Most people don’t believe that us teen friends can do anything responsible. I’m not the exception in this so-called “fact.” Just because I’m King that doesn’t mean that I’m automatically not criticized. I mean most older people (not old old) think that us kids can’t handle huge responsibilities.
I would love to go ahead and say something like, “Oh, yeah? Well, we all have the same flaws in our armor and make the same mistakes. Most times there are things that no person can handle, regardless of his or her age.”
I would love to say that.
But I won’t.
Because I can’t.
I don’t want to brag by saying that I run this country single-handedly. Even if it were true, I definitely wouldn’t go announcing it on my Facebook and Twitter accounts. The truth is that the nation runs itself just fine. I just sort of help in the steering, you could say. And since I am so young (as a matter of fact, when I took the throne I was 11 ½, making me the youngest monarch to take the throne) I need help and guidance.
And of course I have so much to learn about a lot of things. So it’s natural that when other smaller yet important responsibilities come along, things may get…well, a little slippery. Especially when you’ve got melted ice cream and hot sauce in your feet.
That afternoon, about two weeks after Roger’s funeral, I was in the office, finishing my insurance paperwork with Larry when my Royal Budget Advisor, Fal came walking in. “Listen, Spiny, could I speak to you for a second?”
Before I had a chance of opening my mouth, Larry the Radio Comedian said, “A minute with you is like a week with an ingrown toenail.”
I rolled my eyes and grabbed the tin cup from the middle drawer. “Okay, mister, pay up.” Larry reached into his pocket and dropped a $1 Amarkian coin. Fal was obviously intrigued that Larry was giving up money for no apparent reason. Therefore, it’s no surprise when he asked, “What’s he doing?”
I stood up and walked over to him. “Well, we have a new rule around here. Every time Larry insults you, he has to donate one dollar to charity.”
You should’ve seen his eyes. They looked like they were about to bug right out of it. “You mean…he has to pay to insult me?!”
Larry nodded. “Yeah, every dollar I give is donated to aid the research of mental health.”
Fal’s eye furrowed. “Mental health?”
“Yeah, we’re trying to help discover a cure for baldness of the brain.”
“Larry…” I reminded him. He immediately struck out his wallet and dropped in another coin. Then he glanced at me and said, “Say, Spiny. Could I ask you something?”
“As long as it’s appropriate for children, yes. What is it?”
“How much would it cost me to call Fal a fat blubber-nosed baboon?”
I bit my lip and tried to come up with a good calculation for an insult of that magnitude. “I suppose that’s around $3.50 or something.”
He looked down at the pile of coins on his palm. “Nope, I can’t afford it. Say, Fal, do you have change for $3.50?”
“Sorry, sorry. I’ll say it. You’re not a fat blubber-nosed baboon.”
“Thank you!” Fal said still quite annoyed at Larry’s pestilence-like presence. But do you think that stopped Groucho Marx? Oh, no this smart-aleck’s unstoppable. Don’t ever try to discourage him from his hobby: insulting others.
Instead, Larry placed just one dollar in the cup. “That means you’re a small blubber-nosed baboon.”
“Larry!” I said.
“Larry!” he said mockingly, sitting off to his desk.
“Yech!” I heard Fal mutter. He turned his attention to me. “What I came to ask you Spiny is coming on behalf of the Cabinet and the heads of the various departments wanted to ask what you plan to do with the money left over.”
“Left over? From what, Fal?”
“Well, from all the money that we have gathered in the past two weeks plus the donations from domestic and outside sources we have quite a bit left over. And well, we just want to know what you plan to do with it.”
I immediately thought about the promise I’d made to Darla of making sure that Roger’s name would be remembered for all time. Then I saw the image of that day after the attacks at the funeral ceremony and saw that picture of all of us when we looked so bliss and beautiful in front of Arnold’s.
It was something I wasn’t about to let go.
“About how much is left over?”
“Oh, I’d say about half a million. Just a little bit over that. So, what do you want to do with that money?”
I didn’t hesitate and said it out loud. “I want to build a restaurant.”
His eyes became slits. “Say what?”
“I want to build a restaurant.”
