“So, there we stood, four friends in the courtroom of the Jester King. He sat there on his throne scowling at us with all the powers of his dementia. He glowered at us like we were pond scum clinging to the bottom of his boots, an unwanted turd clinging to his knickers, mucking up the works…”
The eyes of the children followed me as I marched to and fro in front of them. My eyes stayed on the paper as I tried to find the words to put on that dirty piece of parchment.
“Um, Freeman. Um, this is America, and we don’t have a king here,” a tiny-voiced girl squeaked at me.
I turned to confront the voice, and the kids all laughed at me. Their suntanned faces all beamed with excitement, and I found myself laughing with them.
“And do you know why we don’t have a king?”
The booming voice of my friend Dev filled the room. He stood in the entrance to the room. His dark skin coupled with a quick smile set the kids at ease. He sat in the circle of children, and they all nodded excitedly.
“Yes, Uncle Dev. You and Freeman, and all your friends fought against the Jester King and won.”
“We fought them, yeah, but nobody won,” I whispered.
Dev gave high-fives to the group and nodded his head, his thick black hair hung to the center of his back and moved with every motion he made.
“Yeah, that’s right we tore into ‘em like they were made of steak…chewed ‘em up good…”
“…and if you ever wonder why the world is an unending dumpster fire of bad things you can blame us for it,” I added. The words wouldn’t come. “Screw Shakespeare and his vocabulary of 54,000 words,” I muttered walking away from Dev and the children.
Dev pointed at me and whispered to the kids, “somebody is a grumpy gut.” The children laughed and giggled, and Dev climbed to his feet and walked over to me.
“You can’t sleep?”
“Dev, if I could sleep, I wouldn’t have an empty sheet of paper in my hand and be searching for words to describe the evil we’ve done.”
“Evil, come on man, cut yourself some slack. We did what we thought was right.”
“We set a nuke off in our own country. God only knows the damage we inflicted on our own people.”
Dev shoved me against the wall, the humor in his eyes gone. He leaned close; his lips pulled back revealing his white teeth.
“Those people tried to kill us, brother. Don’t forget that little detail. The Jester King sent them to end us.”
“And we set off a nuke and burned them all to ash.”
“You’re missing the big picture, brother.”
“Oh yeah, what’s that Dev?”
“The Jester King is still out there, Freeman. He wants us to die now more than ever before. Now, we have these kids to think about, and our numbers are dwindling.”
I watched as Dev walked away, and the children had gone on to play somewhere deeper in our cave. Their tiny voices faded away. I was alone with my thoughts, such as they were.
On my dirty piece of parchment, I finally wrote: It wasn’t always like this.