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The Prince

Cabbages and Kings

By Jeffrey D. Blum

"BUY A TRUNK, son," the Queen said. "You're going to Harvard." In Cambridge the Prince met a wizard in corduroy who fed him spices full of visions. Banquets, English carriages, French cigarettes. He was really living.

He memorized the story of Isabel and became a Prince of Jamesian Order. He read books about books and wrote about them and it was good. His pants changed from blue jeans to bell bottoms as his politics switched to an exquisitely diffident pink.

Lonely, the Prince passed an elegant note to a lovely electric tinkerbell. She brightened his head but, for all that, was entirely too real. This scared the naturally fastidious Prince, and she flew away.

He spent half of every day searching for someone to tell him, "Just you wait--things will work out." The Prince was indeed a prince, but beautiful people need to be loved.

Soon a sparkling sorceress winked, and he fell. Their times together shone with a hard, gem-like flame. But the sorceress wanted something less than a prince. "We, your highness, are having too much fun." She changed herself into a balloon and drifted upward.

The Prince had other triumphs as well. Lacking any identity other than his rank--what else was needed?--the Prince attracted people. They could see reflections of themselves in his eyes. But the Prince was worried. Was he really living? After worrying a long time, he saw that the people who really lived either had renounced their titles or, through some oversight, never had them. The Prince resolved to forget his title on a trial basis.

He went to Italy that summer. In a village outside Padua he met a girl with eyes as brown as earth. She sang, and he stayed, offering, despite her low station, marriage. The girl refused. She had promised her father never to marry anyone with a title. "Noblemen," she explained, "live in another world."

An unfashionable marriage was one thing, but giving up his uniqueness for all time was quite another. The Prince, however, remained with the girl since his Charter Flight didn't return for months. Although the Prince knew he wasn't really living because he wasn't doing anything, he was, for the first time, very happy. In September, realizing that Italy was indeed the one thing he had ever done, the Prince assented to the girl's conditions.

He wrote a long letter to his mother explaining the situation, but there was no reply, and he still doesn't know whether she received it. It is six years now that the young man has lived in Italy, and he has five brown children. He still doesn't know if he's really living. Occasionally he forgets the question.

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