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The Prince Of Fresh Fruit
Mike Stools

Once upon a time in the land beyond the Enchanted Prong Hills lived a wise and jolly old king called Farnsborough. He had a beautiful daughter called Daughter [1] who had a severe aversion toward men who liked the feel of camels' ankles.

[1] The king lacked imagination when called upon to name anything.

The king also had an unusual peculiarity. He suffered from an affliction which, although mild and not a serious threat to his kingdom, was beginning to interfere with his jolliness and consequently became a considerable source of irritation. The affliction was this. Whenever he used or heard the word trousers he took on, from his courtiers' point of view, the appearance of a pitch fork.

Now, being jolly this would not have unduly perturbed him, but being wise he realised that as a king such an affliction was beginning to undermine his authority. All attempts to cure him had failed. The alchemist could not concoct a suitable potion, the wizard could not cast an effective spell, and the blacksmith said that it was difficult to get the parts these days. However, the jester had remarked that due to the affliction the king had proved to be remarkably useful when it came to mucking out the horses.

The only effective remedy that had been employed was an idea proposed by The Bishop With No Name and that was to prohibit the use of the word trousers throughout the entire kingdom.

Unfortunately, since trousers were the main crop and staple diet of the people of Farnsborough's Kingdom, much famine had ensued due to the trouser farmers being unable to negotiate the sale of their produce.

In desperation, the king announced that he would offer as a reward to anyone who could cure his affliction, his kingdom and half his daughter's hand in marriage. In response to this proclamation there rode into the land a noble prince from the Plains Of High Tea. The prince had acquired a reputation for performing mighty deeds of a fruity nature, and had consequently earned himself the appellation Prince Vitamin C. It came as little surprise to the people of Farnsborough's Kingdom when the fruity prince announced his juicy plan that would allow them once more to speak openly about their crops.

"Good people of Farnsborough's Kingdom," spoke the prince to the gathering of townspeople, "I want each one of you to go down to the green grocer's and buy a plum."

A tide of awe rolled over his audience. Why had they not thought of the plum gambit themselves?

"Tonight," he continued, "you must peel your plum, leave it to soak in maraschino overnight, and bring it to the castle gates at first cock crow."

Excitedly, the people charged down the narrow Street Of Toast to the local shops. By the end of the day, the green grocer had sold out of plums, the supermarket was out of maraschino and the jester had been executed.

*

Dawn broke. The cock crowed. The people gathered enthusiastically before the castle gates of King Farnsborough. Each of the king's subjects proudly held before them a single maraschino soaked peeled plum. Bunting had been spread across the streets, flags were unfurled, jugglers juggled, stilt walkers stilt walked and fire eaters fire ate. Even a toad tosser from the Enchanted Prong Hills had come to join in the festivities and was tossing his toads in his own peculiar manner.

And then there was Prince Vitamin C riding majestically upon his noble steed Crappalot. Trotting up the rampart he halted at the port cullis and hailed the guard on duty.

"Loyal guardsman of His Gracious Majesty King Farnsborough," called the fruity prince, "Pray raise the port cullis that we may pay court to your sovereign, and rid him of the evil curse that has for too long beset this beleaguered country."

A silence descended upon the masses as they awaited the guard's reply.

"Fuck off, you great pansy!" responded the guard, "You don't take me in with all that hoity-toity palaver."

"We've got some fruit," said the prince hopefully.

"Citrus fruit?" inquired the guard.

"Aye," said the prince, "Plums!"

"Oh well, why didn't you say?" said the guard, and the port cullis rattled its way up the gateway.

Led by Prince Vitamin C, the townspeople trouped into the castle grounds and entered the court of the afflicted king. The prince bowed gracefully before the king who, to his courtiers, still appeared quite kingly for no one had recently uttered the forbidden hosiery word. Princess Daughter stood anxiously by her father's side wondering if this stranger was the one true prince worthy of half her hand.

"My liege," announced the prince, "I have at my disposal the means of dispelling the blight that ails your majesty."

"Oh goody," enthused the king in a most jolly manner.

"With your majesty's permission," coaxed the prince.

"Proceed," beckoned the king, wisely.

"Good townspeople," the prince spoke toward his followers, "I want you to place your maraschino soaked plums upon the heads of all of the courtiers."

The people obeyed with great delight. Even the courtiers were pleased for they also had been given an active role to play in the healing of their monarch.

"Bowmen," the prince addressed the Royal Guard Of Archers, "Take aim at the plums."

The courtiers smiled at each other as the castle bowmen obliged. This was going to be an exciting stunt - much better than toad tossing.

"Fire!" commanded the prince.

Pitow, pitow, pitow!

Arrows shot across the courtroom swift and clean with the grace and speed of a shoal of barracudas darting at their quarries, mercilessly plunging their sharp pointy teeth through the soft scaly flesh of their prey, shredding fins, gills and tails and finally devouring the flaky bodies in an aquatic orgy of fishy slaughter. [2]

[2] Well, it wasn't quite like that but you get the gist.

