Deadline: A Vignette

Scene 1: A young page runs into a palace courtyard shouting, “The Queen! The Queen! There’s been a terrible accident!” His voice carries through an open window, where a middle-aged man in elegant robes sits, writing. He turns his head, eyebrows furrowed, listening to the growing commotion outside. An abandoned pen spreads an inkstain on the parchment, as he hurries out of the room.

Scene 2: A few courtiers stand in a throne room. A woman twists a handkerchief. A man stares out a window. No one is talking. A door near the throne opens, and the king walks in, followed by the middle-aged man. The king stops. “Our Queen is dead,” the advisor announces. The woman starts to cry. The man at the window bows his head.

Scene 3: The king sits on the throne, now draped with black brocade. The advisor stands beside him. A man in elaborate robes faces the king, “It will be the most beautiful coffin, the most magnificent tomb that this kingdom has ever seen! The entire ministry of art will see to it!” The king nods. The minister bows with a sweep of his arm, turns and leaves the room. The king watches him leave, then turns to the advisor, “You will see to it?” The advisor’s head nods. The king leans back in his throne, eyes closed.

Scene 4: The minister stands in the courtyard, at the open doors of a huge workshop. Carts are carrying in slabs of pink granite, and thick, wide planks of dark wood. The advisor, standing at his study window, watches the carts roll in.

Scene 5: Inside the workshop, stonecutters are carving flowers and angels into slabs of white marble. Woodcarvers are carving designs in a light-colored wood. Partially carved pink granite and dark wood are piled in a corner. Two women holding bolts of satin fabric stand in front of the minister. He has a handful of each fabric, his head tilted to one side, lips pursed.

Scene 6: The advisor sits at his open window, a book open in his lap. The minister’s voice drifts up from the workshop, “This will not do! It must be perfect!” The advisor sighs, and closes the book.

Scene 7: The minister stands next to the doors of the workshop, facing the advisor.

“I told you, the coffin isn’t ready yet! It isn’t right. I have asked for a new design.”

“Minister, the coffin must be ready.”

“Yes, of course! Soon! And it will be magnificent!”

“The queen needs her coffin today, Minister. The corpse will begin to smell.”

The minister’s eyes widen. “Ah.”

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