Ruminations, etc..

Musings, rantings, and pie.

It Aint So Good to be The King

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(For the past two decades of my life, I’ve participated, with varying levels of commitment, at both the Arizona and Southern/Northern California Renaissance Faires.  Every now and again, I’ll chronicle some of the stories here.  It’ll be sort of like Get in the Van but lamer. Please note: the names have been changed to protect all parties.)

A quick note before the piece.  I wrote this piece for a writing class I was in last summer, during the creative non-fiction unit. So it’s a little more…creative non-fictiony than other postings here.  Anyway, I really like it and I hope you do too.


It Aint So Good to be the King

 

“If you shoot at a king you must kill him.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

We were two cases of beer into our evening when we decided to go see the new joust arena at the other end of the faire.  My friend Pablo – an authentic Englishman in an otherwise inauthentic renaissance faire – said to me, “C’mon Krol.  It’ll be fun.”  I told him I didn’t feel like walking anywhere.  He said not to worry and pointed over a short, pasty white guy with kinky and frizzy hair.  “Harry’s going to drive.”

I shrugged. “Sounds good to me,” I said.  Acquiescing to Pablo is easier than fighting sometimes.

Harry got into the front cab of his run down generic late model Toyota truck and me, Pablo, and this gangly silent fuck named Zeke got into the back. Harry started the truck and red brake lights lit up our desert camp, bathing everything in an angry red light.  I heard an incredulous voice behind me.

“Bryan…are you sure about this?”

I craned my neck to see Cassandra, my girlfriend, behind me.  She was standing in the brake light’s crimson glow, arms crossed, with one eyebrow raised slightly and a borderline scowl on her face.  Cassandra led the dance team I was part of at the Arizona Renaissance Festival.  Before that, she was into stage combat and fighting.  She was short, powerfully built, and intimidating.  She had half band neck tattoo and facial piercings back in 1991, a time when an NBA star dying his hair green was considered out of control.

“Probably not,” I said, half-smiling.

Cassandra slowly nodded, taking in my words.

“He’ll be fine Cassandra!” Pablo said. “Let the boy live a little!”

“Boy! I see no boy here!” I said. Feigning masculinity was my second hobby in those days.

“Come on, let’s go!” Harry leaned out the driver’s side window and slammed his hand against the door.

“Gotta go,” I said to Cassandra.  She looked at me with tired and sad eyes and smiled weakly.

“I’ll see you back at the tent,” she turned and walked back towards the camp where the other members of her dance team congregated.

Harry tore off into the desert.

 

Back in the mid-90s, the faire felt more remote.  The housing boom hadn’t happened, which would push tasteless cookie-cutter tract homes outward from Mesa into Apache Junction and up the slopes of the Superstition Mountains, polluting the night with orange glow from high-pressure sodium lights.  Back then, after the faire closed and when the campfires were out, you could look up and see long bands of star clusters, millions of tiny pinprick lights set in the blackness.  One night I saw satellites moving across the sky – it was that clear and dark.  Now when you’re out there at night, when everything is still and serene, you look and you see an orb or orange light cast from the Phoenix metro area, obscuring all the tiny lights and details.  It looks like a wall of fire is coming towards you.

As Harry sped through the dark on the makeshift roads behind the faire, I thought of Cassandra.  I first saw her at a  faire workshop.  She wore a white shirt, purple velvet breeches, and black leather fighting gloves. She was 8 years my senior and carried herself like the world was her playground.  She was dating Gerald at the time.  Gerald was older than her and worked hard to redefine the word arrogance every chance he got.

Driving on the dirt road kicked up rocks and dust.  The tires on the gravel sounded like a blender chopping nuts and the air was chilly.  Other pleasant memories came to me as Harry drove fast to the arena.  Me joining her dance team; our aborted attempt to see Rocket from the Crypt on their famous Free Charity tour; her buying bourbon for me and my friends at Christmas; sitting by my parents pool, drinking wine; our first kiss.  None of these memories were recent.

We arrived at the new joust arena and jumped out of the truck. Zeke and Harry were making noise until Pablo, the alpha male, quieted them.  There were roving security guards on the site at night and we wanted to avoid them.

The arena was huge, almost the size of a high school football stadium.  The stands were constructed out of wood, metal and concrete.  They looked sturdy and powerful, unlike the past arena, which was rented stadium seating.  This arena had staying power.  There was also a viewing box for the Royal Court to sit above the plebes in the stands.

The Royal Court included “King Henry.”  King Henry was played by this bodybuilder and artist named Jerry.  Jerry was a celebrity around the faire because he came from Minnesota (where most of the upper echelon management came from) and played the King.  His costume lent him some kind of authority that other people obeyed and loved.  It was like the role he played became real because of the clothes he wore.  The renaissance faire is like the Stanford Prison Experiment in that regard.

