Tagged: humour

November repost 6 – I’m the king of the castle!

November is with us, and as you know, I am taking part in the increasingly inaptly named NaNoWriMo (inapt because the 'Na' stands for national - not really appropriate when they boast entrants from six continents). The majority of my posts between now and the end of November will be pre-written and scheduled.

This story was originally posted on 14 August 2014. I hope you enjoy it.


“This is my castle, and I’ll jolly well do what I want in it. And if anyone tries to stop me, I’ll… I’ll… I’ll jolly well stamp my feet and hold my breath and scream!”

King Kannot, ruler of the land of O was clearly not in one of his better moods. It had just been pointed out to him that there was insufficient gold in the royal treasury to fund the massive fair he had wanted to hold in the castle grounds. It was to have been a splendid affair with jesters, minstrels and entertainers of all sorts, as well as jousts, archery contests and all kinds of competitions. But the royal chamberlain said there wasn’t enough money. Now he needed a new chamberlain, too.

“If I may be permitted to point out to His Majesty,” interjected Velcro, the king’s faithful retainer, “if Sire attempts to hold his royal breath and scream at the same time, Sire may explode.”

“Well, what can I do to make myself feel better about my lot, Velcro? The peasants are revolting, and the nobles aren’t much better.”

“Sire could call a special meeting of the Privy Council at a ridiculously early hour, with an agenda of the utmost gravity and import, then not turn up Himself.”

“What a jolly good wheeze. Would they all come?”

“Could they possibly ignore a royal command, Sire?” The king’s humour had changed as quickly as ever. Velcro had a particular knack of knowing exactly what to say to get the old king into a good mood. Unfortunately for many of the king’s loyal subjects, this often involved causing great inconvenience to some of them, usually either the most hapless of the peasantry or the loftiest of the nobility or, more often, both.

“We’ll say,” the king suggested, “that we need to discuss our response to the overtures received from the next kingdom, suggesting that our royal son, the Prince Mite, should marry their king’s ugly daughter.”

“And what should be our response, Sire?”

“Our response shall be … that we shall think about it. We shall consider our options. We shall have discussions with our advisors and, of course, with Prince Mite.”

“And then, Sire?”

“And then, Velcro, we shall tell them that we will approve the marriage at a later date.”

“That date being, Sire?”

“When hell freezes over, Velcro, when hell freezes over.” With that, the old king laughed so hard he fell off his chair and rolled around the floor.

Still laughing, still rolling, he blurted out, “But we won’t tell the Privy Councillors that, eh, Velcro?”

Some considerable time later, after the king had recovered from his fit of royal mirth, he called Velcro to his kingly presence again, “Let’s have a feast tonight, Velcro. Summon the courtiers and the jesters, the Privy Councillors and the dancing wenches; have the hunters head out to find some meat. There will be jollity in my castle this night. It will go on until almost sunrise. As soon as the sun rises, the Privy Council will meet, and we will go to our royal bedchamber.”

And so the festivities took place. There was, indeed, jollity in the king’s castle that night, laughter and dancing, feasting and drinking, revelry and ribaldry and rambunctiousness, and goings on between jesters and wenches that we won’t go into here for reasons of modesty.

As the sun rose, the gathered company dispersed, each to his or her own home, with the exception of the Privy Councillors, who went through into the council room to await the king. The king collected his queen and went to bed.

Did I not mention that the king has a queen? Isn’t it obvious? Where do you suppose the Prince Mite came from? There’s no magic in this realm, you know.

The Privy Councillors waited patiently for the king.

For many hours they sat, chatting amongst themselves. They didn’t discuss the subject they were there to talk about, because it would be wrong to do so; just as it would have been wrong to leave the room before the king had graced them with his presence. They were rather afraid of the king.

Much as the king was rather afraid of the queen, although that, too, was never discussed.

November repost 3 – Your tears aren’t good enough

November is with us, and as you know, I am taking part in the increasingly inaptly named NaNoWriMo (inapt because the 'Na' stands for national - not really appropriate when they boast entrants from six continents). The majority of my posts between now and the end of November will be pre-written and scheduled.

This story was originally posted on 12 August 2014. I hope you enjoy it.

I should probably apologise for this story. It's what happens when I give the rational side of my brain an hour off, and allow the rest to go off on a frolic of its own.


“Sorry. No can do. Your tears aren’t good enough.”

