BY SEAN GILL
The King of Far Rockaway woke amid a tangle of silken sheets and Cheezie Puffs. He stretched his arms, popped his shoulder blades, and rubbed the sleep from his eyes. Hitting snooze twenty-seven times had successfully countered the effects of his hangover; a king simply cannot proceed about his day when his eyes are throbbing and his teeth are sweating.
Descending the spiral staircase that connected the four floors of his penthouse, the King of Far Rockaway arrived in his kitchen, ready to wash his morning Adderall down with a fresh mimosa, but there was no champagne to be found.
Leaping into action, he phoned his favorite liquor store. “I need two cases of Cristal delivered to 4287 Beach 10th Street, immediately!”
“We don’t deliver to Queens, or wherever that is.”
“Do you know who this is? This is the King of Far Rockaway!” he insisted.
“Oh, yeah. I’m real sorry, um, Your Highness, I didn’t realize. Two hours okay?”
“It’s not okay, but it’ll do.” Then he hung up. It was good to be the King.
The King of Far Rockaway wasn’t of royal blood, nor had he ascended to the throne amid war or scandal or after prolonged regency. No, the King of Far Rockaway used to be a regular boy, just like the rest of his brothers, content to fritter away his $150,000 per month allowance in relative anonymity. But one day he dreamed of something better and began saving. He didn’t know what he was saving for, not precisely, but save he did. While his brothers spent money like water abroad in Monte Carlo, Dubai, Rionegro, Tokyo, and that twelve-year-old-sex-slave island off the coast of Malaysia, the Boy Who Would Be King had saved two million dollars. That was when he decided to lay claim to the Kingdom of Far Rockaway, for it seemed that no one else yet had.
The King of Far Rockaway had spent time there throughout his childhood on account of his father, who possessed memberships at several nearby Country Clubs. Over the years, starting as a sort of subconscious idea and later as a matter of habit, he began to think of this little kingdom on the sea as belonging to him. Far Rockaway was his, and it was simply a matter of making it official. Though some natives in fact already lived there, they lived in sad, miniature little buildings, often only one story high. Despite a Costco and a Bed, Bath, & Beyond within driving distance, it didn’t feel like civilization, not yet.
He erected one building, then another, and another. They were six-story tenement houses, cheaply built in a faux-Mediterranean style, and he kept the rent comparatively low in order to increase the number of his subjects. Carved in synthetic marble upon the façade of each building were the words “ROCKAWAY KING,” followed by a Roman numeral denoting the present tally mark. He had just broken ground on ROCKAWAY KING XXX, and hoped to bring the number of his subjects beyond two thousand within the next year. They paid him monthly tribute, and he reciprocated with thoughtful benevolence. He hoped one day to become one of the great rulers, like Charlemagne or Alexander or Caesar Augustus.
The cases of Cristal arrived after two hours and seven minutes, an observation that The King of Far Rockaway made sure to share with the delivery boy as his reason for withholding the tip. He prepared himself a mimosa with Cristal and some Sunny Delight (one of the native delicacies) and sipped on it, pensively. Now his daily routine could begin.
He played video games for a few hours, masturbated, took a shower, then a nap, masturbated again, took another shower, took some more pills, surfed the Internet, ordered some takeout, and played some more video games. He was halfway into the first case of Cristal; this was the point where the nature of things became downright philosophical. In his mind’s eye, he could see horses galloping over rolling hills of golden wheat; in his mind’s ear, he could hear a fiddle and pan flute playing something rustic and Medieval and beautiful. An orchestra joined them, the music swelled, and whole enchanted scene began to sweep him away upon its wings… a forest glade, the foxhounds yapping, the redbirds singing, that marvelous sunlight, the rustling of the trees, the shimmering ocean, the salty breeze… a piece of heaven! Ah, to be the King!
The next day The King of Far Rockaway woke up, took a shower, played some video games, took some pills, surfed the Internet, ordered some takeout, took a nap, masturbated, took another shower, and played some more video games.
The day after that, The King of Far Rockaway awoke from his dreams with an unwavering determination to be among his people. Though they were less fortunate than he, he wished to be near them, to feel their working-class vitality, to shake their calloused hands and to pat their muscular backs. He reasoned that all the great monarchs felt these yearnings from time to time, like when Louis XIV would vacation in the countryside or when Marcus Aurelius would visit the Middle East. Yes, he would follow in the footsteps of those great men from long ago.
He played some video games, took some pills, ordered some takeout, masturbated, took a shower, surfed the Internet, played some more video games, masturbated again, and took another shower. Then he ate a hot dog cooked inside a giant soft pretzel (another local delicacy). Around six o’clock, he put on his purple suit (woven from Super 220 Merino wool), placed his crown upon his head, and headed toward the nearest pocket of his domain, ROCKAWAY KING XVII.
The King of Far Rockaway paced furiously back and forth, waiting for one of his subjects to wander by. He hummed a little tune to himself, checked his e-mail, untied and retied his shoes, checked his e-mail again, and finally, after three or four minutes, a young lady wearing a big red puffy vest ascended the stairs. Attached to the vest was a transparent compartment which contained today’s issue of AM New York.
