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
‘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 message system is not working,’ he said,‘you haven’t got
‘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
‘Of course, I am,’ said the king, ‘I’ve got wars to do.’