The Jungle Law
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In the summer of 1892, 26-year-old Rudyard Kipling arrives in Vermont with little money, a pregnant wife, and the germ of a story about a feral child raised by a pack of wolves. Fleeing the literary high life in London, he hopes to build a sanctuary that will offer him refuge from the scrutiny incurred by his burgeoning fame and the wounds of his own troubled past. Kipling soon settles into his new home and sets to work on The Jungle Book, eventually introducing his young neighbor, Joe, to the likes of Mowgli, Shere Khan, and Baloo. As Kipling’s stories take root in Joe’s mind, the child is able to free himself from the confines of his dismal life, newly enlivened by the powerful and unsettling influence of the imagination.
happened when a princess kissed a frog, but what if a frog kissed a princess instead? Would she wake from her slumbers, startled or grateful? Sprout warts and turn into a hag? Then kneeling down by his mother’s bed as if to say his prayers, he lifts his cupped hands to her face, makes a small opening at his thumbs, so that the toad pokes out its head, straining its thin reptilian lips toward his mother’s smile. And he notes with a curious detachment, an almost clinical calm, how the pulsing cords
puffed on his pipe. Wolcott shuffled some papers on the desk, while Caroline summoned what control she could muster so as not to reach up and touch the raw spot on her cheek that her brother had kissed. Then Wolcott finished. “Right-o,” he said, “Lunch?” “Yes, to lunch,” Rudyard answered with gusto. She had met him before in Dean’s Yard, at her brother’s, where she had gone with the housekeeping books to discuss some domestic arrangement. It was what she had come to London to do, to assist her
to their names and with all his vainglorious promises and plans revealed as no more than hot air. “And how did His Bride take this desolate news? She was simply superb,” he’d said, though Carrie here demurred again, brushing off his praise with a shake of her head as if shooing away a fly. “Right then and there she proposed that they form a Committee of Ways and Means and convened on the spot an emergency meeting, wherein they went over their few, meager options and agreed on a plan of
deceived him, been caught collaborating with an enemy force as his own mother never had; though, in fact, Joe had heard his father agree to his mother taking in the Kiplings’ wash, at least until they found a proper servant. And so from his corner of the room, Joe watched with a knot of apprehension to see what his mother would do, defend herself or try to appease him, smoothing over his father’s outrage and wounds as she’d smooth wrinkles out of a sheet. But instead she kept her sights on the
collapse and fall to the ground, like a box caving in upon itself. With the glass shattered, Joe feels something break and give way in him as well. He grinds his heel into the shards in one last act of desecration, grabs a scrap of wood, and tosses it away, throwing it into the meadow. Then he slumps to the ground, crumpling against the granite mounting block, as he stares at the wreckage around him. The splinters of wood and bits of glass, the broken backs of shingles. Boards flung askew or