I was surprised when my promotion came through as I had been Princess of Shovels for so long that I had got comfortable in the role, used to shopping in Sainsburys etc. That is not to say I wasn’t grateful, my elevation to the aristocracy years before had been more of a jump. It suited me very well. Coming from the superior Spades family I was used to being treated well, even though I did do most of my shopping in Aldi. It took me a long time to shuffle up through the suit from number two.
It took me some time to settle in to my new role. I was now Queen of Spades, not the top of the suit, that belonged to Ace of course, but I was well on the way. I think the main thing that took me a while to get used to was shopping in Waitrose. It wasn’t just the general obsequiousness of the staff or even the ridiculous prices, it was mainly the other customers – what a stuck up pack! All picture cards and the occasional Ace. I quite fancy some of the Aces but that is another story – do you really think I am a bungalow?
Anyway, as I had nearly filled my twee little trolley with gazpacho, halloumi, Italian black olives, smoked salmon, freshly baked Focaccia, Manuka honey and few other essentials, I headed for the checkout, looking very smart in his apron printed with black and white squares. It must have been cold sitting there among all those draughts and he looked a little board.
He beeped all my shopping before packing it into my trendy hessian recyclable shopping bag and I handed over my card. By some strange coincidence it was the Queen of Clubs, one of the lower suits but I am broad minded, I’ll talk to anyone. There was to be no cashback for me today. We now had a pear, avocado of course, so I took the complimentary partridge from the tree, collected my little green tokens and dropped them in the box for the undeserving poor – one of my favourite charities.
The automatic doors chuffed back at me as I walked out into the street, they must have got them second-hand from Captain Kirk – very enterprising.
The game had been set for that afternoon, poets and peasants alliteration at the Peardrop, so the pear of us hopped aboard a chicken and chooked on our way. It wasn’t far, just a couple of furlongs up the hill past the Strangled Ferret. We passed two fur shorts on the way, probably German. We decided to pay by the perch as the rod and pole were both busy and the chicken was happier with the perch anyway because it was quite a jolly fish. She carped on quite a lot about some of the salmon rods but, strangely enough, she never mentioned the Poles during the ride. She had a lot to say about the Latvians though – typical cabbie gossip. I made small talk with the other Queen, well, one has to make an effort with one’s social inferiors doesn’t one? She had been a Queen for a long time, passed over by now probably, so she was well used to playing the game. I picked up some good tips from her without letting her know that I hadn’t played before.
I chose my cue carefully as it doesn’t pay to get there too early. We did the usual test to see who would break, it was the other Queen of course, she had more experience. She potted a Spot with the break so I helped her out of the pool and then repaired the break. It was a Gloucester Old one so I had the choice of the piglets. I picked up a couple because we were having bacon and egg for supper. I had only decided this on the ride up the hill. Luckily the chicken decided to cooperate. She would probably dine out on that story for donkey’s years. ‘I laid an egg for the Queen of Spades,’ making a right ass of herself, as no one then believed her. Have you ever seen an ass lay an egg?
I managed to get the piglets in the Waitrose bag and got a lift from the donkey back to the castle. I had tried to get some ham from the Gloucester Old Spot but she wasn’t committed enough to contribute to our meal so I had to make do with smoked salmon sausages. The piglets were feeling a little cold by now so I wrapped them in a duvet as a substitute for pigs in blankets and put them in the oven to keep warm; on the top shelf; on Gas Mark 7. What did I do with the donkey? I got very annoyed as it started to ‘Eee Aaw’ very loudly so I went to the local church at Brambletye to see the Vicar of Bray, who lived in Lewisham. He suggested that I paint its fur so that it looked like a zebra and then hide it on a crossing. This didn’t work as I got the stripes the wrong way round and so the donkey stood out on the crossing, looking like a draughts board. Luckily a woman from Waitrose’s Human Resource department was passing at the time and offered it a job on the checkout. ‘Well, I suppose that will have to do till I can get a proper job,’ sighed the donkey.
‘Ungrateful creature, it ill behooved him to complain after all I had done for him,’ I thought.
I checked on the piglets to see if they were warm enough. They were now crackling nicely so I stuffed an apple in each of their mouths ready for the table. The cat was by now looking interested and stared at me. ‘A cat may look at a king,’ I said, ‘but I am a queen so you may not look at me.’ The cat smiled and slowly faded away to Aintree, leaving its smile behind.
I left the kitchen and climbed the stairs to the castle’s parapets, which were kept on the roof. There were several dogs, tortoises and goldfish up there. It was very unusual to have so many disabled animals to care for but I suppose if you are a dog, a tortoise or a goldfish and fall off a castle, there is a good chance that you will get injured. One poor tortoise, ‘Falling George’, took so long to climb all the stone steps back up again that, as soon as he got there, it was time for him to fall off again. Because of all his injuries, he took to drink and now has the hare of the dog each morning after his porridge. The dog wasn’t too keen as he was going bald but George was usually too quick for him and if he didn’t quite make it, the hare would pluck one for him. All the animals seemed ok, except for George so I headed for the counting house where my husband, the King, had the spreadsheets open on his iMac. As usual, he ignored me at first, engrossed in his calculations.
