How ‘bout a root beer on the house?”

     “I don’t wanna go outside! I want the bear – and the drink – in here!”  

     Just then, the service door of Louie’s Place swung wide open and out dashed Baloo with his twelve-year old navigator and charge, Kit Cloudkicker. Brushing off the wood splinters and glass shards, they quickly made their way back to the Sea Duck.

     “You shouldn’t have picked on his table manners, Baloo!” scolded Kit.

     “But, Kit, he ate like a –”

     “I know,” he interjected, “But you shouldn’t have said so!”

     The grey pilot replayed the memory in his head…

    Just ten minutes ago, he and Kit were just having the usual house special, the Krakatoa Sundae, when this wild game hunter boar entered the nightclub, back from a four-day hunting trip in Boarneo; ordering practically everything on Louie’s menu – twice.

    He didn’t think about it at the time, until the waiters came out with the game hunter’s order and pounded down everything with such slovenly gusto, that it shocked everybody, including himself.

   Even he went through a plate of spaghetti with more finesse than that.

   It was then he made the fateful quip out loud: “Gee, Kit – I’ve never seen a walkin’ landfill before...”

   Upon hearing him, the boar looked up from his plates and glared at the pilot.

   “What… did…you…say, mate?!”

“Nothin’ – just that you could make a picture perfect definition of ‘eatin’ like a pig’ in the dictionary, buddy. Somebody call Webster’s, will ya?”

  To that, the boar’s eyes went bloodshot red, toppled aside the table he was sitting at to the floor with the flick of his wrist, grabbed the chair he was sitting in and hurled it at the huge bear, splintering into many pieces.

   Luckily, the two bears ducked in time as it hit the bar they were sitting at, therefore instigating the complete anarchy that they had just left behind…

    Now hurrying towards the Con-Wing L-19 seaplane, Kit went ahead of the pilot, undoing the mooring ropes as Baloo sped toward the waiting service mechanics. Grabbing the clipboard he was handed upon approach, he furiously scribbled his usual illegible signature for the fuel tab paid.

     “Sorry, fellas! In a run – no time fer a tip!” he babbled, haphazardly tossing the clipboard over his shoulder which one of them caught; as he rushed into the Sea Duck. “Tell Louie I’m sorry ‘bout back there! Ta-ta!”

“Started another bar fight again?” said one of the mechanics nonchalantly.

His partner looked back at the place and saw three people go smashing through the window all at once.

“Looks like it,” he commented laconically.

      Within seconds after Kit unmoored the plane, the engines roared to life. Soon, they were up and onward back to their home port of Cape Suzette .

      Heaving a sigh of relief, the navigator then looked at his watch and cringed.

    “Nice timing, Papa Bear…we’re just six hours late in getting back home.”

    “Hey, that’s an improvement – we were eight hours last time, L’il Britches.”

    Baloo…”

    “What’s the biggie? We’re only pickin’ up Zizzer-Zoof seeds, which nobody wants, ‘cuz nobody needs.”

    “Tell that to the five salesmen in the Vale of Va-Vode that…and to Miz Cunningham.”

    “Aw, man…what are we gonna come up with this time?”

    Kit looked at him disdainfully. We?... 

   

 

      Flying into the Asia-Pacifica metropolis thirty minutes later, the Sea Duck quickly glided into its harbourside dock at Higher for Hire. Cutting off the engines, its flight crew bailed out of the plane and ran towards the office.

      “Better go to the cargo holding room,” the navigator suggested. “So we don’t disturb Miz Cunningham.”

      “Good thinkin’, Ace,” said Baloo. “Now, don’t go tellin’ Rebecca we were at Louie’s! We – uh – we ran outta gas! Yeah! That’s it! The Sea Duck sprang a fuel leak! How’s that sound?”

      “Better than another pirate fib,” Kit responded as they approached the doors while the huge pilot fumbled with the key to the lock, trying to be as quiet as possible.

      “Fib?!” he said, unlocking the door and entering inside. “It’s not a fib! It’s just a little white…”

     “You’re late! Again!” stated a stern voice. “You were supposed to pick up cargo at five o’clock!”

       The voice belonged to Rebecca Cunningham.

       Baloo stopped dead in his tracks. “…Oops.”

      Told you, Kit thought, but also felt stupid for mentioning the storage room diversion in the first place.

