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George Pollock

State Kid
Issue 15
The Day That Had to Come

“Wow,” said Joy, wide-eyed, as Mr. Caulfield and Billy took her on a tour of the castle
after a breakfast feast of flapjacks and eggs. “This is amazing. I've never seen anything
like this, not even in books. How could you build all this? How could anybody?”
“I came along just in time,” Billy said. “The project was going nowhere. I saved it.”
“Sure you did, Billy,” Mr. Caulfield said. “Sure you did -- and I'm King Arthur, too.”
Then, looking at Joy, he said, “The truth is he's been getting in my way in return for
mountains of food and exorbitant amounts of money. I've decided to fire the hapless
fellow.”
“I quit three times,” Billy said, “and each time he begs me to come back. I feel sorry for
him. It's pure charity work on my part.”
“I was wondering,” Joy said. “Is it possible to get a straight answer from either one of
you?”
“Not out of him,” Billy said.
“Not out of him,” Mr. Caulfield said.
“I think you're both loony tunes,” Joy said.
“He is,” Billy said. “He thinks he's a medieval lord.”
“Finally,” Mr. Caulfield said in mock exasperation, “the stable boy says something I can
agree with.”
“Show her your stupid outfit,” Billy said.
“I would be honored to do so, but only if her ladyship insists,” Mr. Caulfield said, making
a sweeping courtly bow to Joy.
“My Lord, the honor would surely be all mine,” Joy said, slapping her bosom and
slipping easily into character.
“Oh, no,” Billy said. “Here we go again.”
“With her ladyship's permission,” Mr. Caulfield said, again executing a flourishing
formal bow. “I'll retire now but will return presently in attire more suitable to our station.
He said “our” advertising a lordly sufferance in the presence of an inferior.
“What's with the fancy bow?” Billy asked. “This isn't the Middle Ages.”
“No? How do you know? Actually, the bow has a story behind it.”
“It does?” said Joy.
“Since you insist, My Lady,” Mr. Caulfield said, repeating the bow. “Note that my right
leg is forward and straight. The right thigh is flexed. The toes point toward your ladyship.
Like so.”
“Like this?” Billy said, executing the bow before Joy.
“Yes. Very good. Nice to see a stable boy trying to better himself. What you are doing
now is showing Joy that you have powerful thighs and are capable of wielding the
heaviest broadsword in battle. You're telling her you are very hot stuff. It was how
medieval knights strutted their stuff before the ladies.”
“Hey, that's neat,” Joy said. She looked at Billy. “Bow, stable boy, before a lady.”
Billy executed the knightly bow before Joy.
“Nice thighs,” she said.
They all laughed.
***
Mr. Caulfield went back into the little stone house while Billy and Joy continued their
tour of the castle. As they went from room to room, Billy told Joy Mr. Caulfield's story:
how he was the Caulfield in Caulfield Forest and Caulfield Industries; how his father had
disowned him; how he had lost his only son; how he had saved Billy in the forest; and the
equal-equal deal they had made.
“He's... er... different,” Joy said.
“You got that right. Except I can't figure out if it's good or bad.”
“Neither can I. What if he's weird, like boiling-kids-in-a-black-kettle weird?”
“I have to take my chances, don't I? My choice is rot in prison for sure or get boiled in
Mr. Caulfield's black pot, maybe. I'll take the maybe.”
Mr. Caulfield returned in mismatched military regalia from various nations and centuries.
Castle in the background, he strutted back and forth, a riot of plumes, clanking medals
and decorations, gold epaulettes and braids, outsized brass buckles and bandoleers, and
high black cavalry boots with spurs.
“You look ridiculous,” Billy said. “No one on earth ever looked as stupid as you look
right now.”
“Do you think so? Why, thank you, boy.”
“My Lord, methinks the stable boy forgets his place,” Joy said. “Shall I have him
whipped?”
“Oh, if only whipping could help. But I'm afraid the cur has a hat rack for a head.” At
which Mr.Caulfield took off his late-1800's British commodore's hat and pulled it down
over Billy's ears.
Mr. Caulfield suddenly froze. “Shhhh,” he said. “I heard something.”
“Oh, no,” Joy said. “I'm not falling for that again. What's behind me now, a dragon?”
“Shhhh, I'm not playing. We have visitors. Act naturally and follow me.”
