Wenceslaus

by dschapman

As the moment of the resurrection grew nearer and nearer, they waited with bated breath for the sensory deprivation tank to come to town; it was time for a party, get quick with it now – to the horses! Embellish the letters and bring the good people to feast! He bent down to protect his face from the dry winter wind, but still it burned him, and turned his eyes red.

The good king drove to the village to visit the children. Along the way he drove past a lawman and the lawman gunned him down, flashing his frantic blue lights. They laughed together and then the officer gave him a fine of $500 and led him away like a ghoul through the chambers to the rose street department, Don Juan on the coals and the open prairie smoking after the rain…

It was just a year ago today that he was just a boy still, and a prince. He felt particularly well that day. He considered himself a very lucky man. He thought he was strong because his strength had insofar never been tested and he had no reason to believe otherwise. But time would tell that he was not strong, and it would break him down into submission again and again in his life. The life of the old man is lonely and hardly worth telling. The buses took them into the wilderness and the pirates raided them at a road block with rifles and knives, and somehow he managed to hide his passport and money, and he helped his fellow passengers find food in the nervous aftermath. A woman approached him with a proposition and he laughed, but turned her down. A part of him wanted her – it had been a while, and…

God’s own men could not contain him. In the years following the wounded soldiers, it became clear he was not without grace. The warrior is not without motion or faith, his hands must remain palm up and gracious. It was the romance of the occasion that inspired him most and he spent his mornings calling up travel agencies. He browsed the internet for cheaper tickets to destinations farther and farther away. With postcards he stayed in touch with his friends but they never sent anything back to him, because land mail had become a niche habit. Kings should be niches. Princes, maybe – boys, not men. Like a loving piece of equipment. A tool – immodest. He was ashamed of himself like all smart men, and he tried to make amends and improve things, but there was something impossible about it all – and he could not put his finger on it. “Your highness,” they said, and it filled him with dread. Not a reluctant king, no, but an honest person, and so very ashamed.

In a letter signed and dated in the king’s own script during the winter solstice of 19– he confided his feelings on the matter to a childhood friend. The letter, in its entirety, is reprinted below.

“My love. I don’t expect this to reach you in time for the ball but if it does I would be honored to have you join me. As for me, well, it is more of the same, maybe worse these day, maybe better. Things go their own way these days and it is like I have nothing to do with it. But so too it is always my fault when things when do happen. Tired you know, always tired. Neck pain as always. I miss you. I have been philosophizing. As usual, it stems from an offense – at least a perceived offense. Perhaps I’m too easily offended. But listen to what I am thinking. I can think of no exception. It is like this: it is an assault of character to call a man anything other than his name. It is a breach of conduct to call a man anything at all, even something complimentary. This is at least what believe, having personally felt the pressures of, especially these days with my multitude of titles and addresses. You see it in fiction, sometimes, and real life, too, with addicts, and with the mentally unwell. Call a man an addict, what can he do? If he denies it he will just be an addict in denial, and if he affirms it he will assume the roll of an addict. Call a man insane, and it is the same; what can he do? You have pinned him. He’s insane. Call him a good man, what does that mean? If you deny it, you are just being humble. If you affirm it, you are being too proud. There is no Aristotelian intermediate in these things; the accusation itself is almost a form, a Platonic ideal which your existence is suddenly tied to, incontestable, one-sided and inchoate enough to ensure no way out of it. There is never a way to argue with or dismiss the essence of the title itself, once it has been applied; by its very nature it is instantaneous and independent. It is an accustation of an unchangeable disposition, a fascist decree in its way – to say, you are, and thus you are not, as though the rhetorical “you” (the other-than) is capable of making such claims (which as an other-than is not)… Hah! The ontology of a rambling man, forgive me… Anyway, that’s what I’ve been feeling lately, clearly I need to get out of this terrible village soon… The locals, they get in my way, they are killing me with their leeriness, their shifty behavior… I caught one of them watching me through the windows, they climbed up the lattice work, I went out that night and I cut it all down… Just last night a thief made off with my patio furniture. I ran after him and brandished a gun, can you believe that? Me with a gun? I said, “Come at me, then! You cowards!” I don’t know what I would have done if they had come back for me. Well… Winter… I get cold so easily… Sickness? Been wearing that shirt, that nice red shirt you gave me once. As for the horses, well, you must have heard… Grace came by, she said she saw you on the beach, walking barefoot through the evening tide, I am jealous! I have always had strong feelings for Grace. I think I should marry her if given the chance. Wouldn’t that be something? Anyway. Come see me! Brooks at the strand at this month, you should see that performance! Real live stuff. It inspires me to write poetry. This guy’s a real poet of a man, an actor-poet like I’ve never seen. I’ll tell you what though.  If I don’t get my dick wet soon I’ll go nuts. You’d laugh if I told you how long it has been! I’m going crazy without it. I feel like staging a public execution or something. Oh! I shouldn’t say stuff like that. One more thing. I heard on the radio, ‘Any man with a chainsaw can chop down a tree – what matters is what happens afterwards.” But instead of telling us how to chop down a tree correctly, they just said, ‘So hire a tree-chopper.’ Well! So much for masculinity. My how I ramble! Love, X—–“

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