Owl zigzagged under the canopy of the forest, meandering in his stupor, but still managed to reach each of the other inhabitants of the Hundred Acre Wood. The animals gathered back at Piglet’s oak tree, bewildered.
“Now what’s this all about, Owl?” asked Rabbit, with just a hint of annoyance in his voice.
“Yeah, why’d ya summon us all out here to Piglet’s house? I was in the middle of giving little Roo here a lesson in jumping.”
“Oh, Roo! I didn’t see you there in your Mama’s pouch. I’m not so sure this is going to be an appropriate chit-chat for the little guy to hear.”
“I’m not little!” cried Roo. “Look at how high I can jump!”
The tiny Roo took a great leap into the air, giggling. When he landed, he reached up to rub something wet from his ear.
“Mama, what’s this stuff? It came dripping down from the sky!”
“Roo, dear, it must just be some rain. Let me see—oh my!”
Kanga rubbed the blood from her son’s ear and then covered them both as much as her tiny paws would allow. She whispered to Owl, “What…is up there? Do you know?”
Owl waited for the congregation to settle down and give him their full attention.
“I’m afraid to say that tied with rope to the highest bough of this tree is the mutilated corpse of Christopher Robin. And someone here is the murderer.”
“What! No!” gasped Kanga.
“Christopher? It can’t be!” declared Rabbit, stumbling backward.
“Wait a second. You’re pulling our tails. That ain’t Christopher Robin up there. Must be some kinda critter or somethin’. I’ll bounce up and see for myself!” announced Tigger.
“It’s true,” Owl explained grimly. “Feel free to sojourn to the macabre site and confirm my testimony, Tigger, but be forewarned—it is a traumatizing vision if ever there was one.”
“If poor Christopher really is up there, don’t you think we ought to untie him and bring him down?” suggested Kanga. “It…it seems like the right thing to do.”
“That’s right, Kanga. At least we can give our friend a—a proper burial,” Rabbit said with a lump in his throat. “He’d appreciate that.”
“I don’t know how much he can appreciate it if he’s dead,” Eeyore murmured.
“Tigger, Owl, you two seem best suited for—well—for getting up to the top of the tree. Why don’t you go and bring—bring our friend down,” suggested Rabbit, his eyes sunken beneath raised brows.
“Do you think you can m-m-m-manage without any help?” asked Piglet, tugging the scarf around his neck.
“Tiggers don’t need any help! I’ll have him down in a jiffy. I’ll just need Owl for the, er, rope thingie. Tiggers don’t untie knots.”
And so Tigger bounced from limb to limb up to the top of the tree where he met Owl. When he saw the mangled remains of his human friend, Tigger swooned, but Owl caught his tail in his beak and pulled his friend back up. Owl picked at and pulled free the knots while Tigger held the exsanguinating cadaver as far away from himself as his furry arms would allow. Owl then circled Tigger with the rope so that, much to Tigger’s horror, the bleeding corpse of Christopher Robin was tied snugly to Tigger’s chest. Owl swooped down to the ground while Tigger hopped down the tree gingerly so as not to drop the body.
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
“Blech! Next time, one-a-youse is goin’ up the tree!”
“Now, Tigger,” cooed Kanga, “Let’s show a little more respect. Our dearly departed friend—
“Would that he had departed. Then I wouldn’t have this red stain on my feathers,” Owl muttered.
Kanga continued, “Our very dear friend Christopher deserves—
“A burial!” shouted one voice.
“A funeral!” called another.
“A good scrubbing!” suggested a third.
“He deserves,” little Roo wiped his damp eyes and nose with a paw, “he deserves justice.” The crowd fell silent. “Whoever did this has got to pay.”
The animals were uneasy. They shifted from side to side, their eyes scanning the ground and occasionally glancing at the bloodied flesh of the little boy before quickly averting their eyes. Whenever one felt the urge to speak, he opened his mouth but then promptly shut it, realizing his breath refused to carry sound. The wind had subsided, and the clouds had moved south.
