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“The King of Broad-Way” – a short story by Justin Sheedy

16 October 2010

Photo by Sheila Smart

I am the King of Broad-Way.

Atop the North East corner of the square mountain of stone you call the Shopping Centre Car Park is my Throne.  When next you stand down there at the changing coloured lights, look up and you will see me where from on high I survey, there, beside the Great Letters of Red.  My Crown you call, in error, a Sulphur Crest.  For this, we forgive you, for you are but human, I am a king, and it is Gold.

It is of the Great Letters of Red that we wish to learn.  Of your words, we understand many.  Not as many as you understand yet even you do not understand them all and you cannot fly except in tubes of fragile metal and we never crash.

Yes, though very many of your words we understand there are some that despite all endeavour to fathom we remain unable, words by whose meaning we have long been eluded…  Grant us your help here and in return we will begin to impart to your kind the secrets of how to fly in safety, at will and tubeless.  (It has long mystified us why you never thought to ask…)

But first to our question as to the Letters of Red…

What is a HOYT?

Our legends associate these ‘hoyts’, whatever in truth they may be, with darkened caves wherein silver images of the Past, the Present and the Future did gleam – images now lost to us.  Such caves our kind did never enter as your kind did fear our delight at the silver images, our flapping of wings, our calling out and flying around inside.  Your exclusion of our kind did seem, however, a small matter to us at the time, our kind content to view the images at the Drive-In, a word we knew well:  How marvellous it was on those long, hot summer evenings to watch the silver images in the open air, free to flap, call out and fly around as the images took us.

How well I remember my Father on these nights – the King before me – his white plumage aglow in the radiance of the image beam, his wingspan at times taking on the colours and shapes of the images themselves, in these moments his own silhouette majestic up on the image screen!  Yes, those nights, those times did bring much joy to our kind until, as the years passed, one by one the Drive-Ins did darken, empty, and were closed.  As your kind and our kind have since exchanged few words together – except, alas, for “Pollywonnacracker”, a word we never understood – the demise of the Drive-Ins both mystifies and saddens us still.

As to your ‘Outdoor Cinema’ of more recent days, this, just as sadly, we cannot attend for the Bats who populate the parks wherein these events play out are a breed, in your words, ‘diametrically opposed’ to our kind.  Though we ever wished them well, our hopes of co-existence were ever doomed by the fact of their being, in your words, ‘terminally pissed-off’.  Whatever has caused them to inhabit this condition, we cannot say.  But my kind would be abler to go near them if this breed did not feel compelled to cause pain to others on account of their own.

As to the smaller images of your ‘Telly’, our kind were long ago dissuaded from these as captive Kings of Old too oft did hear through the curtain of the tellyroom birdcage: “Nothing on, darl…”

I am now King amongst my kind.

And any king worth his cuttlefish strives to ensure for his kind Joy while they do live.  For life without Joy is mere survival.  And no logic permits me to believe that should be All…

The Sun does not merely warm us, it gives us Sunrises and Sunsets.  The Sun grows corn to sustain us, but also flowers!  And the flowers do not merely grow before they wilt and die, they thrive.

Therefore, with the Joy of my kind as my goal, I do hereby make my Regal Appeal.

I wish my kind to see the silver images once again!

It is our belief that your kind do this very day marvel at the images lost to us inside a cave deep within the Shopping Centre beside the Parking Station where is my throne.  It is our belief that you call this cave, for reasons still mysterious to us, a ‘hoyt’.  Indeed, we suspect that there may be, yes, even more than one of these ‘hoyts’ so-called therein!

My Father, the previous King, did intrepidly seek to prove this belief we harbour.  He did give his life in the attempt, succumbing to exhaustion at the end of his adventure.  Yet a sad death it was not.  Nay, we did not grieve at his passing for my Father lived and died as he would wish to be remembered: engaged in the attempt of Discovery for the good of others.

Before he did rest, he told us of the many, many caves within the Shopping Centre, some brightly lit, and all filled with a very, very many different things.  How proud we were of him, how we laughed with him at his account of flying up the moving footways, scaring and delighting the crowds of your kind with his calling out and the flapping of his regal wings.  The King did fly up and fly down many moving footways yet, despite his valiant efforts, could not gain entry to the hoyt he did finally discover, being from that place chased away by garbed acolytes and needing all of his remaining strength to fly down, down, down the lines of the moving footways once again, and out into the air at last.

As he neared his noble end I did promise the King I would endeavour the same flight, yet with his final breaths he did forbid it (for no Queen or Regal Heir yet have I), counselling me instead to appeal to the Better Nature of your kind.  Which, as his dying wish, I do now.

Grant us entry to a hoyt!  Have faith that we will not fly up the moving footways in the manner which causes consternation to your kind, rather, that we will proceed up the footways as a flock in single file and orderly fashion.  It is our solemn promise that, once within a hoyt, we will show due respect for your customs, limiting our wing flapping to levels deemed acceptable by your kind, flying around but to gain optimum viewing position.  Suitably installed we will revel before the silver images once again, rejoice in the memory of nights of old and have Popcorn!

Remember!  Grant us this honour, this Joy, and we will share with you the secrets of tubeless flight even now within your grasp.

When next you pass by the lights of changing colours and hear my call, stop, look up, and see me.  By the Great Letters of Red.  Upon my Throne.  Where I await your reply.  I am the King of Broad-Way.  I wish Joy to my kind.

*          *          *





For reviews of Justin Sheedy’s 5th & latest book, click HERE. To read another short story by Justin Sheedy, click HERE.

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