Contemporary Funny

The building was rundown with cracks in the stone and wilted plants drooping from the windowsills. It was a real shamble of a mess to look at, but to Ketu, it was home. The apartments were barely big enough for two bedrooms, and those living on the top floor have to fight constant leaks from the roof. Those living on the bottom floor had to constantly nag the always absent landlord over the mold in the walls. For those living in-between, they had to deal with ants or roaches. And don’t get Ketu started on the converted basement. But to Ketu, it was paradise. It was the place Ketu called home since his parents brought him home from the hospital when he was only three days old. The town of Zahra was built based on the notion of 'the haves and the have nots.' This was evident by the fact that the town was literally divided by a stone bridge. Those fortunate enough to have been born into wealth lived on what residents called the Upper Side and often boasted about living at the base of the hill where the royal family lived in their castle. The Upper Siders looked down on those like Ketu, but he didn’t care. He’d rather be part of the community known as the Down Side than be part of the self-serving upper class that cared more about how much money they had and what trends the royal family was doing that day than they did the well-being of others. Ketu didn’t care much for the royal family, but even his own family seemed to gossip about the latest royal news, such as what affair the king was having, where Prince Ekehart was partying, and who made the queen's gown. It was all rather trite and pompous to him, but other Down Siders couldn't get enough of the gossip. 

Ketu never understood how people could be so flippant with their money and their privileges. His parents barely had a nickel to their names, but they always kept food on the table and ensured that Ketu and his siblings received everything they genuinely needed. There were nights when he was a child that they had to go without heat and air-conditioning and days where they went without electricity, but he never went a day without knowing he was loved. Aysha and Balan Charul immigrated to Zahra for a chance at a better future for their family and worked tirelessly to ensure that Ketu and his siblings had every opportunity that they never had. His maternal grandmother and uncle lived across the hall in their own small apartment, while his paternal grandparents lived across the street in an apartment over their small cafe. His paternal aunt married someone from the Upper Side, and they haven't seen her since except for the occasional photo boasting about her wealthy life and the accomplishments of her two children, Tejal and Tiya. His three siblings Esha, Jayesh, and Zeehan were a constant revolving door that came in and out of their childhood home. 

His scruffy dog Roop greeted him at the door with a tail wag and a whine. He found her a year ago shivering in an alley after being soaked from the rain. Though he was lucky if his money was enough towards rent, food, and other bills, he refused to leave her there. Walking into the apartment, Roop trailed behind him, pawing at his leg until he had no choice but to pause for petting. His sister, Esha, was stretched out on the couch. She had recently moved back home for the third time in the last six months. Her stints at home typically ran about a week or two before she moved to a new place that she wouldn't be at for more than a few weeks. She had a copy of Royal Lineage magazine opened on her lap. The magazine was a gossip rag that kept the folk of Zahra up-to-date on everything related to the royal family, such as Prince Eckhart's crowning and the continued feud between the royal siblings over the next in line for the throne. The throne wouldn't be inherited by the eldest but be based on the outcome of a competition between the generation next in line. 

“How can you stand reading that? It's not like it features insight into war with West Sin or the royals' plans. It's just Prince Eckhart was out drunk at a party, King Aldrich was seen with another woman, Prince Orson’s new wife painted the nursery a different shade of purple than last week, and one of the princesses was caught speed racing down Fifth Avenue.” Ketu pushes Esha’s feet off the couch and plopped down next to her. Roop hops onto his lap. 

“What else is there to do?” Esha asks, hugging the magazine to her chest and out of his sight. “It’s not like we have money to do anything else.” 

“Maybe we don’t need any,” his cousin Ryka calls as she enters through the front door. “Two words: Club Royal.” 

“One word: expensive,” Ketu declines.

“Three words: I have a plan.” His cousin smiles with a mischievous gleam in her eyes.


Club Royal was located at the edge of the Upper Side and was too expensive for anyone from the Down Side to enter. The club had a gritty offshoot underneath the building that held easy access. Ketu was often dragged to the underground club. He found it loud and too bright. He could see the flashing blue, orange, and violet lights reflecting off the walls. The bouncer at the underground door was for show. They kept up appearances with an interchanging system of bouncers that tended to drink more than the club goers. Ketu could see the current bouncer, Thiago, blocking the door to the underground. He had broad shoulders, tattooed arms, and dark hair pulled back. Ketu hung at the back of the line with Esha, Ryka, Ryka's girlfriend Vera, and Vera’s brother Vyn. Ryka had an arm firmly around Vera’s waist as they huddled together to keep warm in the crisp air. 