Taking their time and continuing to talk, the three of them made their way back into the
castle. “The police,” Mr. Caulfield whispered. “Quickly, we have to get you two out of
here.” He led them down a narrow passageway that seemed to lead nowhere. At the end
of it, he pushed on the wall. It opened, revealing a dark passageway.
“A secret passage!” Billy said. “You never told me.”
“Every castle has to have a way out in case the walls are breached. This will take you to a
cave exactly a quarter of a mile away. It's pitch black so take each other's hand. When
you can go no farther, you're there. Push and a slab will give way. Wait for me there. Now
go -- go quickly.”
***
Outside, an invasion had begun. Cars screeched. Men shouted. There was the sound of
door-pounding and then a crash.
“They're in the house,” Mr. Caulfied said. “Go. I'll delay them.”
“No,” Billy said. “They want me. I'll talk to them. Joy will tell them the truth, won't you
Joy?”
“Yes, I will.”
“See, let's just walk out there and straighten out this whole mess. Hey, we're all innocent.
This is America. Being innocent counts.”
“Fine,” Mr. Caulfied said. “But for now just get where I told you and stay there. I'll see if
I can get rid of them. No sense giving up before you have to. I'll fix the door so you can
easily open it. Deal?”
“Deal,” Billy said.
Mr. Caulfield grabbed his commodore's hat off of Billy's head. “I look ridiculous, do I?
By whose standards? I believe you owe me an apology, young fellow.”
Billy thought: The police are swarming the place and this ... this character wants his
little hurt kissed. Billy said, “I apologize. Go get rid of them. You know, maybe you can
make them die laughing. OOPS ...sorry... sorry. I sincerely apologize.”
“I accept both apologies.”
Billy and Joy retreated to their hiding place. Mr. Caulfield grabbed a rifle, two revolvers,
and boxes of ammunition and rushed to the top of the castle. At the bottom of the slope to
the castle was a squadron of police cruisers and dozens of police officers bristling with
weaponry. He called out, pausing with each word, “Who ... comes ... here? Friend or
Foe?”
“We have signed warrants for Billy Stone,” said Captain O'Toole over a loudspeaker
while waving the warrants high in the air. “We know he's here. Let him come out and we
can all go home in peace.”
“Surrender? NEVER! It is Lord Caulfield of Caulfield Castle who speaks. Withdraw your
force in peace and I shall give you safe passage and bid all under your banner Godspeed.”
Captain O'Toole took off his cap and scratched his head. The other officers looked around
at each other as if to say, “What?”
Mr. Caulfield tugged at his commodore's hat and stepped out in the open at the highest
point of the castle where he was fully visible.
“Would you look at that?” officers whispered. “Are you seeing what I'm seeing?”
One officer took his glasses off, rubbed his eyes, and replaced the glasses; he still saw the
same incredible figure, who had now assumed an exaggerated martial stance with sword
thrust skyward. He was a living monument. Mr. Caulfield called out loudly: “Out of
compassion, I, Lord Caulfield, make a final offer of peace and life to all now
transgressing upon my sworn soil and holy hearth.”
There was not a sound -- quite a feat for a small army.
“So be it,” Mr. Caulfield said and retreated from sight. With a swing of his sword, he
slashed a restraining rope clean through and sent a massive boulder the size of a small
truck rolling down the steep slope. It picked up speed quickly and slammed into the stone
house, smashing through and collapsing part of the roof.
“Darn,” Mr. Caulfield said.
He slashed another rope. This time another boulder headed in the desired direction,
straight at Captain O'Toole's command vehicle.
Mr. Caulfield released a catapult which snapped violently forward, lobbing rocks into the
air in high, lazy arcs as disbelieving police stood paralyzed -- before diving for cover as
rocks crashed through windshields and clattered on cruiser hoods and just before the
second boulder slammed into Captain O'Toole's command car, crushing it and leaving it
flattened and hissing escaped radiator pressure and oozing engine fluids.
“Back! Back!” Captain O'Toole shouted.
“Ha! Ha!” Mr. Caulfield said. “Look at the cowards scattering like chickens.”
***
Billy rushed out of his hiding place. “What's happening? What's happening?” he said.
“Why are you here, you sad sight of a soldier at arms? Repair now as ordered. I gave the
cowards something to think about, that's all.”
