In The Court of the Mad King ( The Three Clowns Count 5)

Pierrot held a plain white telegram in one hand, and his pince-nez in the other, as he read the missive out loud.

“Come to Yellow Ribbon Tree. Meet By River bank. Regards. Emperor Cyril The Sane.”

Pierre Rotten raised an eyebrow as King Pierre hauled on the bow line and turned the elephant down the left hand fork of the road. “Yellow Ribbon Tree it is!” he shouted as the beast nimbly stepped to the left and trampled the weeds that had grown over the road. Sweet Pierrot groaned loudly:

“Well we really gone and done it now,” he exclaimed loudly. “We really put the cat amongst the capybara, the protestant amongst the catholics…”

“The sugar in the tea?” ventured Pierre Rotten.

“The sugar in the tea? Sugar belongs in tea, you fool!” Roared King Pierre, who had a notoriously sweet tooth.

Pierre Rotten gave his brother a withering look. “If you put sugar in my tea, I will piss in your morning java, vanilla syrup, heavy foam, chocolate sprinkled nightmare, you candy-monster!” King Pierre smiled back, made a mental note to sugar his brother’s tea at the first opportunity, and jabbed an elbow into Rotten’s bony ribs. “Sorry, Rotten! Accident!” For all his grandness, the King was not above a little pettiness to make the day go along faster. Everyone has to have some sport, after all. It was almost his way of showing affection. Almost.

“Cyril the Sane doesn’t sound too bad to me,” I interjected, with a mouthful of sour apple muffling my words. “I mean, Kings can be a little dull, but if we go, bow the knee, drink the tea, admire the crown jewels and be on our way, it can’t possibly be too dreadful, now can it?”

The three clowns sighed in unison.

“He is bonkers.” Pierrot groaned loudly.

“Utterly bats in the belfry!” agreed Rotten.

“Pidgeon shit crazy. Really gone fishing for eagles, after tilting at wind-mills and loosening all the screws in his head.” King Pierre emphatically agreed.

“But he is called ‘The Sane’ surely that has to count for something!” I replied hopefully.

“Those that have to tell you they are sane are the ones that are the most crazy,” Rotten crossed his legs and stared off into the distance. “I’ll be the first to admit that I am a little left of center. Perhaps I can be a bit wild, a little reckless, prone to the occasional fancy or dramatic acting out when I am feeling in the mood to party, but you only have to really worry about me when I am protesting my innocence. Then you had better watch me closely, grab me quickly, handcuff me to the nearest tree and stand back. ”

The path had started to twist in on itself. Paisley patterns in yellows and reds, brilliant greens and royal purples decorated the landscape. Flowers grew eyes which blinked seductively, and seagulls flew upside down in a glorious tequila-sunrise shaded sky. Little mushroom men in tiny overalls jumped around with various tools, toiling at the landscape, and playing music. One had a tiny little hurdy-gurdy in his little spindly mushroom paws, another blew on a mouth harp, while a small group chanted intelligible syllables through smiling mushy mouths. The trees grew feathers, bushes swirled with fractal patterns, but nothing had a hard edge, nothing was a diamond or any other sharply angular shape, it was all swirls and coronels, teardrop configurations, scrolls and spirals, all interspersed with leaves, flowers and vines. There was no black and white, just color, saturated color adorning every inch of the Mad King’s Kingdom. I started to get the picture.

King Pierre pulled up the elephant by a tree that had a yellow ribbon tied around its trunk. The Elephant reached back his long sinewy trunk and allowed Rotten to tie a yellow ribbon around it’s base. If you have ever heard an elephant laugh, then you will understand the alarm he caused amongst the mushroom men, who started to scatter as the tickled elephant hooted with a deep belly laugh, that faded out into a lengthy giggle. The motion of the laughter was so immense, like trying to sit on a lumpy rock during a reasonably large earthquake, that I fell right off the elephant and tumbled onto the ground, winded and dazed. Paisley patterned vines entwined around my fingers and wrists. They got me by the ankles and grabbed me by the shoulders. Before I knew what was happening and could regain my senses I was trapped, tied to the ground by persistent vines and utterly helpless.

“Told you so!” cooed Rotten. Bonkers. Nutso. Insane.” The three clowns had climbed down from the elephant’s back and were peering down at me with a mixture of wonder and concern. Every movement I made just tightened the vines further.

“For the sake of all that is funny, do not struggle! You are just making it worse! You are just going to have to stay still. Don’t worry, we will prooo-bab-lllly be able to free you. At some point. Hopefully today. Can’t promise anything. He is mad, like we told you!” King Pierre was stifling a huge belly laugh, which he coughed into his handkerchief. I tried to glare, but moving so much as an eyeball just made things worse, and those dreadful lurid vines simply held me tighter. I was entangled to the point of stasis. The pitter patter of medium sized paws and the rumble of iron clad wagon wheels got louder and louder. I risked moving my head just enough to see what was going on to the left of me, just up the Paisley Path.

