Monday, August 10, 2020


Doing U-Turns in the Oval Office

Schuylkill Banks, in the brief interval between Isaias and the flood.

I think I detect a new wrinkle in the president's modus operandi. It involves doing a u-turn. The first time I noticed this was with the Republican National Convention, which started in North Carolina and then moved (mostly) to Florida and is now back to North Carolina (maybe).

Then he did something similar with mail-in voting. First it was terrible (except when he does it himself). Then it was wonderful in Florida, although it continued to be terrible in Nevada. 

I'm now waiting for a 180-degree turn on his demolition derby at the post office.

(You'll notice, by the way, that none of his one-eighties are clean. The turn always involves some splintering. Everything this man touches becomes a chaotic jumble.) 

I do think the U-ey is a new move for him. I may have missed some earlier examples, and I'd be happy to be corrected. But I do think it's new. And I think it's dangerous for him.

The president has had a couple of standard moves.

Usually, he does something for a while and then just drops it. And then he may pick it up again later on. This is what happened with the coronavirus briefings, now resumed after a hiatus that may have had something to do with the ingestion of bleach. 

For a quicker and apparently more permanent drop, have a look at his proposal to postpone the election. A quick and noisy flash followed by - nothing. An old, old term for this is "flash in the pan." 

The four executive orders, or memoranda, are still playing out, but I think they will also be a flash in the pan. 

I think launch-and-drop is his go-to move. After all, he has the attention span of a gnat, so it fits well with his psychological profile.

Sometimes he does stick with an initiative, slogging ahead in a famous corporate bad move - attempting to make a failure look like a mediocre success. The management consultants will tell you not to try to save face. Just kill the turkey, and spend your time working on stuff that may indeed be a real success.

An example of the president as slogger would be his dogged pursuit of a border wall with Mexico.

He may have some other moves, but I'm not seeing them right now.

And that brings us back to the 180. I mentioned that it was dangerous for him. Why is that? Because it's going to piss off the people who work for him. 

I understand the fascist goal of keeping the people in a state of permanent anxiety - angry, frustrated, uncertain. The 180 is different. The people most disoriented and eventually annoyed are the leader's own troops.

In the army it's called marching and countermarching. As a bright-eyed second lieutenant you line up your platoon and march them down a dirt road from one little village to an identical village five miles away. Then you get a call from headquarters, informing you that you were in the right village in the first place, and you should get back there tout de suite.

And so your soldiers get to walk ten miles in one day, and wind up exactly where they started. This results in sore feet and what the army calls "poor morale."

The army has an old saying: Move with a purpose. The troops know when they're being jerked around, and they don't like it. Meanwhile the people, who are supposed to be "all wee-weed up," as President Obama put it, are actually starting to laugh. (Mr. Obama's phrase, by the way, dates back to Chaucer and puts in an appearance with Shakespeare. For a story, click here.)

Is the president capable of moving with a purpose? I don't think so. Not with his inartful turns, his splintering focus, his tendency to unbalance himself as well as all those around him. What I see most consistently is an impulsive reaction to some outside stimulus and then an ocean of semi-coherent blather. And then on to the next one.

Monday, August 3, 2020

Setting Speed Limits for Safety

After 100 Years, the Need for Speed Meets Another Idea

Car show, Ocean Grove, N.J., 2019.

I'm hopeful that NACTO has finally driven a stake through the heart of the old 85 percent rule for setting speed limits. NACTO is the National Association of City Transportation Officials, and it has been doing very good work for a number of years, but this one is near and dear to my heart. The 85 percent rule got its start with some traffic studies on rural roads in the 1940's, and it says you should set the speed limit at a level where 85 percent of drivers are going under the limit, and 15 percent are speeding. You'll notice the concept of safety does not enter into this little construct. In fact, the 85 percent rule essentially lets drivers vote with their wheels, and effectively decide what the speed limit should be on a particular road.

Here's the text from City Limits: Setting Safe Speed Limits on Urban Streets (summer 2020). To see the whole document, click here.

"Current speed limit setting practice in the US uses a percentile-based method, typically set at the 85th percentile, to determine speeds. Traffic engineers record how fast vehicles are traveling on a road, determine the speed that 85 percent of drivers are traveling at or below, then set the new speed limit by rounding from that speed to the nearest 5 mph increment. Traffic engineers who use the 85th percentile method are instructed to raise the speed limit when more than 15% of drivers are driving faster than posted signs. This method forces engineers to adjust speed limits to match observed driver behavior instead of bringing driver behavior in line with safety goals and the law. When it comes to safety, this method is designed to fail.

"Percentile-based speed limit setting methods fail at keeping people safe because they set a permanently moving target based on current human behavior, not safety.

"Two issues are at play. First, percentile-based models are designed to respond to extremes. When enough people drive faster than the set percentile, the model rewards them by instructing traffic engineers to increase the posted speed.

"Second, people decide how fast to drive based on both the street’s design and cues such as the posted speed and other drivers’ speeds. Researchers originally recommended using the 85th percentile approach to determine posted speeds, assuming that drivers always travel at reasonable speeds. But a growing body of research shows that drivers base their decisions at least partially on the posted speed limit. When they see higher posted limits, and see the resulting increased speed of their peers, they drive faster too, which results in an increased speed of the street overall.

"Posting higher speed limits does not increase compliance with the law. Even when higher speed limit signs are posted, some number of people will still choose to drive 5-15 mph faster than the posted limit. These “highend” speeders travel even faster as speed limits rise and typically spread out over a wider range of speeds. This can increase the likelihood of crashes because people are traveling at increasingly different speeds, and increases the likelihood that crashes will be fatal because they occur at higher speeds.

"In cities and other urban contexts, percentile-based speed limit setting methods are particularly dangerous because they are based on outdated research that is inapplicable in urban settings. The 1940s-era research supporting the 85th percentile relied on self-reported crash data and was conducted on two-lane rural highways, devoid of multimodal activity. But these historic roads are a far cry from the vibrant streets and arterials that typify city streets today. In particular, rural roads and highways lack the type or volume of conflicts found in cities, such as people crossing the street, and people biking, walking, or rolling at a variety of speeds. They also lack driveways, loading, parking, and double-parking. 

"Los Angeles’ experience with Zelzah Avenue provides a telling example of the dangers of percentile-based speed limit setting. In 2009, Los Angeles conducted a traffic speed study and raised the speed limit on Zelzah Avenue from 35 mph to 40 mph. In 2018, the city again studied existing traffic speeds, and again raised the speed limit, this time to 45 mph. While other additional factors may also have played a role in speeds inching up over time, absent any design or land use changes, the increase suggests that the 85th percentile operating speed can shift over time in accordance with the posted speed limit. Notably, this time period in LA corresponded to a 92 percent increase in pedestrian fatalities.

"The most commonly cited alternative for the 85th percentile is USLIMITS2, an online tool developed by the Federal Highway Administration that incorporates other factors when determining speed limits. USLIMITS2 is a step forward in that it allows practitioners to also consider the street’s most exposed users. However, it still relies on the 85th or, more commonly in urban areas, the 50th percentile operating speed, which is often still much higher than is safe. Relying on a percentile based system focused on current drive behavior, rather than a defined safety target to set speed limits, significantly limits cities’ ability to reduce traffic deaths." (Pages 18-20. Footnotes omitted.)

The overall report is about how you should set a speed limit, particularly in urban areas. It's nearly 100 pages long, and I've only read a bit of it. Perhaps I will write another story, but I won't keep you in suspense about the main conclusions. NACTO recommends the following speed limits for urban areas: main streets 25 mph, neighborhood streets 20 mph, shared streets (pedestrians and others in street, mixing with cars) 10 mph. 

I think NACTO may have done for speed limits what Professor Donald Shoup did for parking minimums in his 2005 The High Cost of Free Parking - proving intellectual, if not moral, bankruptcy. This makes me very happy. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2020


Portland Is Donald Trump's Vietnam

Asbury Park, a sunset in July.

If Donald Trump leaves Portland, he loses. If he stays in Portland, he loses.

George Washington's great strategic insight in the Revolutionary War was that, as long as he maintained a force in being (the Continental Army), the British could not win.

We got to look at this little paradigm of insurgency warfare from the other side, during the Vietnam War. It was not pretty.

In Portland the resistance does not carry guns. They don't need them. Their job is not to beat the goons but to win the American people. Which they are doing.

Their job is made easier because they are the American people - the kids, of course, as well as older activists, and Portland's mayor, and the moms in yellow t-shirts, and the vets in their baseball caps and t-shirts. 

And then one night the goddess Athena paid a visit. She showed up, took off her clothes, ran through a yoga routine, stared down the goons, and left.

I have a word of advice for the goons. I've read Homer's Iliad. Do not annoy the goddess Athena.

As for the goons in Portland, they are an apparently small group of ambiguously uniformed myrmidons who seem to think that graffiti should be a capital offense. I have questions about their training, discipline, and leadership.

Trump has had trouble pulling together his version of Mussolini's squadristi. His search for an army began in Charlottesville in 2017. The Unite the Right rally brought together a wide variety of right-wing groups, including right-wing militias. Firearms were present in abundance. Then antifa showed up, and they also had guns. I think this perplexed the right-wingers. I'm sure they were willing enough to shoot people, but perhaps it had never occurred them that their opponents might shoot back.

This year, in Lafayette Square, we had an army raised by Bill Barr, mainly from the Department of Justice. The thugs from the Bureau of Prisons seem to have been the worst. Elements of the National Guard got dragged into the mud, and then did their best to extricate themselves.

The actual military took a pass, and even the defense secretary, Mark Esper, slithered away from his boss. After some hesitation.

Barr also backed out of his role of generalissimo, and in strode Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of homeland security. So now, in Portland, it appears the goons are largely from DHS subsidiaries like the border patrol. 

But perhaps not entirely. There are rumors that some of these swamp creatures are actually mercenaries. One of the firms that DHS hires rent-a-thugs from is a descendant of Blackwater. Ah, Blackwater. Will we ever forget their exploits in Iraq?

