King for a Day
The whole country watched the television and held their breath. People at work or who were driving just listened to the radio, but they still held their breath. The first King for a Day was about to be announced.
The problem had been that no one cared about politics anymore. In the last few elections, the only people who voted were the poll workers since they had to be there anyway. The government had to fix the problem, so they announced that anyone who voted would be put in a lottery to become the King for a Day.
It didn’t matter that the country was a democracy. It was pretty obvious that the president couldn’t get anything done in a year, let alone in a day, so in a surprisingly popular move, the country would now become an absolute monarchy for one day each year.
What made it even more surprisingly that this law had passed was that all the politicians absolutely hated it. It was the only thing they agreed on. They hated it so much that they kept trying to put it into new laws the other side proposed so that everyone would vote against them. But one time everyone forgot the King-for-a-Day amendment was there and it slipped into law.
Since the voting age had recently been reduced to six years old, almost the whole country was eligible, especially after the 99% turnout for the last election. Some people tried to keep children from being eligible for the King for a Day but when the League of Preteen Voters held a mass tantrum for three days, the politicians relented.
The president stood in front of a swimming pool filled with 250 million pieces of paper, each with a voter’s name on it. Since computers could be hacked, this seemed the only fair way. The plan was for him to dive into the pool and grab a piece of paper.
First, he warmed up, doing stretches and breathing deeply. Then he climbed onto the diving board and made a speech. The whole country groaned and several million yelled at their TVs (or radios) for him to hurry up.
Finally, the president stopped talking. He bounced a few times, then jumped into the pool, tucking his legs under him in a cannonball. There was a scream as he got several dozen papercuts on the way down but when the presidential crane pulled him out moments later, he was waving a piece of paper and smiling. Medics rushed over to bandage up the papercuts and then he walked back to the microphone.
“And the King for a Day this year is Amber Verne, aged 10,” the president said. Somewhere in the northwest of the country, there was a scream of delight, although no one heard it except for the other children in Amber Verne’s fifth grade class. Her teacher tried to shush her but then remembered she was soon going to be royalty.
Amber Verne’s 24-hour reign was scheduled for the next week. Since no one had actually thought the law was going to pass, the language was not very clear. Some people insisted she would be Princess for a Day or at least Queen for a Day, but the words in the law were very clear. Amber was going to be king. The capital city quickly prepared for the coronation. They built a small castle next to the presidential palace to give her somewhere to live. The coronation started at midnight and was over by 12:15am. They didn’t want to waste all day on it when time was limited.
“Now, Amber,” the Secretary of State said. “We’re going to be your royal advisors today. You tell us what you want, and we’ll get it done. The only rule is you can’t use nuclear weapons, okay?” Many people thought there should have been more restrictions, but this was the only one that had been in the original law.
“Hmm,” Amber said.
“Do you want a nation-wide tea party, maybe go visit the beach? Do you want to ride in a fighter jet?”
“I want you to ban spinach,” Amber said at last. “In the whole country.”
“Is that all?”
Amber nodded. “For now.”
Feeling like it definitely could have been worse, the advisors got on the phone. Amber fell asleep on the throne and by the time she woke up at 8:00am, spinach had been seized from all the grocery stores in the country. By 9:00am, the Air Force was carpeting bombing spinach farms. Gone was the slow bickering of democracy: in its place was the ruthless efficiency of a monarchy in a hurry.
By the time Amber had her lunch in the castle (a gold-plated cheeseburger), the news was showing pictures of destitute spinach farmers and bombed out spinach canning factories. The town of Elmo, spinach capital of the country, looked like a zombie apocalypse with shocked residents wandering the streets. Amber gave all the farmers a billion dollars and made them strawberry farmers. She commanded that from then on, the town of Elmo would be the cotton candy capital of the country, and then gave all the residents a billion dollars each, just for good measure.
By 2:00pm, a massive black market in spinach had sprang up. The leaves were going for $50/ounce (precooked). The police started doing random searches and stopping cars. Squads of spinach-sniffing dogs, who had been absolutely useless up to that point, were now used to track smugglers and confiscate their goods.
The real problems came around 4:30pm when Amber banned asparagus. Vegetable farmers all over the country rose up in anger seeing that it was just a matter of time before they could be banned and destroyed too. Most of the former-spinach-farmers-turned-billionaire-strawberry-farmers stood with the King for a Day but a few used their new wealth to buy weapons for the vegetable farmers. Fruit farmers stood with the government since they liked Amber’s stance on sweet things. Grain farmers stayed on the sidelines, seeing how things would develop. Animals farmers were too busy milking cows and feeding chickens to pay attention.
The First Vegetable War started about 7:00pm when a squad of celery farmers attacked a local farmer’s market and were beaten back by waves of watermelon farmers supported by the Marines. Peace was declared around 9:45pm but then the Second Vegetable War broke out an hour later when Amber said turnips were gross and set off the fighting again. The battles were still raging at midnight.
The president called a halt to the fighting. In the last few hours, the government had written, debated and passed the Status Quo Act. It didn’t get rid of the King for a Day but it stated that everything would go back to normal the day after. Spinach and asparagus were unbanned and the town of Elmo was rebuilt. All the former spinach farmers lost their billion dollars and their strawberries. Sheepish troops replanted their farms the next day.
All in all, the King for a Day experiment was thought to be a great success. People all over the country started planning for the next year and always fantasizing about what they would do if they were chosen King for a Day.