Peasants live a simple life with simple needs and joys.
The difference between their king and them is the price tag on their toys.
That evening, the King's mechanic, a short, squatty man named Theodore, Toadie for short, arrived in time for supper. If he thought the broth was a little thin, or the meat a bit scarce, he didn't say so. Perhaps his mind was taken up with the latest palace gossip about the King's troubles. It was no secret really, that hard times had hit the Kingdom. Nobody wanted to say it out loud, of course, but the big "R" word was bandied about regularly. Recession.
"We are working harder and keeping longer hours, but it does not do any good. No one is prospering," complained their guest, as he helped himself to a chunk of Guilda's wonderful hot rye bread, fresh out of the oven, which he spread with a generous dollop of butter.
"It is the same for us, but is it really our fault, do you think?" asked Guiseppe uncomfortably. He didn't want to appear critical of the King.
"Well, I will tell you what I think," answered Toadie, pouring himself another glass of the stout golden Ale that Guiseppe brewed, "It sure does not help that King Ferdinand borrowed so much money to keep his kingdom running the way he wanted. Did you know that every year he has spent way more than the Kingdom produces in goods and services?"
"I did not know that," Guiseppe admitted, pouring himself another glass of the fabulous ale he had learned to brew from his dear old dad. He learned across the table and confided, "but, I did hear from a reliable source that he loaned King Bouregard in 'The Kingdom Across The Small Pond,' a huge sum of gold to keep his war effort afloat. And then, this same person told me that old Bouregard foolishly squandered the money on new midget horses and miniature chariots. You see, he had this hair brained idea that these additions to his arsenal would help his really short soldiers win battles by riding under drawbridges and barricades, and thus take the enemy by surprise."
"So, did it work?" asked Toadie eagerly?
"It was a silly idea. Everyone said so, behind his back, of course, and no, the plan did not work. He still lost every battle because the chariots kept breaking down under the weight of the armor. So now, Bouregard has no way to pay back the debt he owes our King Ferdinand," responded Guiseppe sadly.
"If you or I do not pay our debt, we all know what happens to us; we go broke and end up in prison!" muttered Toadie, "but I suppose since he is a King and all, he will just mint more money, probably adding copper in there instead of gold."
Toadie took a gulp of ale, belched, and added, "But the worst thing is that Queen Sybil has taken to attending the King's financial planning sessions. Imagine that! A woman helping make the King's decisions. What does she know about it?" He shook his head "What is this Kingdom coming to if it is being run by a skirt? And if the King cannot keep the Queen in her proper place, HOW can he take care of us, I ask you?"
"It is rumored that our Kingdom is almost One Million dollars in the hole!" Guilda blurted out. She just couldn't keep still. She had to say it. She thought to herself, "What does Queen Sybil know about being poor and having to wear patched aprons or needing to stretch her noodles until they nearly snap in two?"
"Yes, I heard that rumor too," added Toadie, "and, still, the King is borrowing more every day because he's in an arms race with Emperor Yazoo's 'Kingdom Across the Big Pond' to see who can produce the most efficient spears, and the largest, strongest battering rams. Can you believe that?" asked Toadie angrily.
"Is he really working on a new type of stealth chariot, which they say runs so silently it can't be heard rattling down the cobblestone streets from miles away like the old ones can?" asked Guilda, excited to be taking part in what was usually only a male discussion.
"That's what the boys at the palace 'think tank' tell me," affirmed Toadie.
"All that is wonderful, no doubt, but what will it matter if we cannot pay our bills?" wondered Guilda as she ladled more soup into all the bowls, and poured more ale into the steins. "So what if all this military hardware keeps our King Ferdinand in the lead of the arms race? We are not at war anyway, so what is the point?" she thought.
Aloud, she asked of no one in particular, "Where is the Kingdom headed?" Alas, it was a question often asked, but never answered, at least not by the simple folk.
"I'll tell you something worse yet," said Toadie, his mouth full of rye bread. "It turns out that 'The Dinky Kingdom' beyond the great woods can produce new military hardware cheaper than we can here. So, to save money, the King has decided to contract the work over there. Do you realize what that will mean for us?" he asked.
"It means," Guiseppe said slowly, "that our people will be out of work. The Royal Treasury will be depleted. That must be why he had to cut back on all our benefits and raise our taxes."
"Yes, the Widow Florence told me that there will be no more Kingdom Pittance Payments to the unemployed," added Guilda "They have even cut out the extra potatoes and corn mash that usually go to the hungry. Of course that could be just about anybody these days." The three of them sat there and each had an extra stein of Guiseppe's golden ale as they contemplated how bad things truly were in "The Kingdom by the Sea."
* * *
"What a mess we are all in," moaned Guiseppe, the next day, whether from the hangover he had from too many glasses of ale the night before, or from thinking about the previous evening's conversation with Toadie. "Everyone is in the same boat, including the king!" (Of course, it should be noted here that economists were invented much later in history, and so there was no one available at this point in time to tell either the King or Guiseppe that deficit spending is usually not a very good idea under the best of circumstances.)
"What to do? What to do?" worried Guiseppe. He feared the worst. After all, unemployed people do not buy chariots, used or otherwise, and they certainly cannot afford to get their glockenspiels repaired.
As the days went by, more and more people turned up looking for food at their door, and their business was in the cellar, even though Guiseppe worked from sun up to sunset trying to coax a few more dollars worth of business from his usual customers. He even went to the surrounding villages trying to find glockenspiels to repair or someone in need of a good used chariot. Nothing seemed to bring in the money they so sorely needed. "If things do not improve" he told Guilda sorrowfully, "we will have to declare ourselves Kingdom Paupers. Worse, we will not be able to help all these poor souls who look to us for aid. Then, what will happen to them?"
"Never mind them, what about us?" Guilda was on the verge of retorting, but she thought better of it and kept her mouth shut. She had enough problems trying to figure out how to roll out the noodles even thinner before she put them into her famous chicken noodle soup. As for the chickens, well they were getting so skinny that you could barely tell if she had put any meat in the soup at all! Even the flavor tasted thin and flat these days.
To be continued....
Lenny and Jan Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
Forward to The Man Who Asked God For A Million Dollars
The Man Who Asked God For A Million Dollars, Chapter One
The Man Who Asked God For A Million Dollars, Chapter, Three
The Man Who Asked God For A Million Dollars, Chapter Four
The Man Who Asked God For A Million Dollars, Chapter Five
The Man Who Asked God For A Million Dollars, Chapter Six
The Man Who Asked God For A Million Dollars, Chapter Seven
The Man Who Asked God For A Million Dollars, Chapter Eight
The Man Who Asked God For A Million Dollars, Chapter Nine
The Man Who Asked God For A Million Dollars, Chapter Ten
The Man Who Asked God For A Million Dollars, Chapter Eleven
The Man Who Asked God For A Million Dollars, Chapter Twelve
The Glory Road
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This site was created on 06/12/10
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and last updated on 10/02/10.