      About three months ago, the businesswoman had taken over the fledgling cargo freight service from the pilot when he failed to pay his outstanding bank loan that she had bought lock, stock and barrel, including the Sea Duck.

      She had been staying in the spare bedroom upstairs with her five-year old daughter Molly, due to the repair work in her apartment that was in near-completion, which had been damaged during the giant octopus attack that ravaged her kitchen four weeks ago.  

     Now she was standing in her fluffy white slippers and purple bathrobe with a white hem and cuffs in the middle of the cargo holding area, hands firmly placed on her hips and looking totally annoyed with her flight crew, if not bedraggled.

     Tomorrow, she was going to move back to her place. A date Baloo wished was now…

     “Y’know,” he began, sweating just a little with a strained smile as Kit whistled innocently to himself, “we had the darnedest luck! We sprang a –”

     “I’ll tell you where you were at five o’clock!” she interrupted. “Louie’s! Right?”

      “I’m tellin’ ya –”

      “It’s always Louie’s! You risk your job, you risk my career, for Louie’s! Tell me, Baloo – what’s so great about Louie’s?!”

      “Yeah, Baloo,” repeated Kit, watching the pilot getting raked over the coals by their employer and grinning mischievously. “What is so great about Louie’s?”

      “Kit, yer not helpin’ none,” the pilot muttered out the side of his mouth.

      “I’m waiting, mister!”

      The petite she-bear had him on the spot and even Baloo was having a hard time trying to do his formulaic song-and-dance routine. What was he going to say? Hot jazz and cool blues…the drinks…camaraderie with the other pilots… billiards…darts…and the two-for-one coupon for Louie’s world famous, innards-melting, twelve-alarm chili burritos?...

      “So great? ‘Bout Louie’s? Why – why it’s the most…I’ve never found a…there’s so much…” he stammered before finally concluding in exasperation, “Aw, Rebecca! I can’t explain it…you’d never understand!”

       Anyway, it ain’t no place fer a lady like yerself...

      “Fine! If you can’t explain it, then you’ll have to take me there! Tomorrow night!”

      Baloo was in shock. What??!

      “I’ll expect dinner!”

      “T-t-tomorrow n-n-night?? D-dinner?” he sputtered.

     “Why? Is that a problem?”

     “Uh…ahh…no! Not at all!”

     “Good!” she said as she headed upstairs to bed. “If I’m going to lose this business over some restaurant, I’d at least appreciate knowing what the place looks like!”

      The pilot’s heart sunk right down to his knees.

      Restaurant?!

      He knew very well that the minute she stepped into Louie’s Place and see that it was nothing but a refuelling station that doubled as a rowdy nightclub and motel right off the coast of Cape Suzette, not only would he lose his flying rights to his baby, he’d never hear the end of it.

     I’m so dead!

    “B-Baloo!” the navigator noted as they heard the bedroom door close. “She thinks it’s a restaurant! How’re you gonna tell her –”

    “I’m not!” he said, running out of the cargo holding area and towards the phone booth located just a few paces from Higher for Hire with Kit in tow. “But we’re gonna tell Louie! I just hope I own a tie!”  

           

 

“Fer a gal who’s up an’ all ‘bout promptness an’ stuff, she sure takes her sweet ol’ time in gettin’ here.”

The pilot waited for the businesswoman the next evening on the pier outside Higher for Hire, pacing nervously and muttering under his breath, as Wildcat was doing some last-minute tinkering with the Sea Duck. He had donned his leather bomber jacket, best dress shirt and a green and black diagonally-striped tie – which took him a good half-hour to do up – making him look reasonably presentable.

“Will you relax, Baloo?” said Kit, sitting atop a pier stand, waiting along with him. “You’re making me tired watching you pace.”

 “I’m more worried ‘bout how Louie’s gonna pull this restaurant thing on Becky than anythin’ else, Kit.”

“Didn’t he tell you what he was going to do?”

“Nope – just tol’ me he got an idea an’ said to bring her ‘round seven-thirty, nothin’ more,” said Baloo, looking at his watch for the umpteenth time in ten minutes.

In the short time he had known him, Kit had never seen his Papa Bear act this nervous, let alone get spruced up, before. Heck, he’d even seen him clear out the Sea Duck this afternoon, getting it ready for tonight like he was going on a…date.

And where, he queried, did he get that tie from?

