They Were So Cuddly Way Back When

As a child of the 80s, I remember the Care Bears. As a heroin addict in the 90s, I remember some other stuff, too.

Leave it to Ryan Sayles to bring those two worlds together in one twisted nightmare.

The Were So Cuddly Way Back When by Ryan Sayles

“Last time you missed the vein,” Grumpy Bear said as I thumbed the plunger.

“Do it again and it’ll cost you, bitch.” That was his favorite nickname for me. For some reason it was worse than when Funshine Bear would call me a “cunt stick.”

I made sure I had a good lock on Grumpy’s vein—he had rollers like a mutherfucker so I had to really pin it down; phlebotomists worldwide eat your hearts out—and drove in the needle. The room held their collective breath as the smack went home. I swear his vein itself quivered under my grip like it was its own entity that was blackened and addicted to this junk. For a split second I saw it had a mouth, open and accepting the needle as I squirted it inside. Licking its lips. Grumpy let out a satisfied sigh and leaned back. I pulled the needle just as Cheer Bear stuck her arm out.

“Hit me once with the slow stuff before ol’ Bedtime over there comes over for the eye opener. Bitch.” That little demoralizing tag. Cheer knew how to twist the knife.

I wish they didn’t share needles. They share everything; dope, nightmares, me. I think about bringing it up again just for sanitation’s sake but decide to just get the spoon and keep my mouth shut.


The Bears showed up somewhere near 3 a.m. a month back, dead hooker in tow.

I was sacked out in my bedroom. Minding my own business. Got released from the halfway house just a week prior. Mom took me back in. Got my old room. Parole required me to have a job so Mom knew she’d be getting rent or else she could just call my PO and get me gone.

I had made a mess of everything for a while. Some bad decisions. Cost me some time in the pen. Got REGISTERED OFFENDER printed across my ID in all red caps. I swear cops can smell it on me. I get fucked with more now than I ever did before I had something to lose. Everybody wanting to know what the RO is for.

I never tell.

Anyway, That night. Man, that night. I was fast asleep when all of a sudden I couldn’t breathe. I wormed and struggled but no go. I needed to inhale. My eyes fluttered open and one of them was sitting on my chest, one paw gripping my mouth closed and the other paw ready with a dirty shiv. I tried to scream.

Shadows had long since fallen over everything in the room, but I could clearly make out the four-leaf clover on this thing’s chest. A merry accompaniment to the gag and pigsticker. As I tried harder to get some sound out, Good Luck Bear just leaned in on my teeth. My jaw ached.

A second Bear hovered in from the side. “Shut up, bitch.” Grumpy Bear. One of his ears twitched. I found out that ear—his left one, half-missing because one of the others Bears bit it off even though I remember owning a Care Bear toy as a kid and my neighbor’s dog chewed it off when I left it outside—when it twitched, someone was getting hurt. I involuntarily looked over to my lampstand. The ’shrooms were still in the bag. I’da been much more at ease if I knew I was tripping balls. But I didn’t eat them. This was sober me. This was reality.

“Yup,” one of the other Bears said as it plopped into my armchair over in the corner. Fingers drummed on the armrests. Kicked its feet up on the recliner. “We’re movin’ in.”

One of the others giggled. Giggled the way I’d imagine a clown with a hard-on would when it first entered on to the playground. “You’ll learn to love it.”

Good Luck Bear put the shiv to my left eyeball. It had that tickle/scrape like that one that comes from a sore throat you’ve coughed beyond raw. He snarled, said, “Get you a shovel. And a saw. This here dead hooker bitch ain’t gonna disappear herself.”

My mind spun. Sickening circles. My heart filled my throat every time it pumped. All I could taste was the warm, scared meat of it. Logic was never my friend, but I knew it to be better than this. I could hear a slow trickle from the hooker. She smelled of body odor, bad decisions and urine. That brine and copper stench when you get a whiff of the inside of a human body. Too surreal. A nightmare of decomposing flesh and cherry red lipstick. Too real, and at the foot of my bed. 

I got the saw.


“You about outlived your usefulness, cunt stick,” Funshine said as I was getting up off my knees.

Everything had turned gray in the weeks that passed. Sunk below the bottom. By now I’d forgotten when they arrived. Felt like years. My boss called. Fired me. My PO called. Warrant for my arrest. My mom would bang on the door. Trying to throw me out. I started using the drugs the Bears always had on them just to delude myself into thinking life was still fun. Still worth living.

I spit in the toilet and regarded myself in the mirror for the thousandth time. Too thin. Too gaunt. Bags too dark under my eyes. The mutherfucking Care Bears standing behind me, always in a shadow. Always with those eyes crawling all over me. Everywhere I go.

“I think you’re right, Funshine,” I said. He gave me a gruff hhhmmmffff and went where I couldn’t see him anymore. With the rest of them.

I opened the cigar box where I kept their smack. Did up a fat wad. Found a vein. I heard my mom answer the front door, heard radios squawking, heard someone say the word warrant.

“Way to cash out, bitch,” Cheer Bear said as I drifted off, needle dangling from my elbow.

“Fuck all y’all,” I said, but they followed me down into that black hole, growling and dehumanizing me, laughing. I was sobbing long after my heart blew out.

Ryan Sayles is the author of Subtle Art of Brutality and Warpath, two hardboiled detective novels out or forthcoming through Down & Out Books. His novella Goldfinches is forthcoming from One Eye Press. He has over two dozen short stories in print, online and in anthologies, including the Anthony-nominated collection Trouble In The Heartland. He may be reached at VitriolAndBarbies.