Count Rudolpho the Optimistic stood on the balcony of his palace in the Kingdom of Schweinebraten and practiced his royal wave for the benefit of the serfs and servants below. He wore nothing but a loosely tied bathrobe decorated with the golden squirrels of his family crest. His audience did not bother to glance up and acknowledge the greeting of a man who was 52nd in line of succession to the throne. Instead they filled squirrel feeders and pruned the rose bushes planted in gardens on either side of a cobblestone road running straight from the River Moldung to the gates of the palace.
Rudolpho retired to his chambers when his wrist grew weary and the scent of roses aggravated his nose, and he summoned his jester. Holzkopf stirred beneath the sheets of the Count’s bed and said, “What do you want Miss Prissy Boots?” The Count replied in the sternest of tones, “Never call me that unless you wish to be beaten with my gold plated hair brush.” The jester was about to reply, “Yes, please,” when Countess Glupi entered the chamber with her eyes covered by a delicate hand heavily burdened by rings.
She said without the least bit of irony, “So sorry to disturb you as you conduct your affairs. The footman gave me this message from Prince Saftsack. It was delivered by a motorcyclist wearing royal colors.”
Rudolpho accepted a piece of paper from his wife after dismissing Holzkopf and tightening the robe’s belt, and asked her why she had delivered it instead of the footman. She told him that the servant was curiously reluctant to enter the Count’s chambers early in the morning.
The Count read the dispatch out loud with grand, rolling tones:
War has been declared. You are summoned to the royal court at Schweinestall to take up your commission in the Schweinebraten Army. Death to our enemies by they English, French or Alsatian (to be determined once all of the pertinent treaties have been read by the court lawyers)! Muster as many men as possible from your fiefdom and march them here post haste.
Your sovereign ruler,
Prince Saftsack III
Rudolpho volunteered a cook and two gardeners as his foot soldiers, and designated Holzkopf his aide-de-camp. All his other serfs and servants could not be found. They had scattered into the nearby Gray Forest immediately after they heard the royal messenger drive up the cobblestone road.
When their company arrived at the Prince’s castle after making a leisurely journey to the capital, they discovered that the army had already marched to France and had been decimated at the Battle of the Marne. The kingdom had lost its finest flowering of manhood including Saftsack and fifty-one prominent noblemen, and the courtiers greeted Rudolpho as their new prince. He waved his royal wave to a dispirited group of moldering bureaucrats, noblemen in their dotage, and maidservants standing at attention with mops at “present arms”. Their response was tepid, but Rudolpho was well pleased that his hours of practice had finally paid off.
Rudolpho felt uncomfortable dealing with matters of state, however, having spent most of his life mismanaging the affairs of a minor court. Soon he emptied the coffers of the royal treasury and was forced to pawn the royal crown to balance the budget. He was deposed by the Pink Revolution of 1916, and just managed to escape with three cats and his jester, Holzkopf.
They traveled covertly through the Balkans, rounded the Greek peninsula and boarded a freighter sailing out of Cyprus. They were torpedoed and shipwrecked five times before finally washing ashore in Miami Beach where they were greeted as alien combatants. The cats were allowed to go free on their own recognizance, but the Count and Holzkopf were detained.
While they maintained their intimate friendship during their internment in Camp Andrew Jackson, they parted company upon their release. The jester drifted west until he reached Hollywood where he became Leslie Howard’s least favored assistant. Rudolpho settled in south Florida and became a dance instructor. (It is said that he taught Buddy Ebsen a Rumanian form of the cha-cha.) He took in cats and gave them orders in his most commanding tones. When they ignored him completely he would be overcome by a wave of nostalgia and regret.
Rudolpho died in 1952 in Homestead, Florida. He expired on the floor of his apartment with a bullet through his heart. Witnesses stated that he was seen standing on his balcony making obscene gestures with one hand raised before him. He wore nothing but a gaping bathrobe. An outraged woman with two young girls in tow pulled a .45 from her purse and shot him. Rudolpho remained conscious for a few minutes as he lay face down in an expanding pool of blood, and assumed that the enthusiastic applause of the crowd below his balcony was for him. He was sadly mistaken: the shot had been taken from thirty-five feet away, and his assassin was admired by her fellow Homesteaders for the precision of her aim.
He was buried in a pauper’s grave still wearing his bloodied bathrobe with golden squirrels rampant. He was mourned by two out of seven of his cats. His assailant, Mrs. Ruby Dukes Carter, was charged with involuntary manslaughter, but was released by an attorney general sympathetic with her cause.
When attempts were made to contact Countess Glupi it was discovered that she had entered a nunnery shortly after her husband’s disappearance in 1916. She became a teacher in a missionary school in the Belgian Congo. A Latin lesson she gave by the banks of the Ulutango River in 1923 was cut short by a crocodile irritated by the sound of her conjugations. Her sacrifice is honored by her school to this day. Every year on the day marking her death the children are given chocolate crocodiles and scrolls of paper written with the legend, “Amor fati.”