My sense is that Trump is close to running out of armies to do his bidding.

And he has definitely lost control of the narrative. He was always a clown, but now he is a buffoon and a laughing-stock.

Robert and Rebekah Mercer have apparently backed away from Trump. Is there time for the Republicans to dump Trump, go with Pence, and try to save the Senate? At this point, I think the answer is no.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Liberate Cookman Avenue!

Asbury Park Says Be All You Can Be

Cookman Avenue, the old Woolworth's building on the right.

This is what happens when you make an outdoor dining room. The people like it. The merchants like it. And the motorists have to choose among half a dozen alternate routes, all of which will get you to the same place at the same time.

With the arrival of the liberated zone, a certain number of parking spaces have gone away. However, as a number of observers have noted, without restaurants on Cookman Avenue, how much demand for parking would there be?

Asbury Park (born in 1871) is a small city laid out more or less on a grid. Cookman Avenue lies on the south side of the city and runs essentially from the train station in the west to the beach in the east. The three blocks just east of the train station have always been Asbury Park's commercial core. In the old days these three blocks and the immediate area sported Steinbach's department store, Woolworth's, the phone company, the Asbury Park Press, Eidelsberg's shoe store, and a truly spectacular bank building at the intersection of Cookman, Mattison, and Emory. (I mentioned that the layout was more or less a grid - in this case three streets do mash together at some truly odd angles.)

Nowadays the main business of Cookman Avenue is restaurants. There are also quite a few shops selling antiques, clothes, books, you name it. And they've all taken to the new outdoor dining room like fish to water. 

Here's the Asbury Book Cooperative.

Paranormal Books & Curiosities is next door.

You'll see there's a customer not wearing a face mask. He also arrived by riding his bicycle on the sidewalk. I can't say that everything is perfect on Cookman Avenue. But I will tell you this: It's alive.

Here's a display of locally meaningful merchandise from a knick-knack shop. These non-food merchants are definitely bringing something to the street.

Tillie, the smiling face, is Asbury's mascot.

Still, the liberated zone is basically about plein air dining.

The old Steinbach's in background.

Outside the liberated zone, the stream of motor vehicles continues to flow. But - there are islands in the stream. Here's Cardinal Provisions on Bangs Avenue.

And here's Pascal & Sabine on Emory.

Aside from helping these restaurants keep their heads above water, the islands have a perceptible calming effect on traffic. Even the most hardened motorist will have trouble believing he's on an Interstate while he's passing one of these emplacements.

Further afield, there have been other changes. At several locations throughout Asbury Park, neighborhood streets have been turned into Slow Streets, where through traffic is discouraged and recreation is encouraged for people young and old. These streets join other recent innovations, including lower speed limits and a strong and expanding network of bicycle lanes, to send motorists a message that is permeating the whole city: Go slow and expect to share the road.

For more on Asbury Park's ReOPEN program, click here.

Friday, July 3, 2020

A Moment in Time

And Some Deep Resonances

Vine Street Expressway, June 1.

I keep coming back to this picture. It's from June 1, during the protests following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Protesters had walked onto the Vine Street Expressway, which runs east-west in a trench through the center of Philadelphia, and the police tried to do - what?

If they were trying to remove the protesters from the roadway (it's actually an Interstate, with the designation I-676), they were remarkably maladroit. After all, the protesters had no way out. They wound up on an embankment topped by a concrete retaining wall, which in turn was topped by a fence. The police had the protesters pinned, and they were using them for target practice.

The story behind the picture has been well covered. For an article and an editorial in the Inquirer, click here and here. For a video story in the Times, click here. For the City's response to the Times piece, click here

I lived through the sixties, so police riots are hardly a novelty for me - Birmingham in 1963, Selma in 1965, Chicago in 1968. I was expecting those images to come back to me. But the resonances went deeper. At first they were fuzzy, but as I kept coming back to the photo, they became clearer and clearer. 

First was the wall. In 2013, I was in Terezin, in the Czech Republic. Also called Theresienstadt, it's a small fortified city built in the eighteenth century to help protect the now-defunct Austro-Hungarian Empire from unwanted visitors. It's named after the Empress Maria Theresa.

Fast forward to World War II, and the Nazis are using Terezin as a concentration camp. You can use walls to keep people out, or you can use them to keep people in. 

Terezin was a prison but not an extermination camp. Still, lots of people did die here, mainly of diseases fostered by malnutrition and overcrowding. Towards the end of our tour we came to yet another blank wall. It looked like all the others, but it was here that difficult prisoners were shot to death. (For more, click here.)

And as I looked at the photo of the Vine Street Expressway for the umpteenth time, I finally knew why I found the embankment and the wall so creepy. It reminded me of the execution wall in Terezin.

The tear gas didn't help. Gas means Auschwitz, it means the Western Front during World War I. My God. How many of my buttons is this photograph going to push?

One more. I sometimes call I-676 a trench, but more often I think of it as a dry moat. When I look at Vine Street today, and think of its unbuilt southern twin that apparently would have bulldozed the house that I now live in, the desire to separate, to divide, is what jumps out at me. (The use of Interstates to separate people is well documented in Atlanta. For a story, click here.) 

Back when people were actually using moats and city walls - hey, let's throw in some turrets, and don't forget those massive gatehouses - back then, separation served a useful purpose. It helped city dwellers stay alive when the four horsemen of the apocalypse were stalking the land.

We don't do city walls anymore, but I think the impulse to exclude remains alive and well. Usually, though, it doesn't reveal itself quite so dramatically as it did on the Vine Street Expressway on June 1. 

One angle is obvious. Peaceful demonstrators were protesting police brutality, and the police responded with a demonstration of police brutality. 

There's a second angle that's less obvious. I-676 is an Interstate, and it is actually illegal for people to walk on its pavement. It's also illegal for horses and bicycles. Only motor vehicles are allowed into this inner sanctum of the car culture. Walking onto the Vine Street Expressway was a highly transgressive act.

I'm sure the police would say they were just trying to maintain the traffic flow; but there's a little something else going on here.

I wish we could get over the impulse to exclude. I don't think that's going to happen. But I do think we need to find a way to rein it in. 

Tearing down the walls and filling in the moats should have been a liberating moment in the history of cities. All of a sudden, the other great force behind cities - the desire of people to be with other people - had the field to itself.

Things haven't worked out that way, at least not so far. But perhaps the idea of an open, inclusive, and welcoming society has a better future than its past.

I hope so. 
Terezin, 2013.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Little Karl

Living in Interesting Times

This is for my grandson, Graham, when he gets a little older.


Little Karl was only eleven years old when the old king died. He had been the royal crown-bearer since he was nine. It was not a difficult job. The crown was a bit heavy - really less heavy than unwieldy in his small hands. He was responsible for dusting the crown and for carrying it on ceremonial occasions, and also for rushing and bringing it to the king whenever a guest was arriving that the king wanted to impress.

Much of his day was spent in school with the pages and other children of the castle. The schoolmaster was an old man named Franz, who was also bearer of the royal mace. The mace was only brought out on very special occasions.

Little Karl loved his lessons. He learned to read and to form letters into words. He was particularly fond of numbers. Franz saw his fondness for numbers, and gave him extra lessons.

When the old king died, Franz carried the mace on a pillow in the funeral procession, walking directly behind Little Karl, who carried the crown, also on a pillow.

And then, a week after the funeral, Little Karl learned the most important function of the mace. Franz sat him down and explained. The mace played a crucial role in the selection of a new king. Many years ago, when the kingdom of Bratwurstia was new, the crown passed from father to son, as it still did in all the neighboring kingdoms. After a particularly unpleasant experience with a son who was, as Franz put it gently, "not up to the job," their kingdom had come up with a different process. In the second week after the death of a king, the mace bearer and the crown bearer, dressed in their formal court attire and accompanied by all the senior officials of the realm, would march out of the castle and proceed to the four squares of the town, which was called Brat. They would start with the square that hosted the meat market, then proceed to the fish market square, then the vegetable square, and then the grain square.

Normal business would be suspended for the morning. In each square the mace bearer would ask for the attention of the assembled people, and explain how the new king would be chosen. Any citizen of the realm - man, woman, rich, poor - would be allowed to approach the mace and grasp it. If the mace sensed the candidate would not be a good ruler, the hand grasping the mace would be seized by a palsy, lose its grip, and curl in on itself. In time the hand might turn black, and not too long after that the unsuccessful candidate might very well die.

Little Karl asked what the mace would do with a successful candidate. Nothing, was Franz's response. The mace would sit there quietly, and after a few moments the mace bearer would ask the new king to put the mace back on the cushion, and the crown bearer would present the new king with his crown.

Franz told Little Karl of elections long ago, that would last a week or more. Every day, the procession would work its way through the four town squares, and nobody would want to touch the mace. Eventually someone, usually an old man, would step forward, and the ship of state would sail on for a few years.

Like a number of his predecessors, the recently deceased King Leopold had come to the office as a relatively young man and proceeded to live long and rule well. Early in his reign he had faced down Evil Otto II, king of the land just east of Bratwurstia. Evil Otto felt that the eastern half of Bratwurstia was actually part of Ottonia. Leopold felt the border should stay at the River Ug, where it had always been. A series of skirmishes ended with Otto flat on his back on the ground, staring at the point of King Leopold's sword.

The young king had won his people's undying gratitude by building an aqueduct to supply water to Brat, which was the kingdom's main town. The town dwellers had traditionally dug wells to get water, but over the years the groundwater had taken a sour taste, and various fevers seemed to have become more common, particularly in the warm weather.

There was some thought that the sourness of the water might be related to people's habit of digging their privy pits directly next to their wells.

At any rate, after some searching in the hills to the southwest of the town, Leopold happened onto a spring that the hill folk called Sweetwater. Extensive negotiations ensued over water rights and compensation. At one point the king took his mace and slammed it down onto the negotiating table. You can still see the holes the mace's inch-long spikes made in the tabletop. To this day, the hill people express pride over their forebears' resistance to the central government.

