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May 20, 2005
Copyright © 2005 PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved. 

Once upon a time …

… there was a king who ruled an island paradise and his advisors were worried.

The king, it seems, suddenly started laughing and he couldn’t stop. He laughed all the time and nothing anybody did could silence his hilarity. Sometimes he laughed so hard that he could scarcely breathe. Often, when he laughed, tears would run down his cheeks as if he were crying. His eyes had become all red.

At times, the king laughed very loudly, so much so that his subjects, walking on the narrow streets near his palace, could hear the sound. People would ask each other, "Why is the king laughing?"

At other times, the king’s laughter was very soft, almost like a whine. When he laughed this way his shoulders would bounce up and down and he would fold his arms, bow his head and squeeze his chest in kind of a bear-hug, as if trying to make himself stop. But he couldn’t do it. He just kept on laughing.

The king laughed in the morning when his servants brought him huevos rancheros for breakfast — a dish that he loved. Often, after several bites, the laughing would begin and he would begin to choke. As the waiters removed uneaten food, they would talk among themselves, "If the king doesn’t eat more, he will surely die."

Many times, as the king met with his advisors, he would begin to chuckle uncontrollably, just as someone was saying something important. So as not to seem impolite, the speakers would just keep on talking until they had finished expressing their views. Later, they would ask each other, "Did I say something funny?"

The king even laughed in his sleep. As he dozed he would make little chortling sounds and then he would bolt upright in bed and begin to giggle. The queen became so angry that she told him that if he didn’t stop laughing at night, she was going to sleep in the children’s room. But he just continued laughing, which made her even more angry.

The court was surprised by the king’s new condition because, before the laughing started, he was wont to cry. Back then, everybody knew why he occasionally whimpered, because they, too, were aware of the powerful army that was organizing to topple the king. This army had powerful leaders and fierce fighters and they were assembling all kinds of weapons to assault the palace.

Back then, the king would ask his counselors, "How can I protect my throne from these jackals? How can we defend our kingdom?" When the advisors just scratched their heads and didn’t say anything, the king would begin to snivel and dab his eyes with a tissue. Any time a courtier would mention the evil force gathering strength outside the city, the king would begin to sob.

And then, one evening, he began to laugh.

Everybody remembered when it began. It was on a Sunday in springtime. After spending a pleasant afternoon in the royal garden with his children, the king was seen talking to a stranger. Nobody knew who he was or what he said to the king but everybody knew that, after speaking with this mysterious man, the king began laughing.

At first, everybody laughed with the king for fear of offending him, but they soon tired of the practice and just turned away in embarrassment. Finally, the royal retainers decided that they must find out what funny thing was said, otherwise, they thought, the king would go mad. So, one day, a delegation of wise men approached the king, with some trepidation because the king had a bad temper when annoyed.

When they approached the throne, the king was chuckling. After some hesitation, the group’s leader, a most respected subject and a friend of the king, finally spoke. "Your majesty, will you please tell us the joke?"

The king’s face turned red and began to swell out to take on the appearance of a ripe tomato and his lungs nearly burst from the quantity of air he drew into them. The delegates cowered in anticipation of a royal rebuke.

They watched in terror as the king’s lungs expelled one of the most grotesque explosions of laughter yet heard in the palace. It was a bellowing howl that gripped the king in the solar plexus, doubling him over like a jack knife. His convulsions of laughter caused him to collapse from the throne and left him writhing on the royal rug, quivering like a wounded animal.

After they had backed out of the throne room — still in shock from this image of their afflicted monarch — the advisors agreed on decisive action.

"We must find that man!"

And so the royal constabulary began to search every building in the kingdom to capture the man who had provoked the king’s laughter. Soon the man was found and was taken into a very scary room to face the king’s advisors.

"Are you a loyal subject of the king," he was asked.

"Yes sir, I am."

"Do you care about the health of the king?"

"Most assuredly, sir."

"Then you must tell us what you said to the king when you met him in the royal garden. Otherwise, he will die."

The man hesitated.

"But if you do not tell us, YOU will die."

So the man began to tell his story.

"The king engaged me to spy upon the army poised to bring him down. On that Sunday, I merely told him what I had seen."

"And what was that?"

"The opposing forces are in disarray. They are not organizing an attack on the king, they are fighting among themselves. Even their generals are trying to kill each other. When they march, it is in differing directions, their foot soldiers are confused, not knowing who to follow. They have no maps, no orders and no plan. That is what I told the king."

At first, there was silence in the room. Then, one of the advisors began to chuckle. Shortly thereafter, another’s laugh had the sound of a cackling chicken. Soon, the king’s advisors were slapping each other on the back and laughing uncontrollably. As they hurried from the room, leaving the confused spy alone in his witness chair, one of the king’s advisors was heard to shout, "Let us tell this story to everyone at the court so that we may forever laugh with the king."

This fanciful story still does not have an ending, but is offered to Herald readers as one that is likely to become one of Gov. Aníbal Acevedo Vilá’s favorite fairy tales. Since last Sunday’s convention of the New Progressive Party (NPP), it could keep him and other members of the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) laughing for a long while to come.

How do you think that the story will end? Do you think that the king will keep on laughing or do you think that the army will get organized and make the king cry once again?

Please vote above!

This Week's Question:

Do you think that the king will keep on laughing or do you think that the opposing army will get organized and make the king cry once again?

US . Residents
. PR
He will keep laughing

33% He will cry once again

15% I don’t like fairy tales



.To submit your idea for a future PR Herald poll question or "Hot Button" issue, please click here.

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