My buddy Joe and I are fathers and husbands and freaks, so when we heard our mate Rick was playing in the Four Pints Shy house band at the Renaissance Festival, we knew we had to carve out a Sunday to gather the tribe, smoke cigars, drink beer and return to a simpler time, when the only concerns of the day involved jousting, slaying dragons and worshipping fair maidens.
In short order, after confronting Death in the street and drinking with Sneaky Pete the pirate in the pub, we ended up at the King’s court, surrounded by the king and queen, their loyal subjects and about 100 other punters. Emboldened by the smoke and drink, I rose to my feet.
“Sire, I am but a lowly worm, indeed a knave, but I have a pressing issue that requires the court’s wisdom,” sayeth I, in my worst medieval Irish.
The king looked at me like I was an unplanned pregnancy. Swords clattered. Heads turned. Silence fell. Apparently improv is not part of the gala’s routine; I would be lying if I said I did not fear for my life.
“Permission to speak, Sire?”
“Sire, my friend Joe and I here love each other deeply and we come to you today for one thing.”
“If he is your lover, then kiss him for all to see,” said the king.
I pecked Joe on the cheek. Lo, the crowd did want more, so I planted a soft one on Joe’s bemused cigar-chomping lips. This seemed to satisfy the king’s prurience.
“Sire, may I continue?”
“Sire, if it pleases the court, Joe and I come to you today hoping for your blessing. There is nothing wrong or evil about our love. We want to be married, but will only do so upon your command.”
The king looked a wee bit nervous. Ye Olde Hot Button.
“My Lord, if it pleases thee. Does the court accept — nay, embrace — our love?”
The king looked at his subjects. The subjects looked at the king. Somewhere a few miles away, The Archdiocese of Minneapolis and St. Paul was preparing to unleash a mailing of 400,000 anti-gay marriage DVDs to Minnesota Catholic homes as a way of “stopping gay marriage in its tracks” before the November elections. Talk about evil. Talk about medieval.
“Kiss him!,” the king repeated, pandering and buying time. I girded my loins, puffed on my cigar, quaffed my ale and felt the memory-sting of incense in my nose from my days as a funeral-serving altar boy in the Catholic church.
“We are not trained monkeys, sire, with all due respect. No. We will not kiss upon anyone’s command but our own. If am being impudent, send me to the guillotine now. But before you do, we await your ruling. Does the king, in his infinite wisdom, sanction our love? Does this court acknowledge a legal union between two men or two women?”
The queen looked to her king.
“Forgive me, m’ lady,” I said, bowing. “I know you want to get on with the festivities.” The queen bowed back. After a moment of silence, the king made his decision.
“This court sanctions and welcomes all love!,” said the king, his words wafting out over the Western Minneapolis suburbs.
“The court welcomes all love!,” I repeated, and raised my chalice. The crowd responded with raised chalices and hefted a hearty three-round cheer of “Huzzah!” into the warm autumn air.
The next night, still feeling my ancient roots, I dialed up Hollywood’s latest version of “Robin Hood.” Most memorable line, from Lady Marion: “Father, I prefer my prayer to be in churches when they are emptied of people.”
Jim Walsh lives and grew up in East Harriet.