"YOUNG KING ARTHUR IN BROOKLYN"
by David M. Korn
Jester Books (2003) A novel for young adults.

Available through Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, or in a personally signed copy from the author.


Chapter Ten

“I think he’s asleep.”

“Then we should wake him up.”

“He looks dead.”

“He’s not dead. I can see him breathing.”

“He could just be passed out.”

“Whadaya mean, just?”

“Yeah, then we should probably call an ambulance.”

“Why’s he dressed like that?”

“Maybe he was going to a Halloween party.”

“It’s the middle of September, stupid.”

“Wake him up, Casey.”

“Yeah, you saw him first. Wake him up.”

“Okay, relax. Just stand back, so he doesn’t freak out.” Casey set the football on the ground and the small group of boys inched back a few steps. He knelt down beside Arthur, who was completely unconscious. “Hey, kid. Wake up.” Arthur didn’t move. His faced remained blank. Casey lightly placed his hand on Arthur’s shoulder and shook him. “Hey, you okay? Come on, wake up.”

“Hey, maybe he really is dead,” Kevin repeated.

“Let’s call the cops, just in case,” Sean said. He was Kevin’s younger brother, and he was always ready to call the cops.

“Shut up,” Casey said evenly. “We’re not callin’ anybody yet.” He shook him again, harder. “Hey! Wake up!” Casey shouted, giving it one last try.

Arthur stirred and groaned just loud enough to be heard.

“He’s comin’ around,” Casey told them, relieved. He wasn’t sure what he would’ve done otherwise. “Come on, kid! Get up!” He shook him again, almost as hard, leaving his hand there.

Arthur opened his eyes. There was a peculiar object by his face. It was large, brown and egg-shaped. He didn’t have any idea what it was. Then he realized that he didn’t have any idea where he was. Arthur raised his head, then turned over and tried to sit up. His head throbbed and he held it with both hands. “Oh, my head. What happened?”

“I think he’s okay,” Casey announced.

The air smelled strange, he realized. The conflagration of dense odors invading Arthur’s nose told him that he was far from home. He made a sour, disgusted face. Arthur inhaled, trying to qualify his impressions while searching for the familiar scent of the forest he knew.

Then Arthur remembered the Duke. “Merlin, what happened?” He looked around. There was no castle and no forest, only a small brick structure nestled among some bushes not far away. But he was in a huge clearing completely surrounded by enormous trees. “Where am I?”

“Y’all right?” Casey asked, getting a strange feeling about this kid.

Arthur noticed the group of boys staring down at him. They all seemed about his age. “Who’re you?” he asked Casey, who was closest to him. Casey was sandy haired and, except for his little round, silver-framed glasses, physically similar to Arthur.

“Who’re you?” Kevin, a big, ruddy-faced boy, demanded, as if that were the only sensible question. He stepped forward and snatched up the football. Kevin twirled it in his fleshy hands as he waited for a response.

Arthur’s attention was drawn by the strange brown ball. “What’s that?”

“What?” Casey asked him.

Arthur pointed at the ball in Kevin’s hands. “That.” He got up slowly, almost stumbling.

“Y’all right?”

“Yes. I just don’t know what happened to me.”

“You want us to call somebody? What’s your name?”

“Arthur.”

“I’m Casey. This is Kevin, Sean and Mickey.” He signaled over his shoulder with his thumb, but didn’t really indicate who was who.

“Hello,” Arthur replied absently while looking around. “Where are we? Is this another part of the forest?”

“The forest?” Kevin exclaimed. “This is Prospect Park.”

"Prospect Park,” Arthur repeated slowly. “I’m unfamiliar with that part of the country. And you speak strangely. What part of England is this?”

“England?!” Kevin looked astonished. “This is Brooklyn.

“Brooklyn?”

“Yeah, Brooklyn, New York. Where’d you think?” He held the football up in front of Arthur’s confused face. “And this is a football. Anything else you wanna know?” He shook his head. “What’s with this kid?”

“Shut up, idiot. Maybe he’s got amnesia.”

“Huh?”

“He coulda been hit on the head. Y’ever think of that?” Kevin didn’t know what to say, and just stared at Arthur.

“He knew his name,” Sean said in his defense.

“Yeah,” Kevin added defiantly.

“Can you remember where you live?” Casey asked gently.

“Yes, with Ector and my brother Kay. But I’ve spent most of my recent days with Merlin. Is he here, too?”

“Merlin,” Casey repeated. “You mean like Merlin the magician?”