Jerry was also a guy that called me a “stupid asshole” once backstage.

“I want to check out the King’s balcony,” I said.

No one knew how to get up there, but since it was on the second story we looked for stairs.  Finding them took an embarrassing length of time.

“So what’s up with you and Cassandra?” Pablo asked.

I shrugged. “You know how she is.”

“Yes I do, that’s why we’re not dating anymore, Bry.”

Harry found the stairs and he and Zeke started up them, giggling like lunatics on nitrous oxide.  Pablo and I followed.

Pablo kept talking as we walked up the stairs. “You’ve been down lately man. I don’t like seeing it.”

“Thanks.  I appreciate that. We’re going through some tough times now.  It’s no big deal.”

“I don’t know about that. You haven’t been yourself lately.” Pablo said.

“I know. But there’s nothing I can do.  It’s all on her and how she feels about things.”

We got to the top of the stairs and Pablo gave me a sympathetic smile.  “Just be good to yourself, mate.”

The viewing booth was nondescript.  Just a wooden box set over the arena with a few pieces of decorative finery.  There were also two thrones up on a small dais at the end of the booth.  One was clearly for the king. I went over and examined where Jerry was going to sit during the next day’s jousts.

Cassandra got along great with the Royal Court.  The Mayor’s court too.  Both groups considered me an obnoxious jerk.  I considered them humorless dickheads that had unjustifiably high self-esteem for a bunch of former SCA fucks.

Harry and Zeke stood towards the edge of the balcony.  Pablo stood next to me and regarded the thrones with me.

“You’re right,” I said.  “It’s just – she has all the power here. If she wants to dump me, she will.  There’s nothing I can do about that.”

Pablo nodded.

“It’s hard being out here,” I said. “Unless people want to fuck you, you got no power.  You’re nothing.”

“Cassandra wants you,” Pablo said.

“For the time being.”

Staring at the King’s throne, I thought back to a few years before, to me and Jerry’s exchange backstage.

I was talking about an altercation between my friend and two hack performers from Minnesota. One of them, a singing executioner, got in her face about how she was attracting an audience for our stage acts. That was our job. We were supposed to get an audience to come see the shows at the stage we were assigned to.  It’s called hawking.  In this instance, one of the Singing Executioners, whose act was about as funny as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, didn’t like what she was doing and got in her face about it. She was a strong girl, but an adult giving her a hard time for doing her job shook her up a little.  After it happened, I was backstage telling my friend Hansen about it. Jerry butted in, and said:  “Well, maybe if you weren’t such a stupid asshole, these things wouldn’t happen.”

My face felt like something white hot was burning it. Scowling, I pictured Jerry.  His skin was a dark tan from all the sun and his beard was still a dusky brown.  Then I pictured his smug smile and his fawning admirers.  My friend Eddy, who was in the Royal Court a couple of years prior, told me how funny Jerry was, and how charming he was. Cassandra told me that too. She was always pointing out the positive qualities in people that thought I was contemptible and hideous.

I felt my upper lip start to tremble into a sneer.

Then an idea came to me that was so sophisticated, so urbane, so sublime I was dumbfounded.

“I’m going to piss on the King’s throne,” I said.

“What?” Pablo said. Harry perked up and laughed.  Zeke looked at me with dull eyes and sort of smiled.

“Yeah,” I said, nodding my head with added determination. I turned to Pablo and smiled.  “I’m going to piss on the King’s throne.”

I stepped up to the dais and prepared to hose down the throne.  I undid my pants and noticed that there was a foam cushion on the seat.  Good.  The urine will soak in and smell.  While I peed, Harry cheered.  And as my stinking yellow piss drained all over the throne,  I imagined Jerry’s face scrunched up as he sat there the next day, wondering where that smell came from.  A strong feeling rose in my chest and I stood up a bit straighter. I felt the kind of satisfaction that only comes with seeing your adversary trampled down by rabid bulls running in the streets.

“Who’s next?” I asked, zipping up.

Harry was next.  He giggled and said, “This is awesome!” as he urinated.

“Pablo?” I said.

“All right Bry. I’ll do it.”  Pablo paid tribute to the King and afterwards Zeke did.  At least I think he did.  That guy was like a big lump of tofu carved into a human body.  The Easy Bake Oven generated more candlepower than Zeke’s brain on his best day.

Afterwards we climbed back into Harry’s truck.  I had a broad smirk on my face.  Pablo saw it and slapped my back.   “That’s more like it, Bry.”

 

When I arrived back at camp everyone was asleep.  I walked to the tent Cassandra and I shared and went inside.

As I laid down on our bed of blankets and foam she said to me: “How was your trip?”

“Good,” I said, closing my eyes. “We pissed on the Kings throne.”

“Well that’s mature.”

“I’ve never felt better in my life.”

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Written by B. Michael Krol

May 13, 2014 at 3:58 pm

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