Don’t worry; I’ve still got a fair number of weeks of Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fiction before I get back to stuff I have to work to write. The last several weeks, and the next several, I’m looking in detail at Arthur Scott Bailey’s 1915 children’s animal-adventure book, The Tale of Fatty Coon.
We met Fatty Coon, a fat raccoon who likes to eat, and then saw him get beaten up by a goshawk whose eggs he tried eating. He then went on to successfully eat a turtle’s clutch of eggs, so you know who it is we’re dealing with. What does he eat, or try to eat, this week? Read on …
> FATTY COON’S MISTAKE
TOM: Not getting editorial approval on this hit piece.
> Fatty Coon was very fond of squirrels.
CROW: Oh, Lord.
> And you may think it
> strange when I tell you that not one of the squirrels anywhere around
> Blue Mountain was the least bit fond of Fatty Coon.
MIKE: Is there anybody here that likes Fatty Coon?
CROW: There’s flocks of locusts that admire his work.
TOM: But even they won’t share a room with him.
> But when I say
> that Fatty Coon was fond of squirrels, I mean that he liked to eat
CROW: Yeah, yeah, we kinda saw that one coming.
TOM: People reading other stories saw *that* one coming.
> So of course you will understand now why the squirrels did not
> care for Fatty at all.
MIKE: Because the last three chapters didn’t make it clear?
> In fact, they usually kept just as far away
> from him as they could.
TOM: It’s as though they aren’t looking for chances to die.
> It was easy, in the daytime, for the squirrels to keep out of
> Fatty’s way, when he wandered through the tree-tops, for the squirrels
> were much sprier than Fatty.
CROW: But then the trees are sprier than Fatty.
> But at night—ah! that was a very
> different matter. For Fatty Coon’s eyes were even sharper in the dark
> than they were in the daylight;
MIKE: And his mouth was twelve hours bigger.
> but the poor squirrels were just as
> blind as you are when you are safely tucked in bed and the light is
> put out.
CROW: Now I want to get squirrels their own night lights.
MIKE: I want to check I’m not going to get eaten by a raccoon in my bedroom.
> Yes—when the squirrels were in bed at night, up in their nests
> in the trees, they could see very little. And you couldn’t say they
> were SAFE in bed,
TOM: Are they literally beds or nests or? I’m trying to work out the anthropomorphism level here.
> because they never knew when Fatty Coon, or his
> mother, or his brother, or one of his sisters, or some cousin of his,
> might come along and catch them before they knew it.
MIKE: Oh, good, it’s not just his protagonist he hates, Arthur Scott Bailey has it out for every raccoon.
TOM: The important thing for children’s animal fantasy is make your lead character as much like a serial killer as possible.
> Fatty thought it great sport to hunt squirrels at night.
CROW: He loves his reputation as an unstoppable random death-bringer!
> Whenever he tried it he usually managed to get a good meal.
TOM: So frogs stump him but squirrels are easy?
> And after
> he had almost forgotten about the fright the goshawk had given him in
> the tall hemlock he began to roam through the tree-tops every night in
> search of squirrels and sleeping birds.
CROW: It’s like they say, when you fall off a bike you have to get back up and eat it.
> But a night came at last when Fatty was well punished for
> hunting squirrels.
MIKE: At this point any punishment is a good start.
> He had climbed half-way to the top of a big
> chestnut tree, when he spied a hole in the trunk. He rather thought
> that some squirrels lived inside that hole.
TOM: ‘I’d leave then in peace but it’s been two hours since I ate the last five hundred passenger pigeons!’
> And as he listened for a
> few seconds he could hear something moving about inside. Yes! Fatty
> was sure that there was a squirrel in there—probably several
CROW: Maybe one squirrel, two chipmunks, and a groundhog serving in an advisory capacity?
> Fatty Coon’s eyes turned green.
TOM: Cyborg raccoon!
> It was a way they had,
> whenever he was about to eat anything, or whenever he played with his
> brother Blackie, or Fluffy and Cutey, his sisters; or whenever he was
CROW: Or when his laser batteries are running low.
> And now Fatty was so sure that he was going to have a fine
> lunch that his eyes turned as green as a cat’s.
TOM: Cyborg cats?
MIKE: This is why nature just isn’t a good idea.
> He reached a paw
> inside the hole and felt all around.
CROW: ‘Hey, there’s nothing in here but a paw-remover!’
> WOW! Fatty gave a cry; and he pulled his paw out much faster
> than he had put it in. Something had given him a cruel dig.
TOM: A … ?
CROW: Somebody really got at his paw’s emotional weaknesses.
> And in a jiffy Fatty saw what that "something" was. It was a grumpy old tramp
> coon, whom Fatty had never seen before.
CROW: What makes a *tramp* raccoon?
TOM: Raids the trash bins on a freight train I guess?
> "What do you mean, you young rascal, by disturbing me like
> this?" the ragged stranger cried.
CROW: He can call Fatty that because ‘rascal’ is a raccoon word.
TOM: They’ve reclaimed it.
> "Please, sir, I never knew it was you," Fatty stammered.
> "Never knew it was me! Who did you think it was?"
MIKE: I dunno, but I’m reading this with a W C Fields vibe.
> "A—a squirrel!" Fatty said faintly. And he whimpered a little,
> because his paw hurt him.
TOM: He sees what it’s like to get eaten some.
> "Ho, ho! That’s a good one! That’s a good joke!"
CROW: [ As the tramp ] ‘Thinking a squirrel might be hiding in a squirrel-hole in a tree! A rich jest, yes. Now let me get back to eating these squirrels.’
> The tramp
> coon laughed heartily. And then he scowled so fiercely that poor Fatty
> nearly tumbled out of the tree. "You go home," he said to Fatty. "And
> don’t you let me catch you around here again. You hear?"
MIKE: Or your paw shall get more digs and a few sharply barbed comments!
> "Yes, sir!" Fatty said. And home he went. And you may be sure
> that he let THAT tree alone after that. He never went near it again.
TOM: Wait, was that his well-punishment?
MIKE: Sometimes having to talk to someone is punishment enough.