At the end of my last writing I screwed up and mentioned something about Carol wanting to destroy the fort. Sorry for the spoiler. I really like the foreshadowing thingy and have already used it a few times, but letting you know the fort might be in danger even before we finished building it might have been a bit clumsy.
Anyway, now you know Carol had (or from your perspective, will have) another conniption fit that could threaten the fort. But put it out of your mind for now because it's in the future. Well, not really the future since it already happened; I mean in the future in this writing, but my past.
I never thought about it but this writing thing is almost like a form of time travel. I can zoom backward and forward through all the time I've ever known and drop you down wherever and whenever I want. Behold the awesome power of Alexander! I'm like H.G. frigging Wells or something. Just kidding.
As a reminder, "kidding" is NOT a goat pun, and I just say that to let you in on my stupid little jokes. I try never to do puns; remember what Oscar Wilde said about them being the lowest form of humor or whatever. Actually, I'm a little like Oscar Wilde on account of my dry wit and all (would that make me a Wilde Thing?). But of course without the gayness because I'm a straightgoat. No, not scapegoat, straightgoat. Well I am sometimes made the scapegoat when anything goes wrong around here which is practically all the time.
By the way, goatscaping is when I groom my fur, but let's not go down the TMI road again. I should probably dial down the goat references, since I'm only part goat and part…well, we don't really know, do we?
Back to the writing-as-time-travel-thing; anyone can do it, if they know how to write. I was the first to take to writing but I think a few of the others have also figured it out. I saw Carol practicing writing in the sand once but he rubbed it out when he saw me watching and pretended like he was digging for clams or something. Hey buddy, good luck making paper and a squirrel powered writing machine! I'm way ahead of you there.
What the hell was I going to write about before I got so distracted? Oh right, the fort.
Work on the fort continued at a frenzied pace and I have to admit Carol and Douglas did a great job keeping things on track. Everyone did their bit; well, mostly everyone. Max helped a little, but really his strength and building skills are just nothing like ours. I guess you can say he supervised, which is a polite way of saying he pretty much just talked the entire time, drank coffee and watched us work. That's management for you. Just kidding about the coffee, we don't even have any here. But since the fort was Max's idea I guess he did do his bit after all.
Now I'm thinking about coffee, which is odd since I've never even seen any (more damn useless MK). But for some strange reason I almost feel like I've tried it before.* Maybe we can grow coffee and hire Juan Valdez to come pick it for us. He can leave his donkey at home and just saddle up Carol instead. I could really go for a cup of java right about now. And I mean real coffee, not some ridiculous fru-fru monstrosity like a septuple Ristretto Espresso Macchiato, brewed from über-organic beans grown in the ruins of Palenque and picked at the seventh hour of the seventh day of the seventh month by red-haired Pygmy virgins, ludicrously hot, sub-skinny free-range unicorn milk with polyhedral honeycomb structured foam, organic Saguaro and Eucalyptus syrup, layered, and stirred with a splinter from the Ark of the Covenant. Give me a break!
Max also helped by humming tunes and singing songs for us which kept the mood upbeat and everyone's spirits high. I'm just thankful he didn't whistle while we worked as that would have been a bit too much. Although a legion of little laboring woodland creatures would have been damn useful, especially birds to fly in building materials. I asked Douglas if he knew the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow since I wondered if we could use them for transporting sticks or something, but he asked if I meant an African or European swallow and for some reason I was afraid to answer that. Speaking of birds, duck tape would have really come in handy.
One song Max sang that I really liked had the line "All is Love", and I like to think we built the fort with love. I'm speaking figuratively there because we built the fort mostly out of tree trunks, about a zillion sticks, mud stucco and nipa palm glue. I love the smell of nipa palm in the morning!
Max's type of music was new to us, but we already had our own kind of music before he arrived. During those rare times when the seven of us aren't bickering and KW is around we sometimes harmonize our voices for hours. We don't sing words or anything, like Max showed us, but just sort of blend our voices into melodic tones that are actually very complex. † Think J.S. Bach counterpoint complex. We can only do it when all seven participate. We performed for Max one night at the fort and he seemed genuinely amazed and said it was one of the most beautiful things he'd ever heard.
One afternoon as work on the fort began to slow something happened that really rained on our parade. Everyone had been getting along since Max decreed the fort, and for the most part it had been a happy couple of days. Even Mr. Grumpy Carol was more like his old self. I had also been almost cheerful, except for that time everyone ignored the hell out of me when I tried to warn about the brain cutting thing. Anyway, most of the others were on a break, but since I often had to wait until the heavy beams were in place to do my stick weaving I was still working on top of a wall and had a good view of everything.