Construction of the aqueduct took several years. This was the time when the king learned to depend on Franz, who had attended a university several kingdoms away, actually reading an old book on aqueducts and also picking up valuable practical tips from young masons working on a new building on campus.

The older masons were secretive and suspicious, but the younger ones warmed to Franz after a while, perhaps because of his genuine interest. They taught him how to build a level wall, and then one that declined slowly but uniformly - something that is basic to bringing water from a hillside spring to a low-lying town miles away.

When it came time to open the aqueduct, there was a big celebration, and a few months later the community elders asked the king if they could rename their town, which had always been called just Brat. They wanted to call it Leopoldville. The king thought about it for a while. And then he thought about it some more. And eventually the new town name dropped out of conversation, and the town name remained just Brat.

A few details remained. Franz wanted to require that new privy pits be dug at a distance from the existing wells, which continued to provide water for uses, such as washing, where the sour taste was not a problem. The king thought about it, and said no.

Franz also pressed King Leopold to build some large cisterns, or covered reservoirs, to ensure a supply of water in case of drought or siege - for surely an enemy besieging Brat would cut the aqueduct as a first measure. The king was concerned about the cost, but after a delay of quite a few years he relented, and the cisterns were built.

The election of the new king didn't take very long. In fact, it happened on the first day, at the first stop - the square of the flesh market. Little Karl, in his best court attire, led the procession, carrying the crown on a velvet-covered pillow. He was followed by Franz, with the mace also on a pillow, and all the senior officials of the kingdom.

All the purveyors of beef, pork, poultry, and various wild animals and birds caught in the large forest that lay beyond the north gate of the town - all the merchants suspended their business and gathered to witness the process of the election.

Snuggled against the north side of the square there was a rickety stage that hosted a variety of performers during the course of market days. One of these performers was Hans, a very large man who led what might be called the resident theater company of Brat, although it didn't actually have a name. Hans was a great favorite with the audiences, particularly with small children, who loved to laugh at his antics. He was constantly being enraged by Myron the Dwarf, who loved to play tricks on Hans, who was often slow on the uptake. As it slowly dawned on him that he had once again been played for a fool by a very small person, his face would undergo a slow transformation, the cheeks reddening, the eyeballs bulging almost out of their sockets. And then he would pick up a large stick and chase Myron, lurching around the stage as Myron ran circles around him and occasionally scampered between his legs.

When Hans and Myron were backstage (actually, underneath the stage), resting, other players would advance a loosely framed plot. There were two young lovers, a swashbuckling cavalier, a miserly rich man, and a smooth-talking confidence man who swindled just about everybody.

Audiences for the first performance after lunch tended to be the largest, for it was here that Hans would offer his piece de resistance. After the usual folderol with Myron, Hans would come to the front of the stage and stand smiling out at his rapt audience until his heavy breathing subsided. Then he would turn his back on the audience, bend over double, and pass an enormous, extremely loud fart. The crowd would erupt with laughter and applause.

While bending over, Hans would often lose his wig. A childhood disease had left him permanently bald, so he always performed in a wig. An orange wig.

As Hans reached to pick up his wig, Myron would of course grab it and rush offstage; Hans would pick up his stick and, roaring and waving the stick, rush off in pursuit.

On the first day of the election for the new king, Hans was hammering some extra nails into a wobbly floorboard at the apron of the stage. As the procession entered the square he, like everyone else, stopped to look. Actually, he gaped. Hans liked a good show, and a procession of the royal crown and mace was pretty showy. It was also very rare, and here they were having the second one in a week, the first being the old king's funeral.

Hans listened as the royal mace bearer addressed the crowd. He knew who Franz was - Bratwurstia was a small kingdom, and Brat was a small capital. But Hans wasn't sure he'd every heard Franz speak before. Good voice, maybe a bit squeaky in spots. And Hans knew Little Karl, who was carrying the royal crown on a velvet pillow. Like everybody else in town, Little Karl and his parents had come to watch Hans and his fellow troupers; then his parents had died in a fever that swept through the town a few years ago. Most of the orphans were taken in by relatives or other families in the town or in nearby farming villages. The king summoned Little Karl to the castle.

Hans had been to the castle from time to time, but he'd never been asked to perform there. He wondered what it was like to live in the castle.

Franz had finished his speech and was walking through the crowd, followed by Little Karl and the high officials. He showed the mace to each of the people he passed, stopping occasionally to linger in front of someone. When he arrived at the stage, the whole troupe was lined up, gawking. Franz held the mace before the swashbuckling cavalier, who fell into an extravagant swoon, one of his better moves. Franz actually smiled. Just a little. And then he was standing before Hans, proffering the mace. He looked Hans in the eye and said, "Grasp the mace, and you may be king. Or you may die." Hans grasped the mace.

Afterwards, he was unable to tell anyone why he had grasped the mace. He just did it.

And then waited to feel a palsy come into his hand. It didn't come.

Hans lifted the mace. Franz watched him carefully for several more moments. Hans had gotten his start as a juggler, and he thought of trying to twirl the mace, but it was very top-heavy, and he decided to just stand there.

Finally, Franz spoke. "Well, King Hans, you may put the mace back on the pillow and then receive your crown. Then we will proceed through the four squares of the city, and finally retire to the castle." Little Karl stepped forward and kneeled before Hans, holding out the crown on its pillow.

Hans knew two things: he didn't want to put the mace down, and he didn't want to muss his wig by putting on a crown. So he kept the mace in one hand and grabbed the crown in the other, and paraded off in the general direction of the fish market, waving the mace and the crown at the people he passed. He was followed by all the high officials, and Franz, and Little Karl.


The reign of King Hans lasted six years. Many things happened; very few of them turned out to be good.

First, after a lapse of many years, the Kingdom of Ottonia decided to send an ambassador to Bratwurstia. Ambassador Bruno arrived in the fanciest carriage that anyone in Brat had ever seen, accompanied by a small army of liveried servants and a smaller but very vocal army of coach hounds. White with black dots. Nobody in Brat had ever seen a white coach hound with black dots.

The Ottonian foreign service had rented a large house in the expensive district near the castle. As Ambassador Bruno and his wife, the Ambassadress Brunhilde, alighted from their carriage, they took one look at the house, looked at one another, sighed in unison, held hands, and entered the house.

A week later news traveled about the taverns and from laundry line to laundry line that the Ottonian foreign service had purchased three large houses adjacent to one another, directly outside the main gate of the castle. Rumor held that all three would be demolished, to be replaced by one large building currently being designed by an Ottonian mason.

Rumor was correct. In the meantime, Bruno and Brunhilde made do with the rental house, which did have a ballroom and a dining room that, in a pinch, could seat sixty people.

They started with dinner parties. King Hans was always invited and always came. Hans had always enjoyed food, but he had never seen food like this before. He was ensorcelled. He had never heard of the various French sauces, and he could not get enough of them.

Ambassadress Brunhilde undertook his culinary education. She soon discovered that the royal kitchen, in the castle, also needed some enlightenment. Although the cooks were adept at seeing no food went to waste - there were for instance several recipes for pig kidneys - the idea that food could delight the palate was approached with some caution.

After several visits to the castle, Ambassadress Brunhilde dispatched several of her cooks to give lessons to the royal kitchen. The Ottonian cooks were all men, and only spoke Ottonian. Hans's cooks were all women, and only spoke Bratwurstian. However, the two languages were closely related, and after some initial confusion, things progressed nicely. Several romances blossomed as well.

Meanwhile, King Hans continued to taste new foods chez Bruno and Brunhilde. One night there was a course of caviar and champagne, which Hans enjoyed very much. Ambassador Bruno remarked he had heard that the King of France, who ran a large kingdom a long way away, often had caviar and champagne for breakfast. Hans thought that was a wonderful idea. Ambassadress Brunhilde suggested that the meal might be more balanced with the inclusion of an omelette.

A look of consternation and perplexity slowly appeared on the face of King Hans. And then he tugged at his wig, a sign of anxiety.

As every boy and girl in Bratwurstia knew from an early age, you could only eat eggs fried. Easy-over was the only permissible variation with eggs.

There was a reason for this. Five kings ago, some unscrupulous taverns had been discovered mixing sawdust into their scrambled eggs. And so King Olaf had issued his edict, and so things stood after all these years.

Hans explained this history as best he could. When he finished, Ambassador Bruno sat in thought for a moment, and then asked King Hans why he didn't simply rescind King Olaf's Egg Edict.

Hans was startled. It had never occurred to him that he could overturn a law, particularly one of such long standing and scrupulous observance. Ambassador Bruno quietly suggested that King Hans might want to confer with the Dean of the Royal Scriptorium. The dean was an old and wise man. He looked after a number of scribes, and together they wrote all of the king's correspondence, and anything else that needed to be reduced to writing. They also kept copies of everything. And every year a senior scribe, called the annalist, would review all the documents, speak with various officials about their activities, and produce an annual report, or annal.

Hans spoke to the dean, who spoke to the annalist, who reviewed the annals, found the year in which the edict had been issued, and read the entry for that year. Then he read the entry for the year before. Then he went and spoke with the archivist, who looked after all the old papers. After a relatively brief search and much sneezing in the archives, the archivist found the original text of the edict, along with supporting documents. 

The dean consulted with the annalist and the archivist and then went to the king. He showed Hans the documents and, knowing that Hans could not read, explained them in some detail.

It turned out that, before the Egg Edict had been promulgated, there had been a previous proposal to ban scrambled eggs in the offending taverns only. King Olaf had thought this would give the other taverns an unfair advantage, since they could serve scrambled eggs, and the naughty taverns could not. And he was concerned that the taverns that still had scrambled eggs would then be tempted to maximize the size of their scrambled egg platters by adding a pinch or two of sawdust. So should the ban apply simply to all taverns? But what was a tavern? How about a widow who served meals on the front porch of her rather small house, in the warm weather only? King Olaf threw up his hands, and the Egg Edict was hatched.

