POSTSCRIPT / December 25, 2001 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Once upon a time, there was a king...

THIS being the season of grace, the time of year when we pause and ponder on the Child and King, I wrote this short story some Christmases ago to help carry the joyful message of Jesus’ birth and his coming to show us the way.

ONCE upon a time, in a faraway land, there was a King. His Majesty had the biggest kingdom in the whole world, the most powerful army on earth, and a Queen who was the prettiest among all the women in the royal court.

What a lucky man, everybody thought. But actually the King was not happy.

He would sit on his golden throne, give orders, preside over fabulous banquets, go hunting in the Black Forest, and do all things he simply wanted to do. But he was not happy.

The sadness was beginning to tell on his health and his disposition, so he decided to do something about it.

ONE day, the King called in his jester. As soon as the funny fellow tiptoed into the royal chamber, the King barked:

“Tell me, why am I not happy? Why this emptiness within me in the midst of plenty? Why the darkness in my soul despite the glitter of my court? Tell me, what must I do?”

The jester was taken aback. Taking a deep breath, he then said: “King, if you want to be happy, have someone who is truly happy sit on your lap!”

The King was amazed at the unusual counsel, but found it worth trying. When the Queen entered his chamber a little later, he asked her to sit on his lap.

“Why, what’s going on?” the Queen asked, a bit surprised because she was not used to the King cuddling her.

“Nothing, just sit on my lap.”

The Queen obliged. One minute, two minutes, three minutes… one hour passed. The King started to feel her weight, but not a hint of him being happy. In fact, he was getting irritated.

“Tell me the truth,” he asked her. “Are you happy?”

“If I must tell you, Your Majesty,” the Queen said pointedly as she pulled herself up, “I’ve never been happy….”

THAT evening, the King’s favorite courtier came in and whispered: “Hey, King, I’ve got a gift for you that’ll make you veery happy!”

The courtier snapped his fingers and in walked a beautiful maiden with sex appeal oozing through her gauzy native costume.

“This beauty is all yours,” he told the King with a flourish. “She’s the virgin daughter of the chief of Kaw-awa whose village we pillaged the other day.”

The King’s eyes popped as he examined the fetching figure before him. “Come, sit on my lap….”

The girl refused. The courtier got mad and yanked her, almost flinging her toward the King.

His Majesty caught the girl and held her squirming on his lap. One minute, two minutes, three minutes, thirty minutes…. The King felt not a tinge of happiness creeping into his being.

He let her go.

THE next day, the King summoned his knights and ordered: “Go and look for somebody, anybody, who is happy, someone truly happy — and bring him or her at once to me!”

The knights galloped to all points, asked everyone, and searched every village in the kingdom for anyone who was truly happy. But they found no one.

They went out another time, searched farther out, but came back again empty-handed.

His Majesty was getting depressed.

ONE morning, the King walked out to the royal garden, the first time he did so in many years. He was ambling down a shaded path when something hit him in the head, almost knocking off his crown.

It was a small yellow ball. A girl came running after it, but the King had caught the wayward ball.

“Let me have my ball, please,” pleaded the girl.

“Who are you,” the King demanded. “What’s your name?”

“I’m Mas-aya, sir, and that’s my ball,” she replied, reaching for it.

The King stared at the girl, wondering how she found her way into the royal garden. She was in a faded frock so common among the peasants.

“And what’s your name, sir?” she asked.

“My name?” The King didn’t know how to handle the question. “Well, I’m the King, didn’t you know?

“What’s a king?”

“A king is, well… a king. You know, I’m the ruler here.”

“Ruler?” the girl wondered aloud. “I have a ruler in my bag at home, but it doesn’t look like you.”

“OKAY, okay,” the King finally said. “Come over here, and I’ll tell you everything you want to know about kings and rulers and everything else.”

He handed the ball to the girl, sat on a stone bench, and placed her on his lap.

“You know,” he began, “We have this village, our village, and many other villages beyond those hills and the forest. Now, someone has to run things, you know, making sure everything is fine and dandy. I’m the one doing that, running things around here and beyond, telling people what to do and what not to do. I, the King, give the orders.”

“So you’re the one they’re talking about….” the girl nodded.

“Oh, and what are they talking about me?”

“You know, some say there is this cranky old man in that cold stone castle who always gets half of what people make or harvest. And they don’t like that, because what’s left for us is not always enough….”

“Really? But my men keep assuring me everybody loves me. Tell me, do you think I’m a bad man?” the King asked anxiously.

The girl leaned back to size him up. “No, you don’t look bad to me at all. In fact, I think I kind of like you.”

DO you think I can still make the people happy?”

“Yes, King. Just be nice to them. And make friends, and keep smiling… Like you’re nice to me….”

“Tell me, are you happy?”

“Of course, I’m happy!” the girl gushed. “Especially when I play in the garden, chase the butterflies, listen to the birds sing, pick flowers, watch the clouds… What about you, King, are you happy?”

Embracing the girl, the King whispered to her, “For the first time in my life, I’m very very happy!”© All rights reserved

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ePOSTSCRIPT: A Happy Christmas to our readers, without whom we would not have gone this far. With God’s grace, may you find fulfillment this Day and all days of your life.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of December 25, 2001)

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