Ride the Whirlwind
by Bob Brill
Once or at most twice upon a time, in the faraway land of Prasnovia, there dwelt a man named Djaminko Pooch. He was a middle manager in the king’s counting house. Four and twenty underlings tallied up the king’s fortune, which continually increased and had to be recounted daily.
Djaminko’s task was to check on the work of these counters, a very responsible post, as no one was checking on his work. The trust placed in him was well founded and he never took a farthing, shekel, drachma, peseta or blovo of the king’s hoard.
Djaminko was a family man, upright and honest, a loving husband and father. Every Sunday he and his family could be seen in church where he made the proper obeisances, responded to the vocal promptings of the preacher with the proper grunts and moans, dutifully thrashed the icon of the purple virgin, and left his twopence on the plate toward the spiritual edification of the orphans of Tinbini-Chakwanda.
It came to pass on a balmy evening in the merry month of Blurch that the king invited his followers to a sumptuous meal in the great hall of his palace. Close by the king at one end of the long table sat the courtiers who enjoyed his special favor.
Lesser functionaries were seated further away along the sides of the long table. At the foot of the table among the coachmen, gardeners, and footmen sat our devoted Djaminko, who though at a great remove from his beloved sovereign, thrilled to be in the royal presence.
The conversation at the royal end of the table turned to the pressing topic of energy production, a persistent and difficult problem that was just then plaguing the realm. Nothing could be heard of this at Djaminko’s end of the table, but after the wine had gone round several times the king stood and rapped for attention on his wineglass. “Good people,” he said, suppressing a belch, “as our population and our prosperity grow, we find ourselves in desperate need of new sources of energy. Our wisest counselors are hard pressed for new ideas on this subject. I throw open the discussion to the table at large and offer a prize of one hundred gold coins for the best suggestion.”
A great hubbub arose and many hands waved for attention. Djaminko, who had partaken copiously of the wine, made bold to stand and raise his hand and to his astonishment he was the first to be called upon by the king.
“Sire,” quoth he, “my suggestion is not specific, but is more along the lines of a general strategy to adopt when searching for alternative methods of energy production. To put it briefly: ride the whirlwind.”
The silence with which this was greeted showed Djaminko that no one understood what he had said, that in fact, he had made an ass of himself. Abruptly he sat down.
“Who is this man?” said the king.
“Sire, that is Djaminko Pooch, the Royal Exchequer Checker,” whispered one of his cronies.
“Oh, to be sure,” said the king. “Would you care to elaborate, Citizen Pooch? Riding the whirlwind is a novel concept. I’d like to hear more about it.” He smiled at his sycophants as though to say, “we’ll have some fun with this fool.”
Reluctantly Djaminko rose to his feet. “What can I say, Sire? I’ve made an ass of myself.” The table roared with laughter.
The king rang for silence. “Pray continue,” he said. “Treat the royal ear to your wisdom.”
“I know what I mean, Sire,” said Djaminko, who was hot and sweating, “but I don’t know how to explain it. There is a lot of energy in the whirlwind. The difficulty is seizing the whirlwind and also letting it go, I mean, without being destroyed in the process.”
“Then you are a fool, Citizen. We need a constant source of energy. The whirlwind is a rare event in our realm and when it does come, pray tell who can harness it? What have you to say to that?” The king smirked. He so rarely got the better of anyone in debate that it was a distinct treat to see Djaminko on the defensive.
“Of course, I’m a fool. That’s why I sit at this end of the table.” This brought more laughter from the crowd. “When I speak of the whirlwind I don’t mean the whirlwind as such, but speaking in a general way...” Djaminko halted, searching for the words to make his vision plain.
At the other end of the table, Lord Flagellum, the Royal Science Advisor, rose and begged permission to speak. “Sire, if I may be so bold as to offer an interpretation of the words of Citizen Pooch. Our friend has presented us with the whirlwind as a metaphor, not to be taken literally, but as a symbol of the kind of wild natural energy we should seek to harness. All the wild forces of nature, the winds, the waters, the volcanoes, the lightning, all displaying their strength, tempt and challenge us. If we could but tame these forces and channel them to our purpose.
“Our friend wisely cautions us that the attempt is fraught with danger. If I might offer another metaphor, it is like the challenge of the bronco rider, mounting the wild beast, holding on and safely getting off again. Not easy, but when successful, it’s quite a ride. What potent energy is then captured and tamed. Ride the whirlwind, Sire. A bold concept, one which deserves serious consideration. Do I represent your idea correctly, Citizen?”
