Prey allow me to make your humble aquaintance. I am a coxcomb. The jester’s livery. The Jupiter of Jollity and Mercury of Mirth. My one function: to beautify and orbit the radiance of King Lear, and dwell in the  eternal eclipse of his Deified orbit. Before my trampling, that is. You see, my master grew with Lear, and by careful observance made himself indispensable to the monarch. Over time, I grew from a leather cap to my current pronged form: grew two bells and a protrusion apiece for Lear’s offspring. A sideways Westward horn for Gonerill, his glorious first born. An Eastward to match for Regan, blessed as double-securer of his future line. A rising Northerly Unicorn’s horn for Cordelia, whom my master adored with every fibre of his soul. The jewel of his crown. I loved her more.  Three pairs of bells: one pair for each daughter. Two were death knells. The third, the closest to God, the tinkling harbinger of an angel.

There is naught more sad than unclaimed coxcomb. Abandoned, as I am. Headless ( by which I mean I lack a head to wear me, not suffer decapitation, so fear not). Though somebody did rob my master’s head from me, and violently at that. Some cudgel struck his head, and rent my fabric. I recall sailing to the ground, and the sound of his heels dragged away. Whatever happened to him, his voice was cut short, and my life with it. I now reside on the greasy  cart of a rag-picker, my royal livery a banner for my current master’s witless catcalls. He is the salvager of grubby dregs- a sweaty peddler of fringes. Tis insufferable to dwell on such a barren, empty drum of a head. For I have felt such wit in my time that was the very genius of spontenaety. My true and only master was Lear’s fool. Such a mind! He was aflame with intellect. He followed my master through mead, madnes and mire, only to vanish. He was bright, though cut short. A meteor. 

Poor Lear. I remember the beginning, middle and end of that tragic sovereign’s reign. As I do my master’s. Still, both were merry enough before their harrowing final days. It only unravelled when he rent his crown. List me, and I will tell how my !master won the King’s favour. Now it takes a fervent madman to spot mirth and lunacy in another, and my master was raised by the barely  sane. Whelped then abandoned in the kitchens of the royal castle he was raised on scraps, and his first listened words were uttered by  the lady servants of the castle, suckling him as if he was their own. He watched. Listened to the desires of men and women. Learned to read laughter like lines in the palm. He had no tutor but the human voice, and  became a spit-boy by the flames. A thankless task, and one that fixed his soon-scorched face in to a rictus: helpful for a purveyor of jokes, I suppose. The heat baked his intellect.

 To escape the flames he would rest all night beneath the banquet table, shielded by the linen folds of tablecloths. There he would gather his material, snatching gossip and scraps of dropped food to sustain him. He slumbered beneath young Lear’s legs, and grew to love the King as a youth. He mimicked his humour, aped his phrases. Thus he knew his loves and loathing, and when Lear one day bellowed ‘Will no fool entertain me? ‘ he sprang forth, as if from the very loins of his majesty. ‘Twas as if he had come thence from thin air’, crowed his highness, and a partnership was born. A partnership not put asunder for decades, until the vicious decline of the monarch’s mind. Ah, how sad for my master at the end. No mirth to give, save at his sovereign’s expense. No council listened to, because he was a fool. Telling jokes,  even  though blinded by his own salty tears as the words left his painted lips. 

© Tom Tide 2016


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