It's a while since I last blogged (if that's the correct past tense) but now I've decided to do so on a regular basis, maybe at least 4 times a year. I'm going to publish those stories on here which have been rejected a good many times by the magazines, hoping they will find a small readership on the net. The first of these stories is entitled IN WHICH POOH IS SHOT TO DEATH WHILE ROBBING A BANK. Pooh and his friends are now out of copyright. I wrote this story many years ago to amuse children on my visits to schools. Hopefully I will find a wider audience of at least six or seven on my blog pages.
In Which Pooh is Shot to Pieces
While Robbing a Bank
We planned the raid in the basement of a downtown tenement. Pooh was holding forth, saying, ‘I see it this way, Rabbit: we go in, three of us, Eeyore takes the doors, you move to the counter and I stand (he pointed to a pencilled cross on the ground plan of the bank which we had pinned to the wall) here.’ He put his paw on a spot under the bank clock. ‘Then I can see the whole layout: the teller and the clients, and of course, the guard. It’s my special job to cover the guard, so don’t do anything to distract me, will you?’
Eeyore looked up, briefly, from his task of cleaning the guns. His mournful expression revealed his thoughts: we had been through all this, several times, but Pooh needed to travel old paths a dozen times before he felt the knowledge was securely buried in that famous little brain. Eeyore was also aware of the extent of the danger, how desperate this enterprise was. Pooh was a creature of instinct, unable to view possible future consequences. It was his reaction to instinct which led to our downfall, but I attach no blame to the bear. He had been created thus and the fault lay elsewhere.
‘That’s fine, Pooh,’ I heard myself saying, ‘we seem to have it all worked out now.’
I was watching Piglet – poor, unhappy, nervous piglet – playing with a rosery he had found in the corner of the basement, counting the beads and frequently losing his place. Piglet was our wheels man, but I had arranged for Owl to sit in the car with him. Owl couldn’t drive of course, his anatomy not being fit for such a task. Piglet had trouble too, even though the vehicle had been modified to enable use with trotters. Piglet was Piglet, good behind a wheel, but very, very nervous if you know what I mean. Owl was a calming influence. I was just thankful that Tigger was not one of the gang. Kanga had taken him and Roo to Florida some time back, thinking to get work in Disneyland as guides or something. Tigger would have been too gung-ho, would have been bouncing all over the bank, would have begun blasting at the flicker of an eyelash. We couldn’t afford to take the risk on his excited temperament.
I had seen the notices: Bank Robbery is a Federal Offence, Punishable by Life imprisonment. We all knew the possible consequences, and God knows, we didn’t want to hurt anyone, but what the hell was left to us? We had tried everything else, in England, France, Australia and finally, the land of opportunity and cartoons, where characters such as ourselves might find openings in the movie industry, these United States. We had chosen a bad time to migrate, however. There was a recession on, the Wall Street index had slumped so badly people were wondering if it had a prolapsed spinal column and the movie business was suffering from investment malnutrition. I mean, I felt I had a responsibility towards this motley bunch of lovable characters and all my efforts at finding some sort life for us had ended in failure.
Pooh was still talking and reached out for his honey jar instinctively. Piglet cried, ‘Pooh, y-y-you promised . . .’ making the bear pause and frown at his little friend. He stopped his speech in mid-sentence and let his paw drop to his side, the protestations forming on his lips, knowing he had vowed to kick the obsessive habit, if just for the period of the robbery.
‘I wasn’t . . .’ he started to say, but Eeyore snapped a gun breech shut, loudly, the sound startling the whole room. The donkey looked up and said in a gloomy tone, ‘Sorry,’ before putting the oiled weapon down carefully on the newspapers he had spread to keep the carpet from getting stained.
Pooh came and sat beside me, on the overstuffed sofa.
‘There’s too much sentiment in the world, Rabbit– and not enough compassion,’ he said.
I agreed with him for once. I mean, that schmaltzy goodbye at the end of Pooh Corner might be fine for some, but where did it leave the animals of Hundred Acre Wood? Where did we go after that? We couldn’t stay in the forest. There was nothing there for us. The end to our story had not been written in sufficiently definite terms for us to know what to do with ourselves, once we had ceased gambolling through the trees. You can’t live on old, dry leaves and sentiment.
