A PRINCE AND HIS PEOPLE, by Sam Allen
Once there was a prince who moved into a vast and urban city. He loved the city as much as he loved his heart. It was his heart and he wanted to be a part of it.
But his heart hurt because he had made a mistake. He forgot about the feelings of the people of his city, and denied their pain when they cried out for him to stop. Eventually, the people got angry. They said to the prince, "Why did you do this? What are you, a Prince, good for? Leave our city!" So he left but his heart hurt him. He felt bad for what he had done and wanted to make it right. Please forgive me, he said. I made a terrible mistake, and I won't do it ever again. After much fume and belching, the people let the prince come back.
He showered the people with tonic water and rose petals. Dressed as a pauper, he handed out pumpkins on the street. The old women and the angry men watched him, and waited for him to fail. The children brought him cupcakes. After some time he became known as the man with the tophat and pink tails.
His city grew and grew, and the children grew into adults. They remembered the pumpkins he gave their parents, and his sad story about terrible mistakes. They cared for each other and always apologized to their children. They also accepted them. He continued to give out pumpkins, and the people were happy and hugged him as they walked by. They brought him bright blue slickers to wear in the rain, and he donned them proudly. But from standing outside for so long, his skin grew dark and slick. His limbs grew creaky, and one day, they didn't move at all. In the morning, a little girl on her way to the Thai saloon looked up to meet his gaze, and maybe get a bottle of tonic water. But he had become a giant iron statue, frozen in a gesture of giving. She put the rose in the fingers of his outstretched hand, and donned him My Pumpkin Man. His heart was whole again, and he was their Prince.
~A Prince and His People, by Sam Allen
"This story comes out of a hellish six-month experience that I had in Portland, Oregon. I was an adult, but because the bullying was public and I felt myself partially to blame for the bullying (a common experience, I know), I didn't say anything. Bullying, threats, gossip, being called out in public, you name it. It's been 3 years and I still have flashbacks from those terrible sessions on the MAX. Nevertheless, I felt a deep attachment to Portland because I identify as queer, and PDX is full of queers. I just couldn't make it mine. If someone wants to do an illustration of this, I'm completely on board."