“Much better than I did. Thank you.”
The king was annoyed. He had been baiting Djaminko and now his esteemed Science Advisor had eloquently defended the wretch, making the king look foolish. This sort of thing was happening all the time, for despite his royal power the king was none too bright and often lost track of the argument.
It was dangerous, however, to put the king at a disadvantage. For he was still the king and could trump the cleverest sentence with a sentence of his own, such as a sentence to the rack, the bastinado or the gallows.
His cousin and enemy, the Baron Logo, took delight in seeing the king discomforted. He wandered down to the bottom of the table and threw his arm about the shoulder of the astonished Djaminko. He raised his glass and said, “Here’s to the whirlwind and to the first man to ride it. Do you not think, o Sire, that this noble idea is worth the prize you offered?”
Now the king was furious. “Who said that?” he cried. He came storming down the table only to come up short as he saw his cousin, the Baron Logo. He would like to have killed him on the spot, and would have long ago had this perpetual thorn in his side not been the offspring of his mother’s sister. He was powerless to discharge his anger and chagrin at the Baron Logo, but something had to be done.
He stared at Djaminko Pooch. Here was the cause of all the trouble, this lowly coin counter who had exceeded his station and introduced this despicable whirlwind into the room. “Guards!” shouted the king. Four guards materialized instantly. “Take this man away and hang him!”
The sound of a hundred souls gasping in astonishment and horror swept the room The guards seized Djaminko and dragged him away. “Musicians, play. Drink, my friends, let the party go on.” Lord Flagellum turned from the table and quietly left the room. He drew out his cell phone and placed a call.
In the kitchen servants were hastening in circles in a kind of whirlwind of their own, a storm of frantic cooking, cleaning, and serving required to keep the guests satisfied. In the midst of this seething activity stood the king’s assistant pastry taster, Roland Butter, causing by his stolid presence little eddies of secondary motion to swirl around him.
As the servers passed him carrying trays laden with rich desserts on their way to the great banquet hall, he stopped each one to inspect the dishes, taste the occasional pastry and pinch and feel the occasional feminine bottom. He was an impediment to the progress of the meal and a distinct annoyance to the ladies. It is a constant source of astonishment to the civilized mind to be forced to acknowledge that such persons can and do exist, but such is the all too frequent case.
A young serving girl named Viloshiana Partridge, uncommonly attractive but a commoner nonetheless, had the misfortune to pass beneath the lustful gaze of this Butter with a full tray of peppermint pistachio popovers. She had been toiling since early morning at top speed and she was exhausted. Her feet were screaming with pain, her back was demanding an immediate vacation and she had a whirlwind of a headache. There were muscles crying out to her that she didn’t know she had.
The lass was in no mood to be pinched, poked, petted or patted. But this lump of Butter was not to be denied his parcel of petty power. He popped a popover from her tray and while stuffing it in his mouth ran his fingers across the young maid’s bottom. “Urrrgh!” She lost control. And thrust the full tray of popovers in his face.
Three serving girls on their way to the banquet hall with fresh desserts and one returning with dirty dishes collided with the angry girl and the astonished lecher, resulting in an unprecedented pileup of twisted bodies and smashed crockery.
The king and his guests could clearly hear the uproar. The Baron Logo sprang to the kitchen door and opened it wide to reveal the chaos inside to the eyes of the king and his nearby courtiers. Roland Butter was sputtering curses on the head of the fair Viloshiana, mainly to the effect that she was a filthy strumpet, harlot, trollop, slattern, slut, whore and, in general, a not very nice person, while she for her part, in a voice as loud and raucous as his, allowed that she would gladly wrap his privates around his neck were they but larger and his neck less fat.
The king waggled a finger and cocked an eyebrow and at once four guards marched through the kitchen door. Silence was immediate and complete. The guards untangled the fallen kitchen workers and brought them before the king in their bedraggled and dessert-covered state.
“Who started this mess?” snapped the king.
This launched a barrage of accusations from both Butter and Viloshiana. The king knew that Roland Butter was a nuisance to his kitchen staff, and that his lechery undoubtedly set the young girl off, but Butter was a distant relation to his mother, the dowager queen and he could not get rid of him.
Consequently he turned his frustration on the young Viloshiana, who stood there with the custard and whipped cream dripping from her hair and clothing. “Guards!” shouted the king. “Take this woman away and hang her!”
Once more Lord Flagellum quietly left the room, drew out his cell phone, and placed a call.
Copyright © 2007 by Bob Brill