Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

When I was a child my mother read me The Pokey Little Puppy. Although she denies it now, she improvised a good bit of it, and it is that improvisation that has stayed with me. Instead of reading verbatum she'd pitch her voice in a nasal whine and imitate the titular puppy saying, "Wait for me. Wait for me." By the time I was old enough to read The Pokey Little Puppy was not something I was interested in reading, so it was not until I had children of my own that I returned to this text. I was quite surprised that the lines my mom had ad libbed were not canon, but I decided that the gnostic version was superior and indoctrinated my kids with the whiny little pokey puppy. Others, it turns out, dislike the book as much as I do:
[It] seems like a fable: There are animals acting like people and punishment and reward and the “rule of three” structure. As a fable though, it’s incoherent.
On the first two days the Poky Little Puppy gets the desserts to himself—five portions of dessert a night, for a total of ten portions. On the third day, each of the other puppies gets one-and-a-quarter portions—they share the PLP’s serving—whereas the PLP gets none. Over three days, the Poky Little Puppy is up by eight-and-three-quarters desserts. What are we to conclude from this? That pokiness pays off? That pokiness might be highly advantageous in some circumstances but marginally costly in other, less common circumstances? Or that Janette Sebring Lowrey had no point in mind, was unconcerned with the ethics or pragmatics of pokiness, hoped only to borrow the fable form, with its weighty theme and didactic tone, and use it to disguise her lack of moral vision? 
In my family's version pokiness is despicable, and a trait associated with whining. I find that much more satisfying. 

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