A rather plain wooden buggy, painted in a brilliant yellow, though rather roughly made, with huge wheels was being pulled by two large beavers who were wearing velvet lined royal crowns of gold, and little military coats of red, decorated with brocade and shiny buttons. On their little feet were red velvet slippers, and their front paws held a bar that they used to pull the rough-shod chariot. I could just about make out two small male legs, and a rather rotund human body, encased in yellow and red striped stockings, and a lush red coat. The small round male body bent in half, almost turning on his head in order to see my unfortunate situation. The clowns snickered gently, side stepping vines and having small but polite conversation with the little mushroom men.

“Who are you?” I asked, while trying not to excite the vines any further.

“Some have called me the Mad Hatter, but I have not worn headgear for years and years now.” His voice was shrill and intense, full of hiccups and a strange background noise of laughter that emanated from his vocal chords simultaneously to his words in an impressive display of sound gargling. “Other people have called me The Holy Fool, some went so far as to crown me The Fisher King. Personally, I prefer Emperor Cyril The Sane; it has a certain ring to it that the others are missing.” On his head was an ornately curled white wig, long and classical, each curl a perfect spiral. His face was kind, and broad, and sat atop a generously proportioned body, encased in a velvet suit of many colors.

“But, you are not at all sane, nor is your kingdom. Is it even an empire?” Rotten started to make a slitting motion across his throat, while Pierrot shook his head and King Pierre cast me a withering look, then returned to talking to the giant uniformed beavers.

“Have you ever thought to ask yourself what sanity is? I mean perhaps I am sane and you are all crazy. Because you are all so insane and I am so possessed of my faculties, you call ‘difference’ insanity. My world encompasses many realms and dimensions, and as such qualifies for the title ‘Empire’. Sanity is highly overrated and quite tiring, young lady. I appreciate the existential discussion, but you are in quite a pickle. More evidence of your own insanity that you would want to engage in conversation before, not after you were freed from this predicament!”

Rotten pulled himself up to his feet, holding onto an eyeball flower who was batting her long lashes at him seductively. “Sorry, M’lady,” he interjected to the flirty flower, “I won’t be but a moment, mon  chéri!” The flower looked down towards the floor in sadness. “We keep on telling her she is in quite the state, Cyril. She never listens to us. That is why we….er…liberated her…from her bedroom and took her out on the road with us for a while. Would you mind freeing her? We have become quite fond of her, and wouldn’t mind taking her with us when we …mmm…go.”

The King smiled. “Well, of course! We always must have compassion for the afflicted, must we not! Bring on the Beavers!” The beavers unhooked themselves from their position in the buggy and strode confidently towards the King. “Well, boys, have at it! Chew her free!” The beavers looked at each other, bared their yellow buck teeth and took an ankle each. The first bites scraped the skin on my ankles and burgundy blood started to spill onto the swirling floor, turning the paisley a shade of claret. “Stop! Stop! Stop!” the Mad King yelled. “Oh that won’t do at all! Not delicate enough! No, no no…Good job boys, you tried your best, but you are just too big. We need a more delicate surgeon for this operation!” The Beavers looked horrified, but it is hard to be mad with an animal that meant no harm, and is wearing such cute costumes. One of them patted my head with a gentle paw. “My apologies, Madam. We didn’t mean to bite you, we were just trying to get through these dreadful vines that appear to be holding you back. Will you forgive us? ” His deep beaver voice quivered with sadness, and tears shaped like diamond trees fell from his big brown eyes.

“Of course, my dear Beaver friends. I know you didn’t mean to hurt me!” The Beavers excused themselves, walking back to the wagon, their tails slapping with concern on the floor, making the paisley path splash and splatter like wet paint.

“OK!” said the Mad King, “What is smaller than a beaver but knows how to chew?” Pierrot raised his hand, producing a bunny from King Pierre’s top hat. The rabbit, held by the ears, eyes bulging did not seem to keen on being summoned. “A rabbit?”

“A rabbit? A rabbit! A rabbit might know how to chew, but it doesn’t have the brains for this enterprise! Easily distracted, is the bunny. Take that rabbit away! Dismiss the Rabbit! He is not required today!” Pierre put the bunny on the floor and let him hop and gambol in the flowers, nibbling the grass like bunnies do.

Pierre Rotten raised a hand. “How about a shrew?”

Emperor Cyril the Sane shook his head. “A shrew? A shrew knows how to chew, that is for sure, but he is not the kindest animal in the jungle. Flesh, vine, eyeballs..brains…it is all the same to the shrew. Are you feeling alright? I mean the bunny was not a bad idea, just useless, but the Shrew? What is wrong with you man! I thought you liked this girl!” Rotten dragged his boot toe in the dirt and looked embarrassed.

“I do. I really do. She is a friend. She might even be a clown one day, if she is lucky.” Rotten threw me the biggest smile he had ever hurled my way.

