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Vail Valley Voices: Pretenders to the throne

Bob Branden
Vail, CO, Colorado

The tavern was full. The patrons were not. But their attendance was required, so they faithfully snapped plastic down on the wooden tops and counters, receiving fellowship in return.

“Are you excited about the upcoming election?” asked the student eagerly.

The teacher’s face was slack. Excited? You’ve got to be kidding. Cat Stevens sang, “From the time I could talk, I was ordered to listen.” That’s about right, agreed the teacher, wondering when he was going to grow out of his own gag order.



The student interpreted the silence as permission to press on, “Come on. Half of what you say is about politics. I know you’re enjoying all these talking points. They’re really getting at the issues. You think Romney is going to run away with this, don’t you?”

“Of course not.” The teacher’s cynical side could not be quenched. “There are plenty of idiots in these United States. Why bother with the facts? Just say it was all Bush’s fault, even three years in. Claim that you saved GM.”



The student frowned and fidgeted on his chair. This wasn’t the response he was looking for. Perhaps he had pushed too hard. It was no fun hearing the teacher at his worst. He even looked his worst. For the first time the student noticed the deepening lines in the teacher’s face. He thought they must have been dug by the ravages of time spent in a fallen world. He was learning, he realized.

“It doesn’t matter,” the teacher whispered, barely audible over Roger Daltrey screaming, “Meet the new boss; same as the old boss.”

“Doesn’t matter?” The student scrunched up his face and pulled hard at his Stella. “You’ve spent most of our time together lecturing about how much it does matter.”



The teacher wanted to gently explain how his mother had been a singer and he not only knew but felt how the good musicians were reaching into the veins and arteries of the invisible aspects of a culture and putting on display what many were feeling. And how politicians couldn’t touch this deeper aspect of life, and so things would not really change no matter which party “won.”

But he couldn’t, constrained by a natural tendency toward silence and a fear of vulnerability. Instead, he decided to demonstrate the critical element underneath the student’s question.

Instantly a king and queen materialized at the two empty sides of their wooden table.

“Let me introduce you,” the king said, noncommittally. “This is King Money. And, this is Queen Sex. They actually run these pretty good United States. It makes no difference who we choose to reflect our corporate desires. They are our real lords.”

The student stared, mouth agape. He had never seen a more regal and powerful figure of a king. It looked as if this figure was the embodiment of his dreams of winning the Powerball, but only the $200 million and above Powerball. And the queen! OMG! If she isn’t every fantasy I’ve ever had. Oh, make them stay, teacher, he silently prayed.

“Everyone bows down to me,” the king stated with simplicity. A brag, but only barely off the truth. “I recognize you from your dreams. I own you.”

Suddenly, the king didn’t look so regal. Still he was correct. The student nodded in formality.

“Will you worship me?” the queen asked, not in command, but in silky tones of compulsion.

The student wanted to say no, but he couldn’t. He was looking at everything a woman should be. “Yes,” he acknowledged and dipped his chin until it touched the table.

“I knew that you would,” the queen comforted.

Enough of this, the teacher thought, about to gag. “King Money and Queen Sex, does this election matter?”

Pffffbbbbbttttt. The king’s spittle sprayed across the table. “Really? You think I’m going to be replaced? Say Romney rights the ship Obama has crippled. I’ll be hailed as king. Or say Obama convinces the majority that it was someone else’s fault and only his fatally flawed programs can save you. I’m still king! He is still preaching about me, regardless of how naive he is!” The king nodded in assurance.

The queen slightly tilted her head so that her beautiful hair dipped perfectly over one cheek and the subtle lines of her neck were even more on display.

“And do you think my unbeaten, untied power is seriously at risk? I could bring either of those two fops down in an instant. As I could you, by the way. Could we visit later?” That last part would never go away from the student’s soul. Hey, if the master’s not cruel, why not?

“So you see?” the teacher lectured, dismissing the royalties’ comments with a wave. “It doesn’t matter. Until we solve the real issues, those on the surface will continue to damn us.”

The student’s eyes narrowed. Abashed, he wished he had lines on his face as deep as the teacher’s. It felt so natural to nod to the king and bow to the queen, and here was the teacher spoiling all the fun.

Overwhelmed, the student shouted, “It’s natural, fool! The king and queen are enthroned because that’s the way the world really is! Wake up! Thank you for making my feelings, my soul’s desire, fully known. Now, leave me in peace. I like my king and queen.”

Three Stellas had been set before the student, courtesy of the teacher, who still nursed his first merlot. The student absorbed them within 180 seconds.

The king and queen extended hands of comfort. “The teacher is so low-brow,” they clarified in unison to the student. “What do you say we get rid of him?” There was a twinkle in their eye and a hope in their heart. Perhaps tonight they would win, not only the souls they already knew they had, but perhaps they could own the teacher, or at least, destroy him.

The teacher, reading his twin enemies like a book, prayed quietly, knowing a more forceful prayer would be needed later.

“Your highness,” his voice chiding instead of respectful, “could you have prevented the Aurora massacre?”

“Ppppffffah,” spittle flew again. “No. Why would I even want to?”

“And queen?” the teacher turned his gaze to the incalculably old, blistered, and ragged hag.

“No,” she cooed, waving the question off with the back of her hand.

The student went cold sober, somehow realizing that he sat not in a chair but in a balance.

Come, Lord, the teacher prayed earnestly.

The king and queen rose in fear and then instantly disappeared.

“Where did they go?” the student blurted.

“The real king is here,” the teacher whispered.

A man entered the tavern and sat down at the table. His eyes shone. His feet were like polished bronze. His rob was whiter than white.

The student got up, pushed his chair away, and fell on his knees, face touching the floor.

“Forgive me,” he pleaded.

“So you see, there are much more pressing issues than King Money and Queen Sex,” the teacher whispered.

The King nodded to the teacher, like a master with his dog, and disappeared.

“Maybe,” Ingrid, son of “Who Is Like God,” hoped and sang, “in the future, you’re gonna come back, you’re gonna come back.”

Bob Branden is host of the podcast http://twomenandabible.podomatic.com/


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