by Mindy Aber Barad
In every city, town and village square the people gathered to hear the word of the king...
"Burp!" The scribes heard the king utter. They began to scribble.
"No! No! No! Imbeciles! Stop writing at once! Parchment! Bring them fresh parchment." The King was calling out criticism and instructions in all directions.
"Hiccup. Pardon me. When I want you to write I'll tell you. What kind of scribes are you anyway? Write what I say, not what I do."
The king took a deep breath, and then a deep drink from the golden goblet before him. "Stewards! More wine!" he called out.
Stewards went scurrying. Then, "And where is the queen? Bring me Vashti at once!" The king was as full of instructions as he was wine. As full of himself as the various stuffed vegetables on which he continued to gorge himself.
Yelling with his mouth full was not helping at all. When he began to cough up the word, 'stewards' again, they finally came running. They filled up his goblet and clapped him on the back to dislodge the food that threatened to choke him.
"Idiots! You're killing me! Guards!" the king called out.
When two guards arrived they were instructed to take away the steward who had dislodged the food that had been stuck in their majesty's throat.
"A lot of thanks he gets for saving the king's life," Inkius, the scribe's apprentice, whispered to the master scribe.
"Psst, quiet." Quillius jabbed his apprentice with his quill.
Inkius had the good fortune to be standing behind his master and the other scribes. He could not be seen by the king at all.
"I gotta write all this down," he thought. Nobody'll believe it otherwise. Drunken king almost chokes to death on food. What a story. Great stuffed vine leaves, though. His thoughts and jottings were interrupted.
"Scribes!" his majesty cried out. "Ready yourselves. 'Hear yea, hear yea. All good subjects of the righteous and noble King Ach-choo!"
The king nearly fell off the throne. There was some twittering in the ladies' section.
"Silence!" the king roared. "Now, where was I?" He turned to Quillius and the scribes.
"Yyour mmajesty," Quillius stammered, "I've written, 'Hear yea, hear yea..."
"Ah, yes, etc, etc, you know what to write..."
Then the King was interrupted by a commotion at the entrance to the royal court.
"What now interrupts my royal words?"
Whereupon Mehuman, the chief chamberlain, stepped forward and said, "Your majesty. The queen here refuses to enter the royal court. We thought we could force her, Sire, but she just overcame the strongest among us. A thousand pardons, Sire." He bowed his head and retreated.
"Guards! Off with her head!" yelled the king.
There was a collective "Oh!" to be heard throughout the royal court.
"I can't believe this!" Inkius shouted to himself. And no one's saying a word in protest. What kind of kingdom is this? They're all crazy. He was scribbling furiously, praying he would forget nothing. He wanted to remember all the details.
"Music!" the king roared. "Let's see some dancing!"
Quillius quietly tip-toed (though there was no reason to) over to Tarshish (that Persian officer who had gotten him the job in the first place) and whispered,
"Master. Do you think the king will require our services tonight?"
"Sh. Yes of course. Patience, my good man."
Inkius, meanwhile, found himself with time on his hands to describe the food, wine, music and dancing. He especially liked all those tiny bells pierced on various body parts of the dancers. He noticed the king liked them too.
"Come closer!" the king commanded the dancers. And then, "More wine!"
When the dance was finished, the king was offered more food and drink. Lavish gold platters, heaping with the bounty of 127 nations, were brought before him. The king declined and then finally flung a platter across the floor. It landed at the feet of Quillius. He bowed his head in contrition, in the hopes of keeping it for longer than the next few moments.
"Aha! You there! Scribe!" the king bellowed. "Where was I?"
Just as Quillius regained his composure and opened his mouth to speak, the king said,
"Oh never mind." He had actually lowered his voice somewhat. Then he exploded, "Damn!" And then he began to whine, "What's my kingdom without a queen in it to amuse me? I am not amused. Oh cursed queen." The king sounded like he was sniffling, but he resumed his leonine roar, "Where is her head? Bring me her head!"
Somewhat reluctantly, a guard entered the royal court holding a severed, bloodied head, by its flaming red hair, at arms' length.
"This is what you get," his majesty positively shrieked towards the ladies' section, "when you disobey your husbands! Take heed ladies. All of you, in fact.
"Now, where was I?" the king turned back to the scribes. "Scribes!" he shouted. "I need a wife."
"Hear yea. Hear yea. All good subjects of the righteous and noble King Ahaswerus, Emperor of 127 nations...seeks a new wife..."
And as the riders read out the copied proclamations throughout the 127 nations over which the king ruled, a voice was heard at the back of the crowd that had gathered in the town square just outside of Shushan.
"Friends," Inkius said, "let me tell you what really happened..."