Cyril peered back down at me. “Won’t be too long. We just have to find the right agent to free you from these vines! Just don’t move, whatever you do!”

Pierrot picked up the bunny again, and pointed to it with a hopeful grin on his face. “Take away the bunny! I’ve already told you, he does not have the mind for such a delicate operation! Easily distracted is the bunny…Oh…look at that….ice cream tree has flowered at last…who wants ice cream? We have banana or raspberry ripe for the picking, boys!” The clowns drifted towards the dripping tree, with the yellow ribbon tied around its trunk, as the elephant sighed softly.

“Er….boys…King…Cyril? I appear to still be trapped, and it’s getting worse!” The crowd reluctantly made its way back to the bower in which I lay frozen to the floor, most of them now holding ice creams. Pierre Rotten passed two banana cones to the beavers. “Might as well get the taste of flesh out of your mouths boys!” he muttered, as they gratefully took the creamy cones from his hands.

“OK.” said Cyril, “We have got to be serious if we are ever going to fix this dilemma. It is entirely possible that she will just have to live out her life there on the flower floor with her vines, and you Clowns will have to abandon her, if we don’t work this out.”

“Don’t you have a pair of scissors?” I asked sensibly.

“Scissors! You think scissors will cut through these things? Don’t be ridiculous. It will just make the vines grow thicker, like pruning always does! You need a surgeon. A specialist in chewing…So what is smaller than a beaver, kinder than a shrew, and knows how to chew?”

“Mosquito!” A voice drifted from the back of the crowd, to the uproarious laughter of the assembled clowns and the King. “Give that man an ice cream, stat!” yelled the King. “Hilarious but no, a mosquito bites, not chews. Won’t work, though I like the cut of your jib, young man!” The Mushroom man glowed rosy with pleasure.

“Weasel?” Asked King Pierre. “It’s smaller than a beaver and knows how to chew.”

“Ah, but is it kinder than the shrew, my Royal friend? I do not think so, though it has more of a mind than that bunny rabbit….get that bunny away from here! He will only cause confusion!” Pierrot hid the bunny behind his back, whispering to the small white creature that his day would come soon.

“Let’s see. Gophers prefer digging…the cow can chew, but is too large and blunt for this job…mice are clever creatures, but too small. We got rid of the rabbit…We have got to make this all look different!” The Mad King was squawking alarmingly, when he went silent for a moment and stood on his head. “That is better,” he exclaimed. “I can see clearly now!”

The clowns joined him, turning upside down, twisting in backflips and cartwheels, making the scenery spit and splash in glorious blobs of technicolor gorgeousness.

“We got it!” The Clowns exclaimed in unison with the Mad King. “It is smaller than a beaver, it knows how to chew, it is kinder than a shrew and brighter than a bunny, it doesn’t bite, it loves humans and big enough for the job, yet delicate enough not to draw blood!” they looked towards Cyril. “You can do the honors, my Lord,” shouted Pierre Rotten.

“Lady and gentleman, I give you…the Quokka! It is smaller than a beaver, it knows how to chew, it is more intelligent than a bunny and has the wit and wherewithal to finish a big job, but kinder than a shrew or a weasel. Bring me the quokka!”

A troop of round faced marsupials with big cartoon eyes and medium sized teeth marched towards the bower of the vines, waiting for orders.

“OK, guys, you know what to do. Chew those vines, free the girl, but don’t accidentally bite her, ok?” The Quokka giggled and laughed as they each took a position by the root of the vines. One nosed my fingers, while another gently peered into my face and licked the vines that were encircling my head. “And a one! And a two! Twenty! Chew!”

The Quokka started delicately chewing at the vines, working steadily, freeing one limb at a time, excitedly chattering when a vine fell to the floor and took a different route to another place. The smell of maple syrup and pancakes filled my nostrils.

“Quokka love pancakes, though pancakes do not love them. They need their nutrients, you know!” The Mad King had produced a stove and frying pan, and busily tossed batter into the pan and piled up towers of pancakes, butter and syrup ready for the hungry Quokka. “In this land, a little of what you love won’t ever hurt you.”

The last vine was chewed through and I wriggled free only to see the Quokka zooming towards the Mad King, and his plate of pancakes.

“Get back on the Elephant, quick-like!” King Pierre demanded. The Mad King was laughing as the Quokka told jokes and the Beavers ate ice cream. “We had best get out of here before you get into any more trouble!”

The road ahead was dark. All shades of grey and black, with white highlights. “He used up all the color,” explained Sweet Pierrot, “there is none left for quite a few miles now.” Pierre Rotten turned back and waved to the crying Eyeball-Flower-Girl. “I will never forget you, my dear!” He yelled back towards her. Her tears created a stream of grey water that ran down the road towards us.

The elephant raised his trunk for Rotten to untie the sneeze-making bow, and trudged ahead into the gleaming glistening realm of the Lands of Grey. “Hey,” said Sweet Pierrot, “Any use for a bunny rabbit?” And the road carried on regardless.

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