The Race at Pooh Corner
“The thing you need to remember about Pooh,” said Tigger, “is that his brain is very, very small and filled with fluff. Great guy, I love him, we’re terrific friends, but even the animals who hang out with him most call me up on the phone all the time and tell me they can’t believe how dumb he is.”
The other animals tittered nervously. Yes, it was a mean thing to say, and most of them doubted Tigger even owned a phone for Pooh’s friends to call him on. Still, Pooh was a little dim. A few of the animals in the audience had the common decency to look about and make sure no one who knew Pooh very well was within earshot. But even they chuckled a little.
Tigger, who was always first and foremost an entertainer, waited until the titters and guffaws were just about played out. Then, right at the precise moment when everyone was sure they were done having a giggle at the bear’s expense, he began bouncing around on his tail, eyes crossed and tongue lolling. In a high-pitched, lisping voice that sounded nothing at all like Pooh’s, he began to yelling at the top of his cotton-stuffed lungs, “Duuuh! Look at me! I’m Pooh! I’m so dumb I don’t even know my name means turd! I have a little brain, and sometime I wee my bed! Duuuuh!”
It was the weeing the bed bit that finally broke the dam, and the crowd’s guilty snickers blossomed into full-on belly laughs. Tigger waited until everyone was just catching their breath before he hit them with his closer, the line that young staffer from Schenectady had written a few weeks ago but that Tigger knew was too golden not to hold onto until just the right time.
“So if you go to the guy’s rally next week and he wants to to give you a firm handshake when he asks for your vote, just ask yourself, ‘Do I really want to get Pooh on my hands?’”
Tigger sat smiling his tiger-s**t eating grin as the animals howled for what seemed to be forever, and when they finally began to retain their composure he brought it all home.
“No, seriously, he’s a wonderful bear. I love the guy. We’re just terrific friends, believe me. But who, really, do you trust to make the Hundred Acre Wood great again?”
* * *
“Tigger,” growled Pooh, “is an asshole.”
The campaign staff tried to avoid looking shocked as they stared uncomfortably at the floor. It wasn’t that they didn’t all think Tigger was an asshole; they did. They called him an asshole all the time amongst themselves. Hell, in the break room someone had put a picture of Eeyore bending over to pick up a twig, and photoshopped right where there should have been donkey sphincter was a headshot of Tigger. Hearing Pooh say “asshole,” however, was jarring. Hearing Pooh use any kind of curse word was like seeing a newborn kitten come after your jugular. Even though it was impossible to take seriously, the whole surreal nature of the thing was somehow terrifying.
Besides, no one really knew what to say to Pooh. Tigger wasn’t supposed to still be in the race at this point of the election, let alone the frontrunner. When he’d thrown his name in the hat, everyone had assumed it was just some sort of his high jinks. “Classic Tigger,” everyone had said at the time, shaking their heads. They all assumed he was probably drunk when he entered the race, and common wisdom at the time held he would quit within a week or so.
Another thing folks assumed back then was that Tigger would apologize for besmirching Rabbit’s many friends and relations in his first campaign speech. Rabbit’s kind were “pouring into the Hundred Acres Wood,” Tigger had declared to the other animals. They were all gnashgabs, mumblecrusts, and fustylugs, he’d insisted. 1 Tigger promised to chase them all out of the forest. Better still, he’d mused one night after an especially spirited rally, he might just go hunt them for sport where they lived and hang their pelts on the trees of the the Hundred Acre Woods. Not, he was quick to note at the time, that he would hang them in a tacky way. Tigger assured the crowd he would hang the pelts in a totally classy way, a way that all the great art experts and interior decorators would agree would be amazing and beautiful, and everyone would say that those trees would then be the best trees in the world. It was all too much for Pooh, who, when he heard about it, called for everyone to please settle down and remember that they were all friends.
To Pooh’s surprise, however, it turned out that pretty much everyone in the forest hated Rabbit and his friends and relations. Rabbit was, after all, an insufferable busybody and know-it-all, who could — if we’re being honest — be kind of a dick. No one could understood how he was connected to the veritable menagerie he referred to as his “friends and relations,” none of which ever seemed to be rabbits. Some of them were even bugs, which everyone knows are totally gross and disgusting. So yes, sure, the animals of the forest liked Pooh well enough. But if Tigger could make it so they didn’t have to suffer through Rabbit arrogantly sniffing over how they’d planted their gardens all wrong or didn’t understand art the way people with Rabbit’s education did, well, maybe that was all for the best. Slowly but surely, the foregone conclusion of a Pooh victory crumbled under the calls for a new kind of leader.
