This is the fourth appearance of Karl the Kangaroo. His first three are Karl the Kangaroo, The Lemon Possum vs. Karl the Kangaroo and The Kangaroo and the Comedian. It is recommended you read those three stories before this one.
So as you may remember, I said that the infamous Karl the Kangaroo had asked me to ghostwrite his life story. How could I refuse? A chance to get more money and a chance to write something not about the latest non-free updates for free games.
It did mean spending a lot of time in his office, and it was certainly as ice-cold as my co-workers said it was. I had to force myself not to shiver as he related to me his life, especially his childhood. Both of us even considered making the sole focus of the book his childhood; many would say it was a miracle he was still alive after being abandoned by his mother, and after the conditions of the circus he briefly spent time in.
We spoke of what he spoke of when I saw him in the theatre. His pantomimes, his fights, him slowly learning how to speak and walk and act like a human. I was probably the only person in the whole workplace who really saw him as a kangaroo. Everyone else seemed to forget that.
There was something else they forgot, Karl one day told me. Something they forgot and he wished he could forget. We had talked at length about Karl’s childhood, but there was something in his adulthood that filled him with the same fear he usually filled his workers with.
Sadie, her name was. A kangaroo just like him, that looked for all the world like a younger female version of him, but not actually his daughter.
Karl explained it had happened shortly after he started getting truly successful, when his games had made him millions. He briefly returned to his birthplace of Australia, and paid a visit to a kangaroo rescue centre. There he learned he was not one of a kind, and he met with a little kangaroo speaking basic English and wearing a dress.
Her mother had been killed by poachers, and she had been fending for herself until the rescue centre found her. She had heard about Karl and his success, and apparently bounced off the walls frantically when he arrived.
‘I saw a little of myself in her,’ Karl said to me, and explained the discussions and arrangements he made with the rescue centre to adopt Sadie. He told me about how he helped her learn English and develop her vocabulary, to be prepared before he enrolled her in Primary School. Though the workers at Kangaroo Games rarely really saw Karl as a kangaroo, Sadie was never allowed to forget that.
‘Almost every day she’d come home with a story to tell,’ Karl explained to me, ‘The other girls were pulling her ears, stomping on her tail…’ He clenched his teeth and balled his hands into fists before continuing. ‘One day I saw her trying to cut her fur off so she’d look more like the other girls. I tried to make her proud of who she was…which, I must admit, was rather hypocritical of me considering I’m more human than you.’ When he said that, he snickered, but it wasn’t an honest snicker.
He had showed Sadie around his offices several times, and let the little kangaroo shake hands with his workers. This was before I came to work for him, so I didn’t remember it, but those who had worked longer than me either just had it pop up in their brain when I mentioned it, or they had forgotten it altogether.
Well, actually, one person remembered seeing her. He remembered seeing her as a child, and spoke to her again when she was a teenager. All he said about it was that he wished that he hadn’t.
It was not just in Karl’s office where he told me about his life. He actually invited me over to his house; the fact it was a well-kept manse in the country almost shocked me with how many co-workers spreading rumours it was akin to the Bates Motel. What actually did shock me was that when we had tea, Karl prepared it himself.
‘Ah yes,’ Karl said as he placed down the tea tray, ‘Sadie and I did have tea parties from time to time. Is that not an amusing image? Me sitting down with dollies and having tea and biccies? I won’t fire you if you laugh, it’s perfectly fine.’ I smiled and faked a snigger – fearing I would be fired if I didn’t laugh this time. ‘She had a load of dolls, but she gave them away when she got tired of them. She found new hobbies as she got older. Kangaroos grow up faster than humans…’
Sadie had left Karl’s house at sixteen, or the kangaroo equivalent of such. That I could certainly believe when Karl showed me her bedroom, which he kept just as she left it. Posters of skulls and graveyards, Jack Skellington duvet cover, bookshelves of Poe and Gorey and a purple electric guitar proudly displayed.
