I ran to my husband, waiving the book. "Holy shit! Holy shit! It's the Tawny Scrawny Lion!"
"What do you mean "what's that"? It's the Tawny Scrawny Lion. Don't tell me you've never read this."
"I've never read it. I've never even heard of it."
I had to brace myself against the kitchen counter. What could it mean? My husband grew up in a genteel, palm-lined section of Miami. His parents were smart, successful, and good looking. Shelby spoke fondly of good friends and a warm family life.
But was it all a lie? Had I married some stranger, some man with a gaping hole in his heart where there should be the happy tale of a needy lion befriended by a ragtag band of bunnies?
I handed Shelby the book. "You need to read this."
He cracked the thin spin. It had been decades since I'd last laid eyes on old Tawny Scrawny.
Shelby took one look at the lion and screamed, "I'M GARY BUSEY!"
|I'm Gary Busey!|
|Then who the hell am I?|
And with that, my husband took my living, beating childhood in his hand and he squashed it. He killed it. He ruined my childhood. He plastered googley eyes and big goober teeth on everything I have ever held sacred.
It took two Cadbury Cream Eggs, a handful of pastel M&Ms, and the butt-end of a chocolate lamb to settle my nerves. But I couldn't unsee Gary Busey. I opened up my son's copy of Tawny Scrawny Lion and read it with new eyes, with new, big, crazy-ass eyes.
And, so okay, maybe the book is a little different than I remember.
Let's take a closer, critical look, shall we?
So, to start, there's the lion, ol' Tawny Scrawny, who has a taste for the following: bears, zebras, camels, elephants, monkeys, and kangaroos. This would indicate to me that Tawny Scrawny hails from a zoo. Or a game reserve. Or Pangea.
Tawny Scrawny's problem isn't that he can't find food; it's that his food is mobile. Our poor lion friend is wasting away from chasing after his prey. Tawny is hella bummed about this situation, as are the bears, zebras, camels, elephants, monkeys, and kangaroos whom he brutally kills.
The animals try to convince Tawny Scrawny to maybe, pretty please, stem the tide of blood. But Tawny Scrawny is like, "It's all your fault for running away."
And the animals are like, "Uh. . . ?"
So T.S. elaborates, "If I didn't have to run, run, run for every single bite I get, I'd be fat as butter and sleek as satin."
Tawny Scrawny is nothing if not goal oriented.
Recognizing the futility of reasoning with the lion, the other animals band together to trick a fat, friendly rabbit into becoming Tawny Scrawny's next meal. Sociopathy, it would seem, runs rampant in Pangea.
"We appoint you to talk things over with the lion," the animals explain to the rabbit, knowing full well that Tawny Scrawny is going to pop that bunny in his mouth like a furry pizza roll. But the rabbit is honored. The rabbit is psyched. The rabbit is like, "Hip hop hooray!" which makes exactly zero sense, because the rabbit is clearly the smartest mammal in the bunch; he's wearing pants and a natty little vest while the others are just standing around in the nude. And the rabbit's eyes are normal -- as in not terrifyingly dilated. Every other beast in this storybook looks like its been huffing butane.
But, for whatever reason, the rabbit agrees to chat things over with the lion. In fact, the rabbit invites the lion to supper back at the rabbit village. Fortunately, Tawny Scrawny gets a big ol' murder boner at the thought of laying waste to an entire bunny population, so, rather than nomming him on the spot, he follows our fashionable rabbit friend home.
As the unlikely pair make their way to the village, they stop for stew supplies along the way: fish, carrots, mushrooms, berries, and herbs. Tawny Scrawny, no dummy, thinks this stew sounds like an unholy health slurry. But he doesn't really care. Why have carrot soup when you can cram your big Gary Busey-looking mouth with hot bunny guts?
But, lo! When the duo arrives in the village, broth is already at a full boil. The smell is so intoxicating that the lion forgets to eat the rabbit and his family. Instead, the lion slurps up the stew with a gusto normally reserved for disemboweling bears, zebras, camels, elephants, monkeys, and kangaroos. Mmm mmm. Carrots, berries, and fish!
Personally, I'm not sure how that stew could smell or taste like anything other than fermenting trash. So maybe there was something else in that stew. The residents of rabbit village did look awfully energetic. I'm not gonna come right out and say drugs were involved. But . . . meth.
Right, so T.S. eats the hell out of some nasty stew. After a few bowls, he's looking pretty plump. "Fat as butter and sleek as satin," to be exact. Which just sounds greasy I guess. Like a suckling pig or a Popeye's buttermilk biscuit. By the end of his meal, and I quote: "He felt so good and fat and comfortable that he couldn't even move." Ah, yes, food paralysis. Maybe this story takes place in America after all.
The point is that one good meal does the trick. One meal. So someone really needs to find the recipe for this stew and share it with all the Third-World countries.
Notably, the stew softens not only the lion's figure, but also his heart. As long as the rabbits cook and cater to his every whim, Tawny Scrawny agrees to scale back on the butchery. In celebration, the bears, zebras, camels, elephants, monkeys, and kangaroos join Tawny Scrawny for a peaceful communal meal. The bear even dons a top hat and cravat for the occasion, because he apparently became an oil tycoon during his new-found free time.
In the end, Tawny Scrawny transforms into the overweight pantywaist he was always meant to be.
As a kid, I thought the moral of this story was to be kind, even when kindness felt undeserved. But kids are dumb, and I was wrong.
The true moral of Tawny Scrawny Lion is that murder is slenderizing; that if you threaten murder, people will do whatever you want; that not murdering just makes you a fat ninny. Yeah, so, the moral is murder things.
Thanks for the Little Golden Book, Easter Bunny. And thanks for ruining everything, Gary Busey.