Owl come in from the kitchen. He looked as if he hadn’t slept for a week and his shoulders were hunched. Owl’s weighty concerns were of the type carried by those who worried about the world and its children as opposed to Eeyore’s whose interest was personal doom. Let’s face it, Eeyore held the monopoly on dreary statements in which the word VICTIM appeared in capital letters, bold type, black border round the edges.
Owl nodded at me, but kept quiet, since Pooh was still talking, though to no one in particular. Before we left England, Owl, being the most intelligent of this group of friends, had tried to help Piglet trace his ancestors and build a family tree. They started and ended with Piglet’s famous grandfather, Trespassers Will, failing in their attempts to get any further, even though there were more than one or two Williams on the gravestones in the churchyard abutting the wood. It was a bitter disappointment to Piglet, who even asked a passing sparrow if she had heard the name. ‘He was a writer,’ Piglet told the bird. ‘You can see that. He wrote his own name, or most of it. Perhaps he was interrupted before he could finish it?’ The sparrow said she would look in Highgate Cemetery where several famous authors were buried, including Karl Marx and Bram Stoker, but Piglet never heard from her again.
‘It’s doubtful T.W, was a writer of any kind,’ Owl told me privately, ‘given that Piglet’s ancestors – if of the same make-up as our friend – would have the attention span of a butterfly. Yes, he could obviously write his own name – the sign bears witness to that – but a whole novel or manifesto?’
I had to agree with him. He was a wonderful guy, Owly. I loved him like a brother. I loved him because he spoke good sense, and he knew, he knew the fate of each one of us was inextricably bound up with the fate of us all. He once said to me that we were like the beads of Piglet’s rosery, strung together, inseparable. When one of us suffered, we all suffered. There’s a French term for it: Folie a deux, malady of two, but it could equally apply to multiples. Heck, one of us only has to get a cold in the head and we all walk about in the dumps.
Pooh was talking too loudly again. ‘It was all too open-ended. A feeble fade-out, leaving us wondering what we were going to do now the last full stop had gone on the last sentence of the last book. Look at Alice’s adventures. She gets crowned queen and then wakes up in bed realising it was all a dream. She could get on with her normal life. We didn’t have that luxury. We were just left in limbo while that traitor Christopher Robin walked away to his normal life.’
I said, ‘That’s not quite fair, Pooh. Chris had to go. He was leaving childhood behind him. You can’t blame him for growing up.’
‘Oh, you, Rabbit. You were always his favourite,’ growled Pooh, savagely.
Pooh almost never growled like a real bear, so I thought it best to leave him to chunter on for a while. I could have pointed out that the two books were named after him, so the idea that I was Chris’s favourite was laughable. But there was little point in arguing with him when he was in this mood. I watched him kick a table leg and knew I was right to allow him to seethe on his own.
‘I don’t even know what I am,’ cried Pooh, his paws high in the air. ‘What am I?’ For a moment I thought there were tears in his eyes, except I knew they were glass so that was not possible. ‘Am I a toy? An animated toy? It’s all so vague. It doesn’t say, anywhere, exactly what I am, or what you all are.’ He choked back the full force of his anger. ‘Christopher knew,’ there was resentment in his tone. ‘He knew what he was, all right - a real flesh and blood creature. Oh, yes. No worries there, for the wonderful Christopher Robin. But the rest of us were just left in a state of hollow ignorance. Bloody right.’
Piglet was staring at his best friend with wide terrified eyes, his little front trotters shaking so much they were clicking against each other.
I decided I had to intervene again, even if it meant a shouting match.
I spoke quietly. ‘Have you ever stopped to think, Pooh. Do you ever, stop to think? What are we all doing on this desperate enterprise? Good grief, robbing a bank? Thieves, perhaps murderers if we have to use these weapons Eeyore got from us in Chicago. You aren’t helping, you know. We’re all in this together and if you lose it now, we’re done for. Each and every one of us will end up with nothing and our pockets and a jail sentence to boot. We’re relying on you to stay strong. I think you can. I think you’re made of stern stuff, that’s who I think you are. A bear of little brain, perhaps, but one with a strong backbone, a bear with grit and full of purpose. I admire you.’
