Writing

Murder in the Hundred Acre Woods Part 3: The Secret

“Are you positive this is the proper place to bury him?” asked Piglet, wary of establishing the gravesite so close to his front door.
Eeyore, Rabbit, and Kanga were digging with their hooves and paws.  The young kangaroo kicked at the dirt playfully.
“Aw, come on, Piglet,” teased the boy, “it’s not so bad.”
Piglet stared at the corpse as Kanga and Pooh wrapped it in a bed sheet.  He looked around nervously for an ally, but finding none, resigned himself to the fact that his home would forever be haunted by the murder of Christopher Robin.

Pooh suddenly felt a rumbling in his tummy.  It was typical Pooh, of course, but the symptoms were anything but.  Rather than hanker for honey, the bear yearned for something richer.  Something…meaty.  As he helped Kanga with the makeshift shroud, his snout brushed against the cadaver.  He wiped the sweet smelling blood from his nose, and as Kanga carefully wiped Christopher’s dirty face clean with a rag, he licked his paw.  Guiltily, Pooh quickly scanned the group.

His eyes met Piglet’s, and then Owl’s.  As the young pig’s mouth began to water and the bird’s talons tapped the tree branch, they silently conspired to meet again, hidden by darkness, to pay final tribute to their friend.  He would not have died in vain, they told themselves.

 

“Chris!  Chris, honey, wake up,” Sheila whispered, shaking her husband’s shoulder.  He was having another nightmare.
Sheila, an attractive brunette with a wide smile and glittering turquoise eyes that distracted from the crow’s feet that had begun to appear in her early thirties, first noticed a change in her husband’s sleeping after their daughter was born.  Beth, a tiny ten-week old replica of her mother, stirred in her bassinet.

Sheila had counted herself fortunate for dodging the postpartum depression her friends had warned her about.  She suspected, however, that Chris was silently struggling with the change in their family structure.  The playfulness and imagination that had attracted Sheila to her husband-to-be five years earlier had mutated into hyperactivity and paranoia.  She secretly hoped he would take it upon himself to seek psychiatric treatment or counseling, and had feigned interest in seeing a therapist herself in order to leave hints in the form of business cards around the house.
Chris shot out of the bed like a pistol.  A stunned Sheila turned toward the baby instinctively.  She heard him march toward the nursery, his breathing loud and uneven.
Sheila slid out of bed and tiptoed into the hallway.  Peering through the doorway of the nursery, she gasped.
Chris tore at the plush toys adorning the windowsill.  He had saved them, all these years, for his future children.  The donkey with its pinned-on tail, the rabbit that had once been snowy white but over the years had accumulated a grimy coat, the mother and baby kangaroos, the owl, tiger, and his favorite teddy bear.  Stuffing spilled out of their seams as limbs flew across the room.
Exhausted, Chris sank to the floor in tears and sweat.  Sheila opened her mouth to speak, but her frightened voice was too quiet for him to hear over his own weeping.  She called his name once more, and he turned his head, his brow raised in desperation, his eyes pleading.
“I don’t know,” he managed between sobs.
“You loved those toys.  What happened?”
His eyes settled on a walnut sized knot in a floorboard in front of him.

“I don’t know why I kept them.”  Chris shivered.  “They were gifts from my dad.”

Sheila caught a gasp before it escaped her throat.  Chris had alluded to his strained relationship with his late father, and she had guessed the reason.  She’d had a friend growing up whose uncle had done the same thing, and that friend had had the biggest collection of Barbie dolls of anyone in their class.

“I can’t end up like him.  We can’t let that happen.”
She stroked his back and held him close.  They sat on the floor, among the carcasses of his former friends, silently united in their dedication to their newborn baby girl.  No, they would not let it happen to her.

Murder in the Hundred Acre Wood Part 2: The Suspects

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.

Murder in the Hundred Acre Wood Part 1: The Discovery

The Hundred Acre Wood has always been a pleasant, peaceful place.  But this morning, the Hundred Acre Wood was too calm.  An eerie silence permeated the forest, and when Piglet went out to sweep his front yard he noticed something different about the TRESPASSERS WILL sign in front of the large oak tree that was his home.

“What are those dark red drippy spots doing on my sign?  Oh, dear!” he exclaimed, as more droplets fell, covering both of the Ls so that the sign now read TRESPASSERS WI.

“This is highly unusual,” Piglet remarked, clutching his broom.  “I’d better go ask one of my friends for help.”

Piglet shivered as he placed his broom beside the large hollow that served as the front door to his oak tree home.  Tying his scarf tight, he scampered off to his friend Pooh’s house.

 

“Oh, bother.  Who could be knocking on my door so early in the morning?” Pooh wondered as he scratched his sleepy head.  “I haven’t even had my breakfast!”

“Pooh Bear!” Piglet shouted, knocking furiously on his friend’s front door, “Come out quick!  There’s something you must see!”

With a yawn and a stretch so wide that it popped the stitches on his round tummy, Pooh got out of bed, smacking his lips in anticipation of breakfast.

