“Where the Wild Things Are seems sure to appeal to the sensibilities of a certain cohort of urban young adults — the type who read comic-book novels and wear skateboard sneakers; who might concur with a note I saw one day scrawled on a legal pad in [Spike] Jonze’s office: ‘There is no difference between childhood and adulthood.’” – The New York Times Magazine.
Here I come now: BAM, BAM, BAM; BASH, BASH, BASH down the stairs on the back of my head behind the kid. With each riser, the inside of my skull explodes like Guy Fawkes Day.
The kid always drags me down the stairs, sometimes by the arm, sometimes by the leg, but never the right way. Never the way I want to be held. Ever give a thought to what all that crack-smash-crunch does to a chap? Think Eventual Brain Damage. Major Motor Neuron destruction. I’m no better off than a punch-drunk boxer.
The suffering doesn’t stop there. It’s the same every night: Me on the dirty floor, the kid listening with his marbles out his head while his rich old Da’ tells him the same stories over and over while glamming his eyes me like he’s Warren Buffet and I’m a bloody bottomless ATM. He squeezes my bum and laughs as the millions pour out. Typical imperialist toff! I should've know he'd sell me for a pair of mouse ears.
His little git’s no help to me at all: It’s always about him. That’s how life is when you’re a stuffed animal. They stuff us with their dreams. As if we had none of our own. But it’s not just stuffing and little rugrat dreams in here, behind these big round button eyes. It really isn’t.
As the old duffer starts, I groan: Not this codswollop again. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve heard this one. You know it too, the one about the worst moment of my life—the bloody awful honey tree.
Let me say this first: Not one of you muttonheads has the foggiest idea of what those stories were really about; the real theme that runs like a sewer through all of them. Not a one of ‘em tells the truth of what really happened, out there; the real story behind the bloody hell hidden behind the rustic gates of Cotchford Farm.
But I’m going to tell you. Whether you like it or not. Go ahead. Tell me I’m “destroying the magic.” But how can you destroy a magic that never existed?
The truth is this: of all the stories about all the animals in the forest, there was one animal whose story was never told, whose existence was known only to those of us who lived in the forest and to no one else.
That animal was the monkey who lived on my back--the monkey of honey addiction.
I became a honey addict with my first gulp of that sweet goo. As it melted in my tummy like a soft gold ball and the sugar molecules streamed through my veins, I became hooked. I completely abandoned my usual diet of nuts and berries. My life of rustic English country ease sank into a miserable bog. As my fur quickly encrusted with sugar, I became home to a zillion ants. The others could always tell when I was around by the cloud of flies that followed me everywhere.
No price was too high to get my paws on the sticky stuff. Obsessed with my next fix, I feverishly hustled the others for their honey stash. I pawned every scrap I owned to that cheap crook Rabbit, right down to the bell on my front door. After I sold off everything, I stole Roo’s toys. There wasn't anything I wouldn't do.
Oh, the kid tried to keep me away from the honey jar, even brought the whole forest in for an intervention. But after I mistook Piglet for a beehive in that little striped shirt of his, they all knew they’d lost me. There was nothing to do but wait for me to hit bottom with a bigger thump than the one I made that time I fell into the Heffalump trap.
One morning, I dreamed I was lying under a giant beehive teeming with billions of little honey makers. Just when long yellow strands of honey were dripping within reach of my straining tongue, I woke up screaming, the walls closing in on me, my every nerve end shrieking with agony.
I crawled on my paws and knees across the splintery floor and staggered outside, my fur soaked in acrid sweat. The honey-yellow sunlight only sharpened my hunger into a blunt stabbing knife. (You can see the craving in my eyes in Shepard’s sketch of me sitting outside my front door. It may look like I’m gazing at the sun. I’m actually screaming from withdrawal.)
I couldn’t take it anymore. “Honey . . . honey . . . honey,” I grunted as I crashed desperately through the gorse and bramble until I found what I was looking for—the buzzing of bees. The sound of honey from high above. My desperation was at its pain-filled peak. I would have climbed to the moon at that point.
You know what happened next. Any clod who thinks falling ten meters, spinning around three times and flying into a gorse bush is funny should try it sometime. Let’s see how hard you laugh with thousands of gorse prickers spiking you like porcupine quills!
Afterward, I lay face down in the English country mud, my whole body on fire, and bitterly reviewed my options, none of them good.
Piglet would just go all freaky-squeaky on me; Rabbit would raise an army to invade Iraq; Owl would start pontificating about the National Health Service while I lay groaning and shivering on his doorstep; if Tigger had been around then, it would’ve been a Million Pieces of Pooh all over the forest; Kanga and Roo’s Extract of Malt worked no better than watered-down methadone.
And don’t get me started on Eeyore. The truth is, he was actually only in the story where he lost his tail. Two days later, still racked with pain from where the kid had nailed the new one into his donkey’s bottom, he tied a rock to his hoof and jumped off Poohsticks bridge. (Glug, glug, the lucky sod. Maybe you get now why some of us Cop a Bad Attitude.)
I finally had to face facts: There was only place where I could go, where they had to take me in. To my enabler’s.
I was half-conscious as I crawled to the door of the kid’s tree house. As he plucked the prickers one by one out of my flesh, each pluck like a strummed harp string, he cooked up another one of his great ideas. Anything to keep me dependant on him.
Yeah, you guessed it. The balloon. A typical addict, I’ll jump at any scheme to satisfy my craving, no matter how harebrained. I swam like Michael Phelps from one end of that mud puddle to the other until I looked more a like two-legged fudgsicle than a little floating cloud. But what do bees know?
I’ll never know how the kid trained himself to breathe helium, but before you could say “Where the Woozle Wasn’t” there I was again, my duff dangling ten meters in the air. My rotten luck continued when I floated close enough to see they were really quite the wrong bloody sort of bees—Megachile rotundata. Alfalfa leaf-cutter bees. Not the honey-making sort.
Humiliation hit me like a bricklayer’s punch. I came face to face with the cruel reality of my existence; with how far I’d fallen in the world; how disgusting to myself I’d become. Quivering with self-loathing, I begged the kid to finish it with his cork gun.
But, as usual, reality fell short of the dream. His first shot fixed it so there’d be no Pooh Juniors. The second shot only broke the balloon and down I floated, the hope hissing out me with the helium. I spent the next week with my arms stuck up in the air like I’d been bagged by Scotland Yard.
(You’d think a bloke would learn his lesson, but no, not this sort of bear. Days later, while hustling Rabbit for a fix, I got my biffer’s bottom stuck in his door. Some blokes are just asking to be turned into towel bars. Seems I’m one of ‘em.)
End of story. A bullet of pain shoots through my hip--arthritic from decades of being yanked about by the leg—and it’s WHAP, BONK, THUMP on the back of my noggin up the stairs once again. The kid yells for the old man to watch him take his bath and I think Yeah, that’s it. I’ll drown myself in the bloody bathwater.
I better come up with something, fast. No way am I going to live through another round of stories about the old forest. The other day, Kanga said something about some wealthy Yank named Oprah and how she’s a sucker for stories like mine. Maybe she won’t help me get this monkey off my back, but maybe there’ll be enough quid in the deal to keep the bloody animal fed until I do.
(Photo by Author; bear by Gund, from original E.H. Shepard design).