“Is that the real reason you’re nervous…or is it ‘cause you’re taking out the lady boss out to dinner?”

The huge bear turned to the navigator with a quizzed look on his face.

“C’mon, Ace…yer makin’ it all sound like it’s some kinda date.”

“Isn’t it?” the youngster teased.

“Maybe he’s plannin’ a big surprise birthday party for her over there,” suggested the mechanic who had just finished his task on the seaplane, cutting off Baloo’s planned retort.

“It ain’t her birthday, Wildcat.” At least, not that I know of…

“A comin’ out party?...”

“That happens when you’re close to seventeen or eighteen,” explained Kit.

“Then, boy, has she got a lotta catchin’ up to do!”

Both bears looked at each other, rolled their eyes and sighed.

Wildcat…” said the grey pilot querulously, “go do somethin’ mechanical, will ya?”

“Good idea,” Wildcat agreed absent-mindedly, walking back to his floating shack. “I’ll go work on my electric bathtub…needs an extension cord or two – an’ a rubber ducky.”

Kit was about to open his mouth to comment on that befuddled statement, when Baloo answered him plainly: “Even I don’ wanna know, Li’l Britches.” 

Suddenly, light beams flashed before the two, then cutting off. The source came from Rebecca’s car that had just driven up.

“Well, it’s ‘bout time,” Baloo grumbled. “Women…”

Now who’s impatient? Kit thought, hiding a smile under his hand.

“Sorry for being late,” apologized Rebecca as she stepped out of the car, locked the door and walked over. “Molly’s babysitter came to the wrong apartment building a block away from mine and the midtown traffic at this hour was unbelievable...”

Baloo and Kit could hardly believe the vision set in front of them…

The she-bear, who last night looked like a frump in her bathrobe; had on this elegant magenta strapless gown with a white band above the hem flowing down to her ankles that clipped at her modest figure with matching pumps and purse.

 Her face was gorgeously made over with a whisper of Orient Empress fragrance about her and she was wearing pearl-attached earrings, a diamond ring, Art Deco-etched golden bracelets, a beaded necklace with a gold Art Deco medallion and a long white faux mink stole luxuriously draped over her bare shoulders, giving her a sophisticated look from head to toe. 

“What?” Rebecca asked, puzzled at her pilot’s dead silence; looking down at her own ensemble as if something was missing. “Am I…overdressed?”

Overdressed? I didn’t think ya even had a dress!

 “Huh??” said Baloo, snapping back to the present.“Um… no, not in the least, Beckers.”

“You look fabulous, Miz Cunningham,” Kit complimented her.

“Thanks,” she smiled. “So, are we ready, Fly Boy?”

Still mesmerized by his employer’s appearance, the pilot awkwardly gestured toward the Sea Duck. “Y-yer chariot awaits, lady…uh…I’ll be with ya in a minute.”

“Thank you, Captain.”

As the petite businesswoman walked toward the plane, the two bears watched her, before turning back to each other, only Kit had that knowing smirk on his face that clearly telegraphed the “told you so” look.

Awesome.”

“Don’t look at me like that,” Baloo warned, his eyes narrowing. “I can just feel ya lookin’ at me like that.”

“Looks like she’s expecting a lot more out of Louie’s than you first thought, Baloo,” said Kit, sliding off the pier post and landing onto the boardwalk. “I hope Louie can pull a miracle out of a sow’s ear tonight.”

“Ya ain’t the only one,” muttered the pilot.

“Later, Papa Bear,” the adolescent said as he walked back inside Higher for Hire with a laugh, “Try not to get any hickeys tonight on the first date.”

“Git outta it,” growled Baloo playfully, marching off toward the mooring lines.

 But as he was undoing them, a funny feeling came over him and started reminding himself for some reason: Don’t be gettin’ any ideas there, pal…she’s just the boss an’ nothin’ else...I’m gonna sit across the table, chew with my mouth closed, laugh at her stupid jokes an’ that’s all I’m gonna do.

 This definitely ain’t no date...

Baloo boarded the seaplane, locked the hatch and headed for the cockpit where Rebecca was already seated in the co-pilot’s chair, buckling her seatbelt.

“How long will it take to get there?” she asked.

“‘Bout half-an-hour, more or less,” he answered, plopping into his seat. He started up the Sea Duck’s engines, switched on the navigator lights, taxied from the pier and took off into the evening sky.

