There once was a king with out a name who had three daughter: Nina, Pinta, and his youngest and most beloved, Santa Maria. This king didn’t have a name because it’s not his story. Let’s call him King Lear. Forget him.
Nearby was another king who did have a name, King Ironhead. Clearly he named himself, though he could have called himself King Cherrypicker, King Hammerhead, King Codpiece or anything else befitting a king of such arrogance. For this the people just called him King Obvious.
This King Obvious was the love-em-and-leave-em sort, and everyone knew it. When there was even a rumor that King Obvious was on the prowl entire villages suddenly became ghost towns. King Lear knew this and expressly instructed his daughters never to let King Obvious within the castle walls. This both infuriated King Obvious, and if the girls had kept him out of the castle the story would be over right here.
A war erupted, and King Lear left his daughters behind because this is the way men behave. As a parting gift, perhaps as tokens to remember him by in case he died, he gave them each a dove, a ruby, and a rosemary bush (clearly King Obvious didn’t have a monopoly on symbolism) and warned them that if they couldn’t produce these gifts upon his return then he would know they lost their virginity. Of course, he assumed they still had their virginity to begin with, and if he didn’t return the whole virginity question would be moot.
Not trusting his daughters at all, King Lear locked them in the castle and rigged a basket in a rope from a high window in order for them to retrieve food. And with a warning wag of his finger he was off for war. So thoughtful of him.
King Obvious was not pleased. He probably instigated the war that King Lear went off to fight, because for some reason he felt no obligation to fight this particular battle. No, he most likely created false pretenses for the war so he could find some way to deflower the daughters of King Lear. But what to do about this problem of girls in the high tower?
Well, naturally, he disguised himself as a woman and crawled into the food basket. And just to make sure the girls hauled him up he moaned and groaned.
“Oh, woe! I am an old woman in a basket! I am dying of cold and hunger! Oh, dear girls, please help a horny old lady!”
“Did she say thorny?” said Nina?
“I think she said lonely,” said Pinta.
And since the older girls were as dumb as tree stumps they ran to Santa Maria to settle their argument.
“Listen,” said Santa Maria, “That’s probably a wolf dressed up as someone’s granny down there. Just toss down some old bread crusts and ignore her.”
But because the older girls were a pair of dunderheaded tree weasels they decided to a good deed and haul up the old woman to show Santa Maria how wrong she was about the old woman. Ah, but you probably guessed what happened next. King Obvious jumped out of he basket, whipped of his disguise and shouted “Ha Hah! Now I’ve got you, my pretties!”
Then he added.
“Here’s the deal. Let’s play spin the bottle and the loser has to spend five minutes in the closet with me.”
“Five minutes?” snorted Santa Maria. “I’ve heard it’s more like two minutes.”
“That’s it! You lose, insolent brat! Into the closet!”
“Can I have a few minutes to prepare myself?”
“Naturally. It isn’t like I suspect you’re going to try to trick me or anything.”
With that, Santa Maria went to her room and moved all her furniture to the privy. Now what you have to understand about castles is that while they didn’t have plumbing they did have indoor toilets. Mostly they were old wooden thrones with holes cut in their seats placed over a massive stone pit that emptied into the moat down below. All Santa Maria did was arrange the privy room so it looked like her bedroom (albeit a bit small) with a run carefully placed over the privy hole. Then she took off several layers of clothing and arranged herself on the bed before calling King Obvious in.
“Come join me, dear King,” Santa Maria said, patting the space on the bed next to her.
“Oh no,” said King Obvious. “I know you’ve cut a hole in the mattress so that I fall through to the moat. No, you come here and join me on the rug—”
And with that, King Obvious fell into the castle sewage with no way out but to swim out.
Furious, he summoned a sorcerer. The idea was to torture Santa Maria by attacking her sisters. His plan was to make Nina and Pinta pregnant and desire only things that belonged to King Obvious.
“You don’t need me for that,” said the sorcerer. “Those girls would believe anything you told them, and you can get them pregnant for yourself.”
Which he did, though how is beside the point right here.
Needless to say, soon the pregnant girls began having strange cravings. The wanted apples and figs and other obvious symbols of Original Sin from Christianity, and it just so happened that King Obvious possessed just those fruits by the orchard. But since the girls were still locked up in the castle, and he knew the only one who could shimmy up and down the rope from their high window was Santa Maria, he devised a clever torture device to get back at her.
Get this: It was a barrel lined with nails that once you climbed inside you could not climb out without severe injury. The plan was to lure Santa Maria to come collect some fruit in place of her feeble-minded sisters and then punishing her for stealing his fruit by forcing her to go head-first into the barrel. Do you want to guess how much this didn’t work?