But fish are not fruit and instead of hitting the plums, each arrow embedded itself in the forehead of its allotted courtier. Blood oozed down the stunned faces and splattered to the floor preceding the array of thuds of corpses hitting the cold stone flags. The king glared in horrified astonishment as each of his faithful courtiers tumbled to the ground.

The last of the bodies fell. The archers lowered their bows. Prince Vitamin C turned to address the king.

"Trousers!" he cried.

The shocked townspeople gasped in horror at the utterance of the T-word. With a gesture from the sergeant-at-arms the archers each took another arrow from their quivers and trained them on the prince.

"Look at the king!" commanded the prince.

The people glanced hesitantly in the direction of their sovereign.

"Do you see a pitch fork?" demanded the prince.

The people mumbled nervously amongst themselves.

"Well?" pressed the prince, "What do you see?"

Again the people showed reluctance to reply.

"You!" said the prince pointing at the blacksmith, "What does your king look like?"

"Er," responded the blacksmith, "It's difficult to get the parts these days."

"Oh, for Christ's sake!"

Then a little boy chirped up from the front of the crowd.

"The king," he began, "looks like . . . the king!"

Suddenly everyone cheered.

"The king looks like the king!" they chanted, "The king looks like the king!"

The king smiled and the archers disarmed their bows. Eventually the people settled down and the king beckoned the prince to approach his throne.

"You see," said the prince to the court, "It was not the king who had the affliction but the courtiers. They had been taking too much acid, and the word trousers triggered a flashback which made the king look, to them, like a pitch fork."

"I see," said the king, "But why did the archers miss the plums and hit the courtiers? My archers are the finest marksmen in the land."

"Indeed they are, your majesty," replied the prince, "and it was their skill that I needed to utilise to bring my plan into, ahem, fruition. [3]

[3] Humour.

"You see, the arrow-heads are made of ostrich bronze and your castle lies on a major ley line of high negative flux. As every schoolboy knows, if ostrich bronze moves through a negative flux within the vicinity of a maraschino soaked peeled plum a lateral force is exerted upon the projectile in the direction of the Cartesian product of the vectors of the ley line and the plum, in this case downwards. Consequently, the archers hit the courtiers."

"Bravo," cheered the king, "The fruit prince has saved my kingdom!"

"Yes," continued the prince, "If only people would take more fresh fruit and fewer class A drugs the world would be a much healthier place."

And with that he displayed before the crowd his shield on which was painted his family's coat of arms - a rampant banana triumphing over a defeated acid tab. Below the crest a heraldic ribbon sported the prince's motto Ascorbic Nil Lysergic.

"Vitamin C not L.S.D." the prince cried to the crowd and the people repeated his wise words in a chant.

"And now," spoke the prince once more, "I claim my reward - your kingdom and half your daughter's hand in marriage."

Princess Daughter stepped forward.

"Brave prince," she said, "You have proved yourself worthy of the office of my father's kingdom. But there is one more requirement you must fulfill before you can have me."

"Is there?" queried the king.

"Yes daddy, remember," she said, and then whispered to the king, "My affliction."

"Oh yes, of course. Equerry!"

"Yes, sire," responded the equerry.

"Fetch the royal camel."

"Yes, sire."

Shortly, the equerry returned with the king's favourite camel.

"Now then, Prince Vitamin C," said the king, "All you have to do is feel this camel's ankle and tell me what you think."

"Your majesty?" queried the prince.

"It's all right," said the king, "It's well trained. It won't hurt you."

Slightly puzzled, the prince obliged and crouched down beside the beast taking one of its ankles in his hands.

"Well?" said the king.

"Well, it's a bit hairy," replied the prince.

"Of course it's hairy. It's a camel!"

"I didn't mean it as a criticism."

"So, what did you mean it as?"

"Um, well, you know. It's a fine ankle for a camel."

"But do you like it?"

"I don't think I'd go out with a girl with an ankle like that."

"But on the camel?"

"It's fine on the camel."

"You like it on the camel?"

"Well, yes."

"Does it feel good on the camel?"

"Erm, I suppose it does, yes."

"Executioner!"

"Sire!" cried the executioner bringing his twenty three stone body sharply to attention.

"Take this man away and behead him immediately!"

"Sire!"

"Eh, what?" gibbered the prince.

"You heard," said the king sternly, "My daughter has a severe aversion toward men who like the feel of camels' ankles. I've met your sort before. You waltz in here with your posh horse and your fresh fruit and think you can get off with my daughter when all the time you have this fetish for camels' ankles."

"But I didn't know!"

"You would if you'd been in this story from the first paragraph," said the king, "But, oh no, couldn't be bothered until you heard about the reward. Off with his head!"

The executioner grasped the prince in a headlock and marched him out to the courtyard.

"But wait," protested the prince, "I can cure her of it! All I need is a pound of kumquats, three Granny Smith's, a water melon and a cauliflower . . . oh shit, that's a vegetable."

Chop.


Five short stories by Mike Stools, 1995





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