This week’s #writephoto prompt is
‘I think you need to see this, your magnificence.’
Pontius Soffit, Lord High Presence, First of his Largeness and general sorter-outer for His Maj Prince Delicate squinted at the gold speaking tube. When a flunkey called him by his preferred appellation, especially when the flunkey in question was Terrance Bentemattock, Master of the Royal Edifices it bespoke problems of the kind that lesser sorters-outers gifted body parts to avoid. ‘The new apartments?’
‘I did proffer the view that there might be something of contrafabulation if..’
‘Bentemattock, do you know what happens to egregious knowalls and smug smarty-pants in this Kingdom?’
‘I don’t want to, do I?’
‘Wise choice, Bentemattock. Where do I meet you?’
‘The Royal Balcony.’
Of course it was the bloody balcony. That stupid thing had been nothing but trouble. ‘I’ll be there in five.’
Pontius hitched his pendulous poitrine and huffed his way through the Royal Receiving Rooms, past the Royal Honours Auditorium and headed for the balcony. Back in the day, under Delicate’s father’s rule, the old King Hardnosed there was none of this fancydan preening in front of the masses. Oh no, the old boy would issue some utterly appalling edict and then stride out into the square, plant his feet, glare at his people and dare them to bring it on. Now, Delicate kept his distance, he agonised about everything and did all he could to avoid contact with the public. Where he’d got the idea for a balcony from – Royal Watch Weekly or some such probably – he had become wedded to the idea of one being attached to the public apartments. A few waves from two stories up was far more appealing to Delicate than direct confrontation.
So Pontius had engaged the preferred builders to design and build something suitable. Delicate had ho’ed and he’d hummed about everything and eventually told Pontius to decide, which he did. It was what he did. Of course thereafter every little feature of the project caused his royal indecisiveness to have a fit of the vapours before leaving the final decision to Pontius. It was just so wearying. Even the bloody bill had caused a royal faint and nearly broken even the resolve of one so constitutionally ironclad as Pontius Soffit.
Terry Bentemattock stood by the steps that led to the balcony, wringing his hands which dripped with nervous sweat.
‘Yes Terry. What’s up? The balcony is finished, isn’t it?’
‘And it’s safe, ready for tomorrow’s big launch?’
‘It’s safe, that’s true.’
Pontius looked past the almost translucent underlying. ‘It’s ready for tomorrow, isn’t it?’
The foot shuffling was a thing of extraordinary dexterity which might have been admirable in a ballet star but in a member of the royal household connoted the unwelcome bearer of bad news. The balcony itself was hidden by a velveteen curtain ready to be thrown back to enable Delicate to disport himself in front of his people. ‘Come on, man. What’s wrong with the balcony?’
‘Nothing? So why in the name of Geronimo’s Gonads am I…’
In an instant Bentemattock transformed from petrified to manic, spinning round and yanking back the curtain.
Pontius’ next words died on his lips. Eventually he stared at the arch to the balcony and hissed, ‘Where’s it gone?’
‘I believe Mildred Patella has it in her laundry. I saw her with her cart muttering something about disgusting sights and it needing a good old fashioned scrub.’
Mildred? The Witch? For sure she hated the Royals for a reason but generally she kept herself to herself. ‘Why?’
‘As I understand it,’ the hand wringing became so frantic that the dripping sweat started to steam, ‘your builders commissioned her to remove it and keep it safe.’
‘They took it?’ A dim light glimmered somewhere in the recesses of Pontius’s brain. ‘This is about their bills, isn’t it? I told them to sort themselves out and think again. How do they think that entitles them to do this?’
‘The foreman told me he was only doing what you said, sir.’
‘What I said? And what did I say?’
Bentemattock was already trying to distance himself from the unstable civil servant. ‘I’m only quoting sir, you understand?’ His voice was barely audible but Pontius’ gaze remained riveted on the doorway to the balcony. ‘Apparently you told him, when he said they’d shaved the bill as much as they could and asked you what should he do, “you’ll need to take a view, man”. So they did.’
Pontius took a few tentative steps up to the arch, staring at the scuffed scene that confronted him. The view had been ripped off the horizon leaving a few places where a tree or cow remained trapped in a sea of whiteness. Come on, Pontius, take the positives.
He couldn’t find any so sank to his knees. He’d been looking forward to abusing his liver during his retirement, but that pleasure now seemed unlikely. In a voice that was barely a whisper, he said, ‘At least it will be clean. Go and get it back Bentemattock.’
‘What are you going to do sir?’ He looked at his boss’ face. ‘It’s one of those things I don’t want to know, isn’t it?’
Pontius’ nod was barely visible.