On a summer afternoon, I stand on the rotting wood of the local park’s bench. Sweat clings to my clothes, but I do not run away to the cool shade of the surrounding maple trees.
I stand tall, a crown of flowers and tree twigs on my head. I am the ruler of this place and, therefore, have a duty to uphold. Heat or no heat, I can not leave this place. It is under my protection. Mine and one others’.
My little brother kneels before me, head bowed as I tap his shoulders with a sword fashioned from a maple’s stick. “I dub you, Sir Monty,” I say. “Protector of the realm.”
My brother stands and I give him the sword. Together, we stand side by side, guarding our home from wailing sirens and slobbering hellhounds.
But then, a darkness shadows our kingdom. I look out into the distance, my heart plummeting as I see a set of tough horns and leathery wings.
“‘Tis a dragon, my lord!” Sir Monty calls. He readies his sword, standing protectively in front of me. “Run! I will protect you and our land.”
A lesser king would do as told. He’d run away, taking advantage of the valiant knight’s sacrifice. I am not a lesser king.
Picking a sword up from the ground at my feet, I place my hand on Sir Monty’s shoulder. “Together,” I tell him. “For the honor of our kingdom.”
Together, we stand our ground. The dragon draws near, feet shaking the ground. I lift my sword above my head, shouting a booming battle cry before rushing towards the dangerous creature.
Sir Monty follows and we strike low on the dragon’s body, smacking its ankles and wicked tail. We’ve almost taken down the beast when a sharp claw grabs me by the back of my cloak.
“Okay, you two,” the dragon speaks. “You’ve had you’re fun. We have to go home.”
My face falls and the illusion of my imagination vanishes. The dragon disappears, replaced by my mother. Sir Monty is now my little brother again, a stick in his hand instead of a sword.
“But, maaa! We have to defend the kingdom,” I try to explain. My mother only laughs. “Great rulers need to eat lunch,” she tells me. “Besides, you and your brother can take back the kingdom tomorrow.”
I pout, lip sticking out. It doesn’t sway my mother. She takes mine and my brother’s hands, dragging us towards the parking lot. I look over my shoulder at the park slowly vanishing behind me. “I’ll be back,” I promise. “A good king never leaves his home.”
When some people think of a kingdom, they think of vast lands filled with villages and towering castles. But not me.
Even now, as an old man with a hunched back and missing teeth, I think of my youth. I think of the park.