You are Henry VIII. You are 5’5’’ and built like a brick shithouse. Your forearm in tennis is phenomenal–your courtier-opponents always flopping to the ground when you strike a shot down the line. Huzzah! You shout. Huzzah! The little crowd of courtiers shouts behind you.
You turn and scowl.
You are Henry VIII. You drive a Toyota Highlander Hybrid and you love the way the engine sounds like a microwave under 10mph. Over 10mph, the combustion engine kicks in, but the memory of that electricity lives on.
You check your rearview mirror. Your car-courtiers are buckled in. They smile as soon as your eyes are up in the mirror. Where are we going? one of them asks with a pathetic grin.
You laugh, We’re going to chop off your head!
The courtier looks at his courtier-mates, who keep their heads locked forwards.
Only joking, you say. We’re off to the McDonald’s Drive-thru!
The courtier smiles nervously, and you witness the weight lift off him like a release of steam–but you keep your eyes on him, even while you’re driving.
At the McDonald’s Drive-thru, there are a lot of cars. You punch your horn to signal your annoyance. I’m fucking hungry, you shout at each beep. The guy in the Lexus in front of you extends a middle finger. Fuck you, his middle finger says, fuck you and your entire family, the Tudors, rightful heirs and defenders of the realm–just fuck you all!!!!
You get out of the car and plunge your gilt silver sword into the dudebro’s chest, the blood blossoming on his tight white shirt like a tangle of red roses.
The courtiers jump to and push the Lexus off to the side, one of them with his arm through the window to effectively steer the car in the right direction.
Big Macs all round! You shout.
To which the courtiers gleefully respond: Huzzah!
For fuck’s sake, you whisper, and then order.
Back at the castle, you have a dodgy stomach. As much as you love that creamy special sauce slathered on the meat, it gives you a turn in the gut.
You slouch on your throne and hold the farts in. Kings don’t fart, your father, the late Henry, always used to tell you, when you were farting.
Kings don’t fart, fuck, pontificate, go on holidays, enjoy the richness and diversity of life, don’t watch TV, don’t finger their arses while they masturbate for additional pleasure sensation, don’t dance or do anything remotely interesting, don’t have a life, don’t chop off heads.
Don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t.
You are Henry VIII, and you farted.
You are Henry VIII, and the fart slipped out into the amazing acoustics of the Great Hall, lingering like heraldry.
You are Henry VIII, and the fart is a fact–as set in stone as the tomb encasing the body of Edward the Confessor, that right tosser.
A courtier, somewhere under an archway near the exit, within the shadowy cloisters, behind somebody’s shoulder, a very, very squat guy, just an incredibly short-assed nobody, clears his throat and squeaks without exclamation:
Jonathan Cardew’s writing appears or is forthcoming in Wigleaf, Cream City Review, Passages North, Superstition Review, JMWW, Smokelong Quarterly, People Holding, and others. He is the fiction editor for Connotation Press and contributing books reviewer for Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine. He’s been a finalist in the Best Small Fictions, the Wigleaf Top 50, the Bath Flash Fiction Award, and he won a travel toothbrush once at a boules competition in northern Brittany. Originally from the UK, he lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
I love how chaotic this story is. I love the juxtaposition of Henry VIII at McDonald’s and then stabbing someone? This is amazing. I especially love this part: “The guy in the Lexus in front of you extends a middle finger. Fuck you, his middle finger says, fuck you and your entire family, the Tudors, rightful heirs and defenders of the realm–just fuck you all!!!!” The sycophants are great as are Henry’s reaction. He probably needs the huzzahs but he also hates getting them.
This kind of reminds me of The Great–it’s probably the Huzzahs! And also the Jules Archer story “Anne Boleyn Could Drink You Under the Table.” It’s one of my favorites.
Many thanks, Chelsea! Yes, that Anne Boleyn story!
love this fully! Historical revision, with some pizazz~
I’m partial to the acoustics line near the end, for a sensory punch!
Makes me wonder, as I read – what this Henry would think of Shakespeare? If he’s been slandered by the play’s portrayal, or he would try to use the image to his advantage? Sounds like him!
Jonathan, thanks so much for ear-worming Herman’s Hermits’ “Henry the 8th, I am” in my head. I thought this was loads of fun to read. Again, your quirk comes shining through. I love the string of don’t, and then, oops, and then, “the fart slipped out into the amazing acoustics of the Great Hall, lingering like heraldry.” Stay well, Connie
Haha, that song went through my head as I was writing it!
Love this! The image of Henry VIII watching his courtier even as he drives. Perfection!
Jonathan, you have to tell me the minute “Huzzah!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” is accepted for publication because from that time forth I will dedicate my life to submitting flash to said publication because obviously they have the good sense to snap up this morsel of special sauce slathered meaty gold.
This has gotten my day off on the right foot. I started laughing out loud and only semi-controllable at this point: “Where are we going? one of them asks with a pathetic grin.” AND BOOM: “You laugh, We’re going to chop off your head!”
Delicious! And the opening paragraph, “built like a brick shithouse,” also AMAZING I love that you bring poop into this right away—it seems like good preparation for the symphonic celebration of farting that the story becomes (it so much more than that, of course) later on! And you bring in the Huzzahs right away with the forearm in tennis—from body to courtiers shouting huzzah. Very dynamic and economical.
Damn. I just love how you’ve embraced the spirit of a big character—I mean Henry VIII! One of the biggest. And maybe the biggest jerk: “but you keep your eyes on him, even while you’re driving.” Of course he does! I love it! The farting tho! “You slouch on your throne and hold the farts in. Kings don’t fart, your father, the late Henry, always used to tell you, when you were farting.” He’s so unhappy! Despite being king, he feels only constraint! The irritation of sycophantic courtiers! A dodgy post-Mac stomach.
I even love the commentary about the Toyota Highlander Hybrid! A microwave! It’s poetry! And the guy in the Lexus! I’m dying—his finger! This is all so delightful and fun—a reminder to really play PLAY let loose let fly set it aflame!
The only suggestion I have that you might consider is to slow down this moment: “You get out of the car and plunge your gilt silver sword into the dudebro’s chest, the blood blossoming on his tight white shirt like a tangle of red roses.” Beautiful description of the blood! But this all happens in one quick sentence—a phrase really for the getting out of the car and stabbing—and I thought it could be interesting to see what other details might arise from that moment. Would the gentleman look afraid to be confronted with Henry VIII and his sword? Would it be hard to open the door of the Lexus? What kinds of words might they exchange at this point? Just a thought!
Thank you for sharing this magic!
Ah, thanks so much, Wendy! Really glad you got a kick out of this. I had A LOT of fun writing it!
Now the headscratcher: where to send it!
Many thanks for the workshop!
Jonathan. I smiled and laughed the whole way through this! I love the twists and turns and juxtaposition of Henry VIII and modern life. Really well done! The first paragraph got me and I stayed in the narrator’s POV throughout, it felt like a chaotically funny Robin Williams (RIP) monologue. The ending was too cute too.