“Hello, there,” said The King of Far Rockaway. “I am your King.”
“What?” said the young lady.
“Your King. The King of Far Rockaway.”
“I don’t know nothin’ about no king.”
“When you write your rent check, what do you write on the line that says, ‘Pay to the order of…?’”
“Uh, Rockaway King Realty.”
“I am he,” said the King of Far Rockaway, and he tipped his crown with dramatic flourish.
“What is your name, my dear young lady?”
“And what is it that you do for a living?”
“I hand out newspapers.”
“And where do you hand out newspapers?”
“Oh, tsk, tsk. It is always saddens me when my subjects must leave my domain to make a living. If it were up to me, everyone in Far Rockaway would live, work, play, love– do everything– right here at home.”
“How do you find the accommodations, Regina? Are they satisfactory?”
“It’s fine. Kinda nice.”
“May I enter your home?”
“Uh. I don’t think so.”
“I was only asking to be polite. After all, it belongs to me. I’d like to see your home now, Regina.”
Regina unlocked the front door and led the way past the lobby inside.
“Do you live alone, Regina?”
“No. I live with my Mom and my three sisters and my little brother.”
“In a two bedroom?!”
The King of Far Rockaway exhaled sharply in shock. He widened his eyes to make sure he could stay alert, mentally preparing himself to see how the other half lived. He had seen photographs of royalty visiting the starving in Africa, and he was ready for anything. But when Regina opened the door to her apartment, nothing on God’s green Earth could have prepared The King of Far Rockaway for what he was about to see. It all happened so suddenly, and with such a personalized element of trauma– it was as if the end times had come and just kept on coming.
Sitting at the kitchen table was Regina’s mother, a cane resting across her knees. With her fingers, she worked a little white tablet out of a plastic seven-day pillbox. The King shifted his gaze and saw Regina’s little brother playing a racing video game on a little old tube TV. Sure, it couldn’t hold a candle to The King of Far Rockaway’s 105-inch flat screen, but it made The King quite short of breath, nonetheless. He turned toward the couch where one of Regina’s sisters was eating a hot dog wrapped in a pretzel.
The sound of a great violin concerto began to rise in The King’s mind, a concerto of tragedy. Tragic Concerto for a King, Opus Zero, Ground Zero. He felt a hot flash behind his ears and his mouth was dry and his nose was watering and he blacked out, or almost did. Water, he thought frantically, I need water! He rushed toward the bathroom when Regina screamed, “Mister! My sister Malika’s in there takin’ a shower!”
A shower, my God! The King was a blinded animal, running into walls, barking his shins into furniture, howling in shock. He tore down the hallway toward the second bedroom like a freight train, his crown carelessly plummeting onto the carpet. The violinists in his mind played away like men possessed, faster and faster, and he tried frantically to turn the locked doorknob.
“Mister! Get away from there! My sister Natasha’s in there, takin’ a nap!”
A nap, now?! It didn’t matter, he needed some fresh air, and he’d plunge through the door and out the window to get at it if he had to! He’d burst through the window and end it all, yes, he’d end it all, even without an heir. He broke down the door, and Natasha sat up from her bed with a jolt, flinging a dollar-store massager aside in surprise. She was masturbating. It’s too much, it’s too much to bear, too much to bear! The King of Far Rockaway screamed and flung himself through the first floor window, landing safely upon a topiary in the shape of a dinosaur. He was weeping and bleeding, but it was his wonderful purple suit that bore the brunt of it, suffering a tremendous gash across its backside. Brushing the dirt off, he called his father.
“Father!,” he screamed into the Blackberry, a froth forming upon his lips. “I’m doing it wrong! Help me!”
“Calm down, calm down. Start over. Doing what wrong, son?”
“The King! I was the King! I did everything, I did everything to make it so. The world was mine, and I took it. Then I visited my subjects, and now I see that I must have been doing it wrong. Behind my back, they’ve been living just like I do. Tell me how to live, father, tell me how to really live!”
“I told you not to visit those people.”
“I know, father! But I wouldn’t listen, would I? My heart swelled with love for them, to be among them. Tell me what to do! Shall I, like Oedipus, tear out my eyes? I’ll do it! Tell me what to do!”
“Enough with the drama. I’m sick of these calls every week. Relax. Take a shower. Have a drink. Play your video games.”
“BUT DON’T YOU SEE, FATHER? THEY CAN DO THAT, TOO!”
“What are you talking about, son?”
“I’m the King, dad, I’m supposed to be the King…”
The King of Far Rockaway dropped his Blackberry and collapsed in a paroxysm of sobbing. He cried until it hurt.
He got over it, though.
BIO: SEAN GILL is a Brooklyn-based writer, filmmaker, and playwright whose work has been read, screened, and shown at dozens of venues and festivals in New York and around the world. He has studied with Werner Herzog, followed public defenders for National Geographic, and was an artist-in-residence at the Bowery Poetry Club from 2011-2012.