The she-bear looked around the cockpit and said: “Is it my imagination or is this plane actually clean?”

“Oh, just gave it an l’il spruce job, that’s all.”

“I thought there was something out of place around here,” she quipped.

Hope that’s the only thing you’ll figger out tonight, Becky.

The pilot grabbed the hand-held receiver. “Sea Duck to Traffic Control…requestin’ permission to clear the cliffs. Over.”

“Control to Sea Duck, we have a ten-minute delay. Please remain within the city air corridor until cleared to leave. Over.”

Great – a holdin’ pattern...

“Roger, Control. Will remain in the corridor as instructed – Sea Duck over an’ out.” Baloo turned to Rebecca. “Sorry ‘bout the delay, Beckers.”

“It’s okay, no big deal,” she replied nonchalantly. It got quiet in the plane for a moment until she then asked: “Umm…while we’re waiting, Baloo…can we fly around the city?”

“Uh…what for?”
         “Oh…just to look. That’s all.”

“It’s yer plane…why not?” Nothin’ else better to do, anyway. It’ll keep my mind offa things at Louie’s.

With that, he turned the plane around and circled high above Cape Suzette with its glowing skyscrapers, flickering lights and flashing neons below them. Rebecca looked down at the spectacle and was mesmerized by the sight.

Baloo glanced at her. “Pretty night, ain’t it?” he said, making a little small talk.

“I’ve never seen the city from the air at night before,” she said. “It’s incredible.”

“Doncha get a view of it from yer apartment?”

“Yes, but…it’s not exactly the same.”

“I’da thought ya came here by plane.”

“By ship, actually. I had my belongings in storage until I bought the business.”

An’ ruined my life, Baloo ruefully thought.

 Then it suddenly occurred to him that this had to be the longest conversation they ever had together alone. He was a simple bear that didn’t ask that many questions about his employer, where she had come from and all that personal stuff. Neither was he the type to pry into other people’s business unless absolutely necessary.

And he wasn’t too forthcoming about himself, either.

“Control to Sea Duck, you are clear to leave, over.”

The controller’s voice returned him back from his thoughts and fumbled with the hand-held receiver, replying: “Sea Duck to Control – read ya crystal clear. Makin’ our way through the cliffs. Over an’ out.”

The Con-Wing L-19 broke away from the city, across the harbour and toward the inner cliff corridor. Within minutes, they passed the outer cliffs and made a sharp port turn into the horizon.

“Well,” announced Baloo with a slight nervousness in his voice. “Off ta Louie’s.”

“You did make reservations now, did you?”

“Sure!” replied the pilot quickly. “Sure did, Beckers…best table in the house.” I hope…

“Good,” said the she-bear, giving a little laugh. “Men are usually so forgetful about these things. I remember when –”

She then stopped talking, feeling her mouth becoming tight and dry.

“ ‘Member what?”

“Um…nothing. Really,” she said monotonically, turning her head to the window, staring at the dark ocean beneath the plane with her chin propped into the right palm and crossing her legs underneath her gown.

 Baloo just shrugged and continued flying.

Forget about it, Rebecca, she thought forlornly. That life no longer exists anymore…

The remainder of the flight was flown in silence.  

 

 

In a while, the neon-flickering Louie’s Place sign came within visual range.

“So…is that it?” said Rebecca, pointing out the billboard in the distance.

“Y-yep,” gulped Baloo. Well, on with the show…

“You look nervous, Baloo…is there something wrong?”

“Nothin’, Becky,” he replied, then added: “Just…thought we’d be late an’ that.”

As they descended, Rebecca took out her compact from her purse, studied herself in the mirror for a moment and lightly dusted her muzzle, then added quick touches of mascara to her lashes.

 Coming on the approach, the launching lights in the natural harbour lead the Sea Duck to the nearest available docking pier that Baloo moved into.

The businesswoman noticed the substantial traffic in the marina and commented as she unbuckled her seatbelt: “My…this seems like a pretty popular place, considering the location.”

“Well…” said Baloo, shutting down the plane, “Louie knows how ta pick ‘em.”

As she gathered up her purse and stole, Baloo looked upwards and made a mental prayer as she walked out of the cockpit, Man, don’t let Louie screw this thing up.

