“The Fool – with Apologies to Tom Robbins” by Josh, Paris

Crime and Punishment July 13, 2011 23:49

topic: CRIME & PUNISHMENT medium: TEXT

as shared at an event themed “Royalty”

I’d watch out if I were you- they don’t take kindly to strangers around here- let me
tell you that,” said the man sitting in the hanging cage at the crossroads.
“I’ve been here for three days now. All I wanted was a goose- one lousy goose! They
wouldn’t have noticed anyway… there were like six of them. Fat ones too. I only
pinched a smaller one.”
The traveller sighed- he’d been sleeping rough for days and the prospect of facing yet
another village full of suspicious serfs filled him with weary despair. He would have
to put on his most charming begging smile.
He practised a winning grimace in a frozen puddle at his feet, while eating the last,
stale crumbs of a loaf he’d bought with his last pennies from a leper on the road the
previous day.
It couldn’t go on like this. Maybe, just maybe, they’d give him barn to sleep in- a
shed even- just somewhere dry. Somewhere warmer than out here.
He got to his feet.
“Here- you couldn’t help get us out could you- they said they were gonna leave me
here till I starve! Till my eyes get pecked out by crows and the squirrels gnaw on me
bones! I’ll freeze! Hang on guv!”
The traveller started walking towards distant plumes of smoke rising in the still,
frozen January afternoon air…
“ Ah curse you, you heartless bastard! You’ll see, mark my words! Today you’re a
king… but you’ll see… More fool you!”
It was just starting to get dark. The traveller pulled his coat tightly around him and
shivered. Not another night in the cold.
He passed frozen, silent fields of crop stubble on the way towards the town… only
stopping when he spotted what looked like a potato amongst the decayed grasses…
but it was just a large white stone. He kicked it with not a little force down the road.
Not another night hungry.
Night was really setting in now. But in the distance he spotted signs of life – the glow
of what looked like a fire… a big fire. Snatches of music was carried down the chilly
air. The traveller picked up his pace.
The streets were packed… villagers too drunk to stand and return to the party leered
at him as he passed.
“Eeerr who thass FOOL! Thass all you err comin take the fuckin chance ta be the
KING I want to be it zis year yer bassTARD! “ one shouted.
This seemed promising. Drunk villages tended to be more hospitable…
He moved further towards the fire…. Dancers swayed and tumbled about- some
dancing to a beat hammered out by a dirty little man on an inflated pigs – some just
moving to the invisible rhythm of inebriation..
People were noticing him now, but everyone smiled- welcoming in to the whirling
revellers. He reached the fire- a gigantic blaze in the village square. Piglets were
being turned on spits… and four of the village’s six geese were slowly roasting on
smaller fires dotted about…
“Welcome! What a day to join us!” boomed a large, well fed peasant dressed in a
colourful, clean tunic… clearly some sort of village leader.
“Well met on king’s day!”
He was surrounded by a group of thuggish looking brutes who all bore the same
merry-but vacant- expression.
“Here- have a leg of pork sir- Tostig, fetch the mead- or would you like cider?
And just in time for the Pud as well! A potential king in our midsts!”
The traveller was wary- such hospitality was uncommon to him, but he gingerly
accepted the food and a horn of mead, which he sniffed and then sipped.
All good so far. He drained the vessel. One of the brutes, Tostig, immediately filled It
Several meads later he felt warm and safe- these villagers were clearly an anomaly, a
small island of happy genorisity in this barren, cold, unfriendly country.
And although he didn’t understand the ins and outs of pig husbandry, he laughed at
the jokes of his new friends… and his laughter grew louder with every mug of mead
he drank…
Soon he joined the dancers, unsteady now, but no more ungraceful than any around
Then, the music stopped, and a roar went up among all the villagers.
The traveller dropped the stout, but pretty, maiden he had in his arms and watched as
five men carried a vast platter towards the fire. On top was a great, dark, fruity mass.
“ The cake! The cake!” they all cried… including his dance partner, who sank to the
floor as her eyes rolled back from the booze …
The cake was cut and the pieces handed out to everyone present. Each one inspected
their piece before devouring their slice…
The traveller noticed some looked content, but some seemed.. disappointed.
The leader of the group approached, bearing a plate.
“ THIS one’s for you, friend!” And he winked.
The traveller took a bite and his teeth immediately met with something hard.
A small white stone, similar to but smaller than the one he’d kicked down the road a
few hours before.
The crowd were silent as he drew it out of his mouth, then all together the cry went
“The king! The king!”
“what doesss thish mean?” slurred the tipsy traveller to the head peasant.
“You are our king of course! The king of King’s day!” he replied…
“You may do whatever you like, or whoever you like until tomorrow night- the
village is yours, you are the king!”
The traveller was puzzled but went with it- it was strange but things couldn’t really
get any better.
Maybe there was no ruler for this village- they voted their leader in by weird twists of
fate like this. He fancied himself as a ruler.
“My first order… is for more mead! And get the music back on! I want to dance!”
“Of course my lord, of course” replied the finely dressed peasant.
His entourage brought a wooden crown, painted red, and placed it on the travellers
The party continued, day came.. and night fell again.
The traveller woke in a bed- a bed! His head felt heavy after a terrific 24 hour benderwhat
a day! He had been paraded about the town and everyone had been most
generous… a little too generous. He disentangled himself from three of the villagers’
wives who were still sleeping and climbed out to get the water pitcher near his door.
At that moment the door crashed in and the peasant with the colourful tunic burst in
with his team of thugs.
“Good morning your majesty!” he said boisterously.
“You had a good reign. It’s time to leave now.”
They dragged him out, naked except for the red crown- tied him up and threw him on
a cart. The village was deserted, and freezing.
“Wha?” The traveller could barely complain through his chattering teeth.
They reached an empty field on the outskirts of town, and he was pulled off the cart.
He saw one of the peasants, whose wife he had just been in bed with a few moments
before, pick up a smooth, white stone…. that looked a little like a potato.
The leader withdrew a knife from his smock. Without ceremony he took the travller’s
hair and sliced open his throat.
Between the moment his blood spilled on the frosty ground and the first blow from
the stone, the caged man’s words rung through his head…
“You’re a king today…”

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