Once there was a beautiful city on a bay by the sea. It was ruled by the most generous of Kings. At the close of every day he would stand in the traveler's road where it joined the way to his city in search of journeyer's.
"Well met far comers!" he would greet them. "You must be weary from your long travels. Pray be my guest for the night that I may send you forth in the morning refreshed. The baths are heated and await. By the time you are clean and dressed in the robes that are prepared for you the new killed lamb will be grilled to a turn. The summer's first fruits were picked today. Come. Stand on no ceremony, time enough for civilities when the day's cares accept amendment."
So he would cajole them, giving them no chance to demur, until they found ease in the bath and content in the sumptuous gowns -- far richer then their own travel stained cloaks -- in which the King arrayed them. The scent of the roasting lamb drew the travelers forth to the hall where all the King's people greeted them and made much of them. Here they all set to meat. Here great ruby drafts of the past year's grape gushed without stint. The City folk knew many drolleries to entertain their guests. With jokes and tumbling calling for hearty slaps of the stick and tender songs of valiant deeds fit for telling in such a wondrous gold adorned hall.
At length, satiety stayed, fatigue commanded and the King knowing their needs better then themselves commanded the revels cease and the folk escort the guests to the bed chambers prepared for them. "There you shall find an exact duplicate of the very bed in my chamber, for I have decreed that every guest shall be treated as though he were myself. That includes a night's rest as like my own as may be made."
The King and his folk escorted each guest to a bed chamber and made him lie down. Most often the traveler fit the bed very well and the King would wish them a good night.
Yet some there were who found the bed excessive in length. These the King had seized and pulled, by means of levers if needful, until they stretched the full length of the bed just as the Kiing did. Others found the bed too short. Some part -- usually the feet and legs -- dangled past the end unsupported. These the King had lopped off so that the guest fit the bed just so as he, King Procrustes, did.
nb, 2/18/2007: First in a series nominated for a koufax award. The second piece is here.
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