Once upon a time, there was a king. He was very well respected and admired and loved by his people. His name was King Moby. He didn’t have a surname, because he was so much respected and so much admired and so much loved. It was logical in his kingdom. There was no one else without a surname there.
He was the only one.
He was slender and well-toned and looked youthful all the time.
He was busy every day.
He woke up, or rather his manservant woke him up, at six o’clock in the morning, rain or shine, in summer or in winter. It was always at six o’clock sharp.
His four-poster bed was made of dark-red mahogany. The pole on the right by his head was curved as a snake curled around it from the bottom to the top. The pole on the left by his head had ivy around it from the bottom to the top. The pole on the right by his legs was curved as a rope curled around it from the bottom to the top. The pole on the left by his legs had an eel around it from the bottom to the top. In the centre of the headboard, his initial M was carved and painted with gold powder.
When he first opened his eyes, he yawned once and stretched his arms twice. Then he flipped the golden bedspread down to his waist, revealing his yellow silk pyjama top. He then sat up and yawned once and stretched his arms twice again.
His three butlers (his manservant who had woken him up had something else to do somewhere else after that) brought silver trays with silver snakes around the edges and his initial M in the middle. They were loaded with his breakfast: scrambled eggs, poached eggs, soft-boiled eggs, hard-boiled eggs, bacon, fried eggs, sausages, pancakes, toast, strawberries, orange juice, coffee, tea, porridge, kippers, croissants, butter, oranges, grapefruit, apple jam, grapefruit marmalade, cornflakes, milk, cream, omelette, margarita, martini, bloody mary, and pina colada. The king didn’t usually eat everything. But he wanted a variety of choices and he could have it, because he was the king.
Before he started eating, one of the butlers put a snow-white linen bib with M embroidered all over in the same colour, around his neck, just in case he dropped something on his silk pyjamas.
When he had finished breakfast, his barber came to shave his face and trim his hair, which was not really necessary, because his barber was there the day before as well.
Then another manservant came to clean his teeth with a white water pitcher with M, a white wash basin with a small M all over, a bamboo toothbrush (the king didn’t like electric ones or plastic ones) with M on the back of the head, whitening toothpaste with M, and two pink Egyptian cotton hand towels with a small M all over. The manservant asked the king if he would open his mouth if he didn’t mind. The king didn’t mind, so he opened his mouth. The manservant brushed his upper left teeth ten times, brushed his upper front teeth ten times, brushed his upper right teeth ten times, then brushed his lower right teeth ten times, (he used to move to his lower left teeth, but one day the king said it was quicker to move to the lower left teeth from his upper left teeth than to his lower right teeth, and the manservant and others standing by were very much impressed by the king’s efficiency), then brushed his lower front teeth, and then his lower left teeth. The manservant politely asked the king if he would like to spit the water into the white basin. The king did with enthusiasm. It sometimes splashed on to one of the pink Egyptian cotton hand towels under the basin. Then the manservant wiped around the king’s mouth with the other pink Egyptian cotton hand towel.
Now it was time for him to get out of his mahogany four-poster bed. And time for his bath.
A copper bathtub with two ring handles on each side and with M on the front, back, and both sides, which had been brought by two manservants and filled with hot water by another two menservants from jugs, was a little way away from the bed. White steam was rising from the hot water. The windows were blurred with condensation. The king stood still by his four-poster bed. Two manservants approached him and started undressing him. He sometimes lifted his right leg or left leg or right arm or left arm, according to which clothes were being removed. He was an easy person to be undressed. His father, the late king, was grumpy and complained that the manservant pinched his shoulder or scratched his back or was undressing him too slowly. Now the king was stark naked and walked to the copper bath tub with white steam rising and got in. He didn’t hide his nakedness from his menservants, because he had been taking a bath surrounded by people since he was a baby. It was natural thing to do for him.
Another two manservants came with light-green sea-sponges, cakes of yellow soap, nail brushes, shampoo, and conditioner, which all had M engraved on them.
When he was squeaky clean all over his body, he stood in the bath tub with a little cooler water around his thighs. Another two manservants dried him with dark-blue bath towels with a small M all over.
It was time to appear to the public.
He was dressed as a king, a gold crown with lots of precious stones, a red silk cape with fringes of white leopard fur, white-golden jacket and trousers, and a red wide sash. Then his facial expression changed from a nondescript one to a king’s: dignity, authority, sincere, respectable. He then walked out of the bedroom to the balcony that looked down to the town square, followed by an entourage of ten people.
The kingdom’s people had been in the square, patiently waiting. The big square was full of people, but it was rather quiet. They knew they should behave before the king’s appearance, even small children didn’t run around, even babies didn’t wail. Their pink faces were looking up at the grey stone balcony, draped with the kingdom’s flag, a big golden M in the centre of a black background. The air above their heads was thick with anticipation, hope, and joy. They loved their king. They respected their king. They admired their king. And their king was so kind that he appeared to them twice a day, seven days a week, thirty days a month, and three-hundred-and-sixty-five days a year.
The sky was blue today. It was raining heavily yesterday, but their king came to see his people, who went there to see their king.
Finally the double doors at the back of the balcony opened. The king walked through, followed by the entourage.
The people cheered.
The king waved to the right. The people cheered.
The king waved to the left. The people cheered.
The king waved to the front. The people cheered.
The king smiled to the left, the right, and the front. The people smiled.
He had a strong sense of thoroughness.
When the king retreated behind the doors, the people started disperse to go to work, happy, encouraged, inspired, determined to work hard.
With the morning job done, the king changed, or rather his manservants changed, his formal attire to a more informal one: a long red coat over a white shirt with fluffy frills around the neck and the wrists and black trousers.