He unlocked the hatch and they both stepped out of the plane, where two of Louie’s station crewmembers were waiting. “Uh…give ‘er half a tank full an’ don’t monkey with the radio, guys,” he instructed, as Rebecca slipped her arm around his forearm.

“Yes, sir!”

Watching the couple walk away, the two monkeys got an eyeful of Rebecca. “Whoa! That’s the boss lady Baloo’s always complaining about?” commented one of them.

“Hey, if working for her is torture like he says, then chain me to the wall!” said his partner, following a low, appreciative whistle.  

Upon nearing the nightclub, she then made an observation about her pilot.

“Baloo! I didn’t think you owned a tie!”

“I didn’t,” he said, not offering an explanation, before continuing, “Look, Rebecca, ya look real pretty, but maybe you should tone it down, maybe take the jewellery off.”

“Why?”

“Well…” he began uneasily as he opened the door, “this place can be a little –”

Entering the establishment, the two bears saw the place had been tidied up to a point, apart from the Tiki masks that hung in suspension; that even Baloo himself couldn’t recognize. Roughly-patched tablecloths swathed all the tables with lit candles centred for the finishing touch. The waiters and house band – even some of the customers! – were respectfully dressed in jackets and ties.

 “Arriverderci Roma” was played to set the ambience of the evening. A couple of patrons and a waiter winked conspicuously at the pilot letting them know they were in on the game, that all he could do was finally mutter in amazement:

“…rough...”  he finished lamely.

“Ah, Baloo, my best customer!” Louie sauntered up to them in a blue dress jacket and red bowtie, just like the musicians but wearing his familiar hat. He said in an impeccably cultured voice, “And madam, welcome to Louie’s Ristorante of Italiano! I’m Louie, your host!”

Baloo was still dazed over the transformation until the primate brought him out of it by his familiar tone: “Can I seat you, cuz?”

“Um…uh, yeah! Um, Louie, this here’s my boss, Rebecca Cunningham…the one I told ya ‘bout.”

“Ah, yes! My main man’s told me all about you! And don’t you look mighty exquisite tonight, la mia signora cara!” he bowed gracefully with all the charm he could muster, flashing an almost frightening smile at her.

Seems a little unpretentious for a host, but at least he’s courteous…

“Ah…thank you, Louie,” she said politely, but looked at her pilot. “I’ll bet he has.”

 “Let me show you to the best table in the house, reserved for my finest guests,” the orang-utan guided the couple to a quiet booth and handed them both a menu. “Our speciale for tonight is the Agnolotti a la Louie, stuffed with Parmesan, roasted red peppers, leeks and Portobello mushrooms in a basil pesto cream sauce.”

“An Agnes-whatsis?” questioned Baloo.

“It’s oval-shaped ravioli, man.” 

“Sounds scrumptious,” said Rebecca.

“Uh, give us a while, will ya?”

“Sure thing. I’ll be at the bar if ya need me, cuz,” Louie ended with a wink to him and walked away from the booth.

While that was going on, a slick-looking, bushy eye-browed wolf in a fine tailored suit with sideburns and a heavy-set bear wearing a fedora and overcoat, entered the nightclub without much discern from anyone. They casually cased the establishment with their eyes, hinting with a sense of shiftiness, looking for anything out of the ordinary.

Suddenly they were transfixed on the winsome businesswoman and her frippery.

 “Well,” said Rebecca, as she studied the menu, “maybe apologies are in order.”

“Uh, okay…” the pilot said in confusion. “I’m sorry.”

“No, silly!” she chortled. “I mean, I should apologize to you. This place is fantastic!”

Ya wouldn’t have said that if ya saw it last night, hon…

“It sure is,” said Baloo with real feeling. Louie’s plan was working like a charm and the boss lady seemed more than impressed. Feeling more relaxed than he did before, he stood up from the booth and continued: “I’ll get us a coupla Pineapple Juice Fizzers.”

“Okay,” she said as he walked off to the bar.

“Well,” muttered the bear to his partner, whom both set themselves at a table across from the booth, observing the unsuspecting she-bear. “Ya think she’ll be easy?”

“Are you kidding? Look at the guy she’s with,” responded the wolf confidentially. “He sure ain’t no Glark Cable! Must be real desperate.”

“Probably drained the last guy she went out with. Pipe the hardware she’s got.”

“Yeah – and her jewellery don’t look bad, either.”

