As though we didn’t have enough problems in Paris already, what with facing a cold snap, eyeing a presidential election in May and stomaching a surge in the rat population, now we have wolves roaming the streets. Or at least that’s what one British tabloid would like its readers to think.
This particular publication, which shall remain unidentified here except to say that its name anagrams to “I’ll I.D. a yam,” has come to my attention before for its francophobic tendencies, when it snidely derided the city of Paris for removing the ugly and destructive “love locks” from the Pont des Arts (as reported by France’s foremost hormono-fadologist here). Now, apparently growing desperate for things to ridicule across the Channel, it has published a story with a headline proclaiming that “wolves are roaming in Paris.”
Having not noticed any wild predators, paw prints, discarded sheep’s clothing or late-night howling (of the non-human kind) on my block, I read on, suspecting that the author was literally crying wolf.
And my suspicions were well-founded — unlike the alarmist article itself, which was based on a decidedly unalarming bit of news: a wolf-watching association has reported evidence (mainly droppings and eviscerated deer carcasses) of three wolves in the distant Paris suburbs.
To be specific, their presence has been detected in the Essonne and Seine-et-Marne regions, which means that — according to my hasty calculations on a GPS app, measuring from the closest borders — the nearest the fearsome beasts could have gotten to Paris is still a good seven miles from the Périphérique and 10 miles from Notre Dame.
But! But! But! The newspaper then informs us that when a wolf was spotted last year 200 miles from Paris (implying that it was the closest sighting at the time, which also seems iffy), an unnamed “expert” pointed out that wolves can travel 300 miles a day “regardless of motorways and railways.”
So there! If you believe everything you read, it means that that wolf could have got up in the morning in Belgium, had his daily coffee, croissant and deer entrails, and been sauntering down the Champs-Elysées by midnight!
On the other hand, if you don’t believe everything you read — especially when what you read says that a medium-sized mammal can run 300 consecutive 4.8-minute miles without a break, leaping blithely over fenced-off rail lines and busy six-lane freeways — you start to wonder what other sources might have to say on the subject.
So I did a little research, and the person quoted in that article seems to be the only wolf specialist on earth who is aware of their supercanine speed and stamina. The results of a search for “wolves/travel * a day” averaged 20 to 30 miles, which sounds rather more realistic. The highest figure I found was 100 miles, and that was for starving wolves in urgent need of new chomping grounds.
But facts are no fun! So let’s suppose that the 300-mile estimate is accurate. Given that London is 214 miles from Paris, and that wolves can also swim (sez here), it would mean that our three French howlers could be prowling the street right in front of that UK newspaper’s headquarters tomorrow. Strangely, its journalist forgot to mention that. Probably just ran out of space.
In any case, all of this untamed speculation about Canis lupus failed to put fear in my heart. But it did plant a thought in my mind about a classic, lupocentric children’s story that, I decided, needs to be updated for 2017:
The You-Know-How-Many-And-How-Big Pigs — An Allegorical Tale
Once upon a time (or at least we hope it only happens once, for god’s sake), there were three not-so-little pigs. The first and third pigs lived across a stream from each other and the second pig lived on the other side of a large pond.
They had a history of cordial relations, but they weren’t exactly best buds. They belonged to various clubs, sports leagues and discussion groups together, but Pig One thought that Pig Two was a loudmouthed boor who couldn’t speak or spell proper English, Pig Two thought that Pig Three was rude and cowardly, and both Two and Three thought that Pig One was pompous and ate terrible food, although they both admitted that he was a terrific singer.
All three pigs were scared slopless by one thing: the Big-But-Not-Actually-Bad-At-All Wolf. Their real problem wasn’t with the wolf himself, who was well-behaved and kept them supplied with firewood from the forest, but with his obnoxious young cousin, the Small Rabid Cub, who had a habit of lashing out unexpectedly, causing pain and suffering.
But since they had trouble telling the two apart, the pigs decided to do something to keep all wolves away from their doors.
Pig One was the first to take action. He surprised everyone by quitting all of the clubs that his neighbor Pig Three belonged to, while insisting that they were “still good friends.” In doing so he cut himself off from the barnyard community, making his house more isolated and theoretically safer, but also a more remote and less appealing place — “the sticks.”
The next day the wolf came to his door and said, “I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll… Aw, to hell with that crap. Seriously, sir, this speciesist behavior is unproductive and ill befits a leading feedlot figure of your stature. Have you no concept of your own best interests? Allow me in and we’ll all ultimately end up better off than ever.”
And the pig said, “Not by the hair of my — oops, I mean your — chinny-chin-chin! And cheeks.”
Whereupon the wolf said, “Oh grow up,” and went to see Pig Two.
Meanwhile, Pig Two had announced that he had a secret plan to defeat the Small Rabid Cub but refused to tell anyone what it was. To no one’s surprise, it eventually turned out that his plan was made of straw.
In fact, just about everything about Pig Two was straw, including his hair. To tell the truth, he was no Arnold Ziffel: although he lived high on the hog, the only sharp thing about him was his squeal.
When the wolf arrived, Pig Two was talking to the mice and other rodents, bragging about how he was going to build a wolfproof wall out of bricks.
The wolf said, “I’ll pant and I’ll rant and I’ll… This is becoming tedious. You guys need to use your heads more.” Then he went home to Google fake nude photos of Red Riding Hood.
As of this writing, Pig Three hasn’t taken any action, but his house is scheduled for refurbishment in May. More than a dozen architects have put in bids for the job, all promising to build something “concrete” — stronger than sticks, straw and even brick.
We’ll have to wait and see what the third pig does, hoping that he doesn’t end up with a house that tilts precariously to the right, like Pigs One and Two. And after that, all three not-so-little pigs can get busy with their next project: trying to spin straw into gold.
An album of David Jaggard’s comic compositions is now available for streaming on Spotify and Apple Music, for purchase (whole or track by track) on iTunes and Amazon, and on every other music downloading service in the known universe, under the title “Totally Unrelated.”
Note to readers: David Jaggard’s e-book Quorum of One: Satire 1998-2011 is available from Amazon as well as iTunes, iBookstore, Nook, Reader Store, Kobo, Copia and many other distributors.