The dean suggested that, now that taverns were defined and licensed as establishments that served food and drink and rented rooms to travelers, it might be possible to revise the edict to cover only licensed taverns.

Hans thought for a moment. His head hurt. He threw up his hands. "Clean sweep!" he said. "Rescind the edict." And so it was.

Very soon, of course, a number of unscrupulous taverns were serving platters of scrambled eggs well larded with sawdust and paprika. 

And King Hans got his breakfasts of champagne and caviar and omelettes. They were a great, if somewhat monotonous, success.


The royal kitchen continued to improve rapidly, and around the beginning of Hans's second regnal year, dinner started to move from the embassy to the castle. It was a smooth, even easy, transition. The Ottonian cooks were already spending most of their time at the castle. During breaks they would take their girlfriends for walks about the town and along the top of the town's walls, where there were lovely views of the countryside and also across the roofs of the town. 

One Ottonian cook was also a talented artist. He would sketch his fellow cooks at work and play and, as he and his girlfriend promenaded on the town walls, he would make lovely drawings of the town's interior, the surrounding farmland, and in particular the aqueduct.

The aqueduct entered Brat from the southwest, near the castle, the water being carried in a large pipe atop an imposing wall that was really a series of arches. Most of the aqueduct, up in the hills, actually ran underground, but across the three miles of flat farmland from the last hill to the town wall, it ran on the arches. It had been easily the most expensive building project in Brat since the old town wall of dirt topped by a wooden palisade had been replaced by the current stone wall.

The cook-artist simply loved the aqueduct, and when they had the time he and his girlfriend would go for long walks on the pathway that ran next to the arches. The artist would pose his model against the pier of an arch and sketch her and the background. He did this again and again. And then they would hold hands and go back to the castle and start cooking dinner. 

Meanwhile, the new Ottonian Embassy building was nearly complete. An Ottonian mason had designed it in a style nobody in Brat had ever seen before. It was large, three stories tall, and had large windows that ran continuously from the ground floor to the roof line, as if the building only had one story. People were puzzled about that, and also wondered about the amount of firewood that would be needed in the winter to heat a building where the walls appeared to be made mostly of glass. They also wondered what was holding the building up.

In addition, people wondered what the Ottonians were going to do in the building. With dinner pretty much moved to the castle, the building seemed much too large to serve only as a residence for the ambassador and ambassadress, and their admittedly sizeable staff. 

The good people of Brat need not have worried. Over the course of the previous months, Ottonian businessmen had started to arrive in Brat. At first a trickle, but then a steady stream. They came and they went, but month to month there always seemed to be more of them in Brat. They rented rooms in the better local taverns - it was a bonanza for the taverns - but almost all of them went to dinner at the embassy and now the castle.

What the businessmen lacked was office space. Offices were a new concept in Brat. The local merchants worked from their homes, or maybe a nook in the back of the shop where they could do their sums. The idea of a building devoted entirely to businessmen doing whatever businessmen did - it seemed to involve a lot of writing of letters and memoranda, and a fair amount of sitting around a table and talking - anyway, the idea of a freestanding office building was new to Brat. 

And there it was - the new Ottonian Embassy building. Ambassador Bruno and Ambassadress Brunhilde retained their personal apartments, along with the kitchen, the small dining room, and a reception hall. The large dining room and the ballroom were soon crowded with carpenters knocking together small structures that the businessmen called cubicles. Nobody in Brat had ever seen a cubicle before. Apparently they were for sitting. The carpenters also knocked together a lot of chairs and tables.

Outside, workmen screwed some brass plates to the wall next to the embassy's front door. The largest one, at the top, said Embassy of Ottonia. Directly underneath it was a slightly smaller brass plate that said Ottonian Chamber of Commerce in Brat. It turned out that the businessmen had formed a sort of club.

Dinner at the castle became legendary throughout Bratwurstia, although very few Bratwurstians attended. In fact, most of the guests were Ottonian - Ambassador Bruno and Ambassadress Brunhilde, of course, but also the many Ottonian businessmen who had been taking their dinners at the embassy.

Under previous kings, dinner at the castle had been a subdued affair. Most evenings it was mainly the king and family (all monarchs in Bratwurstia were called kings; four of the kings had been women), and usually a few senior advisors, perhaps a visiting dignitary or two. Large, gala dinners were rare, and usually involved a visit from a neighboring monarch or some other high official.

Under Hans, things were different. He had no family; of his old friends, only Scaramouche, the swashbuckling cavalier, became a fixture at the king's table.

Mainly it was Ottonians, and every night would have qualified as a gala under any previous ruler. Over time, Hans's senior officials became increasingly scarce at the king's table. There were always one or two in attendance, but others would often plead a sudden family obligation, or an urgent need to investigate some obscure bit of urgent government business out of town.


In the winter before Hans's third regnal year, Ambassadress Brunhilde outdid herself. It had been a cold, snowy winter, with much ice. The ice gave Brunhilde an idea. Nobody in Bratwurstia seemed to know about ice cream. It was a regular treat in Ottonia, throughout the winter months, when ice was plentiful. Often served with a glass of brandy, to balance the warm and the cold. 

So, in great secrecy, she sent servants out to collect icicles and bring them to the kitchen in the embassy, where the cooks, who knew well how to make ice cream, made ice cream.  Then, while almost everyone was at the castle busily eating dinner, the cooks stealthily carried the ice cream to the castle, waiting in the kitchen, keeping the ice cream on ice until it was time for dessert.

As the servers quietly placed dishes of ice cream at the head table, Ambassadress Brunhilde quietly murmured to King Hans that dessert was a special treat, something new.

Hans was a pushover for novelty. He looked at the ice cream in his dish. "Spoon?" he asked. Ambassadress Brunhilde nodded yes. Hans took a spoon and carved some ice cream out of his dish and stuck it in his mouth. He closed his eyes and a look of great pleasure spread across his face. He finished the dish, had seconds, and thirds.

Ice cream became a fixture of dinner at the castle, and King Hans was very happy. Unfortunately, as winter turned to spring, a shortage of icicles developed. Brunhilde assumed that Bratwurstia would do what Ottonia did in the spring, and switch to other things, but in this she miscalculated. 

Hans was unwilling to give up his ice cream. He pondered this crisis deeply, and finally decided to send runners up into the hills that lay to the south of Brat, to find ice, load it into backpacks, and run the ice to the royal kitchen.

The main result of this experiment was a series of very wet backpacks, no ice for the kitchen, and hence no ice cream.

For the first time in his reign, King Hans decided to ask Franz, the royal mace bearer, for advice.

Because Hans kept his mace and crown on a table in his bedroom (often carrying them around with him during the day), the royal mace bearer and the royal crown bearer didn't have much to do. So they spent a good deal of their time in the schoolroom, which is where Hans found them. Both Franz and Karl were great fans of ice cream, so they listened intently.

When Hans was done explaining, Franz sat quietly for a while. Then he started to speak. He reminded the king that, behind the hills to the south of town, there were mountains. And in these mountains there were several glaciers - great rivers of frozen water that never thawed. He told the king to send word to the stone quarry, where Brat got all its building stones. The job would require four workers, a foreman, and a wagon pulled by two mules. This crew should go up the road that passed through the mountains and stop at the first glacier, which sat next to the road, on the right-hand side. They should quarry a piece of ice and then square it to a size that the four quarrymen, working together, could pick up. They should put this giant ice cube in the bed of the wagon, cover it with straw, wrap it in burlap, and head to the kitchen in the castle as quickly as they could.

Franz cautioned his king that the ice cube would melt a bit, but that there would be plenty left to make ice cream.

King Hans listened carefully, and when Hans was done speaking, he nodded. 

The quarrying of the ice was a great success. The wagon returned with a large cube of ice wrapped in wet burlap, the cooks fell to work, and soon everyone in the castle was eating ice cream.

As Franz and Little Karl sat eating their dishes of ice cream in the school room, Karl asked a question:

"I have a question."

"Yes?" responded Franz.

"How did you know the ice wouldn't all melt, the way it did in the backpacks?"

"I didn't. But do you remember your geometry lessons? What grows faster - the volume of a cube or its surface?"

Karl thought for a moment. "The volume grows as a cube." He thought some more. "The surface grows as a square." Another pause. "Times six. Because there are six sides." 

Franz waited a moment. "So the bigger a cube gets, the smaller the surface is when compared to the volume." He waited some more. "And where do you sweat?"

Karl looked puzzled. "On the skin?'

"And where does an ice cube sweat?"


"So I guessed that the small surface would inhibit melting. It was just a guess."

Karl thought a moment. "Are you going to tell the king why it worked?"


The trip to the mountains to fetch ice was repeated several times a week. As the weather got warmer, and fruit and berries ripened, cooks added them to the ice cream.


It was during this summer that the king's treasurer came to him and advised him that the royal treasury was running short of money. 

Hans stared blankly at his treasurer. It had never occurred to him that the royal treasury could run short of money.

The treasurer watched the king for a moment, and then went on, speaking gently. The problem, he said, lay in the royal kitchen. Expenditures for dinner alone were twenty times higher than in earlier years. The treasurer suggested cutting back the large dinners from seven times a week to twice a week.

Hans shuddered visibly. At dinner that night, he had a quiet word with Ambassador Bruno, who ruminated a bit. Then he suggested that there must be other parts of the Bratwurstian budget where economies were available.

Hans had never thought of such a thing as a Bratwurstian budget. He pondered for a bit, didn't get anywhere, and returned to his food. 

At dessert (strawberry ice cream), Ambassador Bruno came back to the topic with a less abstract suggestion. In his walks about town, Bruno told Hans, he had often admired the three large cisterns King Leopold had built to store water in case of drought or siege. Since there had been no drought or war for many years, perhaps it would be possible to save money by draining the cisterns and closing them.

Over the following several weeks Hans, with Bruno's help, learned a lot about water supply. It turned out that the maintenance and operation of the cisterns required a sizeable staff, who formed a division of the water supply department. Not seeing any need for the cisterns, Hans ordered them mothballed.

