Sunday, June 17, 2018

Rafe the Peddler's New Job

                           Rafe the Peddler’s New Job
By Valerie L. Egar

            No one could convince Princess Adeline that a suggestion box was a bad idea.
            When she heard crowds shouting in the street, her advisors explained the people had complaints about how she ruled the Kingdom. “If they think it’s so easy, tell them to make suggestions,” said the Princess.
            Princess Adeline was vain and greedy, so when she invited people to tell her how the Kingdom could be improved, she imagined them telling her to buy a crown with larger diamonds or pleading to rename the university Adeline U.  Those who advised the Princess did not imagine the same suggestions.
            When the day came to open the suggestion box, everyone in the castle was nervous. The cook burned the pastries. The housekeeper dusted the rug and swept the piano.
            “What’s the problem around here?” yelled the Princess. “Straighten up or you’ll all be working at the Royal Zoo!”
            “Perhaps I should look at the suggestions first, your Highness,” said the Steward.
            “Nonsense,” said the Princess. “I’m the Princess. I go first.” One by one, the Princess read the suggestions. Of 368 suggestions, 367 said the kingdom would be a much better place without the Princess.
Princess Adeline’s nose wrinkled and her lips twisted. Everyone waited for the tantrum. Then she said, “Can you imagine one person writing the same suggestion 367 times? What a crank!”
The advisors nodded, much relieved.
“What did the last one say?” asked the Steward.
“That I should take five years and travel the world. Now that’s something to think about.”
The following month, everyone shuddered as the Steward once again opened the suggestion box. Five hundred three suggestions. Five hundred two of them recommended the Princess give up her throne and the handwriting on some of them looked very familiar.
“What does the last one say?” asked the steward.
“That there’s a dog sled leaving for the Arctic and I might enjoy the ride.”
“One good suggestion out of 503 isn’t so bad,” said the Steward.
“I hate the cold!” shouted the Princess. Then, she started throwing things.
The next week in the castle was miserable for everyone except the Princess. She tied the Steward to the bed while he was sleeping. She cheated more than usual at croquet.  She practiced her bagpipe from midnight until 3 in the morning.
The Steward had heard about Rafe the peddler’s shenanigans selling coconuts as magic eggs and sent word that the Princess needed help. Surely changing people’s minds about the Princess couldn’t be harder than convincing people coconuts were magic.
A fanfare of trumpets announced Rafe’s arrival. “Your subjects don’t appreciate you as much as they should,” Rafe told Princess Adeline. “I’m here to help.”
            “I’m not changing,” announced the Princess. “Don’t even try.”
            “No need for you to change,” said Rafe. “It’s the people in your Kingdom who have a problem. They need to change.”
            “I like how you think!”
            The next day, Rafe unveiled his plan. “It’s time for you to travel through the kingdom kissing babies. Parents love important people kissing their children.”
            “Yuck!” said the Princess. “I hate babies!”
            “You don’t have to like them,” said Rafe. “You just have to kiss them.”
            Rafe escorted Princess Adeline to the Royal Park. When she kissed the first baby, she made a face and the baby started crying. “Shut up brat!” she yelled. “You’re getting tears on my good dress.”
            Rafe pulled the Princess away from the angry mob. “Maybe kissing babies wasn’t the best idea.”
            Rafe hung banners with portraits of the Princess on every street.  Billboards inscribed “Beloved Princess” lined the highways.  “The more people see you, the more they’ll like you,” he assured Princess Adeline.
            By the end of the week, every single portrait had a mustache or horns. Rafe began to think that convincing people that coconuts were magic eggs was much easier than overcoming the Kingdom’s dislike of the unpopular princess.
“I’ll have to try something else,” Rafe thought. 
         The next morning he showed up at the castle with a brass band.  “What you need is a song that honors you and show how special you are,” Rafe said. He lifted his baton. “Listen.” The trumpets blared as Rafe sang:
                        Addie, Addie, Princess fine,
                        You’re as sweet as Frankenstein.
                        Smarter than a porcupine,
                        We love you our Adeline!
“I’m not sure I like the rhymes,” complained the Princess.
            “Picky, picky,” said Rafe. “Not much rhymes with Adeline.”
            The first time the song was played in public, the Royal Order of the Porcupines complained that the song put porcupines in a bad light. After a brief court battle, the jury agreed and the song was banned forever.
            A month had almost passed and it would soon be time to once again open the suggestion box.  So far, nothing Rafe tried had worked. Princess Adeline was angry. “If I don’t see results when I open that suggestion box, you’re fired!”
            Rafe realized there wasn’t much he could do to make the people in the Kingdom like Princess Adeline. She was mean, self-centered and greedy. Banners with her portrait, patriotic songs and having her kiss babies was never going to change that.  Rafe tossed and turned all night, certain he was going to lose his job.
As he drifted off to sleep, he suddenly awoke with an idea. He slapped his head. “Why didn’t I think of that from the start?” Rafe knew exactly what he needed to do.
            In the morning, he strolled through the market. Stopping to buy a few mangoes, he chatted with the fruit vendor. “Oh, the Princess can be a bit difficult, but she pays me well,” he remarked. He lowered his voice. “I wouldn’t tell anyone but you, and I know you won’t tell anyone, but she’s building a mansion for me in the mountains.”
            At the fishmonger’s stall he said the Princess paid him in gold every week and mentioned the amount. The fishmonger’s eyes widened and he gasped. “Oh, dear,” Rafe said. “I see I’ve shocked you. Please don’t tell anyone. People might be upset.”
            Buying rice, Rafe paid the woman weighing it five times the price she asked. “Keep the change,” he said. “I can afford it. The Princess pays me so much, I don’t know what to do with all the money.” Then he added, “But please, don’t tell anyone.  I wouldn’t want anyone fearing their taxes might rise just because of me.”
Just as Rafe suspected, the market was soon abuzz with gossip about his excessive salary and his worthless job trying to make the Princess look good.
Later that week, the Steward opened the suggestion box. Princess Adeline smiled as she read the slips of paper. Seven hundred twenty-two said she should fire Rafe, one said she should step down, and one suggested she might enjoy collecting edible mushrooms and enclosed a book.
“Only one complaint about me!” said the Princess. “You have really turned things around!”

“Of course I did,” said Rafe. “As long as I’m here, I guarantee you’ll be more popular than ever.”

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Copyright 2018 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied, published or distributed without permission from the author.
Published June 17 and 24, Journal Tribune Sunday (Biddeford, ME).

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