The Sad King

22 12 2008

            “Oh if only I had a horse of my own! Then I should be as happy as a king!” The little urchin cried out shrilly, loud enough to be heard by the members of the King’s guard who were marching smartly on parade.

            Today was the annual Royal Parade (about which everyone spoke in distinct capital letters). The King’s guards were all very nattily dressed in blue and gold and black and they rode on matched gray horses. The king followed wearing the royal golden crown and a vest embroidered with sapphires over a white linen shirt and black woolen trousers. He was rather dazzling to look at and very tall on his large black war horse so most of the peasantry avoided even looking his way. There was an old folk-legend that if you looked in the king’s eyes on the day of the Royal Parade you would be instantly smited where you stood. No-one quite knew what “smited” meant- it was a very ignorant sort of country- but it sounded dire. In consequence, people watched the proud horses, the beautiful ladies, the tumblers, the pie-sellers and indeed everyone but the King.

            Of course, that didn’t stop the king from looking at them, nor did his dazzling vest dim the roar of the crowd as it reached his ears. He heard the little urchin’s wish and it made him sigh heavily. (It did not matter if he smiled or frowned on this particular day since no-one so much as glanced at his face.) 

            He had horses and, while he enjoyed and admired them, they did not make him happy. Indeed, there were some days when the upkeep of the royal stable made him very sad indeed. You see, he had to have a lot of horses because he had a large army and a big staff of people whose main function was to make him seem impressive. Those people needed to ride horses and the horses themselves had to be well bred and well dressed. All this pomp and circumstance was expensive and had to be paid for somehow. The only solution his advisors ever offered was ‘raise taxes’.

            The king was a kind man and disliked raising taxes. He knew that if you kept forcing the peasants to give you all their money then they would have nothing to spend on food and clothes and education. It was the king’s sincerest wish that he have a well-educated country but he couldn’t afford it!

            And once he began thinking about his different troubles, he didn’t seem to be able to stop. Things like orphanages, soup kitchens, the penal system and the National Zoo held his attention for the rest of the parade. If anyone had been looking at his face they would have been shocked by the sadness they found there.

            Luckily, no-one was looking.

            That night after the king’s thirty valets had helped him to undress and change into his pajamas (a process that took almost an hour because each valet had only one task and they kept getting in one another’s way and disagreeing about the color his pajamas should be) he was still thinking. He propped himself up against his embroidered, gold-encrusted headboard, tucked his perfectly manicured hands into his reddish blue silk pajama-ed armpits and settled himself in for a good long think.

            Most kings do not have time for a great deal of thinking. Their lives are determined almost solely by tradition and expectation so deep self-reflection is unnecessary. This king, though, had a problem and he was determined to find a solution to his countries’ educational and monetary woes.

            So he thought.

            And thought.

            And thought.

            Then had to go to the bathroom.

            Then thought some more.

            At one point he ordered a snack.

            Which came on a gold tray delivered by the third prettiest girl in the country who wore a thread-of-silver girdle over her wool dress.

            And that’s when he figured it out!

            So he tucked his chin under his golden sheets and fell asleep- the first good sleep he’s had since he took the crown at fourteen.

            The next day he woke up, bounced out of bed and punched three of his valets in the nose when they tried to dress him. He dressed himself while valets and butlers and serving maids scattered for the four corners of the castle.

            When he strode into the Great Hall that morning his advisors were struck dumb. You see, the king had never dressed himself and so he found buttons and laces too much to be bothered with. His shirt was untucked and unbuttoned and his boot-tongues flapped loudly with every step.

            “Gentlemen,” The King jumped up to stand on his red velvet plush throne, “I have discovered a solution to all our nations troubles and my mild depression!”

            The advisors said nothing, they were busy trying to figure out how their king’s trousers were staying up.

            The king read their minds (he wasn’t really dumb, only out of practice using his brain for anything more strenuous than hunting). He chuckled to himself and tightened the neck-tie that he’d used as an impromptu belt.

            “We are selling the castle!” He proclaimed, signaling the trumpeter in the gallery to trumpet a triumphant blat.

            When the trumpet faded away the advisors reacted like ants in a hill when the hill is stomped on.

            “You can’t.”

            “He wouldn’t!”

            “Don’t you know that the neighboring kingdoms will attack if you don’t live in a fancier castle than them!”

            “Would he dare?”

            “I think he is!”

            “Marvelous! I’ve always loved trout!” One of the advisors was nearly deaf and totally senile.

            The king ignored them all. “Moreover, we are getting rid of almost all the horses, all of the valets and ninety percent of the servants. We are going to sell the horses and my clothes to that one really fat king just south of us. He can have the pomp, I want a kingdom of people that I can be proud of! Finally, we are getting rid of all but the most basic taxes.”

            “Where will you live?”

            “Where will WE live?”

            “How will our government function without any money?!”

            “In a house. Wherever you darn well please. Spelling Bees.”

            “SPELLING BEES?!”

            “Yes, we will enter our newly intelligent citizens in spelling bees over the nine kingdoms and take a part of their winnings as a ‘run-the-government tax’. Maybe someday we will even enter Math Bees!”

            And that is exactly what they did. The money raised from selling the castle and cavalry was used to build schools and sponsor spelling bee contestants. The king lived in a large white-washed house in the center of town and enjoyed attending the dinner shows at “The Castle Hotel and Theatre”.  He wore plain clothes, ate plain food, owned six dogs and adopted the urchin.

            And you know what? Everyone lived happily ever after.

The End




3 responses

22 12 2008
Mother Smith

You think the king would have a horse for me? 🙂

23 12 2008

Hey! Mother Smith stole the word I was about to use! So I’ll use it anyway. Delightful. It made my day and I’ve only just gotten out of bed. I really think you should send it to the Big Three car dealers.

If you can dash off something that fast, you’d better keep dashing. i’d love to see the illustrations you know you are dying to create.

One P.S.–I THINK that the form of “smite” that you are looking for is “smitten”- but don’t take my word for it. 🙂

Bravo Meghan

12 02 2010

Hahahaha!! This story is adorable. So many laugh-out-loud lines, and a great emotional arc for the king. I loved it!

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