“Well, you know the script…go to it, Smoothie.”

“Certainly,” the wolf said, rising up and making his way to the booth.

Baloo, meanwhile, made his way up to the bar where Louie was busy with the drink containers. The pilot was still awestruck by the metamorphosis of his favourite stopover, yet a little disheartened by it, too. It made the place look…well, respectable.

“What’ll it be, Fuzzy?” asked the orangutan, wiping the inside of a glass with a dishcloth.

“Two Pineapple Juice Fizzers, Lou. Shaken, not stirred.”

“You got it, man. So…whaddya think of my ‘ristorante’?”

“I gotta hand it to ya, buddy…you definitely got ol’ Beckers believin’ that this is some first-class joint. Ya even had me fooled!”

“Just a clean glass alone would have fooled you, Baloo.”

As Louie mixed the drinks, he took another look at the she-bear and thought: Man! Leave it to Baloo to land himself with such a bodacious boss! An’ did they ever make such a fine-lookin’ couple when they walked in…

         Rebecca discreetly finished adjusting one of her silk hoses from underneath her gown and dropped the hem length back down. She then casually propped her chin into the palms of her hands, looked around the booth and gently sighed with contentment.

         This is really something else…she thought wistfully. I wonder why this place was never mentioned in the latest edition of the Cape Suzette Dining Guide?

“Excuse me, madam,” spoke a well-mannered voice. It belonged to the wolf, smiling brilliantly. “But I could not help noticing you...

Rebecca was slightly surprised, if not finding the stranger somewhat attractive.

“Who? Me?”

Oh dear! I hope he didn’t see anything while I was fixing my garter…

“Yes, you,” he answered in a seductive tone and gently holding her hand, but greedily eyeing her diamond ring. “You are beautiful – the most beautiful creature I have ever seen. Take a walk with me under the moonlight, no?”

Rebecca’s heart skipped a beat. Oh, my!

“Well, if you – ”

Then she remembered. “Oh, wait. I’m with Baloo.”

Losing her, thought the wolf. Better pour the honey to catch the queen bee…

 

 

Meanwhile, at the bar…

“So,” Louie said casually, “your date enjoying herself?”

“Uh…heh-heh,” Baloo laughed nervously. “This ain’t no date, Louie.”

“Ya sure, cuz?” he queried, noticing the wolf patron making his moves on Rebecca in the distance with curiosity and some concern, while Baloo remained oblivious to the scene behind him. “I mean, she is dressed to impress…”

“Nah, ya got it all wrong, man. Becky’s just my boss. Ya know women…they all like ta get all fancied up, even if it’s just to the corner store fer some milk. Yer startin’ ta sound like Kit.”

Louie looked dumbfounded. As much as he loved his best friend like blood, even he had to admit that at times Baloo wasn’t too sharp about certain things, which was why he lost his cargo freight business and the ownership rights to the Sea Duck not too long ago.

Or when he has a good-lookin’ babe within his reach an’ don’t even know it, he thought… 

Sliding next to her in the booth and still holding her hand, the wolf looked deep into Rebecca’s eyes. “The fat bear? Madam,” he gently persuaded. “I do not mean to offend, but he could not possibly belong to one so lovely…so captivating…so adorable...”

She rapidly melted under his spell.

Oh, my

“Well,” she said, looked at him coyly from under her lashes and blushing, “He…he really doesn’t belong to me…he’s…just my pilot…”

Baloo and me?? Please!

“Then, please…honour me with your company, bella.”

“Okay, then,” she whispered, completely forgetting about Baloo.

 The two stood up from the booth and headed towards the exit with his hand placed gently behind her shoulder blades. A warm feeling radiated from his touch, making Rebecca feel very desirable.

“Such a heavenly fragrance you have on, my dear,” he complimented as they walked out the door. “Do I detect Orient Empress?”

“Of course,” she smiled.

His partner watched all of this from their table, chuckling quietly to himself. Hook, line and sucker…

The huge ursine got up casually to follow after a second or two for his partner to get a head start, when he was immediately confronted by one of the knowing “customers” that got in his way. They had seen what was going on the whole time and suspected something was up.

“Hey, fella, what are you up to?” he stated. “You and your buddy leave the lady alone.”

“I don’t think that’s any of your business, Mac,” growled the bear.

