Cricket spent so much time in the town, and so many reports of his misadventures filtered back to the Emerald Palace that the king summoned his son to the great hall. Usually it was stuffed with ambassadors, wise men, and officials, but now it was late afternoon and as empty as a peasant’s rice bowl during a famine. Slanted bars of golden light filtered between the shutters onto the polished teakwood table, a koi bowl reflected curved patterns; cast them down, turning the carpet into a Sumatran tiger’s hide. Mandarin oranges polished with bee’s wax sat piled in a bowl enameled with five-clawed dragons, nestled next to rust-colored peaches from Samarkand. In those days there were few distinctions among spices, perfumes, drugs, or incense. All fed the spirit and nourished the body. Some could attract a lover, or for the more pious and needy, a divinity.
The great hall was deserted with the exception of his uncle, the king’s most trusted advisor, and he was off in a far corner examining a book. The king spoke.
“I see you notice the new incense our traders brought back from Bhutan. It is primarily made of cinnamon, clove, and Kusum flowers. I burn it as an offering to venerate our ancestors. I must, you force my hand.”
The king regarded his son sternly.
“You should be concerned that your intemperate exploits are becoming the talk of the land. By disgracing yourself you bring shame on the entire family. I want you to curtail your activities, apply yourself to your studies, follow your brother’s lead, and see to it nothing scandalous happens again.”
Cricket said nothing in return, but thought, “It’s never a discussion, from my father it’s always a decree.”
He turned on his heel and padded out respectfully while fuming like a tea kettle inside.
The king looked over at his uncle who was closing the book, but when he looked up, saw on his face he’d heard every word
“I didn’t mean to be hard on Cricket,” the king explained. “But I worry about him at times. He’s a dreamer. He needs to be more grounded, like…..”
“Yes, more like Ox. More regular; and more deliberate.”
The uncle looked out through the shutters and saw it was nearly sunset. He opened one to view the clouds and refresh himself in the magic of nature.
“Look at this,” he motioned to the king.
The sun was flattening itself on the horizon, and the clouds, formerly tinted grey and blue during the entire day, where changing colors by the minute. Parts that were formerly pale and bright went shadowed and dark. Amber went azure, blue turned grey, even their shapes and sizes changed according to the whimsy of winds and shadows. The uncle raised his hand and gestured.
“It looks to me that you have a dreamer and a plodder, one with his head stuck in the clouds, and one with his feet planted in the earth. But who can say what you will have in the future? Not even the princess themselves know that for certain.”
“And I should take solace in that?”
“Until you learn to take solace in chaos, dear nephew, you’ll never be a true Mandarin.”
“You always quote platitudes. You’re like Polonius in Hamlet, always handing out easy-to-digest platitudes, and the last one to know what’s really going on.”
The air in the great hall went still. Columns of incense smoke drew straight blue lines climbing to the red ceiling beams.
“Don’t be stern with me, I won’t have it. You may be king, but I’m still your uncle and can put you in your place. And while I’m your advisor, I have one more gem for you to examine, one from the noble Confucius,
“Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without”.
©Steven Hunley 2013
https://youtu.be/bfX0lGdAHVY Pretzel Logic