Judith and Ira were resting together at the tunnel opening and the Bull was working on the tower just above them. Douglas was somewhere at the other end of the fort and KW was away gathering sticks.
Max and Carol had just finished installing hundreds of red flowers along a perimeter wall and were reclining together admiring their work. The flowers were my idea but of course I meant they should go in after the fort was completed, but at least they had half way listened to me. I'll take what I can get in the "OK, let's grudgingly acknowledge that we heard Alexander speak and not ignore him to the point of absurdity so that he will wonder if a hole has opened in the space-time continuum and is absorbing the sound of his voice" department. Even the dogs are happy to eat the crumbs that fall from the master's table and all.
The pace had slowed and as the day moved into late afternoon the place had a general atmosphere of quiet relaxation. I chuckled to see Carol had a flower in his mouth, and noted that with Max around he seemed truly at ease for the first time in a long while. I even allowed myself to forgo my usual skepticism about things improving and strayed into cautious optimism, wondering if we might actually begin to enjoy a new era of unity and harmony with Max as our king (poor self-deluded fool that I was!). That damn goat sense comes and goes without so much as a by-your-leave-sir.
Max took Carol by the hand, and using one of his claws began scratching on a large log at the base of the wall. At first I was puzzled but then realized he was carving something into the wood. Carol seemed curious and just let Max guide his hand, and a moment later Max finished. Carol looked at the log, smiled, and began to carve something of his own. Later I went to see what they had done and found a capital letter "M" surrounded by a heart shape. I can only assume Max wrote his initial and Carol added the heart. Elementary, my dear Watson.
Getting back to what I was saying, after Max saw what Carol had carved he grinned like a Cheshire cat and threw his arms around Carol's neck. Carol closed his eyes and put his arm on Max's back. For a second I wasn't sure what the hell to think and was afraid Max would say something like "oh Carol darling, you've made me the happiest king in the world! I shan't ever forget this moment" or something equally disturbing. Kidding again, I knew it was some sort of father/son bonding moment. Or maybe favorite Wild Thing/king. Something like that anyway.
But to tell the truth the next moment that green-eyed monster, jealousy, began clawing at my mind and I felt my anger rising. From the very beginning I had suspected Max favored Carol, and now there could be no doubt. Thanks for rubbing it in, you thoughtless bastards. I started to shout "get a room" at them just to be hateful, but didn't.
Then Carol did something that stopped my anger cold. He began to howl, and it was unlike any sound I'd ever heard him utter before. It was similar to the howling we had all done together at the cliff the morning Max arrived, but there was something in it that I just couldn't put my claw on, something somber, soulful and full of warmth. That howl and the expression I saw on Carol's face sent the green-eyed monster packing, and all my anger and resentment fled like mice from a burning hut. Sure, I wished Max cared about me like he did Carol, but even though I was on the outside looking in I couldn't help but be moved by the way they seemed to connect at that moment. Damn I'm such a softie, don't tell anyone.
Then I noticed Judith starring at them with an annoyed look and knew in an instant the green-eyed monster had found alternate prey. As Max and Carol returned to work I watched Judith and didn't like the way she kept glaring at Max. I know her, and feared what she might do. The others seemed oblivious; Ira nuzzled her shoulder, Bull worked on the tower, Carol was now preoccupied with a large tree trunk and Max messed with a pile of sticks near a wall. By the way his stick weaving left a lot to be desired and I had to redo about half of all his work. I'll let you guess if he ever thanked me.
After a few minutes Judith made the "psst" sound to Max and he looked in her direction. She held up a hand and made the "come here" signal with her claw, and I wondered if Max would just imperiously ignore her or oblige and approach. Max sort of narrowed his eyes, scowled and then made a show of looking all around before saying "you talkin' to me? You talkin' to me? Then who the hell else are you talkin' to?" Naw, he didn't say that, it just popped into my head as I watched. But I almost wish he had said it.
Max hesitated but then slowly walked toward her. Ira seemed disinterested and the Bull just watched and said nothing. Why did I even mention that? Of course he only watched and said nothing, that's what he does. Sometimes it really irritates me and I don't even know why.
