The Emperor’s New Stuff

by Adam Acidophilus

“You know,” said the emperor one dull morning, “what this palace really needs to liven things up, is some new clothes.”

“New clothes?” asked his chamberlain. “For whom?”

“Well, for me, I suppose,” chuckled the emperor. “Send out word, send messengers on horseback, and nail signs to trees, proclaiming that I shall give handsome reward to the finest tailor in the land!”

Word was sent. Messengers galloped. Signs were nailed to trees — and many dozens of tailors from miles around assembled at the castle.

“I can make thee a suit of finest silk,” said a tailor from the south.

“I can cut thee a coat of bearskin,” said one from the north.

“I can design thee a creation in the reddest of rubbers with a number of optional attachments,” promised a tailor of unknown origin — who was swiftly dispatched by the palace guard.

The chamberlain leaned closer to his emperor. “The father and son by the west door,” he murmured, “have the greatest reputation.”

“Well never mind that,” said the emperor. “Who do we know?”

“Why Pater,” said the crown prince, “though I have no specific knowledge of tailoring, and am known for my complete lack of taste, and proven to have appalling eyesight, and rumoured to be a fool — I do have a pair of scissors.”

“Well that’s that settled,” laughed the emperor. “My son shall design my new clothes. Don’t say the rest of you didn’t have a chance. Now get out.”

The tailors were cleared from the palace, and the land, goaded with whips and summary executions — and the crown prince designed his father a suit of clothes. It was made from a blanket of highland tartan sewn into a tube, with an arm of silk, an arm of fur, one leg of steel and one of polycarbonate.

“It is magnificent!” the emperor laughed. “A suit for all occasions!”

“It is unique,” agreed the chamberlain. “There shall never be another.”

Within a matter of days the emperor grew bored again. “You know what this palace needs?”

“Why, no,” answered the chamberlain.

“Better furniture,” said the emperor. “All this wooden stuff, it’s almost medieval. Send out word, send messengers on horseback, and nail signs to trees, proclaiming that I shall give handsome reward to the finest furniture maker in the land!”

Word was sent. Messengers galloped. Signs were nailed to trees — and many dozens of furniture makers from miles around assembled at the castle.

“I can carve thee a throne of solid marble,” promised a mason from the west.

“I can craft thee,” said a blacksmith from the east, “a contemporary modular shelving system of chrome tubing.”

“I can fashion thee a matching dining suite of limewashed oak effect distressed particleboard,” vowed an old carpenter from another land entirely.

“But we’ve already got one of those,” said the emperor. “Do keep up!”

The chamberlain leaned to the emperor’s ear. “The brothers beneath the great tapestry are of exceptional ability,” he murmured.

“Well never mind that,” said the emperor. “Who do we know?”

“Why Pater,” said the crown prince, “though I have no specific knowledge of furniture making, and am known for my innumeracy and stupidity, and proven to be a fool, I do have a lot of free time.”

“Well that’s that settled,” laughed the emperor, limping to his feet — for the legs of his new suit had injured him. “My son shall design the new furniture. Don’t say the rest of you didn’t have a chance, now get out.”

The furniture makers were driven from the castle, encouraged with arrows and cannon-fire, and those that survived started new lives beyond the mountains. And the crown prince fashioned new chairs and tables, and a throne and a modular shelving system, entirely from leaves, flowers and seaweed — picked on a recent holiday.

“Well it’s sort of anti-furniture really, isn’t it?” explained the emperor. “It compels the furnishee to confront assumptions within himself about the nature of furniture.”

“It is certainly unique,” conceded the chamberlain. “I bet nobody else has got anything like it.”

Within a matter of hours the emperor grew restive and irritable. “You know what this palace needs?” he told the chamberlain. “It needs to be completely rethought, from the ground up. We’ve really underexploited some of the opportunities that this mountaintop location offers in terms of both space and light.”

“I shall send out word —  announced the chamberlain.

“No don’t bother with all that,” said the emperor, scratching himself, on account of the seaweed. “The question is — who do we know?”

“Though I am utterly unversed in the principles of architecture,” announced the crown prince, “engineering, construction, design, project management or thought. And known throughout the world to be an utter idiot. I do live here.”

“Begad you do,” agreed the emperor. “And after lengthy negotiations I award you the contract!”

Unfortunately, the emperor had already stipulated that work should be performed from the ground up. No sooner had the crown prince removed a few lower bricks with a generous application of gunpowder, than the building collapsed and everybody inside it was killed.

Moral: Keep it in the family. 

 © Adam Acidophilus 2014