Monday, 20 October 2014

New Poem: Messages

The king’s idea was that there should be a messenger

service all over his kingdom. Whoever wanted to send

a message would hire one of the king’s messengers.

There would be a fee for this of 100 crowns a year which

would be paid straight to the king, into his coffers to pay

for wars. For a hundred crowns you could hire a

messenger any time you liked. The king announced that

the messenger service had begun. Twenty messengers

waited in the yard outside the king’s palace. Nothing

happened. Nothing happened for several days. The

leading messenger went to see the king.

‘I don’t think this messenger thing is going to work,’ he

said. ‘Anyone wanting to send a message- apart from you,

sir - is going to have to come here first.’

‘Yes,’ said the king, ‘that’s why it’s a good idea.’

‘No, sir,’ said the chief messenger, ‘you see by the time the

person wanting to send a message has come here, they

might just as well as have sent someone from where they


‘That’s a good point,’ said the king.

‘Might I suggest that the messengers do routes?’said the

chief messenger.

‘Go on,’ said the king.

‘One of us does route A to B. One of us does route C to D.

Another does route E-F and so on. People who want

messages sent come to the messenger point in A or C or E

and so on.’

And that’s what happened. The people who wanted to send

messages came to the messenger points and the messengers

ran the routes. It became very popular. The money rolled in.

The king waged wars. Everyone was happy. The messenger

system got more popular. The messengers worked very hard

running between the messenger points. Some days, they didn’t

have time to eat. They said that the king had to take on more

messengers. He said he couldn’t do that as he needed more

soldiers. The messenger service stopped being so good. One

day it was because some message-senders gave their

messages to the messenger but the messenger never arrived.

No one knew what happened to him. He just disappeared.

Some said that he dropped dead because he hadn’t eaten for

a month. Some said that he met someone on the way and

decided to stay with her for the rest of his life. Someone said

that he stopped off at a theatre, stole a wig, a false beard and

a magician’s cloak and was now touring the country doing

conjuring tricks. Another day it was because the messenger

had so many messages to remember that he muddled them up:

someone who was supposed to have got a message saying

that he loved her more than the night-sky loves the stars, ended

up getting threatened with having her legs broken for not paying

her rent. A birthday greeting went to someone who was dead.

One day, one of the message points was full of people wanting

to send messages but there was no messenger to take them.

The people ended up telling their messages to each other. At

least four people ended up getting married as a result but for the

rest it was a disaster. In the end the chief messenger went to see

the king.

‘The message system is not working,’ he said,‘you haven’t got

enough messengers.’

‘That’s where you’re wrong,’ said the king.‘It’s not “not enough

messengers”, it’s “too many messages”. Yack, yack, yack,’ said

the king, ‘that’s all you do. What’s the weather like where you are?

How’s Auntie? How’s the little one? Did you see so-and-so last

night? What are you wearing? Where are you? I’m on the chariot

on the way to the sea, where are you? On and on and on and on.’

‘But you’re still collecting the hundred crowns off people,’ said the

chief messenger.

‘Of course, I am,’ said the king, ‘I’ve got wars to do.’