“What is next, people? Dragons? Wizards?”
There are very few ways to hold a placard in a municipal town centre and not look like a raving lunatic. Shouting that did not help.
“Excuse me, would you like to–”
“Fuck off, mate!”
It is a drab Saturday morning on the low saturation high street. It isn’t raining but everything is damp. Everything is upside down. The well-known high street chains were too lazy to remove their signs before fleeing to the out-of-town shopping centre. The charity/pound shops which replaced them didn’t have the money or the inclination to change the signs in the insane hope that shoppers will be tricked into thinking that JD Sports now sells used board games or that The Carphone Warehouse is selling fourteen-thousand washcloths for ninety-nine pence.
“Can I take a minute to–”
“Leave them alone! They’re good for the country!”
No they are not. Petitioner would love the opportunity to tell them. He has routines for every argument. The tourism debate and that they’re useful figureheads for international diplomacy and that their power is only symbolic. He would counter with the tax-payer expense and that they do, in fact, regularly interfere in the democratic process. To finish, he would say that, more than anything, it is just the sheer, blatant, undemocratic nature of hereditary power which should shame every single citizen of the twenty-first century. They always walk off, before he can say any of this.
“The Queen doesn’t have a magic vagina, people!” These outbursts don’t help Petitioner’s cause. “Her vagina is no different to yours!” The woman with the vagina pulls her child close as they pass.
“Still fighting the republican fight?” Homeless Steve approaches from around the former House of Fraiser turned local art space turned empty shell with an abandoned painting of a cat in it.. Homeless Steve is warming himself with a Costa coffee. “Any signatures yet?”
“Would you like to sign?”
Homeless Steve shakes his head. Again.
“Oh, do you not have an email address?”
“Fuck off! I’ve got more Twitter followers than you do!”
Homeless Steve sips his coffee, exhales the warmth. “I’m of the opinion that change cannot be achieved through performative nitpicking. We need large-scale collective action or nothing.”
Performative nitpicking? Change is a thousand small improvements. Petition, and it’s livelier brother Protest, are the only agents of change available. Performative nitpicking! What about the American football team formerly known as the Washington Redskins? What about golliwog dolls? You couldn’t buy a golliwog doll now if you tried (except for on the racist corners of the internet and in literally every single charity shop along this high street). Performative nitpicking is the vanguard of progress!
“Moreover, as an anti-capitalist, it doesn’t really concern me which head the snake has, it’s a snake all the same. Monarch. President. Infallible Glorious Leader. They’re all puppets of globalist neoliberal mega-corporations.” Homeless Steve digs in his pockets and pulls out some loose change. He offers it to Petitioner. “Here, go get yourself a coffee.”
This is a new low. Petitioner ignores the outheld shrapnel. Homeless Steve shrugs and heads off down the street. “I’m going to check in on Mad Gary. The end is nigh! Probably.”
A teenager blur capitalises on the Petitioner’s distraction and grabs his placard. The teenager runs away before stopping at a safe distance.
“She was the People’s Princess, you fucking knobhead!”
The teenager has clearly misunderstood the multifaceted meanings of Not My Princess. Not that Petitioner will have the opportunity to explain. The teenager places the placard at an angle against a waste bin. It takes them several attempts to destroy the placard, as it was better constructed than anticipated.
Petitioner stares at his clipboard. Zero signatures.
“Keep your chin up!” A man returns the shards of placard. Not M. Incess. “People don’t like to hear the truth.” The man takes the clipboard without prompting and signs his name. He writes his email address. @gmail. Not a throwaway hotmail account! TruthSeeker84@gmail.com. TruthSeeker84 returns the clipboard and pats him on the shoulder. “We’ll get the reptile bastards one day!”
Jesus H. F. Christ!
Petitioner drops the clipboard. His legs are weak. He turns and rests his face on the cold glass of the restaurant window. His face slides down the glass, creating an unpleasant squeaking noise and a trail of saliva on the window. His eye is stretched open. Inside, he sees a child wearing a crown. The child in the crown notices Petitioner. He picks something up from the table and leaves the restaurant.
Petitioner is sitting on the floor, head in hands.
“What’s wrong?” The child in the crown is looking down at Petitioner.
“I can’t make them care.”
“Would you like a burger?”
Petitioner looks up. The child in the crown is holding a paper-wrapped burger. Petitioner takes the package and slowly unwraps it. “Why are you wearing a crown?”
“It’s my birthday. I’m ten years old.”
Petitioner remembers his tenth birthday. He can’t forget it. The sixth of September, nineteen ninety-seven. They took the packed train down to London. The funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales. Mum cried all day. Flowers. Teddy bears. No toys.
“What’s it for?” The child with the crown points at the petition.
Petitioner takes a bite of the burger. It is good. Salty and fatty and cheesey. “I want them to change the name.”
Petitioner swallows. “Burger Democratically Elected Head of State.”
Matthew Groeger is a British writer living in Vienna. His work lies somewhere in a Venn Diagram of literary fiction, speculative fiction, and pulp fiction. A failed comedian turned failing novelist, expect humour, social commentary, and self-deprecation in the third person. Matthew was recently shortlisted for Panel Magazine’s Ruritania prize and is seeking representation for his longer work. He is available on your social media of choice as @groegerwriting, provided that your social media of choice is Instagram or Twitter.