He calmed down and looked contrite. ‘Am I really? Grit?’
‘Yes, you are. A true friend. Solid and steadfast.’
‘Thank you, Rabbit. I’m sorry, I truly am.’
Eeyore muttered, ‘When you two have stopped kissing each other . . .’ and handed me a thirty-eight, modified for a rabbit’s paws and fully loaded. ‘I’ll use the machine gun,’ he said. ‘I want them to remember Eeyore. This donkey’s going out in style. All my life I’ve been full of self-pity, whining and moaning about my condition, but by the lush green grass on the old millpond’s bank, they’ll know Eeyore’s been in town.’
Piglet cried, ‘Wha . . . what does he mean? I want them to remember? We are going to pull this off, aren’t we?’ His tone was full of anxiety.
I wish then I could have painted the picture for him, of just how it might go, so that we had the choice of dropping the idea there and then and letting it lay where it fell. Even then I think we might still have gone ahead. We had come to the end of the line. There was nothing more for us. Our fate was inextricably bound to the idea that we would either end up rich, dead or in prison.
How it went in the end.
How Piglet panicked once the alarms started ringing and despite Owl’s protest roarrf away from the scene, only to bury the Chevy in the concrete corner of 2nd and 30th, killing them both instantly.
How Pooh, once a junky always a junky, took his eyes off the guard, when the word ‘money’ was mentioned, thinking he had heard something else.
And Eeyore, spraying the ceiling with a whole mag of slugs, careful not to hit anyone because that was Eeyore’s way.
And then Pooh – Pooh, lying on the cold tiles, blasted to pieces by the agitated bank guard, an ear by the door, a leg torn off and guts spilling out through the wounds ripped in his stomach by the guard’s forty-five.
Pooh, his voice full of shocked surprise, saying, ‘Jesus and Mary, look what’s coming out of my belly – common fluff and sawdust?’
Then he said, ‘Rabbit, get going, get out of here. Don’t worry about me.’
One of the customers leaned over his scattered remains and cried, ‘It’s Winnie-the-Pooh!’
‘Don’t call me Winnie,’ croaked the bear. ‘I hate that name.’
We had had our good times, in the Hundred Acre Wood, when none of us knew what was in the stars for us. Blustery days, campion days, days full of bees and honey, when searches for the Small were organazised by Pooh and stornery twee rhymes filled the flower-scented air. Days when the wind got tangled in the trees and days when weak winter suns formed a haze of light behind the wickerwork of branches. Gone, all gone. Every one.
I told all this to Kanga, when she came visiting me in the slammer. I saw the sympathy behind her eyes and I had to look away because there was a lump in my throat. But what do you do, when it’s all over, no hope of another book and no one needs you because you’re out of date, too old-fashioned.
Afterwards, I sat in my cell and thought about Pooh’s last words, as he lay strewn over the floor of that damned bank:
‘At least this is a real ending, Rabbit. I suppose that’s all we could have hoped for – what we all wanted, deep down. It certainly wasn’t the money.’
Now we’ve written our story, without any help from anyone else. Some may call it a tale of failure, but when you consider Eeyore’s suggested title - In Which Pooh Discovers that Death is a Happy Ending – well, you can see we look on it as a success story. I didn’t use Eeyore’s suggestion because I am
the author and the author always gets to choose his own title. Ha!
Anyway, we were all involved and we all went down together. Even Tigger and Roo, who were in Miami when they heard the news. The pair of them went on a rampage, busting up the town. I hear Tigger bounced some seventeen cops before they took him down in a hail of lead. I wish I could have been there to see it.
And wherever Tigger is now, and Pooh, Piglet and Owl, well, I just know it’s better than that misty limbo we found ourselves after Pooh Corner.
Maybe they’ve found that elusive heffalump at last?