I was too far away to hear the conversation but could see Judith talking and gesturing at Max, and from his body language it was clear he wasn't pleased with what she was saying. Judith scowled as she talked and Max fidgeted a bit. Then she appeared to laugh, but not in a pleasant way. Max imitated her laugh which seemed to really tick her off. I hoped Max would take the high ground and refuse to spar with her. Judith curled her lips and sarcastically laughed again, and Max responded in kind. Each exchange was louder and longer than the last, until they were all but shouting at each other.
Then I noticed Carol had stopped working and was also watching, just standing there still holding a large beam. He looked upset but said nothing.
Judith opened her mouth wider with each retort, as did Max, and their loud, sardonic cries of "ha ha ha" echoed throughout the canyon. Max wasn't going to back down after all, and at one point he actually leaned in close to Judith's open mouth while shouting at her, which was brave but also incredibly stupid. Careful Chum, she's like a Great White, and if you want to get that close you're going to need a bigger boat.
In a tone reminiscent of his aforementioned "be still" command Max managed a final volley of mock laughter that actually silenced Judith, and her face registered genuine surprise. But Max's victory was short lived, and what I had feared now came to pass. Judith totally went off on him, and this time I caught some of what she said, despite their distance from me. She shouted something about it being her job to get upset, and that it was his job to let her eat him if that's what she wanted to do, and other such nonsense.
Max said nothing and stood with his head slightly down. It looked like Judith had gotten the better of him. No one said anything. It was an uncomfortable moment and I felt bad for him. Was this any way to treat a king? And why did he put up with it? I remembered his stories about exploding giant Viking heads and powers from ancient times, but at that moment he didn't look very kingly or invincible. Once again I found doubt gnawing at my mind.
I hadn't noticed KW return but suddenly she was there, just in time to witness the final exchange between Max and Judith. KW said something to Max and he turned toward her, then both started to walk away. Judith lunged, grabbed Max by the ankle, held up her hand to his face and said something to him, but I couldn't hear it. My muscles tensed, as if preparing me to spring into action, but I was too far away to do anything and remained as I was.
KW pulled Max away while stomping her foot down on Judith's wrist just hard enough to make her let go. Judith shouted and released her grip, allowing Max to take a few steps back. KW leaned in and said something to Judith, but since KW remained calm the whole time and never shouted or anything I couldn't hear what she said.
As KW and Max walked away Judith shouted after them, and this time I heard her just fine. She said "you think you have power, KW?" or something similar. KW just ignored her and kept walking. Judith shouted "I'm talking to you" but KW made no sign of having heard her, but Max turned his head and looked back. "No, not you – still talking to KW" shouted Judith, which was actually a little funny when I look back at it.
Remember when I said my name is ironic because I didn't do much to protect Max? Well this was one time when I could have at least tried. But Carol also just stood there and said nothing. That really surprised me because it seemed like he should have been the first to defend Max. All of us just sat there and did nothing. I've seen Carol stand up to Judith plenty of times, so why not then?
KW never said another word and just walked with Max out of the fort toward the woods, her head held high. "She walks in beauty, like the night of cloudless climes and starry skies; and all that's best of dark and bright meet in her aspect and her eyes." I don't think I ever loved her more than at that moment.
Judith seethed. Ira put his hand on her shoulder but she flung it away. Carol remained standing exactly as he had been the whole time, still holding the large tree trunk, a pained expression I couldn't quite read spreading across his face. He blinked a few times then slowly lowered his head and looked at the ground. Perhaps he felt ashamed, or was just upset to see someone else ruin the peace instead of him. I can understand if that's what was going through his mind; but I can't judge him without condemning myself.
Carol sighed, dropped the beam, and slowly shuffled away. Judith and Ira slipped into the tunnel and out of sight. The Bull had descended from the tower without my having noticed and I caught a glimpse of him in the distance as he climbed out of the ravine.
I was alone. For several minutes I sat, unmoving, listening to the mournful sound of the wind howling through the skeleton of the uncompleted fort. Then I picked up a stick and halfheartedly began to weave it into the wall.
*Alexander is correct; he has had coffee before. In an alternate universe while in Max's world he discovered coffee in all its caffeinated splendor. Read about it in the story "Alexander Discovers Coffee" by TheCheshireCatFemaleWildThing in the WTWTA section of this site. My thanks to TCCFWT for the idea. QS
†The musical abilities of the Wild Things are not explored in the movie and are taken from the novel "The Wild Things" by Dave Eggers (chapter XXXVIII).