The words echoed around the large, oak-panelled room in the middle of which I was standing. With a height to the ceiling of about five metres, it had tall, arched windows all around at about three metres from the floor, and was devoid of contents, save for what looked like a pulpit at the same level as the bottom of the windows. I was alone in the room, apart from a fearsome-looking woman in the pulpit. She was dressed entirely in black, and her expression reeked of malevolence. A label on the pulpit displayed a single word in large, ornate letters:

That my tears weren’t good enough wasn’t what I expected to hear from the Judger, and it wasn’t what I wanted to hear, so I questioned it, “What do you mean, my tears are not good enough?”

“Simply that,” she replied. “One of your people has been found guilty of stealing. The penalty for that, according to the law, is death by misadventure. There is no right of appeal, although real tears from a person directly related to the miscreant, who is innocent of any and all wrongdoing; and who is, in the judgement of this court, that is to say me, a thoroughly nice, kind, generous and practically perfect example of citizenship; real tears from such a person may, and I stress may result in the sentence being commuted to a life of misery.”

“And that’s supposed to be fair?” I asked, “That’s supposed to be justice? What happened to mercy, to—”

“JUSTICE? MERCY? This has nothing to do with justice or mercy.” She retorted, testily, “That may be what they do in other realms, but here … here … the purpose of this court is to keep order, to maintain the law. And we choose to do that by simple, impartial vengeance.”

“May I approach Your Worships more closely?” I asked, respectfully.

“No, you may not. If you have something you want to say to me, you must say it in the full hearing of everyone here. Now speak up, or go away and leave me alone!”

“But there’s no-one else here, Your Worships; just we two.”

“There might have been others, and I’m sure that if there were, they would have wanted to hear what you had to say. As well as … we don’t know if someone may be hiding in the corners, or under the stairs, or even inside the bottom of my judging box.”

This was not going well. The Judger’s brain had clearly gone out to play, leaving the rest of her to run the court.

I tried polite deference. “If it please Your Worships—”

“But it doesn’t.”

“But if it did …” I said, in a teasing, drawn-out manner.

“Go on.”

“What are Your Worships’ reasons for saying my tears aren’t good enough?” I asked; very respectfully, of course.

“You don’t understand the rules at all, do you?” she snapped, “I am the Judger. I don’t have to explain myself to you. You have to explain yourself to me. You have to tell me why you think your tears are good enough. In short, you have to prove to me that you fit the definition of ‘a person directly related to the miscreant, who is innocent of any and all wrongdoing; and who is, in the judgement of this court, that is to say me, a thoroughly nice, kind, generous and practically perfect example of citizenship’. Can you do that?”

“I can try,” I said, resigned to having to do what I had to do to obtain something approaching justice for my sister.

The Judger almost screamed at me, “I didn’t ask if you can try. I asked if you can do it. You must learn to answer the question you have been asked, not one you made up yourself to suit your case.”

“I apologise, Your Worships,” I said with all the humility I could muster, “I shall do that. I shall present my case through a story. If Your Worships will allow, of course.”

“Very well,” she said, her voice sounding as bored as any I had ever heard, “I suppose I’d better let you. But it mustn’t take too long; I’m almost ready for my lunch.”

I began my tale. “Once upon a time, in a land far, far away…”

“Oh get on with it!” she instructed, by way of interruption.

“Sorry,” I said, “I’ll continue.” I paused to gather my thoughts. “A man took his son to the bridge over a nearby river, for a game of Pooh sticks.”

“What’s Pooh sticks? I’ve never heard of it,” she said, “and I know about every game there is.”

“Pooh sticks is a game in which two or more people stand on one side of a bridge—”

“Sounds boring. Carry on with your story,” she said.

“When they leaned over the downstream side of the bridge, the boy disappeared.”

“Disappeared? Where did he go? People don’t just disappear,” she yelled, adding more quietly, “except on the orders of the court.”

“Well, this boy did, Your Worships. He simply disappeared without a trace. His father searched high and low, but could find no sign of him.”

“None?”

“None whatever.”

“What was the boy’s name?”

“Does it matter what his name was, Your Worships?”

“Yes, it does.”

“Why?”

That question seemed to enrage her a little more than somewhat. “Because I am the Judger, and if I say it matters, then IT MATTERS.”

“Sorry, Your Worships. His name was Jack. Jack Russell.”

“He can’t have been a very well-behaved boy, with a name like that. Go on.”

I took a deep breath and continued, “Two days later, Jack’s father—”

“Mr Russell”, she offered, helpfully.