Using an old trick from a Punch and Judy show she once saw, Santa Maria convinced King Obvious to (are you ready?) show her how to do it. So King Obvious, who was clearly a dolt, dove into the barrel and got himself stuck. Oh, he howled and howled, and his servants were slow to help him out. The official line was that he had instructed them to ignore any wailing because he wanted Santa Maria to suffer, but it’s probably closer to the truth that his servants were as fed up with him as everyone else and left him there for a bit.
Unhappy that King Obvious would go to such lengths to harm her, Santa Maria took it upon herself to rub it in. She posed as a doctor and made herself available to help King Obvious and showed up with a giant ox skin soaked in vinegar. The King, desperate to heal from his self-inflicted stupidity, overlooked that the doctor looked suspiciously like Santa Maria. The “doctor” insisted that King Obvious be left alone and that after she administered her “medicine” the king’s servants were not to respond if the king cried out in pain. The servants, sensing something dastardly was about to happen to their king, retreated to the cellar and proceeded to drink themselves into a stupor.
Santa Maria took the ox skin and sewed King Obvious into it like a giant cocoon with just his head sticking out. “An hour or so of that will do you good,” she said. Shortly after she left the vinegar from the hide began to soak into and sting the king’s wounds and he howled like a man possessed. In the middle of the night, when one of the passed out servants awoke from his drunken stupor to hear the wailing of the king, he wrote it off as a pair of nearby bears mating and went back to sleep.
King Obvious eventually passed out from the pain and was delirious for a week afterward.
It just goes on and on like this, with King Obvious four more times trying to catch Santa Maria and always managing to be bested by her, sometimes in the most gruesome of exchanges. If people took joy in the sadism of these accounts, of watching great leaders taking a tumble, than surely this must be something locked deep into our reptile brains. At one point Nina and Pinta have their ill-begotten love children and Santa Maria devises a way secretly dump them on King Obvious, who promptly stuffs them into a corner where they’re forgotten.
Finally, King Lear returns and the first thing he wants to see are the gifts he left them. Santa Maria goes first and produces her dove, her ruby, and her rosemary bush and the king is satisfied. She quickly hands her gifts to Pinta who presents them as her own because, clearly, she’s no longer a virgin and her dove is gone and her rosemary bush has gone all… woody, or something. Then Nina comes in and tries to pass off Santa Maria’s dove and ruby and bush off as her own and—
“Hold on a second,” says King Lear. “I want to see all your birds and bushes at the same time.”
At which point the older sisters fall to their knees crying and confess and beg their father for forgiveness. Naturally, he’s pissed, and once he learns that King Obvious was responsible he charges next door to give him a good piece of his mind.
“Father!” King Obvious shouts as King Lear enters his chamber.
“I was just trying it out, calling you dad. Sounds nice. I like the ring of it.”
“I don’t follow.”
“I want to marry Santa Maria! That would make you my father!”
“Oh. Well. That’s just fine!”
Somehow the fact that he’d deflowered his other two daughters is as forgotten as the offspring they produced, and kings being what they were they set about planning the wedding.
“I have no intention of marrying that lout!” said Santa Maria.
But her father didn’t care, and so the wedding went ahead as scheduled.
Of course, Santa Maria had one final prank to pull on King Obvious. On the night of her wedding she had a lambskin sewn to her shape and size and filled it with the entrails of all the beasts served at her nuptial meal. She carefully placed it in her bed and threw the covers over it so it looked like her, then climbed under the bed and waited. King Obvious came in, doused the candles, and proceeded to get undressed. As he stood there fully naked he cleared his throat to catch his wife’s attention.
“Lay down your dagger and draw up your sword, oh husband.”
“That one I can see clearly in your hand. Or is that… oh! I see! It’s like when they call a bald man curly. King Ironhead? Henceforth, husband, I shall call you King Pollywog!”
“Draw up my sword, you say?”
King Obvious reached over and grabbed his broadsword and hacked away at the fake wife in his bed until it was a gory mess. When he was done, when he realized that he’d killed the one person who could outsmart him, he was beside himself with grief. He was so upset that he turned his sword upon himself and as he watched his life drain out before him Santa Maria crawled out from under the bed to watch.
“I will miss our sparring, King, but you will not be missed,” Santa Maria said.
While the rest of the kingdom slept, Santa Maria loaded up a carriage full of gold and disappeared, never to be heard from again.
And she lived happily ever after, but everyone else was left guessing.
c. 2011 david elzey
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