Goldilocks awakened to find herself surrounded by 3 bears: a great big bear, a medium-sized bear, and a little Baby Bear.

She screamed in terror and tried to run away, but the great big bear grabbed her and held her between his giant paws. His claws touched the flesh of her neck, but they didn’t press inward. Not yet.

"Growarrrrrr-grrrrrrr-aaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrggrr," the big bear roared.

Goldilocks did not speak bear.

"Garrarrgr, roo-rooorgahrg," said the medium-sized bear.

The Baby Bear just seemed to be whimpering.

Here is what they were really saying:

"Where do you think you’re going, you little juvenile delinquent?!"

"Dear, be careful. You’ll crush the poor thing."

"She’s scared, papa. Let’s just let her go."

"This human broke into our house," objected Papa Bear. "He destroyed our property, and stole our food!"

"I think," said Mama Bear, "that this human is female. She, not he. And anyway, it was Baby Bear’s property, and he wants you to let her go!"

"Yes, papa. Please let her go."

Papa objected: "Unless Baby Bear is about to declare himself an independent adult, he isn’t the one who has to pay to replace the chair!"

"Won’t Ursa Mutual pay for the damage," asked Baby Bear.

"Not if we let this girl go," said Papa Bear. "They’ll want her for restitution."

"But they don’t even know we found her in here," Baby Bear replied. "We can say we found the house empty."

"You would lie to our surety group?" asked Papa Bear. "We raised you better than that, Baby Bear. And we raised you smarter than that, too. Not only is it unethical to commit that kind of fraud; it’s dangerous, too."

While the big bear growled endlessly, Goldilocks started to sob. He didn’t seem to notice. "If they found evidence that the girl was still here and we lied about it, they could cancel our policy. With insurance fraud on our record, who would cover us? We’d be outcasts. Letting her go is out of the question."

"I’m afraid we can’t report this to Ursa Mutual anyway," said Mama Bear, staring fixedly down at her hind paws. "I don’t think she broke in."

"What do you mean?"

"I may have … well … I think I may have left the door unlocked when we went for our walk."

Goldilocks felt the big bear’s grip tighten.

"It’s possible," said Mama Bear, "that I might have even left it open."

For a while, the only sound was the sobbing of the human girl.

At last, the big one began growling again.

"She entered uninvited. She damaged our property. She stole our food."

"Yes," agreed Mama Bear, "but with no sign of forced entry, why would they pay? They’d just flag us for not following their minimum security rules. It’s not worth reporting. It could cost us more than we’d recover."

"Please, Papa…" but Baby Bear did not continue.

Goldilocks felt the grip loosen. She fell to the floor, scrambled back onto her feet, and ran away as fast as she could.

Papa Bear walked back into the living room and sat down in his great big chair. It may have been too hard for Goldilocks, but to him, it felt just right. He put his head in his paws. "We’ve been violated," he said. "And you two just made me let the little criminal go."

"But Papa, you taught me that forgiveness is good."

"That creature never apologized to us. Forgiveness is irrelevant. To her we’re just animals."

"I think I can fix this chair," said Mama Bear, picking up the pieces.

"You know the humans don’t live in anarchy," said Papa Bear. "They wouldn’t balance costs and benefits. They’d just punish the criminal."

"How in the world can they afford to do that?" asked Baby Bear.

"They just make everyone pay."

"Even the victims?" asked Mama Bear, horrified.

"Even strangers?" asked Baby Bear, incredulous.

"Everyone," said Papa Bear.

"Well who does that help?!" asked Mama Bear.

"That’s the same as everyone being robbed all the time!" said Baby Bear.

"Maybe so," said Papa Bear. "I don’t know. But sometimes I can see the appeal."

"Well," said Mama Bear. "I think that sounds perfectly barbaric."

"I’m sure glad we’re not human," said Baby Bear.

"No, I suppose it’s better to be a bear," said Papa Bear. "But let’s make sure to keep our doors and windows locked, OK? I don’t want to have anything more to do with these people."