A police loudspeaker blared: “BILLY STONE, BILLY STONE. WE KNOW YOU ARE
IN THERE. LAY DOWN YOUR WEAPONS AND COME OUT PEACEFULLY. YOU
WILL NOT BE HARMED. REPEAT, YOU WILL NOT BE HARMED.”
Mr. Caulfield grabbed a shotgun, poked it through a slit and pumped several rapid-fire
blasts. One hit a cruiser gas tank and the vehicle exploded in a furious fireball, raining
cruiser parts everywhere.
Billy grabbed the shotgun. “No! No! You'll get us killed. You'll ...”
He was drowned out by an explosion of police gunfire directed at the source of the
shotgun blasts. Billy pulled Mr. Caulfield to the floor and threw his body on him. Hands
to his ears against the earsplitting racket of gunfire and bullets raining upon the castle,
Billy shouted, “You idiot! You idiot!”
“You are being impertinent, not to mention insubordinate. Desist.”
“You're trying to get us killed! I'm stopping this.”
With bullets clattering and pinging, Billy pulled off his white tee-shirt and fastened it to
the end of the shotgun. He poked the shotgun out and waved it. The firing stopped.
“They want me,” Billy said. “We can't win this fight. Please, please. We're outnumbered.
It's suicide.”
“I refuse to surrender.”
“I refuse to die.”
“I can't surrender.”
“Okay. Let's fight,” Billy said, withdrawing the shotgun and yanking his tee-shirt off it.
He shoved the shotgun back out. “Let's take as many of them with us as we can. Let's die
like a couple of stupid heroes.”
Mr. Caulfied pulled the shotgun back in. “Okay, okay.”
Billy waved the flag of surrender above the wall. “We're coming out,” he yelled. “We're
coming out. We are not armed. We are not armed. We are coming out peacefully.”
“Hold your fire. Hold your fire,” Captain O'Toole ordered.
***
Billy threw the shotgun over the wall and the two walked out side- by- side with their
hands high in the air. By now, police reinforcements had arrived and police sharpshooters
had both in their crosshairs. “Man, look what happened to the house,” Billy said.
“My mistake,” Mr. Caulfield said. “You know I was worried about that one. I think the
boulder had a mind of its own. I think it knew its course and deliberately swerved from it.
A traitor in the face of the enemy, by God.”
“Nah, just stupid,” Billy said. “Doesn't know the good guys from the bad guys.”
Mr. Caulfield stopped. They were about half way between the castle and the police line,
right out in the open. Mr. Caulfield looked up to the sky. “Look at those clouds, Billy. So
white ... so pure ... so majestic ...looking down on everything with the assurance of
eternity. Magnificent.”
“Yes, the hand of God, for sure.”
Without warning, Mr. Caulfield shoved Billy to the ground. He took out his sword, raised
it high and stepped out smartly. The police looked confused. “Hold your fire,” Captain
O'Toole said.
“Quick-time!” Mr. Caulfield said. He went to a trot. He lowering his sword and pointed it
directly at the police line. “Cha-a-a-a-a-r-r-r-r-r-ge!” He broke into an old man's version
of a run.
“No! No!”
“Drop your weapon,” Captain O'Toole shouted into the loudspeaker. “Drop your
weapon.”
Mr. Caulfield charged forward, waving and urging on his imaginary followers. “Stoutly,
lads, stoutly!” A barrage of shots rang out and Mr.Caulfield toppled backwards. Billy ran
up and fell to his knees beside his bleeding body.
“No! No! Get an ambulance! Get an ambulance!”
“B-B-Billy,” Mr. Caulfield said, convulsing and coughing. “B-B-Billy.” Billy put his ear
to the quivering mouth. “I ... I ... apol... apol... apolo ...”
“Yes, yes, Mr. Caulfied. Don't talk. The ambulance is coming. You're going to be okay.
But I'm really annoyed at you ... really annoyed... you owe me a big apology.”
Mr. Caulfield let out a little puff of breath and went still.
An officer pulled Billy off the body and handcuffed his hands behind him and put him in
the back seat of a cruiser. As the cruiser pulled away, a blood-splattered Billy Stone
glimpsed the body of Mr. Caulfield sprawled in no-man's-land, with Caulfield Castle
rising magnificently in the background.
He burst into tears.