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Waiting for a King

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Today there was no king.

We tried to have a wild rumpus anyway, but it's hard to really get a good rumpus going when it's not new for anything there. We romped for a while, and we made a lot of mischief, but it felt like mischief of all the same kind and nothing new. After some time, everything was just staring at each other, and not in an exciting way, but just staring because we had no idea what sort of mischief to get into next. So everything just went back to their own den, to sleep and wait for the morning and the chance that this will be a day that a new maybe-king will arrive on their boat. We have become great appreciators of maybe-kings and their boats. They travel in and out of weeks and almost over a year to get to us, and many of them will become kings, though most will not. We remember them all, but we take special note the first time we see a new type of boat.

Maybe-king Parahu approached on a simple raft, pushing it along with a long stick and wearing a necklace with three bright disks. The raft came close to the island, and he looked up from his pole. We saw his head move from side to side as he looked at the forbidding shore with its thick trees and dark shadows. Then he picked up the pole, crossed to the other side of the raft, and started pushing the boat back toward home as fast as he could. So Parahu did not become king.

Maybe-king Lucilia stepped off her boat with its three banks of oars, raised her arms, and claimed the island for the empire. Then she turned to see everything coming out of the trees to see her, made a tiny squeaking noise, and ran back up onto her boat to go home. So Lucilia did not become king.

Maybe-king Cennydd arrived in a round boat woven of reeds, which he picked up and carried with him. He had fierce designs in the skin of his arms, and he glanced at them briefly when everything approached, reminding himself of his own courage. But when we roared our terrible roars, he cried and hid under his boat-basket, then held it over his head as he sped back to the shore. So Cennydd did not become king.

Maybe-king Ululani ran her thin boat with the outrigger on one side onto the shore with such force that it came to rest entirely out of the water. She wore bark-cloth stenciled with brown shapes and stood her ground at everything's roars. When something started gnashing its terrible teeth, though, she yelled and backed slowly down to her thin boat. She stood with her feet in the water and dragged it out until it was floating, then climbed in and went home. So Ululani did not become king.

Maybe-king Tariq came ashore in a small boat with a big triangular sail hanging from an angled yard. He sailed it up to the island and stepped out in a long light tunic with a wooden sword belted on the side. He held up his sword bravely as we roared and gnashed, but when we came closer and rolled our terrible eyes, the sword began to shake. Then Tariq started shaking. He shook himself to his boat, and a wind arrived to fill his triangular sail and take him away. So Tariq did not become king.

Maybe-king Æsa banged on her shield and shouted as her boat's tall prow lodged itself in the island's sand. She leapt out onto the sand and charged up toward everything coming out of the trees. She ignored our roars and teeth and eyes, but when we showed our terrible claws, her shout trembled a bit. She kept shouting, though, as she retreated back down the shore to the tall prow. It was only once her boat was away from the island that she stopped shouting and turned to her oars to row her ship home. So Æsa did not become king.

Maybe-king Miaoyin sailed a long flat-bottomed boat with a compass in her hand. She steered it deftly up onto the shore and raised the rudder to land her boat safely. She was calm for a maybe-king, and actually leaned forward to better study our roars, teeth, eyes and claws. Then she stared deep into everything's terrible yellow eyes, and we began to think we might make her king. But a stray eyelash fell into her eye, and she had to blink to get it out. She stepped back, afraid that we would hurt her. She need not have worried. We would never dream of harming a maybe-king. But she had not tamed us, so we roared to send her off as she returned to the shore. So Miaoyin did not become king.

Maybe-king Tumulth brought his canoe, made from a single piece of wood and brightly painted, to the island shallows and lifted it up onto the sand. He had a flattened forehead and paint on his face, and he did not flinch as everything roared and gnashed and rolled and showed. He roared back at us, and we cowered, but he began to hiccup, and no maybe-king can roar and hiccup at the same time. Everything started laughing. We fell on the ground, tears falling from our terrible eyes and slapping our bellies with our terrible claws. Not-king Tumulth was scared at first, but then he started laughing too. We all laughed for a time, then the moment passed. We patted him on his head and took him back to his boat to paddle home with a smile on his face. It wasn't as good as a real wild rumpus, but it was something. And yet Tumulth did not become king.

Maybe-king Chiyo used a small paddle to steer her boat, which was shaped like a small wooden tub. She maneuvered it up to the shoreline and tied it to a tree. She climbed out and marched up to the forest in her light robe, simple eyepatch, and wooden sandals, brandishing her paddle at everything coming to meet her. We made our noises and displays at her, and she flinched but did not falter. Waving her paddle to keep us in line, she stared into all of our terrible yellow eyes with her one tiny eye without blinking once. And we were frightened and called her the most wild thing of all. So Chiyo became king of all the wild things.

"And now," she said, "let's start a wild rumpus!" And we did. We dashed about getting into mischief of one kind and another. Chiyo was a good king, not selfish, or boring, or cruel. She came up with great kinds of mischief and led us on a mighty rumpus that we still sing about. But eventually, she said "Now, stop!" and sent us to bed without our supper. She got lonely and went back to her tub boat, and all of our cries could not keep her from paddling home to her own supper.

They always send us to bed without our supper. All of the kings, from Mahendra in his embroidered tunic to Allie in her dinosaur suit, eventually get lonely and decide that our love is not the love they need. They want to be back home with someone who loves them best of all. The love of wild things that love them best of all until the next king comes is not enough for them.

But I believe that someday a king will come that won't send us to bed without our supper. We'll have a rumpus so wild that things will sing about it forever. They'll stay with us and never go. We'll eat them up and love them so.

Will it be you?