177 THE BALDING KING

Once upon a time there was a king who was growing bald.  At first he was not aware how fast he was losing his hair.  The Royal Barber was loathe to discuss the matter, as the last barber to have mentioned the subject had been exiled to Wales.

            "Taketh not much off the top," ordered the king.  It was a request the barber found easy to fulfill.

            One day as the wind whistled through the drafty castle corridors the king's pate felt particularly cool.  He entered the queen's boudoir and, using two mirrors, was stunned to discover a large hairless area at the back of his head.  As the months passed the bald spot seemed to grow more than did his hair.  Worse, the more he worried about losing his hair the more hair he seemed to lose.

            Montgomery the magician was summoned.  The magician supplied the king with a tonic, to be applied three times daily, which made the king's hair smell like rancid butter, which, truth be told, was what the tonic mostly was.  When Montgomery noted that the king's hair continued to fall out, he quickly repaired to the North Tower and put a large sign on the door, which read: "Beware: Contagious Plague."

            The following Sunday the court chaplain preached on the texts "Nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered" and "The very hairs of your head are numbered."  After the services the king remarked to the chaplain, "And methinks, every day it becometh an easier task for the Lord to count them."

            The king summoned the court physician Sir Sedley Hargrove.  "Is there nothing that can be done to stop the loss of my hair?  Soon shall I look like a tonsured monk," said the king. 

            "Mi'lord king, was not thy father without hirsute later in life," inquired the physician, "and his father also?"  The king nodded.  "T'would appear that calvus hirsutus runneth in the family."

            "Prithee, what be calvus hirsuticus?" asked the king.

            "Calvus hirsutus," corrected Sir Sedley.  "In lay terms it meaneth but that you are bald."

            The physician had used the ugly word.  So the king had his valet procure a wig, and many remarked how much they liked the king's look now that he had let his hair grow out.  The only problem was that he had to get a new horse, as the king's royal steed had fallen in love with his wig, and he could no longer go near the animal without its whinnying and neighing up a storm.

            MORAL: Stay in denial as long as you can.

                                                                                                1998 George J. Seidel