Arthur’s face lit up. “You’ve heard of Merlin? Then I can’t be too far from the forest.”

“Now I’m sure we should call the cops,” Sean said. “This kid’s nuts.”

“Sean,” Casey scolded.

“He’s gotta be jokin’, Case,” Mickey commented. “Like it’s part of the costume.” Mickey was small and wiry, with sharp, dark features. When he spoke it was always out the left side of his mouth.

“Yeah, why’re you dressed like that?” Kevin asked. “You going’ to a party or something?”

“A party? I don’t understand you. I’m the new King of England. Since I pulled this sword from the stone in the forest. Have you not yet heard the news?”

“Oh, I get it,” Mickey cried. “He’s King Arthur, like in the story.”

“Yeah,” Kevin agreed.

“Yes, the story. Then you know of it.”

“Sure. He’s going to a party as King Arthur,” Mickey announced to the rest of them. “You’re really convincing. This is the best costume I ever seen.”

Casey said nothing. He just kept his eyes on Arthur. Somehow, he knew that he wasn’t kidding or playing or going to any costume party.

“But this is no costume. I am King, as decreed by the freeing of the sword, which no one could do but me.” Arthur had become indignant. He couldn’t stand not to be taken seriously again. “You too, doubt my right to the throne?! Well I shan’t be tolerant of this insolence any longer!” He stepped back and with one swift motion, pulled the sword from its sheath and brandished it before him.

The boys jumped back. “That thing looks real!” Kevin shouted.

“Take it easy,” Casey said gently, trying to calm him down. He could see that Arthur was deadly serious.

“I shall dispatch the next poor fool to suggest that I’m not the true King.”

“Relax. Put that down. No one’s saying... you’re not King Arthur.”

Arthur relented at the title. He’d never actually heard it before. “King Arthur,” he repeated to himself. He lowered the sword but kept both hands on it.

“Maybe this kid is nuts,” Mickey whispered. “We should call somebody, Case.”

“Don’t worry, it’s okay. You can trust us, Arthur. Okay?”

Arthur nodded firmly. “Agreed. Then we are all friends and allies.” He sheathed the sword and stepped forward to shake each of their hands. The boys didn’t have time to resist and complied without hesitation. But Kevin and Mickey smirked, and Sean had to suppress a laugh. Only Casey could look Arthur squarely in the face. He could see a gleam in Arthur’s eye indicating the sincerity of his every word.

“Now what did you call that object?” Arthur asked, reaching for the football. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“It’s a football,” Kevin told him again. “It’s for a game we were playing.”

“Ah.” Arthur took the ball and twirled it in his hands, gazing at it wondrously.

“What’re we gonna do with him, Case?” Mickey asked quietly. “There’s really something wrong with him.”

Casey turned so Arthur wouldn’t hear him. “It’s a fantasy world, ‘cause he can’t deal with reality.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know. He’s probably got a bad home life. Maybe his parents fight and he just couldn’t take it anymore.”

“Yeah, I’ll bet that’s it,” Sean said enthusiastically. “So what’re we gonna do?”

“Well, we sure can’t call the cops,” Casey declared. “They’ll just send him home.”

Casey watched him toss the football in the air at Kevin’s prompting. Despite Arthur’s sudden outburst, he’d never seen anyone who looked so harmless and helpless. “He’ll hafta come home with me, I guess.”

“For how long?”

“I don’t know. But if he’s run away from home, he’s gotta go somewhere.”

“Won’t your mom call the cops?” Mickey asked smartly.

Casey thought for a moment. “I’ll just tell ‘em he’s new in school. That oughta give us a few days.”

“A few days for what?”

“To find out who he is and where he lives.” Casey turned to Arthur, who was now having a catch with Kevin from a few feet away.

"That’s good,” Kevin commented. “But try to hold it like this.” He grasped the ball with his fingertips along the laces and tossed a perfect spiral into Arthur’s cradled arms.

“Why’s it called a football, if our feet have yet to touch it?”

“I dunno, Arthur. It just is.”

“Hey Arthur, we hafta go home now. You wanna come to my house for a while?”

“Well, I should really look for Merlin. But since I’m not familiar with this region, perhaps it best if I remain with the lot of you for the time being.”

“Great, let’s go.” Casey started walking towards the outskirts of the park, and Arthur and the other boys followed.

“Do you know just how far I am from England?”

“Far.”

“Too far to walk?”

Casey nodded. “No one can walk from Brooklyn to England. Not even King Arthur.”


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