Paul's Kingdom

G: Family issues

You burst through the open door and toss your backpack on the couch. You rip the bag open and extract a piece of paper. For a second you stare at it.

A+. You got an A+. You never get As, let alone A+s. You can only remember a total of five Bs. You're mostly a C guy. Mrs. Crosby even said no one knew their Mid-Atlantic states better. She also said maybe next year you could come back to her class and teach the lesson! Normally you'd rush over to the living room to tell Mom, but Mom hasn't been around the past few days. So you'll tell Dad.

You run to your parents' bedroom to find Dad. For some reason he'd been spending all his time there. Ever since Mom left. You push open his bedroom door and find him just as you expected. Sitting on his bed, staring at the wall with the blankest of expressions. You notice a small bottle at his feet.

"Dad!" you cry out and run into his lap. "Guess what!"

Dad doesn't react to the sudden increase of weight on his body. He just keeps staring at the wall. Finally, he manages a "Hello, Paul."

You move Dad's face to your own so that he can properly see you. "I said, guess what!"

Dad does not respond. You frown. Then he runs his hand through his hair and says, "Chicken butt."

You smile. It's a game you picked up at school last year, whenever someone says "Guess what" the other replies, "Chicken butt." You don't know why but it's fun. And this was a good sign; Dad had fallen for it every time before now. He is learning.

"Nope!" you beam proudly. "I got an A+!" You shove the paper into his hands. He manages to look down. "Well that's nice. I suppose you're happy, Paul."

"I am! Aren't you happy, Dad? I got an A+."

"Yeah, I'm happy. Good job."

You feel sort of let down because Dad didn't seem happy, but he said so so it must be true. You leave him and close the door quietly. You look through the keyhole to see if he really is happy.

For about ten seconds Dad resumes his place on the wall. Then he picks up the bottle from his feet and reclines back onto the bed. Maybe he's tired. That's why he wasn't so happy with your A+.

You go back downstairs and make yourself a peanut-butter and jelly sandwich. You've had a lot of those since Mom left. PB&Js and Cheerios. Sometimes you get creative and put raisins in your Cheerios. Maybe that creativity got you your A+.

As Mrs. Crosby didn't give you any homework, you decide it's time you visit your Kingdom. The one place where you control everything that happens, and everyone serves you!

Conveniently, this kingdom is located in the woods behind your house. While it is only a small town, the Paul Kingdom is full of fun and adventure.

Once you step over the gurgling brook in the woods known to you as the Great River, you enter your kingdom. And the first person to great you is Prior, the attending priest at the temple.

"King Paul!" he greets you. "There is something I need to discuss with you!"

You frown. "You need to talk to me about your temple, right?"

"Yes. It is not fit for one of the Order."

"I know," you sigh. "I'll tell Murgog to get on with the construction." Murgog was one of the first people to live in your kingdom, and he is one of your best friends. His job is to make houses and other buildings for the residents of Paul Kingdom.

You decide it's time to go to the Royal Court. You proceed until you get there. The court is without a doubt the grandest building in the whole realm, a castle complete with all the butresses and banners of a past age.

You take your seat on the Throne of Power among your greatest friends in the Kingdom, your advisors. These people are handpicked assistants who you've chosen to help you with the toughest choices of your empire. Those present today are Murgog, General Restuit, Lady Sonora, Lord Vero, and Baron Q'iol. Murgog was your greatest ally, always by your side. While he often procrastinated in his construction work, he got the job done when he needed to. General Restuit was perhaps the toughest general on The Continent, but his strict demeanor could be made tepid if one knows how to approach him.

Sonora and Vero are the happiest people in your Kingdom (in all, there are about forty people currently in your realm. Once Murgog gets on with his construction more will come). The two were married five years ago and have one kid, who's much like you.

Baron Q'iol worries you sometimes. He's rougish like Murgog, but not in a playful way. In an ambitious way. Sometimes you think that Q'iol is trying to take your place as king. What's the word for that? Oh yeah, usurp. Q'iol is trying to usurp you.

Still, you do not know whether that is true. Mostly Lord Vero tells you that. Vero and Q'iol hate each other. Q'iol has never gotten you in trouble but sometimes he tells you to do bad things.

You turn to Murgog. "Murgog, my greatest friend. I need you to speed up construction of the temple. Prior is becoming very impatient."

"All right," Murgog says resignedly. "As soon as you leave."


"I promise," he nods. "So, was Tom home?"

Tom is your older brother. He hasn't been home much since mom left, mom used to tell him not to go out after dark. But you saw him on the morning bus to school. "I saw him earlier today. But not since then."

"Where do you think he is?" Lady Sonora asks. Sonora is the nicest person you know. She really cares for you. Her eyes gleam just like mom's used to.

"I don't know. Maybe he's got basketball. Or maybe he's with Shannon." Shannon is Tom's girlfriend.

"Maybe," she continues to frown until her face breaks into a beam. "So, King Paul, did you see Alicia today?"

Your stomach begins to burn. "Why do you talk about Alicia so much, Sonora?"

"Oh, I see the way you talk about her. I know. I just hope everything works out with you like it did with me and Vero. We would never leave each other. Right, Vero?"

Vero smiles at his wife and nods. "I'd never leave you, honey." They kiss. General Restuit suddenly interjects with a grunt.

"People, back to business. The Yuras will be invading any day now!"

You snap back to the situation at hand. The Yuras are a hostile tribe on the fringes of your kingdom. They were changed into monstrous beasts a few hundred years ago and they constantly torment your people. You even think that if the Yuras were destroyed more people would come whether or not Murgog made houses for them.

"Ah yes, the Yuras," you say grimly. "We will deal with them soon."

Baron Q'iol finally breaks his extending silence with a menacing hiss. "Always soon, always soon. Never now. You need to lead us, my lord. We need you to go into battle with the Yuras today. Not tomorrow. Not next week. Today."

"Quiet!" Vero shoots at him. "Stop poisoning the king's mind! Whenever he thinks is the right time is the right time."

Q'iol stares Vero down. "Me poisoning the king's mind? You're the real enemy, always telling him that I want to take his place. You're the real usurper! You're just trying to set me up!"

Just before Vero can muster a response Restuit cuts him off. "Shut up, you two. Bickering will help nothing. We need to work together to defeat the Yuras."

Everyone remains silent as Vero and Q'iol continue fuming. Murgog eventually cocks his head to one side and says, "What's that sound?"

You turn around and find your brother Tom standing behind you. He is laughing. "What are you doing, Paul? Talking to your friends again?"

Your face flushes pink immediately. Tom had walked into your kingdom before, and you didn't hear the end of it for three straight days.

"You do know they're fake, right? You can't really see Vero or Baron Kall!"

"It's Q'iol!" you shout in anger. "Now go away! Now!"

But Tom continues to jeer. "Look, Paul, you're in third grade. You need to grow up. No more imaginary friends."

You just want to rip his head off, but you can't. "I know," you say at last. "I know I'm too old for imaginary friends."

Tom comes over and puts his arm around you. He doesn't do that much. "C'mon, Paul. Come inside. Let's go home."

Maybe you should go home. Your stupid kingdom. It's fake. You're the king of nothing. Just go home with Tom, and maybe you'll get some real work done.

But your people need you! Vero needs you...Restuit is depending on your leadership! And Murgog is depending on your friendship. Would you let them go?