Suddenly, the ground beneath them began to tremble. While Roo hopped back into his mama’s pouch, and Owl flew up to a nearby branch, poor Winnie the Pooh teetered over and fell backward onto the soft dirt.
POP! A small hole in the earth opened up at Pooh’s feet, and a startled Tigger bounced away on his tail at full speed.
“Tsay…” whistled Gopher, “What’s with all the long faces?”
One of Roo’s ears peeked out from Kanga’s pouch and twitched in curiosity. His head emerged tentatively. Roo looked around for his friend and mentor, Tigger, who was nowhere to be found.
Pooh wobbled to his feet and brushed the dirt off his bottom.
“Well, Gopher, it’s been a rather difficult morning.”
“Yes,” added Piglet, “rather difficult indeed. You see–
Gopher, who never had very good eyesight, squinted to better perceive the white and red object before him. Realizing, finally, what it was, he lept out of his burrow into the air, and immediately dove right back into it.
Rabbit frowned. “He certainly left in a hurry.”
“I can understand,” cooed Kanga, “he and Christopher weren’t very close, and it really is such an awful sight.”
“Quite astute, Ms. Kanga. Perhaps he felt little obligation to commemorate the boy, and his absence may be for the best,” Owl suggested.
“Speaking of absence,” Rabbit added, “Has anybody seen Tigger?”
No one had seen him disappear.
“Now now, let’s not be hasty,” urged Piglet.
“But it is curious, isn’t it? He’s strong enough, he can climb a tree, he’s a tiger for goodness sakes!” Rabbit was in a tizzy now, his eyes ablaze. “Those things are downright carnivorous!”
“Carnivorous, yes…”murmured Owl thoughtfully, recalling the field mouse he’d hunted but failed to capture two nights before. His tongue suddenly filled his beak, and he had to consciously hold back the saliva that threatened to expose his hidden desires. Owl cocked his head to the side, away from the corpse. His heart raced as he shifted forward in order to hide his talons behind his wings.
“But Rabbit, dear, Tigger doesn’t have the temperament for this kind of savagery.”
“Doesn’t have the temperament? Why, that animal is about as hotheaded as—as—
“As you are?” Roo proposed.
Rabbit’s blood boiled. He reached out to grab at the youngster when he suddenly became very aware of how he must look to the others. His big buck teeth receded into his mouth, which he consciously slackened. With a slow, deliberate breath he relaxed the muscles of his face and body. The tips of his ears, until now stiff and pointed straight up, gently folded down.
“You’re right, Roo. I do sometimes get a bit, er, testy. But unlike some of us, I’m still here.”
“Ah, yes, but I read somewhere that criminals often return to the scene of the crime, relishing their depraved deeds,” Owl stated solemnly.
Kanga pitied Rabbit, who she felt was being unfairly targeted.
“I don’t think anybody here is capable of something as awful as this. It would take someone with deep psychological problems—
“Abnormalities, hidden demons, the inclination for antisocial behavior and depression…” interrupted Owl.
All eyes turned to Eeyore, who had wandered toward the body detachedly. Not noticing the silence of the crowd, he sniffed the carcass and then shuffled back, his eyes to the ground.
“Yes,” said Rabbit coolly, his beady eyes narrowing on the donkey’s slow moving body, “someone prone to depression would seem a bit suspicious.”
At this Eeyore looked up.
“I guess it looks like that’s me. Well, if you want to blame me, go on ahead. Doesn’t make much difference, anyway.”
In a burst of affection, Piglet scampered to the donkey and patted his back.
“Oh, Eeyore. Nobody thinks it was you. After all, you can’t climb a tree. And donkeys eat grass, not people.”
“Yeah!” exclaimed Roo, eager to share his knowledge, “Donkeys are herby-doors.”
“Herbivores, dear,” his mother said gently, proud that her son had almost learned such a big word.
“Well, if that’s the test, then Eeyore, Kanga, Roo, and I can all be counted out!” cried Rabbit triumphantly.
The midday sun shone hotly in the clearing, exacerbating the odor of rotting meat. The animals agreed to bury the body right where it had landed, and hold a memorial service.