It had been an exhausting three weeks for King Robert the Conniver. But as the sovereign of Beacon Hill’s shadowy kingdom, the king — who had once been known simply as Speaker Bob DeLeo — knew what was required of him.
He had to duck, dodge, deflect, and dissemble until the weekend arrived. No, it wasn’t dignified, but something far more important than dignity was at stake here:
The Great Pay Heist of 2017.
Pay, of course, was always foremost on the minds of King Robert and his court. His penultimate royal predecessor, Thomas the Brash, had arranged for the loyal retinue of lawmakers to receive an automatic raise whenever the private-sector serfs got one, but as the king saw things, that was naught but a widow’s mite. This year, it had been a paltry 3.96 percent. Why did anyone work in that strange land, his Highness wondered?
The Great Pay Heist, by comparison, would be a gluttonous pig-out, a feast of the sort seldom seen on Beacon Hill any longer. Why, he himself would get a $45,000 raise, a hike of more than 45 percent! The mere thought of what that would do for his Royal Pension had the king salivating like one of Prince Pavlov’s dogs.
Things had gone sneakily smooth from that moment when he had paid a surprise Friday afternoon visit to Charles the Rectitudinous and broached the pay-hike idea. Yes, the governor had ultimately cast a veto, but it had come more as a falling twig than as a lightning bolt from on high.
And now, King Robert and his Royal House followers had overriden that lightly cast veto, as had the Royal Senate! Thank the Lord for the distracting antics of Mad King Donald in Washington, and the upcoming festival of the football in Houston, mused the king. Why, his distracted subjects hardly seemed to realize that a pay hike originally touted at less than $1 million had swollen to the size of a corn-fed steer and was now a whopping $18 million. The big reason? The king and his counselors had devised a scheme to wrap judicial pay into the package, making it far harder for citizens to block at the ballot.
Still, King Robert knew things could still go wrong. He had seen it happen before, with other legislative leaders and past pay hikes. Like Indiana Jones, those brave men had navigated their way through all the perils and pitfalls of the booby-trapped temple, and pocketed the golden idol. And then, suddenly, something had happened, and they had found themselves desperately trying to outrun a giant boulder and fleeing from the angry locals amidst a hail of poison darts and arrows.
And without the sacred pay-gold! The very thought made King Robert shudder.
The key, everyone knew, was to keep things quick and quiet.
Everyone, that is, but Prince Stanley the Pious Process Pretender, overseer of the Senate and the king’s junior partner in the pay heist. He had actually tried to offer a rationale for the hushed-up, hurried-up way it was transpiring. That had not gone well. In fact, it had inspired much mirth among the scribes. The king was glad that he, at least, had internalized that most vital lesson from his royal forbears, men like William the Petty Potentate and Salvatore the Sticky-Fingered, recently returned from an extended stay in a faraway dungeon. That is, when one has things wired, take the vote, bang the gavel, and be done.
Times might change, the king concluded, but the old ways really were the best ways.