The Princess, the Boar, the Moon

A tradition from the old faith, once yearly, the reigning princess would present herself before the people, the paparazzi, the bog dwellers. She would bow once to the west, once to the east, daub her golden hair with mud, turn to kiss the country’s ugliest boar. Her servants, despite their dislike of the ritual, dutifully selected the animal, and no one would have dared to question their selection; a crown of flies circled its ass. The creature was cock-eyed. Its snout: one of nature’s least savory works.

A man was to lie with his wife and take in the spectacular affair each year on the television. Usually, the princess would never see the boar again. She would sign her edicts, shop for plums or dog food in the village below. One Sunday, she spied a boar eyeing her outside the grocery. It cowered behind the wheel of a Saturn, its shriveled face reflecting not rage, not sadness or pity.

This would all have sieved away easily enough, had she not been reminded by the sound of hoof beats leaving the royal infirmary later that night. “Arthur,” said the princess to her serf, “do you love me?” “Ma’am, do I not pull the figs from the branches and burn to the ground the barns of your enemies?” “Yes,” replied the princess. “Perhaps what I mean to ask is this: to what factory will the wind someday go? And what is to be done with the terrible contentment?”

The moon had orbited back, doting on the wall as if it belonged there. The long table pulled the moon onto plates. The shine of it illuminated a sandbag factory across the freshly sprinkled lawn. It was a night when the very electrons of the arm seemed uneasy, insatiable. Then Arthur began to speak.