KING ARTIE AND THE MYSTIC KNIGHTS OF THE ROUND ROCK
I wasn’t named King because I was born Arthur Robinson. Nah, I just happen to be a born leader. I’m what my sister, when she’s not in one of her moods, calls a “Natural” and she ought to know because she’s in show business; taking tickets down at the Round Rock Cinema Eight. My sister, Robin, is fourteen-years old to my nine-years so sometimes I listen to what she says even though a lot of the time I have to watch her lips because her braces mess up her mouth so bad. She’s always going on about dad buying those “invisible braces” but both mom and dad have told her very loudly that “money doesn’t grow on trees” and besides, if they talked to me about it, they would be better off looking into maybe a mask and a wig. I’m just sayin’…
Being a natural born leader and kind of smart, too; I surrounded myself with brave knights, all stout and true, just like the knights in the book Mrs. Kincaid gave us for summer reading: King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Okay, maybe not. My knights are not quite stout but Sir Kenny is pretty tubby and he’d better give some serious thinking into maybe laying off the Butterfingers before he gets that “obesity” thing they’re always talking about on TV. It doesn’t help that he’s getting some serious cash for his allowance and he’s waddling distance to Round Rock Donuts.
Anyhow, in addition to Tubby…I mean Sir Kenny; I’ve surrounded my kingdom with two other nine-year-old knights, Sir Kyle and Sir Jorge—both steadfast and true. Well, Kyle is kind of nerdy and skinny, with a lot of work that needs to be done on that stout business, and Jorge is normal and Hispanic—which means his parents are from Mexico but I tease him that he’s called Hispanic ‘cuz he always forgets to take his Ritalin and he’s always in His Panic. Anyhow, they are steadfast. When we all took the blood oath upon the sacred Round Rock we all touched swords and pledged to defend the kingdom from dragons, defend the weak (like that snot-nosed kid who always loses his shoe), and save any damsels-in-distress.
The sacred Round Rock of course is the round rock that gave Round Rock, Texas it’s name. It sits smack-dab in the middle of the creek that runs through Memorial Park and a lot of people get kind of confused why it’s called the “Round Rock” because it’s not all-that-round. The rock looks more like a big cupcake that God came down and sat His majestic butt on and squished the whole thing half-flat. It’s a good thing he didn’t squish it all the way flat or we would have ended up naming our club the Mystic Knights of the Round Pancake. I’m just sayin’…
As soon as school let out for the summer we discovered there was a shortage of dragons and damsels-in-distress so we spend a lot of our time jousting and practice-fighting with our mighty swords. Well—the mighty swords are the George Lucas-approved Star Wars light-sabers that Kyle’s dad picked up at the Dollar Tree but you can give somebody a wicked rug-burn if you whack him hard enough. All of my knights have the puke-green plastic version but being as I am King Artie I’ve got the deluxe model; the one with the two “AA” batteries so it glows in the dark. I, of course, named it Excalibur. I don’t use it in the “on” way too much because it jiggles when I’m running and the light flickers on and off. With the glasses I have to wear all the time Sir Kyle says I look like a June bug when that happens so I’m thinking of making him a squire or a vassal or something if he doesn’t close his big yap.
Being as I’m pretty smart, I set our meetings at the sacred Rock at about 8:00pm so it’s not so doggone hot and there’s not as many people in the park to bug us. You’d be surprised how many people don’t respect the boundary of the kingdom—as if our noise and fierce jousting is going to scare away those crappy little minnows in the creek. It’s ridiculous! You’d have to catch about a bazillion of them just to get one good fish-stick.
Anyhow, all was well and good in the kingdom, and the King was mightily pleased until one Saturday when I noticed Sir Kenny was down-in-the-dumps about something.
I rode my trusty steed, a sumac branch, over to the gloomy knight; who was sharing a bag of Cheetos with my other minions on the sacred Rock.
“Hail Sir Knight!” I said, because that’s how they talked back then, “What vexes thee?”
Sir Kyle, the one who’s almost as smart as me said, “Ah, Kenny has his shorts in a wad because the Big Fat Idiot has been teasing him about his weight again.” Sir Kenny just looked at his feet, a wide orange Cheetos ring around his lips.
