Prompt Day #341: Work creatively with a guillotine.
I suppose a much younger reader may not get my reference here, but I should hope that most do. And since I parodied his famous slogan, I better give him credit. So this one is for Gallagher who may have been a Tudor era executioner in a former life. P.S. I probably should have done more research to be sure that King Henry (any of them) used the guillotine but this is a short story dreamed up and written in one day.
“Sir, your next request comes from the royal executioner. He would like to present an…idea for uh, well for some pre-execution…um….entertainment.” The Herald announced. The king nodded and sat up straighter. He had never seen the face of his servant in this capacity (as was custom) and had certainly never had the impression that the man cared about anything.
“Thank you for agreeing to see me, your Royal Highness.” The man said. The king took him in. A tall, broad shouldered man with long, dark curling locks stood hunched and uncomfortable in front of the king. He clutched his black cap in his hands nervously. The man turned to a couple men who hesitated in the large entryway leading to the throne. They pushed in a room sized guillotine, followed by a cart of fruit and vegetables and finally a writhing, fighting black-hooded prisoner with his hands tied in front of him.
“What is all this?” The king asked anticipating the possible mess this scene was implying.
“Don’t worry, your highness” the executioner said more animatedly “I’ve thought of everything. You are in the ‘splash zone’ but here you go.” He handed the king a long sheet of canvas, taking the liberty of lying it spread open upon his majesty’s royal lap.
“Now, if it pleases you, I would like to start by saying that as you know, an execution brings a massive crowd and while most do seem to enjoy the sight, it is often over much too fast. I think we could make it a more, shall we say enjoyable outing for the peasants if we entertain them in a way as to draw it out and make the execution the climax of the show.”
“A show that you would be hosting, am I to assume?” the king asked, already appearing bored with this. An executioner was not to be admired or entertaining, an executioner was to be frightening and menacing. Who was this serf to think he could ascend to anything more than what he was?
“Well, yes sir, I mean Your Highness, I don’t want to be feared by everyone. I just want to do my job in a way that will bring some joy for once, maybe even some laughter.”
The king nodded. He would hear the man, watch his “show” and then decide what to do with the man. “Get on with it then.”
“Oh, well, thank you, Your Majesty.” The executioner said. He had a bit of a lisp and the king imagined he could see a defect in the upper lip which was now fully covered in a dark unruly mustache and beard. “Now, I would start by having this covered with a large black cloth” he gestured to the guillotine, “and this fruit cart would be sitting behind it, with me. I would coming running out from behind it at first like this.” The man did an exaggerated jig, lifting his knees and elbows up in time with his steps and hummed a rather ridiculous tune. The king drew in a deep calming breath.
“I would then say something like: The magnificent King Henry Dynastic Corporation, a subsidiary of Tudor England Industries, has entrusted who? To show you the handiest and the dandiest execution device you’ve ever seen, and don’t you want to know how it works?” He held a hand up to his ear and gestured with a ‘come on’ to the king. “Uh, you are the audience Your Highness, so if you could perhaps shout or cheer me on. Say YES! Or something, that would be helpful.
“The king will have no part in your frivolity!” the Herald shouted. The King held a hand up to silence him.
“I will not, of course, but you will. Cheer for him” The king commanded. The Herald did his best to maintain his piousness while cheering and clapping quietly. The executioner smiled and nodded approval. He pulled the cover off the court-sized killing machine.
“Well first you get out some ordinary apples. You place the ordinary apples on the ergonomically curved base right here.” The executioner put two red, but half spoiled apples on the baseboard. “Then you release the device that is not a chomper, not a stomper, it’s not a drawn and quaterer, what the hell could it be? It is the Slice-O-Matic!” With that he released the large blade and watched as it fell upon the rotted apples with such force it sliced them in two and the two far halves flew up into the air, sprinkling soured juices over the court before landing at the king’s feet.
Before the king could stop him, he loaded a head of cabbage which snowed down over everyone like confetti. He followed with a moldy wet cantaloupe and a watermelon. The canvas blanket the king used to keep his royal robes clean and dry was sopping wet with rotten juices and much to the king’s disdain, he noted several small worms squirming amongst the detritus. He’d had quite enough of this nonsense. He caught the attention of the head of his King’s guard and made no more than the slightest tilt of the head. It was enough for the guard who surreptitiously surrounded the madman still pelting the court with vegetation. When they were in position, the king stood allowing the now heavy stinking canvas to slide off his lap. He was clapping enthusiastically.
“Bravo, Bravo! What a show!” He cried out. The executioner stopped and looked up at the king with a stupid grin on his face.
“Truly, Your Highness? You enjoyed it? Because I haven’t got to the end where I chop off the prisoner’s head as the grand finale, spraying the crowd with his blood.” He was proud of himself.
“I would like to try this Slice-O-Matic and put on my own show.” The king said. With a nod, the executioner was grabbed and held firmly by the King’s guard. “Now, I would rather not lead in with rotted fruits and vegetables, it’s really not me. Did you know that Tudor rose is a white rose engulfed in a red rose? I prefer the red myself. Let’s stick to one color of fluid to rain down upon my subjects, shall we? We can of course work up to the head. Let’s start with…oh, I don’t know, a finger or two, and then a wrist, an arm. Maybe a tongue, an ear, the tip of the nose. Yes, we could work ourselves up to the point where the head is the only thing left to chop off with the Slice-O-Matic. Imagine the blood hungry crowd, walking home drenched in blood. Their thirst for violence, and make no mistake, that my friend is what they are truly there to see, will be finally slaked. Shall we rehearse?”