Bruno also found places to trim in the larger aqueduct division. He pointed to the office of inspectors and watchmen. These workers patrolled the length of the aqueduct, reporting problems as they found them. Leaks and crumbling masonry, of course, but it turned out the main issue was local farmers tapping into the aqueduct to get a little free water. Bruno suggested that it would be cheaper and more popular to let the farmers have a little water. So Hans fired all the inspectors and watchmen. 

The royal treasurer studied the reform of the water department and calculated the savings. He told Hans that he could now afford to have big dinners three days a week, up from the previous estimate of two days a week. Hans was glum.

At dinner that night Hans told Bruno of the treasurer's forecast. Bruno had yet another idea ready to hand.

Early in his reign, King Leopold had also built three large granaries. Bruno questioned the need for such large reserves of grain. 

The next day Hans met with Bruno in the king's private quarters. Bruno brought with him an Ottonian businessman, Renard the Grain Merchant. Renard had been in Brat for some time, investigating business opportunities, and he had often attended the king's dinners, but he had never sat at the head table and they had never been introduced.

It turned out that Renard had had his eye on the granaries for a while. He calculated that they contained, when full, a reserve of something between three and five years of grain. An adequate reserve of grain could easily be provided by one granary. Renard offered to purchase the contents of two of the granaries at a price well above the going rate. He noted that, in addition to this large windfall, the kingdom would save money by right-sizing staff to fit the smaller, one-granary operation.

Bruno and Renard had, of course, asked around and learned the history of the granaries. As a child, King Leopold had lived through the last famine that had struck Bratwurstia. It had gone on for two years. He vowed, when he became king, to have enough food in reserve to feed the whole kingdom through the whole course of a famine. 

Leopold hated hunger. Even in normal times, he saw to it that people who could not afford bread were given what they needed.

When asked about the expense of all this, Leopold always said the same thing: "No Bratwurstian will go to bed hungry while I am king."

However, there had been no famine - and, thanks to Leopold, virtually no hunger - in Bratwurstia for a very long time. Year after year, the harvests had been bountiful, and memories of the starving times had faded. 

Hans knew nothing of this history; Bruno and Renard did not tell him.

King Hans agreed to Renard's proposal on the spot. Renard produced a contract and went over it word by word with Hans. He knew Hans couldn't read. Hans signed by making his mark, an intricate design he'd devised early in his theatrical days but hadn't needed to use very often.

Soon, every morning a long line of ox carts would form at the granaries, load up, and head out of town through the east gate. This went on for several weeks. Every day townspeople would line the route and watch the procession. The watchers were very quiet. When the ox carts were gone, they walked home.

There were some complications with the reform of the water department. Among other things, the cisterns had been used to regulate the flow of water into the city. The flow from the spring called Sweetwater did vary, doing its best during the snow melt in spring. But the main thing was the aqueduct needed to be shut down occasionally for repairs. At this point, the cisterns filled the gap. Without the cisterns, the water department had no choice but to shut down the city's water supply. These shutdowns did not make the townspeople happy.

More seriously, the local farmers quickly noticed the absence of the watchmen and inspectors. Over several months, the installation of illegal taps on the aqueduct became a flourishing cottage industry, and the flow of water actually reaching the city dwindled to about half of its former volume.

The royal treasury continued to bleed, but at a much reduced rate. Finally, at the treasurers's insistence, Hans cut out the big dinner on Monday night, and the Ottonian businessmen all had to scramble to their taverns for meals on Monday. The tavern owners were delighted, and did what they could to improve their food. Several Ottonian cooks left the castle and went to work in taverns.


The following spring, in his fourth regnal year, Hans noticed that he was getting fat and often felt sluggish, particularly after a meal. He mentioned it one night to Bruno, at dinner.

Bruno brightened immediately. He started talking about a new outdoor game that had arrived in Ottonia a few years previously and taken the country by storm. It basically involved going to a pasture and hitting a small ball with a stick. The idea was to hit the ball towards another, taller, stick, that was stuck in the ground on the far side of the meadow. This taller stick had a little flag at the top, to make it easier to see at a distance. Once you got the ball to the tall stick with the flag, you could pick your ball up, set it on a tuft of grass, and hit it toward another stick with a flag. Depending on the size of the meadow, there could be lots of sticks with flags. You could wind up walking quite a distance, while also working on your hand-eye coordination. 

All in all a diverting way to get some fresh air and exercise. The game was called golf.

Hans looked interested, so Bruno mentioned that he happened to have some golf sticks and a few balls in a closet back at the embassy. He said he'd be happy to bring them over in the morning and show them to him.

Bright and early - well, after breakfast - Bruno arrived with his show and tell. King Hans was immediately charmed by the little balls. He picked up three of them and started juggling. They were hard, but very light. Bruno explained that, inside the leather cover, the stuffing was goose feathers. 

Then Bruno pulled four sticks with heavy handles on them out of a long canvas bag. After some initial confusion, Bruno was able to explain that the handles weren't handles. They were the "head" of the stick - the part that actually hit the ball. He selected the smallest stick, which he called a cleek. This, he said was for when you were near the stick with the flag, which he said was usually called a pin, and you just wanted to roll the ball gently on the ground until it touched the pin.

Bruno had also brought a pin with him, which he had propped on the wall near the door. He took it and handed it to a page, and had the page stand about ten feet from King Hans. Bruno held out his hand for the balls, which Hans was absent-mindedly still juggling. Hans landed them, one by one, in Bruno's hand. Bruno dropped one at the king's feet, handed him the cleek, and stepped back, pointing at the pin. "Make the ball kiss the pin," he said.

And Hans did just that. Bruno dropped another ball, and Hans did it again. "I think you're a natural," said Bruno. He looked at the other golf clubs. "For these, I think we should go outdoors." 

Up until the time of King Olaf (he of the eggs), the large forest outside the north gate had extended nearly to the walls of the town. There had been a path by the wall, but it was barely enough to allow movement by the workmen who repaired the walls and turrets. This situation had led to some unpleasant surprises, so King Olaf had created a clear zone of several hundred yards; this space was given over to pasture, where the nearby farmers grazed their animals.

Hans, wielding the cleek, and Bruno with the other clubs in the canvas bag, and the page shouldering the stick with the flag walked through the north gate and into the meadow. Bruno told the page to run down to the next turret in the town wall and stand with the pin upright. Then he took the other clubs out of the bag and explained them to Hans.

Each tool was specialized. The cleek, which Hans was still holding, was to cover the last few yards to the pin. But there was a lot of ground to cover, so to get near the pin a golfer used a mashie on level ground with short grass or a niblick in deep grass or rough or boggy ground. And, for the longest shot, at the beginning of play, there was the club with the big head, the size of a man's fist. The Ottonians called this club the Kaboom.

For Hans, the Kaboom was love at first sight. Hans gave the cleek to Bruno; Bruno handed the Kaboom to Hans and gently placed one of the balls on a tuft of grass.

Hans twirled the Kaboom, extended it horizontally away from him, adjusted his grip, set the club head down next to the ball, drew the club back, and whacked the ball straight at the pin. It went over the page and the pin and further down the meadow, where it hit a cow in the side of her tummy. The cow turned her head and gave the humans an annoyed look, then ambled further away. 

Hans hit two more balls, getting progressively closer to the pin. He turned to Bruno, smiling, and said his head felt clearer than it had in weeks.

Bruno pointed to the forest and explained that Hans could have his very own golf course, without cows. Bruno had access to the best golf course designers in Ottonia, who could cut down a couple of hundred acres of the forest and build him a state-of-the-art golf course. Bruno used technical language about water hazards and sand traps, which Hans could not follow. But it didn't matter. Hans had the dream.

Then Bruno said the people he knew would build the golf course for free. All they would ask for was the right to cart away the cut-down trees.

"Okay," said Hans.

There was a pocket on the outside of the bag Bruno had been carrying the golf clubs in. He felt around in the pocket, removed a few more golf balls, and then brought out a folded piece of paper. A contract. He began to explain the contract to Hans.

"Give me a pen," said Hans.

Bruno produced a pen and a small inkwell. Hans placed the contract against Bruno's back and made his mark.

Soon, people who passed the Ottonian embassy regularly noticed something new. Beneath the two brass plates by the front door announcing the embassy and the chamber of commerce, there was a third brass plate. It said Ottonian Golf Course Co.

The golf course people didn't waste any time. Trees started coming down at an astonishing rate. Ox carts carried the logs away to the east and returned filled with sod for the new course. There were no sod farms in Bratwurstia. There were quite a few in Ottonia. 

The lumberjacks started near the north gate of Brat and worked their way into the forest. As soon as there was enough land cleared, the workmen started to shape the first fairway - the space leading up to the pin. The people of Brat noticed that the workmen kept a bunch of the big old trees, providing nice bits of shade around the course, and that instead of just flattening all the irregularities in the ground they kept a bunch of them and even added a few. The words sand trap and water hazard were soon commonly heard on the streets of Brat.

King Hans started playing the first two fairways in June. There were five fairways in July, and all eleven were complete by the end of September. The king found that his life had changed dramatically. He dreamed of golf. Sometimes he played alone; more often he played with Bruno. Occasionally two Ottonian businessmen were invited to play along. This group was called a foursome.

As the course got longer, Hans found he was more interested in hitting the ball than in the walk between shots. So he ordered up a small donkey cart and rode it along the course. Bruno confessed he had never seen anything like it. Ottonians always walked the course.


One afternoon in the late fall of his fourth regnal year, Hans was shooting a round of golf with Bruno. They were talking about how well things had gone with the golf course construction, and then Bruno gently guided the conversation to a new topic: Friendship.

Bruno mentioned how much he enjoyed a round of golf with King Hans, and how much he had enjoyed his company at dinner for four years now, and how he thought of Hans as a good friend, and how he hoped the king felt the same way.

Hans said that he did feel the same way.