‘Did you have a good day, dear?’ I asked
‘Not three bad,’ he said, but I’m having trouble thinking because I’m hungry. ‘ I hope you’re making a blackbird pie for my supper tonight.’
‘I couldn’t get any blackbirds in Waitrose and I couldn’t go into that common Sainsburys now, so I got two dozen frozen robins instead. I know Sainsburys have their uses now, not just for keeping the scum out of Waitrose.’
‘I don’t know, what is the world coming to? Did you complain in Waitrose?
‘Yes, I saw the manager and they are flying 144 blackbirds in next week.’
‘Good, but that will be too many for us, gross incompetence if you ask me,’
‘Yes, dear,’ I murmured placatorily as I backed out and fled to the parlour where I knew my Focaccia and Manuka were waiting for me.
I never did get to the parlour to eat my bread and honey as a blackbird in the garden had pecked off the maid’s nose. Luckily I found a jenny wren to put it back on again.
Then there was a knock on the portcullis, it was the queen of clubs wondering if I would like a game of golf. I could think of no excuse but I clearly didn’t want one of the lower order suits as a friend, even if she was a queen-I had plans. I put her off by saying that I had to think of a new way of making a pie for my husbands supper as I had run out of blackbirds and only had robins. She was a little upset and thought she had been dealt as part of a bad hand as she had gone to the trouble of carrying two full suits of clubs up the hill and she was a now a little red faced – a royal flush.
I quickly pulled up the drawbridge, crayoned it brown, bid three hearts and went to see the children, Prince and Princess Trowel. I could never remember their names, in fact, only the maid nose them… er that was until that dastardly blackbird did it’s evil work. Now I will have to call them ‘U’ and ‘U2’. They were the two princes in the tower, except that one was a princess.
I was now very pressed for time as I had to be in the Faery Forest during the afternoon. It was where I played out my Lady Bountiful role by volunteering for the Tree Watch foundation. We had found that, if no one was in the forest, then no trees fell and so it soon got badly overgrown. We had had notice of several incipient tree protofalls but, of course, nothing would happen unless someone was there. I had already asked my groom to saddle my horse for me. I had asked, and got, a horse for my last birthday by sighing to my husband, ‘ a horse, a horse, my queendom for a horse.’ He gave in and got me one, only 14 hands of course, he didn’t want me getting on my high horse, as the tree branches would knock me off. When my horse, Rover, saw me coming, he croaked at me in greeting. He had a sore throat and was a little horse – remember, 14 hands, huh?
We galloped off into the forest. It was badly overgrown so we couldn’t see the wood for the trees. Rover asked the way and the trees barked back in the same language – Timber sappiness. We soon arrived at the agreed meeting point which was as far as you could go in the forest – halfway in, as any further you were going out. We all watched in different directions while the trees silently fell around us. The old story was at least half true.The waiting elephants gathered up the trunks and put them on, ready for a swim in the river.
Rover was quite tired by now so I got a lift back to castle with Dumbo, the brightest of the elephants. He couldn’t swim though, so had left his trunks behind. It was a rough ride as the Howdah was too tall to get under the trees so we had to activate the miniaturisation facility. Dumbo shrunk to about three inches tall and I was in proportion to him.This meant that we had great problems getting over the moat because the drawbridge was up and I couldn’t reach the intercom button to call the King. The portcullis was no obstacle as we just walked through one of the gaps. I got hit on the head by Falling George just when I thought I was safely inside. I don’t know if you have ever been hit on the head by a drunken tortoise falling from a great height but I can tell you it was no ride in the park, or in the forest, or to Waitrose. I took him back up to the roof, of course, where he was reunited with the other parapets. It took me a long time to get up the stairs, each step was like a cliff, 15 feet high to me – I had lost the miniaturisation reset button.
I struggled back down to the parlour where I enjoyed the Focaccia and Manuka – there was a lot so I couldn’t manage all of it.
I then struggled up to the counting house where the sheets were spread all over the floor with blankets on top and the King snoring mightily under both of them. Even Kings need to sleep, I thought to myself.
I decided to retrace my steps to see if I could find the miniaturisation reset button so squeezed through the bars of the portcullis – I didn’t see Falling George come hurtling down towards m…
This short story is by Richard Kefford, a member of the Somerset Writers.
They are a community of writers who post lots of different sorts of writing, and are definitely worth taking a look at!
Check out his solo blog too: Richardsritingblog.