He then lounged on a silver velvet settee. Four menservants came, pushing a trolley loaded with various bottles of alcohol and varieties of tobacco.
His first choice this morning was a filter-less cigarette from a golden cigarette case. As soon as he put it into his mouth a manservant lighted it with a black lighter with his initial M embossed in the centre. The king inhaled deeply into his lungs. It was so delicious and relaxing after the hard work. He exhaled with a deep sigh and closed his eyes to relish the nicotine dashing around in his lungs.
His manservants, standing around the room in case the king wanted an extra service, sighed as well, only discreetly. They were so devoted to the king that they could feel as the king felt.
His second pick was a full glass of straight bourbon. The amber liquid rippled in his mouth before being swallowed. The fire surged down from his gullet to his stomach. How he loved this sensation.
His third option was a fat cigar.
His fourth selection was a big glass of cognac.
His fifth was a pipe.
His sixth and last one was a huge glass of vodka.
Then he got a little sleepy and yawned hugely. He didn’t have to cover his mouth in private. He walked to his bedroom, in which his four-poster bed had been made already. He climbed in it and dozed without changing his clothes. He was the king so that he had the right to sleep in whatever clothes he was in.
His manservants went away and his maids came. Their uniform was in the same colour as his manservants’: black and white, only they had long skirts instead of trousers.
At exactly twelve o’clock, one of the maids approached the bed and whispered to the king, ‘It’s time for lunch, your majesty.’
He opened his eyes, feeling hungry.
An array of maids came in, pushing trolleys with food and drinks, followed by five musicians.
He ate and drank in bed, while soft music was played.
After the lunch, he went to his office to sign some papers with a golden eagle quill.
Then he walked back to his bedroom, which was all cleaned, and had a quick nap before the afternoon public appearance.
When he woke, he changed from the wrinkled clothes to the formal ones for the people in the square.
It was the same as the one in the morning: the king waved, the people cheered, the king smiled, the people smiled.
Today’s job was done at last. The king retired to his bedroom to sleep off the fatigue.
After dinner also taken, he smoked opium. It was the most relaxing time. He could forget what hard work he had to do every day. Then he slept.
Of course, he sometimes travelled to the countryside or foreign countries when he was needed, and also he sometimes had guests from the countryside or foreign countries. Then his schedule would be different. But that is a different story.
The small room next to King Moby’s bedroom had a plant, which was in a big bowl of transparent liquid. The thin floating stems `had flowers, which were all different shapes and sizes. The roots underneath had things on the tips as well.
The room was always dim with only two candles lit, day and night. Dark-grey drapery hung all over the walls, no windows.
The room attendant had a dark-grey cloak on. The king’s initial M was embroidered on the back in the same colour, so that it was very hard to distinguish it.
It was not a secret thing going on in the room, although it appeared so. It was just a tradition to be dim and in dark grey.
In the next room, the king was having his breakfast. He ate fried eggs.
In the dim small room, one of the flowers shaped like a stomach started working as if an invisible hand were squeezing it on and off. The flower worked a little harder. Then it worked harder. Another flower with the shape of liver started working as well. The king must have drunk some alcohol. The two flowers worked harder and started emitting dark-grey liquid into the transparent thing, which was getting darker minute my minute.
The room attendant, whose face was covered by the cloak hood, scooped the darker liquid with a big metal slotted spoon over and over again until it was all clear. The dark-grey sticky thing from the bowl was piled in a metal bucket on the floor. It smelt. It smelt bad like something rotten and old and spoilt, but the room attendant was long used to it.
While the king’s teeth and body were being cleaned, the room attendant relaxed a little. A little, because nobody knew if the king would suddenly decide to consume a piece of apple pie or a glass of whiskey in the bathtub. The attendant sat on a wooden chair by the flower bowl and leaned backwards. His eyes were half closed, half open. He was half asleep, half watching the bowl. Any moment the dark-grey thing started coming out, he would wake up fully and scoop it out.
When the cheers from the people in the square had subsided, he sat upright, holding the metal spoon in his hand.
The lung-shaped and liver-shaped flowers started working. The king must have been smoking and drinking. The lung flower puffed out dark-grey smoke-like jelly-like thing. The liver flower oozed dark-grey thing. He scooped it out with the spoon and dumped it into the bucket. Small blobs of goo splashed towards his long cloak. He leapt backwards a little. It narrowly missed his clothes and landed on the metal floor. He moved the bucket by his legs and started scooping the dark-grey thing. The goo on the floor would be gathered up and put into the bucket later. He wouldn’t step on it at any rate, because his shoes were not made of metal. He didn’t want to damage them.
At twelve o’clock, the afternoon room attendant came and he left. The new attendant looked the same in a dark-grey cloak with the hood covering her face. It was just she was a little shorter.
What she did was the same as what he did in the morning: scooping the dark-grey thing from the bowl with the metal slotted spoon and put it into the metal bucket, which was big enough to hold everything for a day. But there was another one by the back wall just in case.
King Moby was slender and well-toned and looked youthful all the time.
Sayuri Yamada was born in Japan and came to England in 2003 after searching for a country to live permanently in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and French Polynesia for ten years. She finished studying Creative and Critical Writing in a postgraduate course at the University of Winchester in September, 2011. Her stories have been published in twenty-seven magazines both in the UK and the US. One of them, ‘Killing Me Softly’, is published at Gray Sparrow, which won an award for the Best New Literary Journal of the Year from the Council of Editors of Learned Journal. Another one, ‘A Fat Mermaid’, is published at First Edition, sold at W.H. Smith.