“Mr Russell,” I agreed, “was still looking when he saw a young man sitting on the bridge. ‘Have you seen my son, Jack?’ he asked. The young man said, ‘It’s me, Dad. I’m Jack.’ His father—”

“Mr Russell”, she offered, helpfully, again.

“Mr Russell was confused but delighted. Or was he delighted but confused? No matter, he was both. ‘You’ve only been gone two days, Jack,’ he said, ‘yet you have come back much older. How can this be?’

“‘I was taken to another place, Dad,’ he explained, ‘a place where things are very different to the way they are here.’”

“What place?” the Judger asked.

“Does it … yes, I suppose it does. It was a place called, erm, Grintsk.”

“Grintsk… Grintsk. No, never heard of it. Tell me about it.”

“That, Your Worships, is what I am trying to do if you will stop interrupting me.”

“Then make it quick. I want my lunch,” she said in what seemed to be her trademark short-tempered manner.

“If you’ll stop jumping in, and let me tell my story, Your Worships, I promise I will do it quickly.”

“Good. Carry on,” she said, her voice and face betraying that she considered she had won a minor victory.

“‘In Grintsk, the way they enforce their rules is very different to the way it is done here,’ Jack said to his father – Mr Russell,” I gave her my most steely expression at that point, daring her to interrupt again. She didn’t.

“‘In Grintsk, anyone caught stealing can avoid harsh punishment if they return the stolen goods in good condition, apologise to the owners and to the court, and do some work for the people from whom they stole the goods. The length of time that they must work for them varies according to the value and nature of the goods stolen. If they can’t return the goods, they have to work for the people a good bit longer’”

“No one dies?”

“No one dies.”

“That’s not much fun, is it?”

“It’s not meant to be fun, Your Worships, it’s meant to be justice,” I explained, “anyway; Jack had lived under these rules for about fifteen years. When he explained our ways to the people there – they call their judgers magistrates – they said that we were clearly primitive and barbaric.”

“What does barbaric mean?” the Judger asked, “I don’t know that word.”

I saw my chance here, so I gave her a suitable definition; one that might give her pause for thought. “Barbaric, Your Worships, means cruel, unsophisticated, uncivilised, uncultured; that sort of thing.”

I could almost see the steam coming out of her ears, as she bellowed, “Uncivilised? Uncultured? Unsophisticated? We are the very epitome of culture and sophistication. I’ll show those Grintsk people what civilisation and culture mean.” She cupped her hands and yelled towards the door at the far end of the room, “Bailiffs! Release the miscreant.”

I looked up at her and said, “I don’t see the miscreant. Where is she? What have you done with her?”

“Oh, she’s probably escaped,” she replied, “they usually do.”

 

Tales of the land of Oh! — 5

A brief series of tales from the land of Oh!


Curry night

King Kannot, monarch and absolute ruler of the land of Oh! was standing in the great hall of his royal castle, talking with his wife, the queen. Oh, okay; if you must be pedantic, the queen was talking at him.

“Call the guards!” she said, “There’s a dishevelled old tramp at the door. I will not have people of that sort in my castle.”

“That’s not a tramp,” he replied after looking up, “that’s Velcro. And besides, when did it become your castle?” Looking towards his faithful retainer and neither waiting for nor even expecting a reply from his wife, the king said, “Come on in man, don’t stand on ceremony.”

Velcro approached the royal couple.

“I don’t care who it is,” the queen screamed, “he’s in no fit state to be in my presence.”

“Then leave, dear heart. In fact, leave us anyway. Important matters of state to discuss.”

“You can’t tell me to leave!”

“Oh dear. Can’t I?” the note of  confusion and concern in Kannot’s voice betrayed the drama training he had undertaken as a young man, “Sounds to me like I just did. Bye. See you later.”

“I am the queen; your queen.”

“So you keep reminding me. However, careful study of the constitution tells me that is not immutable.”

“Not what?”

“Immutable. It’s not a situation that can’t be changed.”

“What are you saying, husband?”

“I am saying, my precious, that I would like you to leave us for a moment – unless, of course, you’d like to make the arrangement permanent.”

“Well,” the queen said in a tone of exasperation as she walked away, “I never did.”

“Maybe you should have,” the king shouted after her.

“Sire,” Velcro said.

“How did you get in that sorry state?” the king asked before his man could say any more.

