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The year end headache of King Cyril the Boneless of WakaBanana— known by its citizens as WataFakAp!

The year end headache of King Cyril the Boneless of WakaBanana— known by its citizens as WataFakAp!
All his poetic rumination meant the king wasn’t listening to his three closest advisers.

The citizens of WakaBanana would be waiting in vain for an end-of-year speech that could uplift their spirits.

King Cyril the Boneless, ruler of the beautiful land of WakaBanana (known to its citizens as WataFakAp), had a slight headache. Its cause, he had to presume, as do we, was the onerous task of sitting down with his closest advisers to begin drafting the speech he would be making to end off the year.

This speech had to be delivered before everyone in the country went on holiday and forgot about its rulers and the bright future they’d been promised.

King Cyril was trying to place a quotation he half-knew, probably from the Immortal Bard and very relevant to his present situation. He liked a good quotation for any occasion, but was having trouble with this one.

“Heavy is the hand that raises… No, heavy is the crown that sits… No, no. What can it be? Heavy is the head that wears the crown – yes, I think that’s it!”

He did not speak these words aloud. And he did not in fact wear a crown, because that would be lamentably old-fashioned, but it was the metaphor that counted – and accounted for his headache.

But all this poetic rumination meant that the king wasn’t listening to his three closest advisers. Their names, according to long-standing tradition, were Gog, Magog and Cheryl, the latter being, of course, a non-gender-specific kind of Cheryl, in keeping with the psychologically and spiritually advanced nation King Cyril hoped to lead.

“Your Majesty,” he faintly heard Gog say, “I fear we may have lost you…”

“Huh? Huh?” said King Cyril eloquently and expressively.

One had to be upbeat, too – people were trying to celebrate, and they didn’t need a rigmarole of complaints, which is what the king usually provided in his speeches.

“Lost? Lost? No, sorry, I was just contemplating…”

“The year in review?” asked Magog hopefully. “You were contemplating the year in review?” “Yes, that’s it,” said King Cyril. “So, where were we?”

“Well, Your Majesty,” said Cheryl, “we were trying to think of something positive and good and wholesome that you’d done this past year.”

“Ah,” said the king, and nearly added: “Well, I might as well go back to bed then.” But of course one couldn’t leave the nation hanging at year-end, when it was desperate for words of comfort and wisdom from the king. One had to be upbeat, too – people were trying to celebrate, and they didn’t need a rigmarole of complaints, which is what the king usually provided in his speeches. It was his own government, dammit, and he had a right to complain about it, even if the responsibility ultimately lay upon his head, no, his crown, his head…

“Aaargh,” said the king with the sincerity for which he was known across the world and especially in Davos. “I’m getting a bad headache just thinking about this.”

“Don’t think, Your Majesty,” said Gog. “Don’t think. Just relax. We’re here to do the thinking for you, Your Majesty.”

“Alternatively,” said Cheryl, “we could order some homemade remedies? It is said in the rural areas that you can diminish the pain of a headache by chewing on a stick.”

King Cyril groaned. “No,” he said, “no sticks! Let’s just push ahead and get this over.”

“Okay,” said Magog, “your trip to Muscovy to see the Grand Duke was a… well, we’d like to call it a qualified success.”

“Qualified?” yelped the king. “Qualified for what? I have no qualifi­cations.”

“No, no, Your Majesty,” said Magog, “that just means it wasn’t entirely a success, that there were a few minus points, but overall…”

“You went to make peace,” said Gog, “and that’s got to be a good thing. It shows your heart is in the right place.”

“Yes,” said Cheryl, “but unfortunately it was more than a year since the war had begun, so it didn’t look like a very urgent peace initiative.”

“No,” said Magog, “and it became clear, when you actually spoke to the Grand Duke – the Bloodstained Tyrant, we call him affectionately – that you weren’t there to make peace, even if you could have, but were there actually to beg for some foodstuffs… What was it again?”

“Grain,” moaned the king. “Grain. You know, the basic component of bread.”

‘Don’t end your sentences with a preposition,’ said Magog. ‘A proposition?’ asked the king. ‘Who’s making propositions?’

“Ah, yes, grain… And you made a good case, Your Majesty, for not starving our people to death simply because the Bloodstained Tyrant, ha ha, wanted some of his former empire’s lands back and was willing to flatten the place and murder as many civilians as he liked to get it.”

“No doubt,” snapped Cheryl, before the king could respond. “But we’re getting off track. His Majesty made the overtures, made the case, but then the Grand Duke promptly broke the terms of the agreement.”

“Yes,” whispered the king. “He broke it…” His headache went up a notch.

“Okay, moving on,” said Gog, who was acutely aware of the king’s every twitch. “What about the Court Jester? He has been out there promising that the Temple of Power will rise again from the ashes, that all the problems we have now with keeping the lights on will be gone in the new year. If that were true, Your Majesty, that would be a positive thing to remind the people of.”

“Don’t end your sentences with a preposition,” said Magog. “A proposition?” asked the king. “Who’s making propositions?”

“Nobody, Your Majesty,” said Cheryl, seizing control of the situation with the political verve for which they were known.

“No propositions, no prepositions… Let’s focus on the Court Jester. That would be the one known as Ses’Fikile, Your Majesty, in case you’re losing track. We haven’t seen the Court Jester in some time, have we?”

“Mbalula, you mean?” asked Magog.

He always talks shit. Remember when he said our railways would be rebuilt in no time? He just talks shit… Why do we let him say anything, really?

“Mbalula is simply a synonym for clown,” said Cheryl harshly. “You should know that. Now, the Jester has been making these glowing forecasts – but we haven’t heard from the High Priest who’s handling the reconstruction of the Temple of Power, so we’re not sure how hard to go on this.”

“The High Priest is lying down in a darkened room, surely,” said Gog.

“Yes, no doubt, but the issue is what we can tell the people. Is the Court Jester right?”

“No,” said the king firmly. “Of course not. He always talks shit. Remember when he said our railways would be rebuilt in no time? He just talks shit… Why do we let him say anything, really?”

“Perhaps he was trying to be funny,” said Magog. “After all, that’s what Jesters are for. And that’s why they wear those ridiculous outfits.”

“What’s he wearing now?” asked Gog softly, perhaps apprehensive about what the answer might be.

“A yellow tracksuit from Dolce e Gabbana,” said Cheryl, checking their notes. “Retail price nine thousand gold coins, which would take the average worker about 412 years to earn… And it’s not, in fact, the most preposterous outfit he has worn to date.”

“Preposterous?” asked the king. “Propositions, prepositions – I’m confused.”

“Don’t worry about it, Your Majesty. These are technical terms. You can leave them to your experts.”

“Oh, good,” sighed the king. “I’m really very tired now. And I have the aforementioned headache. Which is getting worse, like everything in this darn kingdom…”

“Do not speak it,” said Magog. “We must be positive, positive. We must have achievements to crow about at year-end.”

“But we have none, it seems,” said Cheryl. “So what do we do?”

“We hand out beer,” said the king. “Crates and crates of beer. That’s all there is to be done.”

His advisers were silent. The king was silent. He could think only of his headache. Everything was a headache.

“Okay, then,” he said. “We’re agreed. Now, please, lead me to a darkened room.” DM

Shaun de Waal is a writer and editor.

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R29.

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