“Huh, ha!” He began laughing. “For a minute I thought you said you wanted to build a restaurant!”
I waited for him to enjoy his little joke to say, “Yes, that’s what I said.”
I reassured him that I was planning on that and there would be nothing to stop me. I sure didn’t care what he thought. He wouldn’t be able to do anything. And I was willing to get any help I would need. Sure, I didn’t know too much about it. Of course, there’s always a first time for everything.
“Okay, sure. I’ll tell them. Well, if you excuse me, I have to be running along now.” He started to leave when Larry said, “Yeah, run right into the brick wall. But before you do, can I know what I can do to help?”
Fal turned on him, his eyes raging and said, “You can just go…” Instead of saying whatever he had on his mind, he walked back to my desk and dropped about fifty coins or so in it. Then he said to Larry just before slamming the door behind him, “That’s for what I was thinking!”
“Well, I’ll sure say this for you. He’s starting to like you. At least he doesn’t slam his fist on your paper clips or breaks your pens in front of you anymore.”
“Ah, that’s nothing. You should’ve seen him the other day. He was going to a steam room to cool off right after a fit with his wife and I placed a piece of loose wiring that was connected to a small fuel cell that was right outside the doors. I never knew his vocabulary was so advanced when I started the motor.”
Ignoring his childish remark, I got on the phone and dialed into the Department of Infrastructure. “Yes, please get me the Chief Royal Architect and Designer. Yes, I’ll wait.”
“What? You’re calling him?”
“What’s wrong with that? He’s the best person on construction and he had a doctorate in architecture. His buildings are amongst the best. They’ve even won awards!”
“You’re biased,” he said, crossing his arms.
“I am not!”
“Would you stop saying that? You sound like Luke Skywalker when he’s calling that droid. There is no bias in asking him for at least a little guidance. He is an expert and when there’s an expert you should use his advice.”
“Yeah, sure. Would you ask for his advice even if you weren’t dating his daughter?”
Here we go again. “Look, just because he happens to be Mr. Woods, that doesn’t mean I’m showing bias. Even if I despised Lilia, which I do not, I would still ask for his help. I did it before we started dating. You remember that bowling alley where we always go once a month on a Sunday after the movies?”
“He designed that. And you wouldn’t say it was good after knowing that he came up with it about 300 years or so before Lilia and I started going out. Would you?”
He sighed and returned to his work on the computer. “No, I do have to admit that he does a fine job.”
When I finally got an answer on the other line…I gulped and tried to recover the dryness in my mouth. Why the heck do I get scared half to death every time I speak to that man? Just because one day he might be my father in-law and I want him to like me like a son and not threaten me with a black eye when I ask for his daughter’s hand in marriage?
Okay, that’s putting the mammoth before the seat.
Besides, he trusts me enough that Lilia and I have slept over at each other’s house and we go lots of places alone and he and I have played soccer and basketball on the same team before. But of course, there was that once time when he kicked the ball sock hard into my nose.
Anyways, his voice finally answered saying, “Yes, Spiny. How are you?”
“I’m doing fine, sir. How are you?”
“Oh, you don’t have to call me sir here. What can I do for you?”
“Well, I’m not sure I should be asking this. It’s a much more personal project of mine. But it’s something that we would all love to see.” I took a deep breath and forced myself. “Could you help us come up with a plan to rebuild Arnold’s into another restaurant?”
“Ah, yes. Lilia did mention that you had brought the subject up. So you want to build another hangout, basically, right?”
I nodded. “That’s right. Basically the same size and everything. I suppose the only different thing would be…the name and the staff. We’re planning to…well; I would like to see it be named after Roger.”
“Nice ring to it. Sure thing. Tell you what. Why don’t you come and have dinner with us this evening? I’ll call the family to let them know and we can discuss it over a piece of krotberry pie, what do you say?”
“That sounds fine.”
Oh, sure it did at the moment.
But if planning and building the actual restaurant is like climbing Mt. Everest, then actually running the place would be like trying to survive a trip into a black hole.
I guess I should’ve paid more mind to the saying that goes, “Never do business with friends or family.”
Or as it would soon become in this case, to both.