Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Mary Evans/Walt Disney Pictures/Ronald Grant/Everett Collection, Mary Schwalm/AP, Alan Diaz/AP
Once upon a time, in a little town called Establishment Creek where prosperity trickled down through a burbling stream, there lived three little pigs. Their names were Jeb, Chris and Marco.
One day a wolf came up their windy trail, followed by a very angry mob and a horde of TV cameras.
The wolf cut quite a figure. He had wild orange fur and teeth whiter than a Bernie Sanders caucus.
The wolf, who was a builder and a businessman by trade, hadn’t actually incited the mob, and he wasn’t especially angry about anything himself. He had little to be angry about, really, since he was rich and famous. He had simply been sitting around when the mob happened by.
But there was an emptiness in the poor wolf’s wolfish soul, a sense that if the townspeople weren’t constantly talking about him he might just disappear. And it had occurred to the wolf that if you were looking for new ways to be loved and admired, being at the head of an angry mob wasn’t the worst place you could be.
And so it was that he came upon the first house, an old and tasteful mansion with lots of ivy growing all around. This was Jeb’s house.
The wolf recoiled.
“This house is just horrible,” the wolf said when Jeb came to the door. “It’s total low-energy.”
“I use LED bulbs,” Jeb said proudly.
“Whatever,” the wolf went on, “but we’ve got to tear it down. We’re gonna build something huge, something that will really dazzle. Let me tell you, it’s just going to be so spectacular, you wouldn’t believe.”
Jeb faced a decision.
“Here’s the deal,” Jeb said, because he had trouble starting a sentence without saying that, though it was something he was working on. “My granddad built this house, and my dad added onto it, and my brother put the batting cage out back. You can do what you want, but I’m proud of this house and what it stands for, and I’m not leveling it for some angry mob.”
“Well, that’s all very moving,” the wolf went on, reaching into his pocket, “but I’ve got this eminent domain order.” The wolf kept them around for just this sort of emergency.
And with that the mob demolished the house, and in its place the wolf built a garish, windowless casino with giant video screens to entrance the masses and his own name in gold letters at the top.
“There’s gonna be so much winning here, you’re gonna get sick of it,” the wolf proclaimed, and then he and the mob moved on down the road.
Next he came to Chris’s house. It was a big, imposing house with a giant amphitheater for town hall meetings. The wolf rapped on the steel door.
“Time’s up, loser,” the wolf told Chris when he answered the door. “I’m gonna make you squeal like a pig. Figure of speech, you know.”
Chris faced a decision.
He looked up and down the street to see if anyone was listening, and then he leaned in close to the wolf.
“Lookit,” he said, because he had trouble starting a sentence without saying that, though it was something he was working on. “Truth be told, I built this house on top of a rickety bridge. The engineers told me it wouldn’t hold, but I went ahead anyway, and it’s about to collapse any minute.
“How about I let you tear it down, and then you and me and the mob go over to Marco’s place and show him what’s what? I can’t stand that little swine.”
The wolf thought it over. “That’s a pretty good deal,” he agreed. “I make the most unbelievable deals, you have no idea. I pay factories in China a dollar a day to make my beautiful ties. I get the wool for free. I mean, I’m a wolf, OK? Do the math.”
So the mob tore down Chris’s house in no time, and in its place the wolf ordered built the tallest, most depressing wall anyone had ever seen. “The Mexicans are paying for it,” the wolf declared, which really confused all the undocumented Mexican workers he had employed to build it, because they thought he meant them.
Finally they all moved on to Marco’s house, which was the newest, most contemporary place on the block, with lots of glass and light.
Marco was newer to Establishment Creek, but he had worked very hard to make his house a showcase. Every arch and alcove had been meticulously planned, every material handpicked. The house was regularly featured in magazines. It was the envy of the town.
“Hey, little pigface,” the wolf said. “I need you out of the house. I’ve got this great idea for a university.”
Marco faced a decision.
“I think the president knows exactly what he is doing,” Marco said, because he had trouble starting a sentence without saying that, though it was something he was working on. “Anyway, I’m not going to let you tear down my gorgeous house like you did the others.”
“Look, I’ll give you a crate of bottled water, OK?” the wolf said impatiently. “You seriously look like you’re about to swallow your tongue.”
But Marco had a better plan. He decided he would tear down his own house, beam by beam, and make it into something just as dark and ugly and crass as the things the wolf had built. That way the mob would be transfixed and would leave him be.
In record time, Marco managed to transform his light-filled home into a burlesque monstrosity, with flashing neon martini glasses and seedy, life-size ads for adult comedy.
The cameramen all surged forward, eager to record the spectacle. Marco beamed before them. With a stroke of genius, he had managed to do what the other little pigs had not, which was to match the wolf at his own game. If the wolf could enthrall the mob, so could he.
Except that Marco had misunderstood what brought the mob to his neighborhood in the first place. He had assumed that the angry townspeople were drawn to all the new things the wolf had raised up for them — from towering monuments to the basest kind of entertainment.
All the mob really wanted, though, was to tear things down. They didn’t much care what came next. And all Marco had achieved was to defile his own house.
The wolf chuckled, and the mob quickly set about dismantling what remained of Establishment Creek. Marco watched the end of the story unfold, just another pig covered in mud.