I almost said this proved humans and kangaroos weren’t so different after all, but Karl sat on her bed and told me, ‘When Sadie got older, she kept on telling me she hated humans. She still spoke their language, she still wore their clothes, but she was never subtle about her contempt for them. She’d come down to breakfast yelling about the latest news story, what the politicians or the celebrities did, and then she’d say to me…’ He stared blankly at the walls for a minute or so before turning his attention towards the guitar. ‘She once had a band, you know. She said she had found people who hated humanity as much as she did, and this guitar was the source of many headaches for me.’
He tried to laugh, but it sounded more like a harsh cough. He walked over to the guitar and picked it up. It looked as if he were about to play it, but instead, he just looked at it. ‘They knew I was her “father”, you know. They thought if they were friends with her, they’d get a taste of what I had. They…’
He threw the guitar to the floor.
‘This was a bad idea,’ he said, ‘I’ll show you the way out.’
I almost asked for him to continue with his story, but he was my boss and I couldn’t refuse his orders. He may have been a kangaroo, but he was no different from a human.
‘This was a bad idea,’ Karl repeated to himself as he climbed up the stairs. It had been such a long time since he went into that room, and he actually went and showed it to his copywriter. After showing that copywriter out, he walked in there again.
Into the room. Into the room where he saw his daughter lying on the bed crying because her band, the humans she thought of friends, just wanted a little of Daddy’s money for themselves. Karl stood near Sadie, and placed a hand on her shoulder.
‘Why did you do that?’ snapped Sadie, turning towards her adoptive father.
‘Well, to comfort you.’
‘That’s what you’re telling yourself?’ she said, ‘Look at the great Karl the Kangaroo, look how he cares for his daughter!’
‘What are you talking…’
She leapt off her bed and stood up. ‘Why did you adopt me?’
‘I said, why did you adopt me?’
Karl stood in silence.
‘Oh, that’s what I thought. Come on, admit it. It was just because I was just like you. Because I could talk like those humans and walk like those humans just like you. You inspired me. You wanted to have me around just so I could remind you of your own little accomplishments, is that it?’
‘That’s…utterly ridiculous, and you…’
‘Or is it your mummy? Yeah, it sucked, but I know how you treat your employees. Harry’s mum was sick but he can’t have time off because your shitty mum! You saw me and you saw a way to get back at her, to show her up. In fact, that’s what all this is about, isn’t it? The great Karl, who can talk and dance and make games, he’s much better than his mother even though he’s a selfish piece of shit!’
‘You’re not fooling anyone. None of your workers look at me and say “Oh, he has a daughter who takes care of, he can’t be that bad.” I could have been perfectly happy at the rescue centre, you know, they’d have known what to do with me, but you had to go and make me your accessory, parading me around your workplace.’
‘That was not why I brought you there at all!’
‘So why did you then?’ asked Sadie, arching an eyebrow.
‘I wanted you to be proud of…
‘It was so I could make you feel better. So you could delude yourself into thinking you were good. You kept me around because if I wasn’t here, you’d have to actually admit you’re a miserable selfish bastard. In fact, go ahead and be a dick. Shit on your employees all you want, I don’t care, just don’t keep me around while you do it.’
Karl saw the whole scene replay before him and begged his past self to say something different this time, do something different, but when Sadie announced her plans to leave Karl, the past Karl said, ‘Well, why don’t you just go then?’
She spat in Karl’s face and left, leaving all her posters and books and possessions behind.
Karl let her leave. When she slammed the front door, he didn’t cry out to her. When there was no sign of her for a week, he didn’t send out any search parties. When he found what were unmistakeably her discarded clothes, he simply threw them away.
She didn’t want him to find her. If he tried, it would simply be furthering the lie. It would be so the media would say ‘Look at that caring Karl, stopping at nothing to find his daughter.’
So he let her go. He let her be taken off to some zoo or a stinking, urine-soaked circus, or let her be served as a steak or just simply be lost out there with no-one to turn to…
It was a loathsome thing to do. But he was a loathsome kangaroo.
He was no different from a human after all.