The Day of the Party (a children's story)

     A short time ago in a land not far away, there lived a good king.
     The people of the land knew of their king, of course, and of the wonderful job he did serving their country.  However, very few could say what he looked like.  Even the tabloid photographers couldn’t get a good picture of him.
     This was because he spent so much time faithfully working behind the scenes to make his kingdom a happy place, and also because he was aware of the fact that he was only an average-looking king.  Therefore, he didn’t feel the need to make many public appearances.
     But the time came when he decided to throw a party for his people. 
     “We’ve had a wonderful year to be thankful for,” he said.  “And we must welcome in the new one as well!”
     So he reserved the regional sports arena (he picked a day when there were no games or concerts scheduled, and paid a fee to the corporate sponsor), and he sent out announcements to everyone by way of the World Wide Web.
     He sent a few by regular mail, too, for his friends who weren’t caught up with technology – and because he knew that some people still like a good old-fashioned letter or postcard.
     When the day of the party came, all of his servants were busy making things ready.  So he decided to go and run a few last-minute errands by himself.  He put on a pair of his favorite blue jeans, a sweatshirt, and his running shoes.  “These are very comfortable for walking around town,” he said to himself.  And he didn’t wear his crown, because he thought, “Gold is so flashy.  It attracts too much attention.  Besides, I might set it down somewhere and forget it, like I did that one time at the bowling alley back in ’97.”
     And so he went out, looking even more average than usual.  First he went to a local flower shop.  “I want to wear a flower to the big party,” he said to the saleswoman, as he pointed to the one he liked.  “I like the rose with those tiny white flowers around it.” 
     The lady at the counter looked him up and down.  Then she turned up her nose and replied, “those aren’t just any average ‘white flowers’, you know.  They are a special variety of gypsophilia.  And I’m saving those ones just in case any very important people need them for tonight.”
     This made the king unhappy.  But he said to himself, “Oh well… I can still get my balloons!”  So he walked down the street to another store, where balloons were sold (and where the proprietor was making a brisk profit, for helium gas was scarce in the land at that time).  A little girl and her mother were just arriving at the store, too.  “You may go ahead of me,” said the king.
     The girl said to the man at the counter, “Could I have that one, to take to the big party?”  And she pointed to a large red balloon.
     But the man snickered and said, “This is going to be a King’s party.  The king wouldn't care about balloons, silly girl!  And even if he did, I’m sure he wouldn’t choose an average red latex one that might irritate someone’s allergies.  He’d surely want the most expensive gold MylarTM balloons.”  And then the girl began to cry.  Her mother took her hand, and they left.
     The king, who had a soft spot for children, nearly started to cry too.  But instead he went to the counter, and asked to buy the red balloon.  Then he ran after the girl and her mother (he had his running shoes on, remember?), and said, “I’m sure the king would truly like this balloon very much.”  The girl looked up as he gave it to her.  “My mommy said that man has spent too much time around his inflator,” she said earnestly.  The king grinned.  And her mother said, “Thank you for your kindness, sir.”
     The king said, “You’re welcome.”  He took a moment to catch his breath after his run – thinking to himself that he needed to do more interval training – and then he started off to visit one last shop.  He went to a store where fancy dresses were sold, and picked out an especially pretty one.  “My wife would look lovely in this,” he said as he held it up to admire it.
     But a young woman who stood nearby overheard him.  She looked over, and when she saw the dress in his hands, she exclaimed, “No!  That dress is not meant for just any average person.  I must have that dress.  Maybe the king has sons.  They will surely fall in love with me if they see me wearing such a fine dress!”  And she yanked it away from him so forcefully that there was a slight tearing sound.  Then she rushed off with it, mumbling something about discounts for defective merchandise.
     So the king started walking back to the palace, with nothing to show for all of his troubles.  As he passed a street vendor, who sold delicious nitrite-free hot dogs and warm low-sodium pretzels and other wonderful things, he slipped and fell (it was New Year’s, if you recall, and the streets were icy).
