Jubilee by Shannon Sweetnam

It was still dark when the chauffeur drove them from their plantation to the airport. The King and Queen were on their way to the other side of the country for their annual August get-away. They rode past ostrich farms, cotton fields, farm houses and silos silhouetted against the night sky. Then the whole of Main Street appeared on the horizon, a trickle of light nosing its way out the Piggly Wiggly.

When the King and Queen had first married, there had been great hope in their jurisdiction. Yet, before long, the marriage began to fail. The King and Queen’s affairs were no longer secret. Even those citizens having their own affairs felt horribly wronged.

By mid-morning, they arrived at Lighthouse Point, with its cold, rocky beach and wind-worn cottages. The Queen set shop at the beachside bar, downing frozen margaritas, her mind on the birthmark high up Jimena’s thigh. The King, slumped on the stool beside her, hummed a popular country tune. He was tired of being King and all the properness the position required. He wanted to raise hell in the bars come weekends, enter catfish eating contests, go to rodeos and Monster truck shows, walk around shirtless and beer fisted whooping it up. All the Queen wanted was Jimena.

The little Prince woke soon after his parents’ departure and stood by the window waiting for the chauffeur to return from the airport. There was a school picnic at the beach that morning, and the Prince was eager to go. “Hurry! Everyone is waiting for me,” the Prince shouted when the chauffeur pulled up the long shell drive. He burst out of the house, deck shoes in hand. “Ain’t it a perfect day!” he shouted, as he dove into the car. “Hurry,” he urged the chauffer. “Faster!” The royal car broke to a gallop on the smooth road, gathering so much energy that it became airborne for seconds at a time. The car flew through the turn for the picnic and stumbled over the grassy lawn of card tables and peopled hammocks toward the bay’s sandy edge, where it splashed its way into deeper and deeper waters. “Faster!” the Prince cried, the warm water sloshing around him. “Àndale! Àndale!”

The picnic-goers raced, barefoot, to the beach, gazing out over the water until the car could no longer be seen. The fish began a revolution, what the locals would call a jubilee, angrily, fiercely, swiftly, as the tide wrung itself free of water. The shrimp, the crabs, and all the various fishes that lived in the bay hurried to the shallow edges of the inlet and threw themselves up upon the burning sand. I am sorry to report that the young Prince drowned. As for the chauffeur, he swam until he reached the Mexican border. As for the King and Queen, they buried their son in the intolerable heat of summer and lived unhappily ever after.

Shannon Sweetnam is a Chicago-based fiction writer whose stories have appeared in Cleaver Magazine, Crab Orchard Review, Dominion Review, Georgetown Review, Literal Latte, The Pinch, Terrain.org: A Journal of the Built + Natural Environments, and NANO Fiction. She is winner of the 2010 Jack Dyer Fiction Prize and two Illinois Arts Council grants.

Asked what word, English or otherwise, would she say seems to lift off the page, she replied, “Anything you’d find in a decent bakery, especially when written in its native language–macaron, mille fueille, tarte de pomme, tiramisu, croissant chocolat.”

ArtPriscilla Boatwright is an illustrator and writer working in San Antonio. She is fascinated with myth, magic, and the connections between cultural identity and art. Priscilla received her BFA in illustration at the Rhode Island School of Design. See more of her artwork at http://cargocollective.com/boatart.

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