Ah crap. The Big-Fat-Idiot is Brockman: the twelve-year old that hangs out in the park almost as much as we do, riding his skateboard and puffing on ciggies he stole from his mom’s purse while she was passed out from too many of her “iced teas”. Brockman is anything but fat, but he is big and a bully and an idiot and everybody knows that when an idiot gets it into his head to torture some kid that’s smaller than him—well, only something like a brain transplant or a good stay in Juvie Hall is going to knock it out of him.
I said, “Don’t worry about it, Sir Knight…just stayeth out of his way and ignore him.”
Kenny’s double chin was jiggling and I was hoping he didn’t start blubbering. He said, “Wha…wha…what’s his problem? I never did anything to him. He caught me over by the drinking fountain and pushed me out of the way…real hard! He said I didn’t need a drink; he said I needed Liko-suction.”
I said, “You mean liposuction. You don’t need liposuction; you just need to give up Quarter-Pounders.” Kenney’s eyebrows made a “V”.
Kyle said, “Ya know what Brockman needs? You know what you need to do? You need to give him a swift kick in the nuts!”
Ah Christ. That’s Kyle’s solution to everything. “A swift kick in the nuts”.
“I’m serious, man.” Kyle said, “My old man told me that if you’re ever in any serious trouble, you just kick him in the nuts. You could be up against an elephant and one serious kick in the nuts will get you out of anything.” Satisfied, Kyle folded his arms and leaned back against the sacred Rock as if he’d just created Nintendo.
I don’t know if Kyle or his old man has seriously thought about just how high you have to kick just to reach an elephant’s nuts but the whole idea made me giggle. Sir Jorge, who doesn’t like to think about that sort of thing or step on anyone’s toes, surprised me by saying to Kenny, “You should have told him to go ‘filibuster’ himself.”
Kyle took one hand and scrubbed his face. “Jeez! I told you Jorge—‘filibuster’ is not a swear word! I looked it up. No…no, I did better than that. I asked my mom and she says it’s not a swear word at all.”
I said, “He’s right. It means to talk and talk forever without really saying anything just to get your way.”
“Jesus Christ,” said Kenny, “I do that every filibuster day of the week.”
Mrs. Kincaid, when she handed out the summer reading assignment, said that the tale of King Arthur would teach us things like honor and commitment and show us how people used to live before they had X-box and microwave pizza and all the stuff worth really living for. A summer reading assignment is really a joke anyway because it’s not for sure we’re going to have Mrs. Kincaid next year and besides, she’s been promising for a long time to have that “nervous breakdown” and have herself committed. Come to think of it, maybe that’s what she meant: honor and being committed.
Anyhow, I’m only halfway through the book (way ahead of Kyle) but I took King Arthur as an example on how to treat those lowly wretches far below you and tried to mellow Kenny out about Brockman and it seemed to work. Kyle and Jorge took a big chill-pill, Kenny listened to my advice, and nobody got their nuts kicked in. The summer had only begun but everything seemed to be going smoothly in my kingdom. That is, until Big Fat Idiot Brockman did the one thing I cannot stand still for.
He messed with the royal ducks.
Another thing the book talks about is the knights always have to test their “mettle”. I thought the writer had spelled it wrong and it should have been spelled m-e-t-a-l but he spelled it right and the computer says it means always having to put up with stuff that’s a pain in the butt. Little did I know that Brockman screwing with the ducks was going to “test my mettle”.
Brockman has a habit of hanging at the far end of the park because that’s where the road comes in and that gives him the max amount of asphalt to make his runs. So, Brockman’s at one end of the park and we Kings and Knights are at the other end and the ducks are in the creek right in-between us. If I stand on top of the sacred Rock I can just see Brockman as he makes his skate run. Usually if I see him I start hoping that he’ll try the double-skip and fall on his ass. We had just started our Friday night meeting and I was in my usual place, holding Excalibur up high and standing on top of the Rock. I was kind of distracted because Jorge had started wearing his mother’s scarf around his neck (the one with a stupid gold peacock) like a cape but I gazed off into the distance to see if I could see Brockman and he wasn’t there. Oh good! I thought: maybe the little twerp caught that virus that’s eating all the people in Africa and even now he’s lying in bed, out of his mind, trying to eat his skateboard because his brain has turn to mush. I had just gotten around to explaining to Sir Kenny why icky girls can’t be part of the Mystic Knights when I saw Brockman off in the distance—but not all the way in the distance.
