Last night, the Inquiring Taxpayer had the strangest dream. One of those dreams about a far off land in a distant time.
King John ruled his kingdom wisely and kindly. The land was filled with beautiful castles inhabited by lords and ladies of high character. This pleased the king.
But King John was also troubled. You see, hidden away from the royal castles lived the Others. In crumbling hovels and huts the Others lived lives that were often filled with hunger, illness, and profound sadness.
So King John set his son about the task of doing something to help the Others. King John’s son and his lady had an inspiration. They would build a giant Others vault. All the royalty of the kingdom would contribute a part of their treasure to the vault. And this treasure would be used to serve the most urgent needs of the Others.
Such a fantastic idea even by fairy tale standards. Of course, in fairy tales, as in real life, people die, and so it happened that King John and his son shoved off this mortal coil.
Many years went by (in newspapers, a story writer has to move quickly). One day a bejeweled prince and his retinue rode up to the Others vault.
The prince addressed the guardians of the vault: “Kind sirs, I would like some of the treasure in order to add on to my castle.”
The guardians were puzzled by this strange request. “My lord,” one said with some reluctance, “ this treasure is for the Others.”
One of the prince’s advisors stepped forth: “Indeed, kind sirs, the prince’s request will be of great value to the Others. Some of the healthier ones will be allowed to haul the stones and dig the foundations. Others may be permitted to work in the prince’s new kitchen and empty the royal chamber pots.”
In the face of such logic, the guardians relented and gave the prince two wheelbarrows full of gold with which he might build a new wing for his castle.
Even in those pre-internet days word spread quickly. Within no time at all, princes’ advisors were applying for wheelbarrows filled with gold and silver for this and that pleasure. The crush became such that the guardians of the vault hardly hesitated in granting requests. They merely required some token assurance that the treasure’s use would in one way or another benefit the Others.
As time went on hardly anyone even remembered King John’s son and his intention with the vault. Some guardians were puzzled as to why it was even called the Others vault. One suggested that it be renamed.
Perhaps “Castle Development Vault” would be more appropriate.
One day an old man hobbled up to the vault. He had come from a run-down village not so very far away. He timidly approached one of the guardians: “Sir, I have never visited this great Others vault …”
“New name, old man,” the guardian hastened to correct him. “Castle Development Vault.”
“I see,” said the old man, obviously confused by this information. “Might I have a piece of gold or silver? My children are ill and hungry and I might hope to exchange the treasure for a bit of food or medicine.”
The guardian spoke kindly but firmly: “Very sorry, old man, but our supply of treasure for those needs is temporarily gone. Come back next month.”
The old man’s shoulders slumped in despair, and he walked away.
As he did so, he could hear the guardian speaking to someone inside the vault. “Prince John (ironic, isn’t it?) will be here shortly. Make sure that his gold is ready.”
At this point the Inquiring Taxpayer woke up, not sure if I had experienced a dream or a nightmare.
Joe Nacca of Canandaigua is a frequent contributor to the Daily Messenger.