“Well, I’m making it my business…Mac,” he retorted, now standing up and getting right in his face.

The bear clenched his teeth angrily. I don’t need this right now

By the time Louie finished with the Fizzers, poured them into two glasses and added the decorative cocktail umbrellas into them, the slick wolf had walked off with the businesswoman. The nightclub owner had unsuccessfully tried to convince Baloo to allow the band to play a couple of slow dance numbers for them, which the pilot politely turned down.

“Here ya go, Joe,” he said, placing the glasses onto a serving platter.

“Thanks, Louie,” replied the grey bear, carting off with the drinks.

Ha! Me an’ Becky on a date, he thought in disbelief. That’ll be the day when the moon falls outta the sky!

Then again…it has been awhile since I’ve been out with anyone…

When he got back to the booth, he noticed it was missing his employer.

“Rebecca –?”

Mebbe she’s in the ladies’ room, he thought at first. Jeez, hope Louie covered the graffiti in there before we arrived…  

It was just then the orang-utan walked up to him.

“Baloo, Rebecca just went outside.”

“Oh? What for?”

“Some shady-looking Don Juan came in with that guy and swept her right outta here,” he informed him, pointing to the menacing-looking bear, who was now in a full confrontation with the patrons and was starting to look nastier by the minute. “I think you better check on her!”

“Thanks, Louie! I will!” he said, charging out the exit door. As he did so, he felt a little upset and some other emotion he couldn’t tag at the moment. What’s with Beckers goin’ off with ‘nother guy for? I thought she was with me!

Seeing his friend take off, the proprietor now turned his attention to the burgeoning fracas. A huge interest from the other patrons was gathering up on both sides of the situation, threatening to explode.

 “All right, what’s going on here?” he demanded, as he walked over to the ruckus. “Who are you, sir? You tryin’ to cause trouble in my place?”

“Lemme go!” shouted the bear.

“Why don’t you mind your own business what the guy’s doin’ here?!” shouted somebody angrily.

“Why don’t you go crawl back in the sewer where you belong?!” someone retorted.

“Why you sonofa –!”

 

 

A crescent moon sailed among the celestial ballet of stars twinkling above Louie’s island reflected in the lagoon, with a warm current wind lapping gently, where the slowly-strolling couple walked along the boardwalk in the atmosphere around them. The wolf had taken the she-bear gently by her waist and lifted her onto the pier stand at the water’s edge.

“To admire you more,” he told her. She just blushed.

And he went on with his romantic praises over her; comparing her liquid brown eyes to highly-polished tiger’s eye quartzes, her charmingly radiant face and sensuously silken fur that he delicately traced with his finger up her arm that sent tingles down her spine, making her shiver delightfully. 

“…and when your hair catches the moonlight,” the wolf continued, now working his hand around her bare shoulder, “you become a silvery dream of loveliness.”

Rebecca giggled like a giddy schoolgirl.

“Really?...”

Suddenly, he expertly unhooked her necklace closure in a whipping motion off her neck so quickly, the shock washed over the businesswoman like an abrupt ice cold shower, made her cry out and jump off the pier stand, stumbling onto the deck.

My necklace!!!

“And your necklace is even lovelier than you!” he growled gleefully.

Baloo heard the cry. He’d recognize that screech anywhere. 

        “Fool!” jeered the mugger iniquitously to his victim, stuffing the necklace into his pocket. “You’re alone with me now! You can’t defend yourself!”

Those words and the malicious look on his face somehow made the trauma in Rebecca dissipate and had now turned into a burning rage, not only over her naïveté, but the taunt of the swindler poking at her ego was more than she could tolerate.

She noticed the empty wooden water bucket beside her.

“Can’t defend myself?” she yelled, shaking her fist at him. “We’ll see about that, buster!”

The pilot saw the trouble on the pier. Man, oh, man, oh, man!!

“Rebecca!” Baloo called out, running towards them. “Rebecca, I’ll save –!

But before he could complete his sentence, the she-bear swiftly grabbed the water bucket and violently smashed it over the wolf’s head in a single arch, making the thief see the entire solar system spin inside his brain.

Witnessing this, the large bear was astonished at her strength and bravery.

 “– you???” he managed to say.

 Whoa – that gal’s got spunk!

“Take that, you rotten liar!!” she shouted, her voice half-breaking with hurt and bitterness.

