“It’s not me, it’s the piggy bank!” - Kristina Chetcuti
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“It’s not me, it’s the piggy bank!” - Kristina Chetcuti

Once upon a time in a faraway land, there lived a little boy called Jo. He lived in a small cottage with his mother and father in a small village in the outskirts of the kingdom. This little boy Jo looked like a little cherub with golden curly hair and blue eyes, and he was truly the apple of his parents’ eyes. Because he looked so cute, this little boy Jo could do no wrong and he was all the time praised.

Of course, like all the other little children in the kingdom, he was sometimes a bit naughty. One day while playing in the garden he picked up a saw and started sawing the trunk of a young apple tree. How delightful this was! Soon enough the thin tree trunk wobbled and crashed to the floor, lifeless. Oh no, he said to himself, mummy is not going to be pleased at all.

“Little Boy Jo, what happened?!”

His mummy came rushing in the room. Immediately Jo stood tall and proclaimed. “It was not me! It was the elf under tree! Naughty tree elf!”

“Oh,” said mummy, “Isn’t my little sweetness such a clever crafty clogs!” Then she turned to the tree and pointed her fingers at it and said loudly: “You naughty elf-under-the-tree! Don’t do that to Little Jo.”

Jo grinned.

From that time on, whenever he disobeyed the rules, it was forever the fault of the troll, the goblin, the ogre, the moving furniture, and of course the elf under the tree.

Some years later Jo started going to the village school. There he made friends with another boy called Till Gate. This boy Till would devise devious plans to get the other children’s sweets, and Jo would cover up for him; then they would split the spoils. 

Whenever they nearly got caught, it was never their fault. “It was not me,” Jo always said, frowning ever so slightly. “It was the elf/the ogre/the troll”. As they grew older he grew bolder in his defence. “It was not me, why don’t you ask that other random boy over there, he was playing here as well?” And most times they got away with it.

The boys grew into men and for a while, they parted ways. Till worked for his father, who cut trees to make parchment, and Jo joined The Wizard, one of the kingdom’s newspapers – his job there was to spin tales.

One sudden day, the King died. As he had no heirs it was decided that the people of the kingdom would choose the best villager for the job. Jo was quite intrigued by the idea.

Whenever they nearly got caught, it was never their fault

It so happened that on that very day, he bumped into his old friend Till, who was having a drink with a friend of his Hearne Ville, and they were also thinking the same thing. Jo joined their discussion and soon enough they came up with a plan to push Jo for King.

“But you know what?” said Jo at one point. “When you’re king you have to spend a lot of the tax money collected for the kingdom’s needs – this won’t make us rich at all.”

Leave it up to me, said Till. He had already devised a cunning plan. He told them how he had a friend, someone known as Black, who had this idea of building a ‘Cloud Factory’ to create and pump out clouds because clouds bring rain.

“Oh, but we have enough clouds, it rains enough already,” said Jo, puzzled.

“Obviously,” said Till. “But we will convince the people that we’ll have a draught without it. Every month we’ll send the King’s money collector round all the households to collect money for Black’s cloud factory. We’ll ask the people to give double the amount that Black really needs. Black will then put that money in a secret piggy bank hidden in vaults in another kingdom. I will have my own piggy bank there as well, and so will Hearne here, and Black will put the extra money into our piggies. Like that when we’re no longer ruling the kingdom, we will have treasure chests of money. Muwahaha!”

The three men spent the whole night chatting and plotting and fine tuning their cunning plan. The next day, they went in the square and convinced people that Jo would be the best King that the kingdom could ever have. Jo was crowned King, Till became his Royal vizier and Hearne was made a Baron. And the Cloud Factory was built.

For a while King Jo was much loved by most of the people, especially the poor workers who always ran to greet him and wave at him whenever he passed by in his carriage. He smiled and waved back and told them how lucky they were that they lived in a kingdom where they had the Cloud Factory. “It’s true!” they replied although in their hearts they had misgivings especially as King Jo kept chopping off trees everywhere.

One fine day, a woman overheard the four men talk about the secret piggy banks. “Hey, that’s not fair,” she said. “The King and his men are stealing from us!”

At first no one wanted to believe her. But then The Enchanted Times newspaper discovered the enormous secret piggy banks full of gold coins, in the vaults of the kingdom next to them.

The people got angry and ran to the King’s castle with their pitchforks. But the King stayed inside.  After many, many days, the King came out, stood tall, and frowning ever so slightly, proclaimed: “What do you want? It’s not me,” he said. “It’s the piggy bank! I’m stating a fact. Naughty piggy bank!”

The next day it was announced that the kingdom guards were to arrest and handcuff Till’s and Hearne’s piggy banks because they had been stealing from the people of the kingdom all along.

To be continued…

krischetcuti@gmail.com
Twitter: @krischetcuti

This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece

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