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The Essay
Show #455
Rando, the Wolf Boy
David Gunn

Rando Quartermass was only a moppet when he strayed away from his house and into the woods. It was a bright, sunny morning in late winter and, for whatever reason, he was home alone. The house abutted Dominous Woods, a deep forest that his mother had warned him to avoid. She had called it menacing. But why?, he wondered; what was so bad about it? Especially today, when the sun shone down so warmly and the sky was a brilliant cerulean blue. Not really conscious of where he was going, Rando toddled off down the path and into the forest, following a sunbeam that seemed to illuminate his way. He had walked for more than an hour, stopping every so often to inspect a new wonder, when he sensed that he was being watched. The sky had become overcast, the air chill, and now Rando very badly wanted to go home. But he had gotten completely turned around and no longer knew in which way his home lay. Suddenly, he heard the growl of an animal. It was very close to him, just beyond a clump of bushes. Nervously, he tossed a pebble in that direction. The bushes parted and out crept a wolf.

It approached Rando stealthily, staring at him through the hundreds of lenses that made up its distinctive compound eyes. Rando wanted to flee, but he was powerless to do so. He couldn't even break eye contact with the wolf. The animal's antennae twitched, and Rando felt rather than heard a low, guttural tremor creep up his spine. It awakened a long-suppressed feral memory, and he knew then that he was supposed to follow the wolf. But he was still too scared to move. So the wolf bent down, plucked an Amanita muscaria from the fairy ring that encircled them, reared up on its hind legs, and belched the mushroom into the boy's ear. Almost at once, Rando's knees ceased their knocking, and he breathed a sigh of--well, not exactly relief. More like aspartame.

The wolf led the lad back to its den, which was comprised of eight desiccated Cub Scouts. The wolf's antennae quivered again, and Rando knew he was supposed to remove his shoes before entering. Inside he was greeted by four rambunctious pups, each of which promptly marked him. What a stink!, thought Rando, and he stripped off the offending clothes. The she-wolf--and there was no doubt that this was her family--smiled, satisfied that Rando had so quickly taken the first step towards integrating into lupine society.

In the weeks that followed, Rando gradually learned the rudiments of wolfdom. He learned to sniff the night air, to selectively chase and bring down games like Nintendo, to groom himself with leaves from the baobab tree, and to howl at the moon, which was his favorite activity. When he finally shed the rest of his tattered clothing, his hair compensated by growing long enough to cover much of his body. By the time that winter turned into spring, Rando was running around on all fours. And when spring yielded to summer, he was ready and eager to join the wolf pack--which was wholly unlike any North Carolina State basketball team of recent memory.

Now Warbler Hadley Blackmoor, professor emesis of Calamitology, had heard rumors of a ghostly, childlike figure seen accompanying a band of wolves near the University of Hummock-on-Smythe in southwesternmost Lincolnshire. Faculty members were fearful of the apparition, but local custom forbade them to harm the wolves. Intrigued, Blackmoor built a blind in a tree that overlooked the entrance to Cafeterium Academe, the university watering hole, and he lay down in wait. He remained in that cramped and uncomfortable hide for nearly a day and a half, but finally his patience was rewarded. At the stroke of midnight on the second day, the wolves, one by one, emerged silently from the nearby wood, their compound eyes glittering eerily in the moonlight. Only with considerable effort was Blackmoor able to tear his gaze away from those mesmerizing lenses. And then he saw it--second from the last of the pack, a small, hunched figure that cautiously sniffed the air, sometimes creeping forward on all fours, other times shuffling upright on its rear legs. The arms, feet and torso were humanoid, but the head was a big ball of fluffy hair--a tangled rat's nest that would humble all but the bravest of coiffeurs.

As the wolves passed beneath him, Blackmoor activated a Have-A-Heart Attack trap that was positioned nearby. At once, the alpha male was stricken with an acute myocardial infarction. As he collapsed, the nurse mid-wolves rushed to his aid. They carted him back to his lair, where, we can happily report, he soon recovered. But in the ensuing confusion, the wolf-boy was separated from his lupine buddies. Blackmoor captured him by luring him into a telephone booth with a redolent wedge of lamb brains tiramisù. A retinal scan identified him as Rando Quartermass, for the image that had appeared on Lincolnshire milk cartons for the past six months bore scant resemblance to the face that now glared balefully at his Youth and Family Services caseworker.

Over time, Rando was rehabilitated sufficiently that he opted to rejoin polite society, though he never again answered to the Quartermass name. Nor did he lose his penchant to scent-mark or to howl at the moon. In fact, he parlayed that latter talent into a successful singing career, which evolved into music composition with wildly feral overtones. Once the novelty of the wolf-boy moniker wore off, Rando dropped the "boy" from his adopted name but kept the lupine component as a fond remembrance of his dozens of denizened days in the den.

Not only is The Rando Wolf name alive and well, but it features prominently on today's 455th episode of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar, the only afternoon radio show that runs the musical gamut from Howlin' Wolf to Yowlin' Kalvos.