Bruno went on to say that he hoped Ottonia and Bratwurstia had also become friends over the last four years. Surely there had been mutual suspicion in the past, but Bruno hoped that the broader contacts between the two countries, including cultural interchanges involving such important things as food and golf, had helped the two countries to know one another better and to see one another as friends.

Hans thought for a moment and then said he thought Bratwurstia and Ottonia were indeed friends.

Bruno then suggested that the time might be right for the two countries to make a formal, mutual declaration of their friendship through a treaty of non-aggression.

Hans thought a bit more and said he thought such a treaty would be a very nice thing.

Bruno went on to suggest that the treaty could include some actions that would reinforce the sense of friendship while saving both parties some money. In particular, he suggested demilitarizing the border that ran along the Ug River between the two countries. Ottonia would pull its border troops back to the River Zeg, well to the east of the Ug, and Bratwurstia would pull its troops back beyond the River Og, a sprightly rivulet that arose in the hills southeast of Brat and ran north to the sea without ever becoming much more than an overgrown creek.

A few days later Bruno and King Hans signed the treaty, and Hans ordered all Bratwurstian troops on the border to withdraw to the west of the River Og.

The Bratwurstian troops affected by this order were known as the Ug Borderers, a cavalry unit of 400 soldiers and 400 horses that had been stationed for as long as anyone could remember at Fort Ug, which lay adjacent to the Ug Bridge, which was the only bridge across the River Ug.

The Ug Borderers were the largest fulltime unit in the Bratwurstian army.  The Brat Garrison, which stood guard at the castle gate and also managed the four town gates, numbered about 100. There was also a unit of about 50 soldiers who patrolled the road across the mountains to the south of Brat. Because the road went very high up, it was called The Highway, and therefore the troops were called the Highway Patrol. Mostly they rescued snowbound travelers in the winter months.

So King Hans issued the order, and the Ug Borderers packed up and moved back to Brat, where there simply was no room for them. The colonel of the Ug Borderers and the colonel of the Brat Garrison and the mayor of Brat went together to King Hans and told him that, while it might be possible to distribute the soldiers to family homes in the town, there was simply no room for 400 horses, their feed, and their poop.

The dean of the scriptorium joined the meeting and simply listened for quite a while. At one point, in a lull in the talking, he said quietly,

"Your majesty, am I to understand that you have signed a treaty with the Ottonians?"

The king said yes. The dean said,

"May I see the treaty?"

Hans had the treaty sitting on a table between his crown and mace. He got the treaty and handed it to the dean, who read it. This took a while. The others watched in silence. Finally, the dean said to the king,

"I wish you had shown me this before you signed it."

To the others, he said,

"Have you talked to Franz?"

They had. Franz had several ideas. The first was to negotiate an amendment to the treaty allowing the Ug Borderers to return to Fort Ug and stay there through the winter. This would allow time to build barracks and stables in open land outside Brat. Franz had noticed that the Ottonian Golf Course Co. had cleared quite a lot more land than it needed for the actual golf course. Franz suggested putting the barracks and stables on this open land.

His second thought was for a second amendment to the treaty. Franz wanted Bratwurstia to have the right to maintain its system of watchtowers east of the Og. Between Fort Ug and Brat there were three watchtowers. They formed a line - a line of communication from east to west. There was an additional watchtower at Fort Ug. If the Ottonians moved a sizeable force across the river, the watchmen at Fort Ug would go to the top of their tower and light a large pile of wood. The next watch tower to the west would see the fire - smoke by day, flame by night - and light its own signal fire. And so on down the line to the last watch tower, which was actually the keep of the castle in Brat. Within the time it took to light four fires, the castle at Brat would know the Ottonians were on the move.

King Hans listened without interrupting. When the room was quiet, he waited a moment and then spoke:

"The treaty is the treaty. No amendments."

It turned out that Franz had had a third thought. There wasn't a lot of time before the snows came - six, maybe eight weeks -  maybe just enough time to knock some barracks together out of wood rather than stone. Lean-tos for the horses, and maybe a start on the stables. It wouldn't be pretty, and it would require just about every carpenter in Bratwurstia. And it would be expensive - rush jobs always were.

King Hans thought. Then he spoke:

"But Bruno said I would save money."

Nobody said anything. Finally, Hans said, 

"I must think. Come back in the morning - after breakfast."

And they did. The colonel of the Ug Borderers and the colonel of the Brat Garrison and the mayor of Brat and the dean of the scriptorium arrived together. King Hans had also summoned the royal treasurer, who soon arrived, accompanied by the page Hans had sent to fetch him.

There was one other person in the room. Hans introduced him as Ulrich the Horse Trader.

When they were all assembled, King Hans informed them that he had decided to solve the housing problem by disbanding the Ug Borderers.

Nobody said anything.

Hans said that Ulrich the Horse Trader had agreed to buy the 400 horses, their saddles and bridles and other equipment, and pay an excellent price. He produced a piece of paper and handed it to the royal treasurer, who read it and said nothing.

And so it was. The colonel of the Ug Borderers and the colonel of the Brat Garrison assembled the Ug Borderers, who were encamped in tents just outside the town, near the aqueduct.

Both colonels spoke to the soldiers. They told them of their disbandment, emphasized that this outcome was not a punishment - indeed, the soldiers should be proud of their courageous service - told them to take their uniforms and weapons home with them and keep them in good condition, and dismissed them.

The troops packed their things and headed home to look for jobs.

A few days later Ulrich the Horse Trader and several dozen wranglers headed the 400 horses east. They were followed by a train of ox carts carrying the saddles and bridles and other equipment.


A few weeks later, as the weather grew colder, Bruno visited King Hans in his private chambers. He brought with him the president of the Ottonian Chamber of Commerce in Brat. They wanted to talk about the golf course.

The president began by thanking King Hans for his hospitality in general, and in particular for allowing Ottonians to play on his golf course - something Hans had done even before the course was finished. The Ottonian golfers had cheerfully acceded to his one demand: That he could play whenever he wanted, and that Ottonians would always step aside and allow him to play through if needed.

The president thought this informal arrangement had worked well, but he and others had a few ideas that basically boiled down to forming a golf club. There were now many golf clubs in Ottonia, and transferring
the model to Brat appeared to be straightforward.

The president stated as a first matter that the new club would assume all expenses for the maintenance, operation, and possible improvement of the golf course and the club grounds.

Hans smiled and nodded at this. He had had no idea that cutting grass could be so expensive.

The president went on to note that Ottonian golf clubs invariably had clubhouses, and that they often had a number of little cottages that could be purchased by club members as quiet retreats in the countryside.

Hans was fine with that, but he wanted the club to ask Bratwurstians to join. The president looked quizzically at Bruno, who looked back and nodded yes.

And so it was agreed. A contract had been prepared, but it required some revision. Bruno returned in a few days with the revised contract, and Hans signed it.

And for a few months nothing much happened. Bratwurstian winters could be ferocious, and this one was quite cold, although there was perhaps a bit less snow than usual.

One morning at the end of winter, Hans glanced out of his bedroom window to see how the golf course was doing, and was surprised to see that the builders were hard at it. The cleared land that Franz had suggested for the barracks and stables of the Ug Borderers soon started to sprout a large clubhouse with an ample porch, along with a score of the little - well, not so little - cottages that had been discussed. 

Hans regretted that no Bratwurstians had applied for membership in the golf club, but Bruno assured him that many, many people had been asked. It turned out that Bratwurstians liked to watch people play golf, but they had no interest in playing the game themselves.

One day Hans and Bruno were on the course. It was a particularly fine day, although still a little cool. Midway through the round, Bruno started talking about the River Ug and the River Og, and how closely their names resembled one another. A mere slip of the tongue, and a serious misunderstanding could occur. Bruno hadn't known Evil Otto II, who had signed a treaty with old King Leopold years ago. But he'd been told that Evil Otto II had sincerely believed the border with Bratwurstia had been at the Og, not the Ug, since time immemorial. 

Bruno admitted that, for many years before the disagreement between Otto II and Leopold, the Ottonians had not paid much attention to this part of their realm. However, when Otto II ascended the throne, he had inspected all the parts of his realm, and noticed that Bratwurstian farmers had arrived east of the Og and west of the Ug and turned grazing land into productive farms. Otto II decided it was time to assert his legitimate rights. Leopold, of course, disagreed. Eventually, and against his better judgment, Otto II had signed the treaty placing the border at the Ug.

Now, however, perhaps Hans would be willing to reconsider the matter. Leopold's belief that the land had always belonged to Bratwurstia could easily be the result of him hearing an adviser say Ug when the adviser really meant Og.

Hans tugged on his orange wig and said he would think about it. Over the summer the two had some brief conversations on the subject, but Hans was still thinking. Finally, as summer was turning to fall, Bruno showed him a document dating back to the days when Bratwurstia still had hereditary kingship. It was a copy - the original was too fragile to leave the Ottonian archives. The document was a treaty between Ottonia and Bratwurstia setting the border between the two countries at the River Og. Bruno pointed to the word Og on the paper.

Hans had a look, tugged at his wig, and said he needed to think some more.

A few days later, something odd happened. The cook-artist, who had drawn so many beautiful sketches of his girlfriend standing by the aqueduct, simply disappeared. Here one evening, gone the next morning. Vanished. No note. Just some clothes hanging on a hook and two pairs of socks in a drawer. His girlfriend was inconsolable. Everyone else was puzzled.

A few weeks after the cook-artist disappeared, Bruno and Hans were playing yet another round of golf, and Bruno shared some exciting news. Evil King Otto IV had appointed Bruno ambassador to France, and Bruno and Brunhilde would be leaving for Paris in a few weeks. Otto had actually wanted to move Bruno to Paris months ago, but Bruno had asked to spend a little more time with Hans.

Bruno thanked Hans for allowing him to spend a wonderful five years at the court of Bratwurstia, and wished him all the best.

Hans was stunned. It was hard for him to imagine life without Bruno and Brunhilde. He stammered a few words wishing Bruno well.

