A king and queen are held captive in Florence. Will they ever escape?
|The sun was shining so beautifully. There was not a cloud in the sky. Everywhere, the peoples made their way down the lanes, looking for the destinies in the open markets of Florence. With children in tow, they proceeded to sample the wares, test the merchandise. Everyone who was there seemed to feel as if they were on the cutting edge of life.
Quite in contrast to the opportunity represented by the open market – real purchasing power, freedom – there was an inauspicious cage sitting in the middle of the plaza. What was this, an open prison? Were they putting a convicted criminal on display, to be mocked and spat upon inerrantly? Perhaps not.
The year was 1480 and this was the Pallazo della Signoria in Florence.
In the cage, Basso was sitting next to his wife, Alta. They each had a shackle on the right hand, which was tied to one of the bars. No escape. It was so low-bringing, to be in a situation such as this. In another time, Basso would've been king, subjugating all of these...people under his boot. There would be no denying that he was in control, that he was the master of all. Perhaps he was just fooling them, pretending to be just a lowly animal, until suddenly, slice and dice!
“Basso, I don't know what we should do,” said Alta. “When are they going to let us go?”
“I don't know, Alta,” said Basso. “I really don't even remember how we got here.”
“It's okay, Basso,” said Alta. “Where are the trees? Where are the animals? This is covered almost entirely with stone and wood.”
Just then a little boy ran up to their cage.
“I gotta go, mommy,” said the boy.
“Hurry up,” said his mother. “We must make it to the play later on.”
“Okay,” said the boy, as he relieved himself right into the cage.
“What are you doing?” said Basso, hollering at the boy.
The boy looked up to him as if his life were going to end. His knees started knocking, his head twitched. Basso squinted at the boy as he moved closer.
“Do I come to your house and pee on the floor, young boy?” said Basso. “You go along now, go, run away.”
The boy just stood there, shaken.
“Well,” said Basso. “Be gone.”
Just then, the boy's mother arrived, grabbed the boy by the arm, and took him away. Another crisis averted.
Just then, a man walked up to the cage, reached his hand in, and dropped a pile of raw meat right in the puddle of urine that boy had left.
“Bon Appetit,” said the man.
He then stood there, with both hands on the bars, looking at his captives. He didn't seem to have anything on his mind. Just observing his quarry, trying to digest it all mentally. Not every day did someone see a true king standing before him in the Pallazo della Signoria. The man then began to lean back, while holding the cage, almost as if he were on a giant carnival ride. He leaned back as if he were flying by holding the tail of an eagle.
Basso was truly afraid of this man. He knew not his intentions, or anybody's in his strange land.
“I need my kingdom,” said Basso.
“I need food,” said Alta.
“We can't eat that,” said Basso. “The boy, you saw him.”
“But without it, we'll starve,” said Alta, as she took a bight of meat and pushed the rest over toward her husband.
Basso didn't know what to do. Should he violate his principles and accept this dirty meat, this sinful offering to the gods, or should he fight for what was his?
“Somebody, anybody, get me out of here!” he yelled as loud as he could.
Passers-by stopped to look, then a handful of them walked over. Among them was an adult man in a tunic.
“What is your name?” said the man.
“I am a king,” said Basso.
“What is your name, King?” said the man.
“Here, I am known as Basso.” said Basso.
“You think you're a king?” said the man. “If you're a king, where's your army? Where are your ships?”
“My kingdom is vast. It is the kingdom of the land of conquerors,” said Basso. “Anything that comes-”
“You're not a king,” said the man. “You're an animal. A feral beast.”
“What does it mean to you, anyway,” said Basso
“It means, I don't salute lunch meat,” said the man.
“Lunch meat,” said Basso, licking his chops. To which the man thought better of his words and backed off a bit.
“You must...really not understand,” said the man. “This isn't Affric, this is Florence, part of the Holy Roman Empire. The Empire of the Sun.”
“That may be true,” said Basso, “but under certain situations it becomes apparent that not all cages can contain all substances. Some are porous, flimsy, weak, understated.”
The man swallowed deeply.
“You aren't getting out of there,” said the man. “Not with your life.”
“No, but you're coming in here,” said Basso.
“Who do you think you're talking to, slave?” said another man. “We are your captors, show us respect!”
Just then, Basso had a change in his thinking. Had he really been captured? King of the jungle? The eliminator of prey? Had he really given his whole kingdom for five feat and some urine-soaked meat?
What of his wife? What of Alta? What would become of her when he was finally vanquished and put out? How could he not question this, this existence? This was no way to live, no way to raise a family.
Basso looked over to his wife's stomach. Then he caught something, out of the corner of his eye. Something off in the distance. He looked out and saw a man. An old man, with a pad in his hand.
"You there," said Basso. "What are you doing?"
"I'm drawing," said the man.