Having passed pristine through the hands of Christopher Robin and relatively unscathed through those of his children, Winnie-the-Pooh was now in the hands of the grandchildren and feeling the strain. The daily bump-bump-bump of his head on the stairs was taking its toll. He did not find thinking things through nearly as easy as he used to, and now he thought about it, he had never found it particularly easy in the first place. ‘Perhaps,’ he thought, ‘that’s what comes of having a head stuffed full of kapok.,’ although he had not the faintest idea of what kapok actually was and even less of a clue if that was what a bear of a certain age had stuffed in its head at all. Whatever it was he had stuffed between his ears, he was pretty sure that it was not nearly as densely packed as it used to be. ‘Perhaps that’s why I can’t erhm… can’t… Oh dear, what is it I can’t?’ thought Pooh. ‘Oh dear, I can’t remember. What is it I can’t remember? I can’t remember. Oh dear…’ Pooh sat on the bottom stair to collect himself. ‘Kapok,’ he mused. ‘Was it kapok? Oh dear, I forget. What is kapok?’ To calm himself, Pooh hummed a little hum he had just composed.
What is kapok? Goodness knows!
It must be something I suppose.
Perhaps it fills my head and toes
And possibly my down-belows.
Or is it sawdust in my head
That’s drained down to my feet instead
And trickled out through loosened thread
To join the fur-balls that I shed.
Whatever is inside of me
Is falling out as you can see
And taking consequentially
What little brain there used to be.
Pooh was very happy with his hum and he would have given it a tune if he hadn’t forgotten the first verse before he hummed the last…
Some time later, Pooh was tramping across what remained of the Hundred Acre wood – a small area of scrubland, bedecked with broken bicycles, burned out cars and soiled and soggy bed mattresses, in the middle of a semi-derelict housing estate – when he bumped into Piglet. ‘Where are you going?’ asked Pooh.
‘Why,’ said Piglet. ‘I’m not sure, but I believe I am going to the same place as you.’
‘In that case,’ said Pooh ‘I shall join you.’
And so Winnie-the-Pooh and Piglet tramped off together to find out where they were going.
‘How do you think we will know when we get there?’ asked Piglet.
‘Well, I suppose that after we get there we will start going back,’ said Pooh. ‘So then we’ll know.’
‘Why of course,’ said Piglet. ‘I would never have thought of that.’
Presently, some time after Winnie-the-Pooh had stopped to pick some dog shit out of his fur with a stick, Owl fluttered down beside the friends. Having lost all of his forebears to poisoned rodents, Owl was attempting to embrace a vegetarian diet – and it was not agreeing with him. ‘In the old days,’ he moaned, ‘I could cough up a pellet the size of a Mars Bar. Full of fur and bone. You really knew I’d been there. Now what do I cough up? Don’t know? I’ll tell you. Seeds! That’s what I cough up now, seeds. Nature’s stealth bomber, that was me. The silent killer. The nation’s favourite raptor. And what am I now? I’ll tell you. A budgie, that’s what I am. A bleedin’ budgie.’ He swivelled his head evilly through 360°. ‘I miss the taste of pulsing flesh, blood and bone,’ he said and licked his beak in a way that only owls can do.
‘I miss honey,’ said Pooh sadly. ‘I’ve written a little poem about it.’
‘Oh Gawd!’ said Owl.
‘Would you like to hear it?’
‘No!’ chorused Owl and Piglet.
‘Very well,’ said Pooh, clearing his throat with a little cough.
Soft and yellow, sweet and sticky
Eating it with paws is tricky.
After just a jar or two
I would be stuck up like glue
Long ago, in times that’s been
I would lick my paws quite clean,
But now everything I eat is
Governed by my diabetes.
‘I hate flippin’ porridge’ said Pooh with a distant look in his beady glass eyes. ‘And I really miss honey.’
‘And I,’ grumbled Eeyore, who had been following them quietly for some time. ‘I miss my tail.’
‘Eeyore,’ said Pooh. ‘I didn’t know you were there.’
‘It would seem to me,’ said Eeyore morosely, ‘that that is the story of my life.’
‘What is?’ asked Piglet, who had been momentarily distracted by an earwig under his vest.
‘Nobody knows I’m here,’ groaned Eeyore. ‘Or cares…’
‘I care,’ said Pooh. ‘You still owe me a fiver.’
Owl had fluttered around to the rear-end of Eeyore and was examining his rump closely. The button that had once held Eeyore’s tail in place was long-gone, leaving just a stub of severed threads. The tail itself, it was said, lay amongst various bags of assorted household effluvia at the local landfill. A small open seam close to its original location was held together with a rusting safety pin.
‘Perhaps,’ said Owl, ‘we could pin you a new tail there.’
‘Oh could you?’ said Eeyore. ‘That would make me so…’
‘Happy?’ suggested Winnie-the-Pooh.
‘Happy,’ said Eeyore. ‘Whatever that might be.’
So, whilst Eeyore stood beside a rusting shopping trolley contemplating his posterior, Winnie-the-Pooh, Owl and Piglet began to search for something that would make Eeyore a new tail.
‘It’s a shame Tigger can’t be here to help,’ said Piglet.
‘He seldom leaves his house,’ said Pooh. ‘His top is still made of rubber, but it’s lost all its bounce. His bottom has no spring…’
‘We should go and cheer him up later,’ said Piglet.
‘Too late,’ said Owl, looking at a watch he kept tucked under his wing (God knows how). ‘He’ll be on the outside of a bottle of Scotch by now and sleeping it off under a tree as usual. We could try tomorrow.’
‘Perhaps I could hum him a cheerful hum,’ said Pooh.
‘No,’ chorused Eeyore, Piglet and Owl, just a little too quickly for Pooh’s liking.
‘I think he just needs rest,’ said Owl.
‘But…’ began Pooh, when Piglet interrupted him excitedly.
‘I’ve found just the thing,’ he cried, holding up a short length of frayed, orange nylon rope. ‘It doesn’t quite match the rest of you, Eeyore, but it will hang down just like a tail.’
Eeyore almost smiled. ‘Do you think anyone will notice that it isn’t really a tail,’ he asked. ‘Me being grey and it being orange and nylon and all. Will it make me look younger? Will it turn back the sands of time? Will it make me more desirable to other donkeys?’
Owl polished the thick, bottle-glass lenses of his spectacles, rested them back on his beak and looked earnestly at Eeyore. ‘It will look,’ he said ‘just like it had never fallen off… in an orange, nylon kind of a way. And at a fraction of the price of a transplant.’