A few weeks later, the ambassadorial carriage, which for years had been used mainly for picnics in the countryside, arrived at the front door of the embassy, laden with expensive luggage on its roof and in the boot at the rear. A number of plainer wagons lined up behind the ambassadorial carriage - some were coaches for passengers, others for baggage.

Most of the servants and diplomatic staff were leaving for Paris with the ambassadorial couple. A few, including an aging first secretary, remained behind as a skeleton staff at the embassy.

Quite a few of the cooks had married, and not surprisingly there were quite a few children. All the married cooks stayed in Brat. Many of them had already taken jobs at taverns in town; others went to work at the clubhouse out by the golf course.

King Hans walked over from the castle to wish them all a safe journey. The travelers who had gathered wished him well; he was clearly still adrift. Then the front door of the embassy opened, and out came the ambassador and ambassadress, dressed in traveling clothes and accompanied by their pack of coach dogs. Several of these had gotten old and fat; they were put in the carriage to ride.

Hans stammered a few words to the ambassadorial couple; they responded warmly and graciously. Then they climbed into their carriage, the other travelers climbed into their wagons, and the caravan trundled off on the first leg of a long journey.

Things changed in Brat. Dinner at the castle had lost the source of its sparkle. The food was still excellent, and there was always ice cream, but people simply drifted away.

Someone from the palace was always there. Franz took to going occasionally. If he wasn't there, it would be Little Karl (now nearly 17 and actually quite tall) or the annalist from the scriptorium. The dean of the scriptorium and the royal treasurer never attended. Scaramouche, the king's old friend from acting days, showed up nearly every night.

The Ottonian businessmen gravitated to the golf club. The clubhouse was complete - a two-story structure with many bedrooms upstairs and a large covered porch in front, overlooking the golf course. The many cottages were all well along, and a number of them were already partially habitable.  All the cottages had been sold to Ottonian businessmen. 

As time went by the chamber of commerce and the golf course company moved their offices from the embassy to the golf club. They kept their brass plates by the embassy door, but added new ones by the front door of the golf club.

Many Ottonian businessmen were spending virtually all their time at the golf club - working, eating, sleeping, playing golf if the increasingly cold weather permitted. Others simply checked out of their taverns and went home to Ottonia. The size of the Ottonian business colony definitely shrank. The tavern owners of Brat, accustomed to having their guest rooms all full, in addition to serving a few meals and copious amounts of drink, were very unhappy.

As winter turned to spring, and the sixth year of the reign of Hans commenced, it happened one day that a new brass plate appeared by the door of the embassy. It said Timberland Mgt. Co. of Ottonia. Nobody knew what that meant, but very soon they started to find out. People noticed something different about the forest to the north of town. The trees along the edge of the forest had pieces of paper attached to them roughly at eye-height. Closer examination revealed that there were words on the paper. Those who knew how to read read the words for their friends who could not read. The signs were all the same. They said NO TRESPASSING. STAY OUT. OFF LIMITS. And, in smaller print, By Order of TLMCO.

The forest had always been open to everyone in Brat. Although it was technically owned by the king, many people enjoyed going for walks, and young people loved to climb up in the old trees. In addition, the king licensed hunters at certain seasons, and the product of their work showed up in Meat Market Square - venison, the occasional wild boar, smaller animals, and birds. And then there were the woodcutters and the charcoal makers, who relied on the forest to support their families. 

Several of the more impulsive townsmen decided to test these newly posted rules. They walked into the forest. And very soon they walked out again, accompanied by large, dour men - forest wardens, a new term in Brat.

The people went to the king. It was the first time this had happened to Hans. Fortunately the mayor of Brat showed up quickly and managed to persuade the people to speak one at a time.

Hans was dumbstruck. He simply did not know what to say. The mayor had a quiet word with him. Hans nodded. The mayor told the people that the actions of TLMCO seemed entirely out of order, not to mention highly irregular, and that the king undertook to investigate and put things aright this very day. 

The people were satisfied, and the mayor herded them to the door of the royal dining room - they had interrupted the king's lunch. Then the mayor went back to the king and asked him to summon the dean of the scriptorium. The dean soon appeared, and immediately asked the king if there were any more papers he had signed without showing them to the scriptorium.

Hans thought and said there were two. The dean asked where they were. Hans said in a chest in his private chambers. The dean suggested they go there, and they did.

Hans rummaged in the chest and found the papers and a few golf balls. He handed the papers to the dean and started juggling the golf balls. The dean read for a while. The king juggled, and the mayor stood there quietly. Finally, the dean looked grimly at the mayor, and then turned to Hans.

"You majesty, they are within their rights. The first paper gives a 99-year lease to the Ottonian Golf Course Co. The lease covers the whole forest, not just the land for the golf course. They have exclusive use of the land. The contract explicitly nullifies any traditional rights of access or use." 

The dean took a breath. "The second, more recent paper converts the lease to outright ownership, among other things." 

"You have agreed to this. There is nothing to be done."

The mayor did his duty and took the message to the people. The people were not happy, but the king was the king, and there was nothing to be done.

Life went on. 


And Hans continued to play golf. The second contract made him a lifetime member and the honorary chairman of the club. He still missed playing a twosome with Ambassador Bruno, but all the Ottonians had been extremely nice to him, and he often found himself in a jovial foursome.

One morning he woke up to a beautiful early summer day. Looking at the blue sky out his bedroom window, he thought he might delay breakfast and get in a quick solo round of golf early. He rolled himself out of bed and walked to the window so he could gaze out on his beautiful golf course. 

There was an army encamped on his golf course. Row after row of tents, masses of soldiers marching here and there. The flagpole in front of the clubhouse was flying the Ottonian flag.

No golf. His heart sank. Then it occurred to him that his capital city was under attack. He had no idea what to do, but he knew he should do something. He pulled on some clothes, grabbed one of his orange wigs, and went looking for Franz.

Franz and Karl were on the town wall, looking at the aqueduct. One of the arches was missing, replaced by a pile of rubble on the ground. Franz said,

"All they needed to do was turn a valve. But this looks more warlike."

He pointed to soldiers digging a zigzag trench toward the west gate.

"That's for breaching the wall. Once they get close enough they'll go underground and try to undermine the foundations."

They watched a bit more. Franz continued.

"They're probably building ladders, maybe over in the forest where we can't seen them."

He looked at Karl. "Those are the three basic options. Go over the wall, breach the wall, or" - he nodded toward the aqueduct - "tighten the noose and wait us out."

Karl nodded that he understood.

King Hans arrived, looking confused and distraught. He said,

"What do we do?"

Franz answered, "The Brat Garrison has closed all the town gates and summoned the First Draft of the militia to the Meat Market Square for training. They should be on the walls in two or three hours."

Technically, all the men, women, and children of Brat were in the militia and could be called for service at any time. The First Draft was able-bodied men up to the age of thirty.

"What's next?" asked Hans.

Franz answered:

"You can start talking to them right now. We can hold out for two months. Then we have to settle. We need to get the harvest in. We don't have enough food in the granary to get through the winter. Send the dean of the scriptorium. He's your best negotiator."

The negotiations soon started, in a large tent outside the north gate. They proceeded slowly. The Ottonian negotiators wanted all the territory east of the Og; they wanted Bratwurstia to cede sovereignty of the land of the forest and the golf club, creating an Ottonian colony surrounded by Bratwurstian territory; and they wanted all the money Ottonia had paid for the grain in the granaries, and also the money paid for the 400 horses of the Ug Borderers. The dean of the scriptorium said no.

The talks continued. The weather was lovely. Franz and Karl noted that the approach trench aimed at the west gate had stopped making progress. And the cordon of Ottonian soldiers around Brat, designed to cut the town off from the outside world, was less a noose and more a series of dots and dashes - the dots being small outposts located between the dashes, which were long stretches of empty space.

The open spaces allowed for a lot of nocturnal back-and-forth between town and country. The main gates in the town wall were locked tight, but there were several small, inconspicuous gates - called postern gates - designed precisely for this purpose. After a brief period of watchful waiting, there was a steady stream of fresh meat, fresh vegetables, and fresh news coming into Brat nearly every night. Even the occasional egg.

Still, the supply was much less than on an ordinary market day. The residents of Brat looked to the remaining granary, and mainly they ate bread and drank beer.

People complained about the water. With the aqueduct cut and the cisterns emptied and closed, they turned to their wells, where the water still tasted quite sour. People even said the beer made with well water tasted bad. They drank it anyway.

At the beginning of the siege, there were already a number of summer fevers going around the town, some more serious than others. As the siege progressed, gastrointestinal disorders became widespread, and the people were becoming decidedly cranky.

And in the granary, they were literally scraping the bottom of the barrel. Franz and Karl, accompanied by the dean of the scriptorium and the royal treasurer, went to see the king. He was sitting in his private chambers, juggling some golf balls.

The king's advisers explained the situation, and said it was time to settle.

"Okay," said the king.

The next morning the dean of the scriptorium went out the north gate to the negotiating tent. Two hours later he came back with the deal. Ottonia got all the land between the Ug and the Og, and it got its little colony in the forest and on the golf course. Ottonia did not get back the money it had paid for the grain in the granaries, or the money it had paid for the 400 horses of the Ug Borderers. 

The dean of the scriptorium had a pained expression on his face as he placed the treaty in front of the king so he could make his mark.

"It was the best I could do," said the dean. 

Hans nodded glumly and made his mark.

Over the next several days the Ottonian army lifted the siege. Soldiers packed up their tents and headed east. With the cordon around the town gone, Brat reopened its gates. Soldiers of the Brat Garrison fanned out to see what things looked like in the colony, quickly dubbed Little Ottonia. When they came to the clubhouse, they got a surprise. The Ottonian flag was still flying on the staff in front of the clubhouse, but there were only three people in the building - the embassy's aging first secretary and two cooks, who were married to Bratwurstian women. 

