Glad you could join us for the next honest episode of Elliot’s Adventures. If you’re new here, you can catch up by returning to the beginning, and reading really fast…
Elliot came to beneath the dusky rising moon with his tail wrapped in silk. At his side, Cassandra lay with her head on his chest. The King sat dozing at his foot. Barry was nowhere to be seen.
“What happened?” Elliot asked.
Cassandra’s head sprang up. “Elliot! You’re alive!” She smothered his face with kisses.
King Arnie yawned and stretched and snagged an errant fly. Swallowing, he grinned and shook his head. “You tried to prove that love is more important to you than your own life.”
Cassandra gave Elliot a stern look. “What is your love worth if you’re dead?”
Chuckling, Elliot stood. “I accept your sage advice, my love, and I appreciate your help in keeping me alive, Your Greatness, but all I meant was, what happened when you went to the pond?”
King Arnie winked at Cassandra. “Still the same old Elliot. You sure you’re well enough, son?”
“All right,” the King said, “with Lady Cassandra’s permission, I’ll proceed.”
He looked to the left with his nose in the air. “I, Prince Arnie, was up to my nose in cranberries, ready to talk with the most honest person I knew:” he looked to the right, his nose considerably lower, “Natural Arnie.”
He looked left again, and in a Princely voice, said, “You know you will be King of Bog someday, and you will be responsible for peace in the Kingdom and the welfare of each and every resident.”
He turned right, and in a less regal tone, said, “But I’ve found my One True Love! There isn’t anyone in the Kingdom who makes me feel the way she does!” Natural Arnie felt with great passion.
Cassandra cheered. “Good for Natural Arnie!”
Elliot smiled and leaned against her.
Princely Arnie: “And just how does she make you feel? Irresponsible? Self-centered? Compassionless?”
Natural Arnie: “No! Loved. Understood. Cherished. Complete. Doesn’t that make me a better person? Won’t that make me a better King? How could I possibly give that up?”
“So you could give up your home? Your family? Your Kingdom?”
“Well, no… But why should I have to? Why can’t Persephone and I share those things?”
“Because the people of Bog — your people — feel betrayed.”
“I haven’t done anything to betray them!”
“You’ve chosen an outsider to rule over them.”
“They don’t know her yet.”
“They don’t want to.”
“They need time. They’ll come to love her just as I have.”
“Maybe you’re just grateful because she saved your life and nursed you back to health, Nature Boy.”
“You know, sometimes you are insufferably smug. But no… No, that’s not it… That can’t be the reason… Absolutely not. She’s kind and thoughtful, intelligent and courageous, loving and strong.”
“She’s a snail.”
“So what? She’s proven her honor and ability to lead. She’s proven herself more worthy than any of the people who condemn her for being the beautiful creature she was born to be!”
“And soon they’ll condemn you for being a ‘slimer-lover’.”
The King became himself. “Natural Arnie crouched silently in the pond that day, trying to convince himself it wasn’t true. But if he were honest with himself — which he believed to his core it was important to be — he had to admit that it never would have occurred to him to look in Bog’s own snail community for a mate.
“Still, Natural Arnie was genetically optimistic.” The King looked to the right.
“Then it’s time things changed. It’s time we leave all that narrow-mindedness at the dark bottom of the bog, and see each other in the clear light of love and acceptance.”
“Princely Arnie didn’t answer right away, leading Natural Arnie to think maybe, just maybe he had won the day with his vision of a better future.”
“Yeah,” Princely Arnie finally declared, “Good luck with that.”
The King looked from Cassandra to Elliot. “Natural Arnie and I sighed and sank beneath the surface of the water. If only I weren’t the Prince. If only I had no greater obligations than to be the best, most loving friend to my mate and the most devoted father to my children — if I ever had any.
“Alone, I could stand up to the vicious intolerance of the few, maybe even open their minds, but did my Lady Persephone deserve to face that struggle every day? Is that the life I wanted to offer her?
“And then a sweet voice called my name,” and King Arnie of Bog remembered…
To be continued…