Caring for Carol

Rina was lying on her bed reading a Pound Puppies book – a leftover from her father's 80's childhood – when she heard the phone ring downstairs.

"Rina! It's for you!" Her father, Max, called.

"For me? Wow, no one ever calls me on the phone!" Rina said to herself. Who could be calling her? She didn't have that many friends at school – her only friends to speak of were the Wild Things. She rushed downstairs and took the cordless phone from Max.

"Hello," she answered politely.

"Oh, hi, Rina!" she heard Douglas say.

"Douglas?" Rina asked perplexedly. "I didn't know you guys had a phone!"

"Well, we do!" Douglas replied. And before Rina could ask any more questions pertaining to where on Earth the phone came from, he went on.

"Rina, we've got an emergency of sorts on our hands," he declared. "Carol's dust allergy is really bad, and he asked me – between sneezes – to ask you to come over, and just… you know…"

"Sure, Douglas!! I'll be over in the boat as soon as I can!" Rina said, hanging up the phone. She had an idea as to how she could make Carol feel better, but she was not sure it would work or not.

Rina stuck her head into the hall closet and pulled out a small, battery - operated Hoover that her father used to clean out the hard - to - reach crevices in the furniture and walls.

"If Carol did some vacuuming, then maybe he'd feel better!" Rina said to herself.

She rushed out the door, calling, "Bye, Dad!! I'm going to Where the Wild Things Are!"

Once Rina made it to the spot where the shoreline met the forest clearing, she hopped into the small boat that was moored there and started the journey that semed to go on for a 24 - hour day, then weeks, then practically a year. It was always worth it, though; since she knew she would see her warm, cuddly Wild Thing friends once the trip ended.

Once she made it to the shore of the Wild Things' island, she saw Douglas standing there, waiting for her.

"Hi, Douglas!" Rina called, running over to hug him.

"Thank you for coming, Rina!" Douglas replied. "Carol's not been feeling well at all! I'm afraid his allergies are even worse than mine!"

"Well, don't worry, Douglas!" Rina answered, holding up the vacuum. "I think I have an idea."

Rina crept quietly over to Carol's circular hut and knocked on the outside wall. "Carol?" she asked tentatively. No telling what sort of mood he was in.

She heard a few moist sniffles and snuffles, and a cough or two. "Rina? Is that you?" she heard Carol wheeze. "Please come in." Rina was relieved. It sounded as though with Carol feeling as bad as he did, he just wanted to regress to being a snuggly little cub and be engulfed in sympathy.

Rina peered into the hut to see Carol leaning against the wall sadly dabbing at his button nose with a tissue. His nose was typically a healthy, rosy sort of color, but due to Carol's allergy, it had turned an angry, tomato - reddish tinge. His eyes were streaming with itchy tears.

Rina became alarmed and flooded with feelings of empathy. "Awww, Carol, don't cry," she said sympathetically as she gently wiped his eyes with a hankie that Douglas had given her. "I'm here, now, to help you feel better."

"Oh, Little Cub, I'm not really crying," Carol hastily reassured her. "My allergies make my eyes all weepy, that's all." He sniffled and wiggled his nose. His eyelids fluttered and he began to take gasping little breaths as if he were about to sneeze. His nostrils began to flare and tremor, and a little pearly teardrop squeezed out of each tear duct in his eyes. After this buildup had gone on for about 30 seconds, he waved his paw under his nostrils to somehow help the sneeze along. Five seconds later, he gave up and let out a big breath of air.

"Sorry, false alarm," he told Rina, who had her arms up, shielding her head. He tapped her arms. "You can relax," he said with a chuckle. Rina dropped her arms and looked at him.

"For a minute there, I thought you were going to sneeze," she confided.

"I thought so, too," Carol replied, rubbing at his nostrils with the hanky in order to make the tickly sensations subside. "I hate when that happens. My nose will start to itch and I'll get all ready to sneeze, and then - " - he sighed in a whimpering sort of way - "the urge just goes away."

Rina looked thoughtful. "If we had one of Douglas' feathers, we could tickle your nose a little bit, and then you'd sneeze for sure!"

Carol frowned and shifted his body to stare into the distance. "My nose tickles plenty. Feels like dozens of feathers tickling me," he grumbled, rubbing a fuzzy finger under his nostrils. "That's not the problem."

Rina began to worry that she'd accidentally made Carol cranky. Carol was one of the best friends anyone could have, and he was huggable and mischievous and very protective and loyal, but it was incredibly easy to put him in a petulant mood, or in some cases, provoke a tantrum. She'd had the idea of vacuuming his hut for him so it wouldn't be so dusty, but now she realized that what Carol really needed at the moment was to be cheered up a little bit.

"You know what I do to make myself feel better when I feel sick, Carol?" Rina asked, peering at him to catch his attention.

"Oh yeah? What's that?" Carol asked her.

Rina shrank back. "You might think it's kind of baby," she replied.

Carol smiled indulgently at her. "Aaaaww, c'mon. You know you can tell ol' Carol anything," he cajoled.

Rina smiled. "Sometimes I sing to myself," she replied.

"Aaaww, really?" Carol asked sweetly.

"Uh, huh. My mom used to sing to me sometimes, but since she went away, I just sing to myself," Rina replied, shrugging.

"Gosh, I'm sorry, Little Cub," Carol said with a wet sniffle. "I'm so sorry you're all alone like that. You want me to sing to you? I can if you'd like. I'm not too good at it, but it would take my mind off of how terrible I feel."

"Well, actually, Carol," Rina began, "I thought maybe we could sing together."

"Really? Um, okay," Carol replied. "What would you like to sing? I don't have a particle... partic - ler...uh, specific preference."

Rina smiled adoringly at her fuzzy friend. He always got sort of tongue - tied when he tried to pronounce the word "particular," the right way.

"Well, Carol, I know a song that's a great song to sing when you have the sneezes," Rina answered.

No sooner had Rina said this did Carol start to feel his allergies coming on again. "AHH - CHOO!" he sneezed. "Like right now?"

"Especially right now!" Rina exclaimed.

"Well, how does it go?" Carol wanted to know.

Rina hesitated for a moment, then began to sing, "Down by the meadow in an itty - bitty pool swam three little fishies and a mama fishy, too! Swim, said the mama fishy, swim - "

Carol interrupted. "I know that song!" he said eagerly. "When all seven of us Wild Things were little cubs, we'd sing that song over and over again while the Wilder Things were migrating to a village where the Black Gunkies wouldn't find us! It nearly drove them crazy, but us cubs had a great time!"

"Really? Great!" Rina said. She was happy that she'd chosen something carol remembered from his childhood.

So the two of them sang together for a while (with Carol providing the sneezing parts due to his allergy), until Carol said, "Say, Rina, I'm starting to feel somewhat better!"

"Oh, I'm so happy, Carol!!" Rina replied, snuggling into his tummy and tickling it. Carol laughed and laughed.

The End