Late night rainstorms are like Santa Claus, leaving little presents for any child who knows where to look for them the next morning.  Alvie Harrison was such a child; jumping from puddle to puddle, trying his best to splash them into the trees behind his house, but doing a better job of drenching his t-shirt instead.

Alvie was going to see his Great Uncle Bakchos who lived down the way.  Uncle Bakchos had a wonderful garden, full of brilliantly-colored plants and flowers; a hedge maze and topiary beasts from far away worlds. It was one of Alvie’s favorite places to play, particularly after a good rainstorm.

Uncle Bakchos looked almost exactly like his brother, Alekos, Alvie’s grandfather and the man Alvie was named after, except that Uncle Bakchos had a short, white beard.  When Alvie came into the yard, he found his Uncle sitting at a small, stone table and eating grapes.  A rolled-up piece of paper sat on the table in front of him.

“Hello, Uncle Bakchos!” Alvie greeted him, smiling.  But his uncle was lost in thought, staring at the clouds in the distance and nibbling his grapes.  Finally, he snapped to attention and noticed Alvie staring at him.

“Alvie!  Oh, my boy, good to see you, good to see you.”

Alvie reached for the paper, “What’s this?”

“Aye, be careful!” Uncle Bakchos picked up the paper, “Gently, my boy, gently.”  He started to unroll the paper for Alvie to see.  Alvie looked at the charcoal drawings and his eyes lit up.

“A map!  I love maps.”

Uncle Bakchos smiled.  “This isn’t just any map, but a map drawn on Sendak paper!”

Alvie noticed the other blank sheets of paper under his uncle’s map.  “What’s Sendak paper?”

Uncle Bakchos’ eyes went somewhere far away as he explained.

“It’s special.  Unique in all the world for its ability to take you to a wonderful place, where the wild things live.  Home of the boy king and the dancing.  Ah, yes, the dancing.”

“Dancing?” Alvie grimaced, “I don’t know about dancing.  But boy kings and wild things sound nice.  I’d like to go!”

Uncle Bakchos smiled and patted Alvie’s head.

“Of course you do, my boy!” Uncle Bakchos said, pulling a stick of charcoal from his shirt pocket and handing it to Alvie.  “Here.  You’ll want to make a map of your own.  Things may have changed since your grandfather and I went those many years ago.  But Alvie,” he handed the boy a piece of Sendak parchment, “remember this.  You’ll cross a large sea.  On the other side, you must be the fiercest of all wild things and look them in the eye.  And when you arrive, a boy king yourself, try the dancing.  I don’t think you will mind so much.  For it is a dance, once learned, that will stay with you when the world turns gray.  A stray bit of light against the shadows.”

Alvie stuck the charcoal stick in his pocket and then carefully rolled up the Sendak paper, ready to go.

“Well, okay.  I’ll try the dancing.  But if I don’t like it, I’ll just stop.  Kings don’t have to dance when I’m king.”

Uncle Bakchos grinned once more before sending Alvie on his journey.

*          *          *          *          *          *          *

R.I.P.  Maurice Sendak

Helmsman of the first fantastic voyage I ever went on, allowing the blueprint for many of my childhood adventures thereafter.

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