     The vendor ran over and helped him up.  The king was now somewhat dirty, and he had bumped his head, too.  The vendor said in a friendly tone, “Hey, buddy!  You look like you could use a cup of hot chocolate with all-natural pure cane sugar!”  And he gave him one for free.
     The king replied, “Thank you very much, kind sir!”  And he drank it right down.  Then he headed for the palace with his empty cup (for there was no garbage receptacle nearby, and he didn’t want to litter), and with his dirty clothes on, and with a bump beginning to show on his head.
     When the king got to the palace door, the guard on duty didn’t recognize him.  He had been hired through a temp agency as extra help for the week.  And he said to the king, “Who are you?  Why are you holding that cup out at me?  What are you, some average beggar?!  We can’t have people hanging around the Royal Home looking like that!  And on the day of the party, no less!”  And before the king could answer, the guard slammed the door, stubbing the king’s toe in the process.
     So he hobbled around to the palace’s service entrance, which was in the alley in the back.  He stood by the big blue dumpster and rang the buzzer.
     One of the cooks opened the door.  “Oh, you poor guy!” he cried, as he beheld the hapless looking and unrecognizable king before him.  And he led him into the kitchen, offered him a chair, and gave him a pre-packaged cold compress for his head, all the while calling out, “Hey!  HEY!!  Will somebody get the poor delivery guy a bottle of spring water or a cup of fair trade coffee or a refreshing can of soda pop or one of those newfangled energy drinks or SOMETHING?!
     The queen was there, too.  She had once been a school lunch cook, so she was helping with the kitchen work and making sure that all of the meat was cooked to 165 degrees, as required by State Health Code.  When she heard all the fuss, she looked over, and exclaimed, “Oh, no!  Phil-Bert!”  For that was his name.
     When the servants realized it was the king, they were shocked, and a bit nervous.  But he simply smiled and said to them, “Dinner smells fantastic.  Thanks for the ice.”  And he went upstairs to prepare for the party.
     He came to his room and shuffled through his royal clothes.  He picked out an old but well-cared-for red tunic that he had worn when he played the lute in a garage band as a teenager, and a pair of nice linen breeches.  “I’m so glad I followed my nutritionist’s 10-week diet plan,” he exclaimed.  “Now I can fit into my size 32’s again!”
     When the king and queen came to the party, their arrival was announced over the arena’s P.A. system, and they were shown on the jumbo screen as they were ushered to their table in the center of the floor.  Much to the king’s surprise, on one side of their table sat the flower lady and the balloon man.  On the other side sat the temp guard and the young woman in the pretty dress (which would have looked much better on the humble queen).  They considered themselves to be far superior to the average citizens, and had insisted on being seated with the royal couple.
     When they recognized him, all four gasped at once, and their loud gasping caused many people at the nearby tables to look in their direction – not to mention the fact that they were on full display on the jumbo screen as well.
     And in front of everyone, the king told those people to go work in the kitchen, and he invited the kitchen staff (who had labored diligently) to come out and join the party.  And the little girl, her mother, the street vendor, and the caring cook were invited to sit with the king and queen as special guests.  The king tied the big red balloon to the centerpiece, and it floated merrily above their table.
     After the large crowd had enjoyed the all-you-care-to-eat dinner, the people who had been mean to King Phil-Bert were made to wash the dishes.  The pots and pans had to be thoroughly scrubbed with fine-grade steel wool and a foodservice-approved cleansing agent, and all of the silverware had to go through the sanitizing machine thrice, as required by State Health Code.  That took some time.
     But the good people of the land danced to music played by a local live band.  King Phil-Bert even went up and jammed on a couple of tunes.  His playing was far above average.
     And if you search the World Wide Web, you may even find MP3 files of the songs they played.  If you do, by the king’s decree you are hereby granted permission to download them, without fear of copyright infringement.
The End
(Matthew 25:40, 45; Hebrews 13:2)