Those who remained loyal to the bear couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about. Every day, Tigger would declare himself in favor of some policy position by stating that said position was “what Tiggers liked best.” But then the next day he’d declare that Tiggers liked some other different position best — sometimes it was even the opposite of the position Tiggers had liked best the previous day! Pooh’s supporters were gobsmacked that no one else noticed these discrepancies. If anything, they were stunned to notice, Tigger’s refusal to maintain a position just made people more pro-tiger.
For a while the Pooh camp’s hope had been that Tigger would eventually cross some line to such a degree that everyone would stop taking him seriously. They were pretty sure that the tiger’s making fun of Pooh’s name — a name given by Christopher Robin! — would finally be that line. So it was with great suspense that they all waited for the latest polling numbers, flinching at Pooh’s use of the word “asshole.” When the courier finally arrived with the poll’s results, everyone crammed around Pooh’s desk, craning their necks over one another to watch the bear read the latest numbers. Pooh stared at the paper he held in his paws for a few minutes, his face utterly expressionless. Then he put the results down on the desk and sighed.
“Bother,” said Pooh.
* * *
From then on out, it just got uglier.
There was talk — open, unfiltered talk — from the Tigger staff of an interspecies romantic relationship between Pooh and Piglet. When Pooh refused to distance himself by condemning pig lovers in the press, Tigger labelled him weak at best and a pervert at worst. Later, after it was all over, many in the campaign’s inner circle said that it was around the time that crowds began hurling pieces of uncooked bacon at him that Pooh seemed to lose his focus and begin drinking. He would show up to debates reeking of mead, his responses to questions slow and his words slurred.
And then, of course, came the day when Roo was shot by poachers.
It happened just one week before the election, and the death stunned the forest. The single silver lining, as far as Pooh was concerned, was the hope that the tragedy might bring the forest back together, that the animals might finally wake up from their fever dream and remember that they were, more than anything else, friends. At the funeral it certainly seemed that way. Pooh and Tigger both gave eulogies, along with Owl, and each called for healing. Afterwards there were tears, and hugs, and promises from everyone to never forget how precious each animal was. And for the first time in months, Pooh began to hope that it might all turn out all right — which, of course, just made it that much harder to read the newspaper headline the very next day.
The front page editorial, The Problem with Our Inner-Forest Marsupials, was penned by Tigger, of course. In it, the tiger said up front that, yes, what happened to Roo was a certainly a terrible tragedy, because who would ever wish such a fate on one so young? Still, he continued, you couldn’t help but wonder where Roo’s father was in all of this. He even went so far as to slyly wonder if Kanga even knew who Roo’s father was. The problem with marsupials, wrote Tigger, was the fundamental breakdown of their basic family unit, which led to lives of drugs, crime, and beastly behavior. It was why, he mused, most animals were afraid to venture near the homes of koalas, wombats, and wallabies.
As he read the editorial, Pooh tried to remember a time he’d heard of anyone being afraid to go anywhere in the forest, but couldn’t. Neither could anyone he asked. Still, the following days were filled with letters to the editor and call-ins to local radio stations from various animals condemning both the marsupial lifestyle and the forest’s double standards surrounding it.
“You notice that if you ever call one of them a pouch-breeder, they get their snouts all out of joint, and everyone accuses you of being speciesist,” noted one radio show caller who identified himself merely as Steve from near the pond. “But have you heard the music they listen to? It’s ‘pouch-breeder this,’ and ‘pouch-breeder that.’ It’s a sign they have no self-respect, so no wonder they’re so worthless.” The radio host said that made sense, and then he and Steve from near the pond agreed that, really, Roo probably had it coming.
* * *
The election wasn’t even close. Tigger won by a landslide. The onslaught was so one-sided that, when he did the math in his head, Pooh realized that most of his campaign staff must have voted for the tiger along with everyone else.
In his acceptance speech, Tigger thanked Pooh for being stupid and a loser, giving the animals such a clear choice. Then he invited everyone to drink all of Rabbit’s wine, and the animals partied throughout the night. Amidst the dancing and revelry, however, there was real and serious talk of making real and serious change. The animals laughed and congratulated one another, sure, but they also began to plan amongst themselves which species would need to be driven from the forest, which ones would need to be restricted to which low-wage jobs. It would be hard to tell those on the short end of the stick what was coming, of course, and in truth each hoped someone else would be the one delivering the news. Even so, the excitement was palpable.
It was morning in the forest, and the Hundred Acre Wood was about to be great again.