The stupid cigarette stealing, skateboard riding, people-pushing, can’t-be-bothered-with-throwing-trash-in–the-basket moron was in the middle of the park, next to the creek-side, throwing rocks at my ducks!
Without thinking I jumped down off of the Rock, sending up a small splatter of water from the creek, and took off running for the big tree that Brockman was using for shade while he bombed the royal ducks; Huey, Louie, and Dewey. I skidded to a stop; all three knights almost plowing into me and almost knocking me into the creek.
“Cease and desist Sir Brock!” I said, trying to get my glasses on straight, “Leave-eth those ducks alone!”
Brockman, who looks about twelve-feet two, curled up his lip like Elvis and said real-snotty-like, “Buzz off, four eyes. Who died and made you boss?” and threw a rock at Dewey. He hadn’t hit a duck yet and Dewey, not being too bright, tried to bite at the splash the rock made thinking the rock was a tasty potato chip or a piece of bread like people usually throw.
Man, I’m in a tough spot! I looked around and wouldn’t you know it? Not an adult in sight. Sir Jorge was trying to unknot his mother’s peacock cape just in case we got into a fight and the other knights were looking around just in case their dads called them in for the night.
I said, “These ducks are park property, man. What’d they ever do to you?” I made the mistake of tapping him on his big-dumb-geek shoulder with Excalibur and he turned towards me.
“Why don’t you…” He grabbed my royal Stevie Ray Vaughn t-shirt, “…and the other fairies take a long walk off a short pier.” And with that he gave me a big push and I tripped over my flip-flops and landed on my ass in the grass.
I jumped back up and Brockman just sneered at me, leaning into my face and daring me to say anything.
He said, “You and your girlfriends here look like a bunch of babies. What do ya think about that?”
Thinking quickly I said, “Me think-est thou breath-eth stink-eth.”
Uh oh. I could see the Big-Fat-Idiot’s hand clutching into a fist and his face was getting red, making that pimple on his nose look like Mount Vesuvius about to explode. Gross.
Kenny’s lower lip was starting to jiggle and Sir Kyle and Sir Jorge were looking close to crying and I had seen them in a fight before and even if it was with just their sisters, it wasn’t a pretty sight. Brockman was edging closer and I could feel his hot, stolen-cigarette breath on my royal face. Jesus! The kingdom is in jeopardy, there’s injustice about the land, and everybody is looking at me. What do I do? What do I Do?
I kicked him in the nuts.
I thought I heard breaking glass and the dumb idiot fell over like a sack of potatoes. He lay on the grass, holding himself and I could tell he wasn’t getting up any time soon.
Jorge, pushing back his peacock cape said, “Jesus, Artie…!”
All my cool sayings had dropped out of my head “Verily…” I said, “Methinks it is time to haul our butts back to yon sacred Rock!”
I mounted my trusty steed, headed for the Rock followed by all three knights and spent the last few minutes of daylight eating Cheetos and watching the Big-Fat-Idiot hobble his way home. I thought everything was fine and dandy till the idiot’s father showed up at our apartment to let us know how much he didn’t appreciate having to listen to his kid boo-hoo through Jeopardy. My dad and Mr. Brockman worked out a deal where I would stay at my end of the park and Brockman’s kid would hang out in the parking lot so he could skate and both my dad and Mr. Brockman said they’d have a beer at Partners sometime.
Even though none of us have read the book all the way through, Mrs. Kincaid was right: we had learned something about honor and getting committed. The honor of the Mystic Knights of the Round Rock had been saved, the royal ducks were safe and able to go back to mooching bits of donuts from people (Sir Kenny did too), and I certainly learned about that word “committed”. I looked it up on Google and now I know that I committed 100% of myself to that one swift kick in the nuts.
The kingdom endures, Excalibur rules the land, and justice reign-eth forever.
Or at least till school starts.