Soldiers from the Brat Garrison reconnoitered in the forest. The forest wardens were all gone. As far as the soldiers could tell, there were no Ottonians in the forest.

The colony had no garrison. It was undefended.

As word spread through the town, there was puzzlement but no celebration. Many people were sick, and the rest were in a sour mood.

That evening, the king sat on his throne, toying with his mace, and felt himself a failure. He knew he needed some cheering up, and he thought of his old friend Myron the Dwarf.

Myron had opened a tavern in the arcade on the north side of Meat Market Square. The stage they had trod was a thing of memory. Myron sold intoxicating drinks and mediocre food to townsmen and, before the siege, travelers. They all came for the cheap booze and Myron's endless stories about King Hans in the days before The Day.  Recently, though, the laughter that greeted Myron's punch lines was less joyous and more derisive. And Myron's stories had changed subtly as well. What had been Hans's foibles now seemed more like flaws.

Hans hadn't visited Myron in several years, but tonight he decided to go see his old friend and be entertained by Myron's jokes, even if they were at the king's expense.

He put on one of his older wigs and walked the short distance to Meat Market Square. As he entered Myron's establishment, heads turned toward him. Myron was in the middle of a story, and he stopped. The undercurrent of private chatter in the room also ceased. 

"Good evening, your majesty," said Myron, who was standing behind the bar. Over his head, on the wall behind the bar, was the stick that Hans had chased Myron with, back in their theatrical days. On a whim, Hans said,

"Hand me the stick, Myron."

"No," said Myron. Nobody else was saying anything.

"Come on, Myron," wheedled the king.

Myron thought briefly. "We will go outside," he said.


Myron grabbed a ladder, climbed up, and retrieved the stick. He then marched silently outside, followed by Hans. Nobody else followed.

Myron stood where the old stage had stood. Hans faced him and held out his hand. Myron extended the stick and, as Hans grasped it, the dwarf said, in a calm, clear voice, "You are not worthy."

Hans could feel his hand grasping the stick. The hand felt strange, and then it started to palsy. The stick fell from his hand and clattered on the paving stones.

Hans looked down at his hand. Myron retrieved the stick and stood there, watching Hans. Then Myron turned and went back indoors.

Hans stood there for a while, all alone in Meat Market Square. He looked down at his hand again. He decided to go back home. He walked the few blocks to the castle, went to the throne room and sat on his throne.

He thought about Ambassador Bruno and Ambassadress Brunhilde, in Paris. Perhaps he should pay them a visit. They had always been so nice to him.

He got up and went to his private chambers and packed some clothes. He put several wigs in a wig box. All this would have been easier to do if he had the use of his right hand. Finally, he reached under his bed and slid out a small chest that was filled with gold. 

It took a while to get all this stuff down to the royal stables, and it took even longer to harness his donkey to its cart. The donkey was sleepy and uncooperative.

Then he climbed onto the cart and urged the donkey toward the west gate.


Shortly after dawn the colonel of the Brat Garrison came to the dean of the scriptorium. He reported that King Hans had left Brat, riding out through the west gate in his donkey cart, several hours before dawn. Searchers were immediately sent out along all the roads; farmers and tavern keepers were questioned throughout the land. Nobody had seen King Hans.

(A rumor developed that the king had gone to Paris. Later, discreet inquiries were made, and there was no sign that he had ever arrived in Paris.)

The Council of the Realm convened. This was composed of the dean of the scriptorium, the royal treasurer, and the royal mace bearer. It had not convened since the last of Bratwurstia's hereditary kings had resigned his office and moved to Paris, taking with him a large part of the royal treasury.

Faced with an interregnum at that time, the country's senior officials had created the Council of the Realm to manage the transition to a new king. And they had replaced the hereditary monarchy with election by mace.

Now, all these years later, the Council of the Realm came together again, deliberated, and declared that the throne was vacant. The royal crown bearer, the royal mace bearer, and all the high officials of the realm who were able (quite a few were sick) marched in a procession through the four squares of Brat, announcing to all that the throne was vacant and setting the date for the election of a new king one week in the future. 

After the procession was over, Franz asked Karl to come with him to the throne room. They were still in their court attire. Karl was carrying the crown on a pillow, Franz was carrying the mace, also on a pillow. They placed their burdens on a table next to the throne, then faced one another. Franz spoke to Karl:

"Will you be king? The country needs you."

Karl blanched. "I do not wish to touch the mace."

"You need not fear the mace. You are a royal crown bearer. It will never harm you."

Franz went on the explain that he himself had been a royal crown bearer when he was little, and he had been told this secret by his predecessor.

Karl had only seen Franz handle the mace while wearing heavy gloves, as he was now. Franz looked at him, removed the gloves, and picked up the mace in both hands.

Nothing happened.

After a while, Franz put the mace down on its pillow.

"I have a question," said Karl. "Why did the Ottonians abandon their new colony?"

Franz smiled. He walked to a table and chairs on the other side of the throne room. Karl followed him. The table had an inlaid mosaic top. Karl looked at the tabletop. It was a map of Bratwurstia, Ottonia, and all the surrounding countries. He had never noticed it before.

"Will you sit?" Franz asked.

Karl nodded and sat. After Karl sat, Franz sat next to him. 

"You see that Ottonia is a very large country, and Bratwurstia is a very small country." 

Karl nodded. Franz continued.

"There are five countries surrounding Ottonia. They vary in size, but all are substantially smaller than Ottonia. Bratwurstia is the smallest."

Franz paused, then continued.

"The dean of the scriptorium communicates regularly with his counterparts in the four other surrounding countries. Ottonia is always thinking about expanding its territory. I don't know why, but this is the way it has been for a very long time."


"I think Evil King Otto IV miscalculated. I believe he was thinking we'd be pushovers, maybe last a week. Instead, we lasted two months. And I believe he thought the other surrounding countries would not find out for a long time that he'd put almost his entire army around Brat. They all knew within three days."

Franz pointed to the map.

"You see these two countries here, to the east and northeast of Ottonia? They are Aardvarkia and Triceratopsia. Evil Otto III, the current king's father, stole quite a lot of land from them. They've been waiting patiently to get it back. On day five of the siege, Aardvarkia and Triceratopsia attacked."

Franz drew a line with his finger from Brat to Ottonia's eastern border. 

"What young Otto should have done at that point was lift the siege and move east with his whole army. Instead, he dribbled troops east, pulling a battalion here, a company there. He tried to maintain the appearance of a siege, but you remember when we noticed they'd stopped working on that zigzag trench out by the west gate?"

Karl nodded. 

"And of course the encirclement was a joke. Not only were we getting food, but we had very good information on what was happening in the Ottonian camp."

Karl spoke.

"But we had to settle."

"Yes," said Franz, "but so did they. And they had to let us keep the money. We gave them the land, but they won't be able to keep it. I personally think little Otto was panicking in the end. He could have fortified the forest and golf course. Instead he pulled out all the troops, and of course the businessmen went with them."

"I see," said Karl. After a moment, Franz spoke again.

"Will you be king?"

"Yes. If you will be at my side."

"I will advise you, but I can't tell you what to do. The king is the king."

"So give me a little advice now. What should I do first?"

"Fix the aqueduct. I can put in a temporary pipe across the gap in a week or two. Rebuilding the arch will take a couple of months."

"I don't suppose you could get started on that, like, today?"

Franz smiled. "I suppose I can exceed my authority in this case. I expect the royal treasurer will agree that it's an emergency."

"What comes after the aqueduct?"

"Bring in the harvest. Otherwise we will be starving this winter."

"Should I ban golf?"

Franz shrugged. "Why bother? King Hans is the only Bratwurstian ever to show any interest in playing golf."

"How about tearing down the Ottonian embassy? It's such an eyesore."

Franz shrugged again. "It's a sturdy building, and very adaptable. For a long time i've been wanting to expand the castle school. We could take in children from all of Brat. And you know the castle school is the only school in Brat that teaches girls."

"Yes." King Elvira, the first of Bratwurstia's female kings, had insisted that the castle school educate both boys and girls, and it had been that way ever since. This was a part of Brat's history that Franz drilled into his students.

Franz waited for a moment, then spoke. 

"One last piece of advice. The single most important thing you can do as king is make this the last election by mace. There simply has to be a better way."

Karl thought for a moment.

"To celebrate my coronation, I would like to hold an ice cream social and invite everyone in Brat."

Franz actually chuckled. 

"That's a lot of ice cream, but I think we can do it."

The day of the election arrived. It had rained overnight, and there was still a slight drizzle in the air as the royal crown bearer, the royal mace bearer, and the high officials healthy enough to walk stepped through the castle gate and walked to Meat Market Square.

Three people awaited them in the square: the mayor of Brat, Scaramouche, and Myron the Dwarf. They stood shoulder to shoulder in the center of the square. The procession stopped in front of them. Franz gave his explanatory speech. Then he walked forward and held the mace in front of the mayor. The mayor smiled and took one step back.

Then Franz offered the mace to Scaramouche, who attempted his trademark extravagant swoon. He was out of shape and out of practice, so it didn't go very well and the mayor had to help him back to his feet. But everyone was smiling.

Franz moved on to Myron, who took a step back. Franz spoke to him.

"Myron, please hold the royal crown for a moment."

Karl gave the crown to Myron and turned to face Franz. Franz offered him the mace. Karl grasped it with both hands and lifted it.

Nothing happened. After a few moments, Franz said, "King Karl, may you live long and reign well. You may replace the mace and receive your crown."

Karl did just that. Scaramouche and Myron made sure the king's crown was on straight and brushed some imaginary lint off his jacket.

Then Karl, followed by Franz, the mayor, Scaramouche, and Myron, and all the high officials who could walk, started on their procession to the other three squares. As they started, people began to pour out of their houses, cheering and throwing their hats in the air. Many joined the procession, and when they reached the last square - Grain Market Square - it felt like the entire population of Brat, the healthy part of it anyway, was in the square. Then they accompanied the new king back to the castle. 

The ice cream social started that afternoon and lasted four days. It was a great success.