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"Behold, the mighty grizzly!" Ranger Beth said as she stood beside Boog, a giant grizzly bear. The crowd at the amphitheater loved him, and they exploded with applause as Boog rode around the stage on a tiny unicycle. Boog, loving the attention, flashed a huge grin to the audience.
"We rocked the house, didn't we, Boog?" Ranger Beth said to the giant grizzly bear beside her as they walked through the amphitheater's backstage door. Boog grunted in agreement. He was huge, with long teeth and sharp claws. But Beth had raised him. Now Boog performed in Timberline's Wildlife Show. On the outside, he was a grizzly bear, but on the inside, he was more like a teddy bear.
"They were eating out of our hands!" Beth said excitedly. But suddenly the smile vanished from Beth's face. Parked next to her jeep was a familiar truck. A one-horned deer was strapped to the hood. The other horn was just a broken stump. "That's Shaw's truck!" Beth fumed. "You wait here, Boog."
Boog climbed into the back of the jeep while Beth went into the Fish and Game office to talk to the truck's owner. There were still three days left before open season, but Shaw had obviously started hunting early. Beth was going to give him a piece of her mind.
Yawning, Boog settled down into the back of the jeep. But a weird noise jolted him awake. It sounded like it had come from the deer.
Leaning over the side of the jeep, Boog poked at the deer with a stick.
One eye popped open. "Aaaaahh!" cried the deer, whose name was Elliot.
"Aaaaahh!" shouted Boog. He jumped back in fear.
"Am I dead?" Elliot asked.
"Not yet," Boog said.
Elliot looked around. "Untie me?" he begged. "Please? I don't want to be mounted on a wall!"
Boog shook his head. "Ain't gonna be able to do it."
Just then, Beth walked out of the office. "Boog, come on," she said. "Let's get out of here."
"Come on . . ." Elliot whispered to the bear once Beth had turned her back. "Pleasepleaseplease!"
Boog rolled his eyes and sighed. Finally, he reached over and slashed at Elliot's ropes, freeing him. "Hey, go on, now," Boog said as the jeep started to pull away. "Scamper back to the woods, little buddy."
"Buddy?" Elliot repeated as Boog disappeared. "He called me 'buddy'!"
Just then, Shaw burst out of the Fish and Game office. He had seen Boog untie Elliot from the office window. "My buck!" he screeched.
Shaw took aim at Elliot as he darted away, but Sheriff Gordy stopped him. He reached out and pushed Shaw's rifle down.
"Shaw, no shooting in town!" Gordy said.
"But, but Gordy," Shaw sputtered, "that bear leaned over and untied my buck!"
Gordy laughed. "Shaw, you've been living in the woods too long."
Shaw snarled. He knew what he'd seen. And he was determined to get even.
"Good night, big guy!" Beth said softly to Boog. It was nighttime and Boog had just snuggled in bed with his tiny blue teddy bear backpack, Dinkelman.
Beth sang Boog the special lullaby that always helped him drift off to sleep. Once his eyes were closed, she tucked a blanket over him and closed the door to the garage. "Good night, Boog," she whispered again.
A strange noise startled Boog. He looked up.
Boog frowned. Someone was tossing rabbits at his window! "Who's there?" Boog called.
Outside, Elliot tossed another rabbit at the window. "Hey, buddy!" he said, shoving his head in the window. "It's me, Elliot! I'm bustin' you out of here!"
Scrambling into the garage, Elliot started shoving Boog toward the door. "Let's book it before the warden makes her rounds."
Boog didn't budge. "Nah, nah, cornflake, you got it all twisted," he explained. "This is my home."
Elliot blinked in surprise. He looked around the garage. It was half empty. The other half was crammed with junk -- empty bottles, rusty tools, a TV.
"Sweet!" Elliot said. He started to explore. "So soft," he said as he jumped up and down on Boog's bed. In a flash, he darted into the bathroom and started unrolling the toilet paper.
"Whoa! What are you doing in there?" Boog cried.
Elliot zipped around the garage. "Ooh, who's this little guy?" he asked, picking up Boog's teddy bear.
"Dinkelman!" Boog cried.
Elliot laughed. "Is Dinkelman your . . . doll?" The deer looked at Boog's food bowl and bed. "Oh! I get it!" he said. "You're like a pet!"
"I ain't nobody's pet," Boog huffed. "I come and go as I please."
Elliot opened the garage door. "Well, then . . . let's go!"
Excerpted from Best Buddies by Julia Simon-Kerr Copyright © 2006 by Julia Simon-Kerr. Excerpted by permission.
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