Let me tell you a fantastical story that I heard recently. The storyteller swears it’s true.
As the story goes, back in medieval times there was a grand young man, El Bob the Lack-of-Heart, who became Prince of Lardzanna, an unusual realm in the southern countryside.
When El Bob took over Lardzanna, he was giddy with excitement when his treasurer told him that Lardzanna’s former leader, Lady Kathleen of Castile, had left the realm a room full of gold. The treasurer told El Bob that some of the gold reserve was built on an assessment of the realm’s lords and nobles.
The gold was used to support the kingdom’s great educational institutions and to help the old and sick. The lords and nobles complained about the assessment.
El Bob eliminated the assessment, saying it kept the nobles from flourishing. Some warned that eliminating the assessment would be a bad idea. El Bob threatened them with expulsion. They cowered and scampered way.
Then came better news for El Bob. A great flood had washed even more gold into the realm. El Bob gave more gold to the lords and nobles, saying it would pay off with more gold in the end. It didn’t.
Soon the realm’s gold started to dwindle. Some in the royal court grumbled. El Bob silenced them by threatening to give them less gold for their people.
The gold continued to dwindle. So, El Bob started selling off parcels of the realm. He let some snake-oil salesmen take over the operation of some of the realm’s operations. He also reduced the gold that once went to great schools and healers.
Critics suggested that he bring back the assessment on the lords. They scampered away again, even before he turned his attention on them.
Later, El Bob decided he wanted to be king of all the land. El Bob said the current king, Barack-of-Obamas, was responsible for everything that had gone wrong in every realm.
Hoping for financial support in his quest to be king, El Bob swore an oath, to one of the richest lords in the world, that he would never, no matter the circumstances, assess a gold tax to help pay the kingdom’s bills.
El Bob went on a three-year expedition seeking support to become king. But he found that people liked his opponents. He tried yelling at the opponents, but they didn’t run and hide like his officials in Lardzanna.
Back in Lardzanna, the people were clamoring because Lardzanna couldn’t pay its bills to the debt collector, Paul the Great. So El Bob began to sell off parts of his realm. Then, he got his magician — he would have several of them during his reign — to make it look like things were better than they were.
El Bob finally admitted he had no chance to be king. He returned to Lardzanna to find there was not enough gold to pay the bills. Making matters worse, Sirs Exxon-Mobilus, Shellus and Dowsus had fallen on hard times. They could not deliver large amounts of gold to the realm as they had in the past.
Even the scribes had gotten embolden to write negative tales about him. El Bob called back his new magician who told him to say three times, “It’s fixed, it’s fixed, it’s fixed,” and the people of the land would believe him.
El Bob declared everything fine and walked away.
The new leader, Sir Jon of Bel, found that Lardzanna owed Paul a lot more gold than the El Bob had let on. Peter had nothing left for him to rob.
Also, some of the lawmakers, who cowered in the presence of El Bob, were now demanding they have a say in Jon of Bel’s solutions to the disaster they didn’t have the courage to stop.
The words on the last few pages of the story were hazy. It will take awhile to read the next few chapters on whether Jon of Bel was able to solve the situation.
Personally, I don’t believe anything like this ever happened. It couldn’t have.
Edward Pratt, a south Louisiana freelance writer, can be reached through firstname.lastname@example.org.