Staggering back a bit to the edge of the pier, his head swimming in a sea of pain and splinters, the mugger was stunned but livid. Figuring that his partner was going to be a no-show, he decided to take care of this fiery dame himself.

 Gritting his teeth, he shoved his hand into the inner pocket of his suit, pulled out a switchblade that unsheathed its lethal edge with a click slicing the air and gleamed deadly in the moonlight. 

“For that,” he snarled viciously at her, “you pay!!”

Holy mackerel! Baloo and Rebecca both thought in their separate minds. 

The horror returned to her and registered it in an eardrum-piercing shriek.

Baloo now ran faster than ever, a mix of adrenaline and some protective vehemence overcoming him, charged at the would-be assailant with a primal growl.

Rebecca noticed the racing grey blur before her eyes. Baloo!!

He head-butted the unsuspecting mugger into his side with a resounding whump that knocked the wind out of his lungs, sending him and his knife flying through the air at a great distance, splashing into the lagoon.

The businesswoman let out a laboured sigh of relief, clutching her hand to her chest, her heart still pounding. That’s it… she thought pointedly, no more falling for silver-tongued, sophisticated-looking gentlemen from now on!

“Now git outta here!” Baloo bellowed at the now-thrashing thief, who was gasping and trying to stay afloat. “And take your ugly friend with you!”

If anybody’s gonna cut up the Boss Lady, it better be with words – by me!

As the wolf swam away for shore, Baloo turned to his employer.

“Becky! Are ya –?”

“Oh, Baloo!” the petite she-bear exclaimed, running into his bulk in an embrace. “I should never have come here! It’s a rough place and I had no right to manoeuvre you into taking me!”

He was surprised. Manoeuvre me?”

Uh-oh, thought Rebecca with her mouth agape, realising what her tongue had just slipped out. Better come clean on this one, girl…

Noticing that she was so…intimately close to her pilot, she backed off a step.

“I’ve just been feeling lonely – I wanted to get out for an evening, that’s all…and I don’t know many people besides you…”

The perplexed look on Baloo’s face changed to a somewhat amused expression.

“I didn’t think you’d take me anywhere,” Rebecca concluded with a small voice, feeling like a little child caught in a big lie, “just as a friend...”

But he understood. After all, they’d only known each other for just a short while and it was starting to meld out into a relationship that seemed quite stormy over work ethics and certain issues, but at least it was amicable to a certain degree.

Whaddya know…the businesswoman ain’t all business after all.

“Well, I’ll be…you just wanted to have a little fun!”

“Uh, yeah…I’m…sorry...”

Boy, am I dumb. I can’t be this desperate for company…

The pilot just smiled warmly. “Look, Boss…I guess we don’t have too much in common, but fun is universal! How ‘bout we try this again?”

A world of assuagement came upon her with hearing those words.

“Eh…” replied Rebecca sheepishly, “but without the jewellery.”

“Deal!”

‘Sides, he thought, it’d be such a waste to be all nicely decked out in that strapless number fer nothin’... I wonder if Beckers likes ta dance?…

Walking back, the she-bear hadn’t known how Baloo would have taken her confession, knowing that she had used him under false pretences. But she was so glad that he was magnanimous in nature, even with all the hard-boiled attitude and crazy get-rich quick schemes he had to put up with from her since the beginning. He truly was a friend and, as much she didn’t want to admit, a gentleman. 

He may be a lazy slob, Rebecca thought, but he is a really nice guy. Then she added, looking at him, I wonder if Baloo likes to dance?…

“Sorry that ya got robbed of yer necklace back there, Becky.”

“That’s okay,” she said, removing her ring and dropping it in her purse. “I just learned very recently that there are some things not worth losing your life for.”

“Amen ta that, lady.”

Re-entering the nightclub, a full-fledged brawl had broken out amongst the customers, including Louie; in a flurry of fisticuffs, wielded clubs at the ready and projectiles coming from every direction. Rebecca looked at the scene with surprise, then turned to her pilot.

“Is this always like this,” she asked with a sense of sarcastic bemusement, “or should we just take a rain check?”

“Oooo, uh…” began Baloo embarrassingly. “Rebecca, I think we’ll have to start from the beginning…”

A bottle flew by, which they both ducked on cue, smashed against the wall behind them.

“Uh…welcome to Louie’s!”

                                                                  THE END

 

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