BUTTLOAD by Caleb Echterling

The king’s chief of staff flipped the display numbers. The occupants of the blandest room in the kingdom clutched their flimsy tickets, and sucked in a collective breath. Trumpets flared, and a crier bellowed, “Petition the King Day, now serving A377.”

A group of well-dressed, barefoot gentlemen rose to their feet. “That’s us, move aside,” they said as they elbowed through the crowd into the throne room. “Your majesty, we are representatives of the Cloth-Sellers Guild. Look!” They each thrust one bare foot into the air. “We all have different sized feet.”

King Rupert stroked his beard. “I’m afraid the absolute powers of the monarchy do not extend to ordering my subjects’ feet to grow. If you wish, I could take a page from Solomon and trim the excess from the biggest ones, although I do not see what that would accomplish.”

Guild members hopped about on one foot to let King Rupert take in the true scale of the difficulty before him. “Sire, perhaps we should explain the problem in more detail. You see, we sell our wares by the foot, which we measure by removing our shoes. Some of our less scrupulous competitors are hiring short-appendaged apprentices to cheat the public. Our guild is getting a bad reputation.”

King Rupert nodded. “What you require is a standard measure. The one perfect foot, so that all across the kingdom, there is no question what is meant by ‘a foot’. I, of course, nominate my own foot. Clerk, make it so.”

Workers scurried to the throne, built a form around Rupert’s foot, and took a plaster cast. Copies of the cast were distributed to the Cloth-Sellers’ Guild, and sent to each corner of the kingdom. Guild members showered praise on the king, and rained kisses upon his royal appendages.

Trumpets flared, and a crier bellowed, “Petition the King Day, now serving D183.”

A group of gentlemen with pants around their ankles entered the throne room. “Your majesty, our butts are all different sizes.”

King Rupert covered his eyes. A wince rolled through the royal court like the wave at a football match. “If it’s any consolation, they are all equally hairy.”

“A thousand pardons, your majesty. Allow me to explain. We are from the Banana-Sellers Guild. According to local custom, our wares are sold by the buttload. A few unscrupulous banana sellers are hiring small-bottomed apprentices to swindle the public. We ask the royal court to order all small-bottomed purveyors of the banana trade put to death immediately.” The Banana-Sellers Guild, as if executing a choreographed dance number after hours of practice, all scratched their respective right cheeks.

“What’s wrong with selling bananas by the hogshead?” a royal courtier asked.

A representative of the Banana-Sellers Guild swished his hand about. “Hogsheads? We live in a modern, cosmopolitan kingdom, not some ignorant backwater. Now please kill all the banana merchants with small butts.”

King Rupert thumped the floor with his mace. The room fell silent. “If I may interject, what you need is a standardized measure. The one perfect butt, so that across the length and breadth of my kingdom, there is no confusion about the quantity conveyed by ‘a buttload’. I, of course, nominate my own butt.”

Workers scurried to the throne, built a larger frame, and submerged King Rupert’s hindquarters into wet plaster. The cast of the royal butt was, with much fanfare, distributed to all corners of the kingdom.

Trumpets flared, and a crier called the next number. A group cupping piles of excrement in their hands entered the throne room. “Your majesty, we are the Useless Junk Merchants, and our poops are all different sizes. It’s complete chaos. No one knows how big a crapload is.”

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