“Oh, Piglet!  What are you doing here?  Care for some bread and honey?” Pooh asked, tying up the loose stitches on his belly.

“Breakfast?  There’s no time to eat!  Please, Pooh, you must come quick!”

“Oh, Piglet.  There’s always time for breakfast!  Sit down and tell me what’s the matter,” Pooh said soothingly as he stepped onto his footstool and reached for a jar of honey atop the high shelf.

“Well, I was just out sweeping my front yard, when I looked up at the TRESPASSERS WILL sign, you know, the one my great grandfather Trespassers William put up so long ago.  There were big red drippy marks all over the sign!”

“Big red drippy marks?” Pooh asked through a mouth full of honey.  “I wonder what those could be.”

Piglet wringed his hands with worry.  “What should we do?”

“We shall think!” announced Pooh, hopping down from his chair.  Pooh licked the honey from his paw and set out to his thinking place, followed by an anxious Piglet.

“Think, think, think,” muttered Pooh.

“Oh golly, Pooh, I just don’t know what to do!” cried Piglet.

“Think, think—I’ve got it!”  For a Bear of Very Little Brain, Pooh had stumbled upon what he suspected was a very clever idea indeed.

“What shall we do, Pooh?”

“Who always has an answer?”

“Who?” asked Piglet.

“Who indeed!”

Piglet was perplexed.  “Who, Pooh?”

“Yes, ‘who!’”

“Pooh, who always has an answer?” pleaded Piglet.

“Why,” smiled Pooh, “the one who always says ‘WHOOO,’ of course.  Our dear friend Owl.”

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Owl’s tree house was still this morning, as there was no wind to sway the branches.  Still, a dozing Owl rocked gently in his old wooden rocking chair, a book resting on his downy chest.

“Owl!  Oh, Owl!” called Piglet.

At this, Owl awoke with a start.  Brushing off some of his molting, he swooped to the door and opened it to find two frantic friends.

“Piglet, Pooh!  Good morning to you both.  What brings you here so early?”

“Well, you see Owl, Piglet saw something…something funny this morning, and—”

“Something funny, you say?  Well, I’m always up for a humorous distraction from the tedious regimen of daily life.  Say, what sort of jest have you to share?  A farce?  A limerick?  A witticism?”

“A what-i-cism?” asked Pooh.

“Er, no Owl.  It isn’t joke-funny,” clarified Piglet.  “It’s just…odd funny.  I saw something unusual and wondered if you could help.”

“Ah, I see.  Well, why don’t you take me to the location of this mystifying spectacle, and I’ll do my utmost to assist you two in deciphering the conundrum.”
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Looking up at the TRESPASSERS WILL sign, Owl scratched his chin with his wing and frowned.

“Tell me, Piglet, does this oak tree ever sprout vermilion vegetation?”

“Verily, er, what now?”

“Owl,” Pooh interrupted, “would you explain what you mean in smaller words?”

“Ah, but of course.  Piglet, what I mean to ask is whether or not this tree of yours ever grows red berries or fruits or some such thing. If so, that could be your answer!”

“Not that I’m aware of,” muttered Piglet, kicking the dirt.

“Perhaps I should make closer inspection—er, that is, I can fly up and take a look,” offered Owl.

“That would be a great help, Owl.  Thank you ever so much.”

“Anything for my two best chums.  Perhaps, Piglet, you could prepare me a cup of tea and a sandwich for when I return.”

“Of course, Owl, gladly,” beamed Piglet, dashing into the safety of his home.

“Now then, Pooh, stay there and I’ll let you know what I discover from above,” Owl instructed.

With a running start, Owl flew up and navigated the thick branches with expert precision.  However, he saw nothing amiss.

“See anything up there?” Pooh called.

“Nothing of note, I’m afraid.  Ah!” cried Owl.  “Hush down there.  It seems there is in fact a dripping coming from above.”

Owl followed the sound, hopping from one branch to the next, until he reached the tippy top of the tall oak tree.  All at once his grey feathers began to molt and he dropped through the foliage, heavy as a rock.

THUMP!

“Oh, my.  Owl, are you alright?” asked Pooh, rushing to his fallen friend as quickly as his tubby frame would allow.

Owl blinked.  “Pooh, my chap.  I cannot—I should not—I dare not recount the horror to which I have been witness.”

“Owl!  Oh, Owl!  Your tea is ready.  I hope you like honey sandwiches.”

“Honey sandwiches!  My dear Piglet, what a thoughtful surprise,” exclaimed Pooh.

“What’s the matter, Owl?” inquired Piglet.

Owl shook off the leaves from his downy coat and staggered to a stand.

“There’s no tea can erase the image of what I’ve seen this morning.  Perhaps something stronger…” Owl muttered to himself, eyes wide with dismay.

“Er, well, I may have some brandy leftover from Christmas.  Why don’t you come inside?” Piglet offered.

“Brandy, yes.  That will do.”  Owl followed Pooh and Piglet into the house with the ungainliness of a rusty tractor.