It was the year 1894 and I was travelling the transcontinental railroad to visit my uncle whom had sent me a very desperate plea for assistance etched onto what I believe to be a shaved beaver tail but later turned out to be that of a platypus.
You see my Uncle built small rowboats with paintings of kittens on the side and had a fantastical notion to bolster his business by selling a fleet of them to a visiting celebrity, the Sultan of Mamluk.
Naturally I thought this was a terrible idea because everyone knew that the Sultan was more of a horse person than a kitten person but we often humoured my uncle in his hair brained schemes because we all knew that he was a certified loon due to lead poisoning from an all tomato diet recommended to him by a plague doctor to cure him of his scurvy. The tomatoes themselves weren’t exactly filled with lead but he insisted on eating all of his meals off a novelty Mickey Mouse commemorative plate that just happened to be made of pewter.
The day finally came to parade his kitten rowboat fleet before the Sultan and I was in attendance dressed in my most resplendent of finery. (My slacks were the back half of a two person horse costume and my jacket the top half an astronaut’s space suit. My cowboy hat was Mauve in colour and sat at a jaunty angle upon the helmet.)
My Uncle had gone all out for the presentation commissioning several elephants, some juggling mimes, two bearded ladies and a wrestling dwarf that dressed up as Hulk Hogan to entertain the children. The joke did seem to be somewhat lost on them being that Hulk Hogan was yet to be born putting the dwarf about two hundred years before his prime but we were assured the children would get the joke eventually.
The Sultan was incredibly impressed with the display and purchased eighteen dozen vessels from my Uncle and paid handsomely with fruit the size of jewels. Small fruit being particularly valuable at the time due to the market being flooded with GMO strawberries and such.
My Uncle gripped me by the shoulder and pressed his nose to the glass of my astronaut helmet and said, “This is it Timmy, breath it all in. Know that if you take a risk and it pays off, you’ll be set for the rest of your life.” I didn’t have the heart to tell him that my name wasn’t Timmy, plus I was holding my breath at the time as I had passed wind inside my costume and it was pooling in the helmet.
After several weeks of tireless work my Uncle passed away inside one of the rowboats. His hands had been reduced to bloody stumps because he insisted on using his own calloused palms to personally sand down each and every boat to add that authentic touch.
We later found out at his funeral that the Sultan of Mamluk had been killed along with his empire by Muhammad Ali in 1811 and the fruits that we had been paid with were actually painted jewels.
I never trusted another Sultan again after that day.