“At your behest, Sire, I ventured to the great library in the neighbouring kingdom of Ah! on a quest for information about this curry night the queen mentioned.”

“Library? What library?”

“The Goggle Plex they call it, Sire. All the world’s knowledge is to be found there.”

“I’ll bet it doesn’t know everything!”

“Sire?”

“Does it know what I had for breakfast today?”

“I shouldn’t be surprised, Sire. If not, it will know by tomorrow.”

“How?”

“Little birds twittering, Sire.”

“Is there no privacy?”

“Apparently not, Majesty.”

The king’s face assumed a conspiratorial aspect. “Could I use it to find out what old whats-her-name has been up to?”

“The queen, Sire?”

“Of course, the queen!”

“I expect so.”

“How?”

“There is a tome available to be consulted in the library, Sire. It’s called the Book of Faces.”

“Good. Send it to my phone.”

“Phone, Sire?”

“Oh drat. Why do I pay these inventor chaps? Have them flogged regularly until they invent something I can actually use.”

“Such as?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Things that let me talk to people and see their faces without having to be in the same bloody room as them.”

“I’ll tell them, Majesty.”

“Meanwhile, what did you learn about curry night.”

“Assuming it to be an event of sorts, Sire—”

“Is that a proper assumption?”

“Given that the queen said that she had invited others to it, Sire, it seemed a reasonable start point.”

“Carry on.”

“The Goggle library has no information on an event called curry night except a gathering where people eat non-indigenous, highly spiced food, Sire. Based on my albeit limited knowledge of the queen’s habits, peculiarities and proclivities, I proceeded on the understanding that whatever she had in mind would not include feeding to her neighbours food that she would be most unlikely to eat herself.”

“Continue.”

“If I may suggest, Majesty, is it possible that the queen, in fact, said carry night, not curry night? A carry night could be either an evening with films starring Jim Carrey, or a wife-carrying race. That activity enjoys some popularity in various parts, I’m told.”

“Very good, Velcro. Go off and organise it.”

“Which, Sire?”

“Both of them, Velcro. Both of them. And, while you’re at it, do the other thing, too.”

“The other thing, Sire?”

“The food thing. And anything else you can think of.”

“That may put some strain on the royal purse, Sire.”

“Deal with it, man. Keeper of the royal purse is one of your duties. Off you go, now; the queen is coming back.”

Velcro left as the queen entered.

“Well, husband?” she said.

“Well what, dearest?” the king replied.

“What was the result of your discussion of important matters of state?”

“Oh, that. I instructed Velcro to organise your carry night.”

“Not carry night, curry night. Idiot.”

“Perhaps you would be so kind as to enlighten me as to what you understand by the term, my sweet, for I am, that is to say, Velcro is at a loss.”

“I don’t know. Queen Marlene of… wherever it is she’s queen of, sent me a sexual message—”

“I think you’ll find, oh light of my life, that it’s called a textual message.”

“You haven’t seen some of the ones I get. Anyway, she said she’d agreed with the others that we should have a curry night and I was to organise it.”

“Then why didn’t you?”

“You’re familiar with the old saying that you don’t get a dog and bark yourself?”

“Of course. Relevance?”

“Simply that you don’t do up your own buttons when you have Velcro. Tee hee. Did you see what I did there?”

“I did, my funny valentine. Most droll. The extent of your wit never ceases to amaze. So, what are you expecting to see for this curry night?”

“Whatever Velcro organises, of course.”

***

Some days later, the neighbouring kings and queens arrived and were ushered to the guest accommodation block, where the queen had arranged drinks and canopies (she couldn’t understand why they were needed indoors but put them up anyway. Velcro tried to tell her about canapés, but his explanation passed so far over the queen’s head that it left a vapour trail). Meantime, the king and Velcro – the king in an honorific, supervisory sense – laid out the four banquetting halls, one with each of the possible constituents of a good curry night. Jack the stable lad was pressed into service as chief go-getter.

“Jack,” Velcro said, “go get the queen and her guests. Talk to them on the way back and see if you can find out what they’re expecting. Then usher them into the appropriate hall.”

“Don’t forget,” the king added, “if they’re expecting a sporting event, it’s hall one; comedic movies are in hall two, and the spicy food is in hall three.”

“What’s in hall four, your Majesty?”

“Ah, Jack. That’s our fall-back.”

“Fall-back, Sire?”

“Yes, Jack. Seated in hall four is Sir Parvin Khatri – an Indian Knight.”