The Unhappy King

Once upon a time, there lived a king. His land was prosperous. He had a lovely castle and plenty of money. The people of his land were just people, no better of worse than other people. Some of his neighboring kings envied him.

However, this king was unhappy. Things were not the way he wished they would be. He hates all the expectations placed upon a king.

The unhappy king tried to do his kingly duties. After all, he used to like being king. At first it was interesting and challenging, and the councilors appreciated him.

Then these same councilors reminded him of his kingly duties, the ones he wasn’t doing so well or the ones he should do better.

He didn’t like that. He knew they were mostly right, and a little ridiculous.

Then it seemed they were mostly ridiculous and only a very little bit right.

He tried to be a kind and benevolent leader for his people, and he still was.

Mostly.

Sometimes though, he had to let out his frustration.

He was unhappy.

His councilors started to be careful around him. They tried to keep his people away from his except in emergencies. Now the unhappy King only saw his people when they were in crisis. He grew even more unhappy.

The unhappy King stalked his chambers alone, unable to stop feeling miserable and frustrated. He walked from one end to the next, his thoughts filled with his favorite unfairnesses and travesties.

Turning again to the other side of the room, he spied a little calico cat cleaning her face.

“Great! What is a cat doing in my chambers? Can’t the castle keepers even keep my chambers free of pests?”

The cat looked up at him. “Aren’t you the king?”

“Of course I’m the king! Why else would I be stuck here in these rooms?”

The cat licked her white paw. “I thought kings were powerful.”

“Lot you know!” the king replied. “There is nothing but rules and obligations to being a king. And none of them even make sense. This whole thing is ridiculous. Every day I think I should just run away and leave them to their rules.”

“Why don’t you?”

“If I did, then this kingdom would collapse into revolution and chaos. That’s what the councilors say. But I don’t matter at all. These rules and responsibilities could all be done by anybody. I don’t matter at all.” The king sighed. “But I wouldn’t want the people to suffer. So I stay. For now…” and his eyes glowered.

The calico flicked her tail. “Aren’t you the king?”

“I don’t think that word means what you think it means. You think king means you have power and can make decisions and get stuff to happen. It doesn’t. It means sitting down and listening to other people tell you how to behave and which hand to use to scratch your nose. It’s ridiculous.”

The cat rubbed her nose with her paw. “What would they do to you if you used the wrong hand to scratch your nose? Would they run you out of town? You said that was what you wanted.”

The king turned on his heel. “It’s more complicated than that. You don’t understand.”

“Cats always understand more than humans know. Your councilors are doing their job and counseling you. It’s your job to be king and not listen to them every time, but to see what needs to be done and make it happen.”

The king slowly turned to look at the cat. “I have to listen to the councilors. That’s what they are there for! To keep me in line.”

“Do you like the line?”

“I’m sick to death of the line.”

“Who does like the line?”

“Nobody, so why are we keeping it? It’s ridiculous.”

“Aren’t you the king?”

“Stop saying that! I have to do it this way to keep those poor helpless people from descending into chaos and hurting each other.”

“A king would find a way to stop the ridiculousness and still keep the peace. That’s why people have kings.”

The king stared at the cat.

The cat stared back. “This is a nice castle. You should learn to live in it.”

The unhappy king looked down at his feet. He felt small. He had not been living like a king. He’d been waiting for someone to show him how to be great.

The calico told him he had to make it himself. He swallowed, ready to thank the little cat.

But when he looked up she was gone. It was only himself.

He began to pace his room again. This time he was thinking of what he could start with. “Just one thing…If I could start to make it better. That could make all the difference.”

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