Ketu could see the line to Club Royal overhead. He spent the last thirty minutes convincing Ryka that her "brilliant" idea would end badly. His cousin had the insane idea that they could pass him off as Prince Eckhart and slip into Club Royal. Ketu was certain they'd get caught and imprisoned before anyone believed he was the prince. The next few seconds felt surreal as Ryka dragged the group from the underground club line to the Club Royal line above. Ketu thought over every way this was going to go wrong as they grew closer to the bouncer. The bouncers at Club Royal were not only serious about their job, but they were entirely sober. He barely got the words out, "I'm Prince Eckhart," before the bouncer let them into the club. 

"I told you all we needed was to get your hair perfect," Ryka whispered as they took their first step into the club. He still couldn't see the similarities between himself and the prince, despite the insistence of his cousin. The club was less packed than the underground club but was far more elegant in style and tone. It was brightly lit with round tables with cloths over them and crystal vases full of flowers. They were seated at a booth facing the stage where a woman in a sparkling gown was singing. The first hour went by rather slow, but after the third drink, he was enjoying the music and the atmosphere. He even found himself at peace with this whole lie. By the third hour, Ketu was sure they were about to be carted off when one of the waiters approached them.

"Your usual suite at Haven Inn is ready." The waiter hands him a key card. Ketu was about to protest when Esha nudges him with her elbow. 

"Thank you. This will do." Ketu waves the waiter off then turns to his friends. "We are not going to the royal suite."

"We can at least take a peak?" Esha suggests. Despite his protesting, Ketu soon found himself standing in front of the door leading to the royal suite. 


If someone had told Ketu a day ago that he would be living it up in the most luxurious suite in the most expensive hotel in Zahra, he would have called them a liar. He also never would have imagined he would masquerade as the prince. The entrance to the hotel suite led into a hallway that had three doors that led to the second bedroom, the kitchen, and into the dining room straight ahead. The second bedroom was smaller but had its own bed, bathroom, and double doors that led onto a quaint balcony. Large windows adorned the wall revealing the stretch of the city outside with double doors that led out onto the balcony. From this view, the town was breathtaking. It made Ketu forget that he wasn’t from one of the poorest places in all of the country. He could even see the hill where the castle was and the towers that protruded over the treetops. If this is how Prince Eckhart lived every day, maybe there was something to the whole royalty thing. 

The first set of double doors off the dining room went onto the balcony, with the room part of an open floor plan that led to the living room and held another set of double doors that led to the balcony. Another hall went off from the living room and led to the master bedroom and bathroom. The bed was king-sized and faced the direction of the door. The wall to the left held windows that overlooked the city and a fireplace in the corner. Ketu and his friends decided to live out the lie for just a few more hours before returning home. Ryka and Vera decided to take advantage of a romantic date done in style with fine dining, fancy wear, and dancing down in the ballroom. Esha was taking advantage of the room service and the bar scene downstairs. Vyn was enjoying the shower, fluffy robes, and TV with hundreds of channels. Ketu felt out of place and couldn't shake the anxiety that he was about to get caught any second. But it felt nice seeing how the other side lives, even for just a few hours. It was a few hours later that it all came crashing down.

It was in the moment where they were each at peace in this lap of luxury. Esha was halfway through a carton of cherries and vanilla ice cream, Ryka and Vera were cooking in the kitchen with a gourmet dinner, and Vyn was scrolling channels on the big screen TV. Ketu was still enjoying the quiet solace that the balcony provided when the door was slammed in, and royal guards swarmed into the room, ushering each of Ketu’s friends into the living room. He briefly considered running, but his only option was to go over the balcony - and onto the pavement several stories down. Surrendering and pleading his case was the only option. He could only hope that his friends would be let off with a warning. He doubted that he would get the same treatment, given that he was the one actually impersonating the prince. Ketu had a vivid image of the dungeon that he would be thrown into as he was escorted out of the hotel. 

The royal car had a spacious backseat - or at least it would be if he wasn’t wedged between two burly guards - and an eerily quiet driver. When the driver veered the car down a path that led into the woods, Ketu had another thought. Maybe he wouldn’t end up in the dungeon at all. Maybe this is where they take him far out and then bury him six feet down. Ketu didn’t expect to see a manor at the end of the path. The manor was covered in ivy and vines with the royal flag waving from the tower. It looked like a petite version of the castle with an elegant walkway leading through an overgrown and half-dead garden. Stone steps that led up to the patio had weeds growing through the cracks.

Ketu is led into the manor and brought before the king and queen. He prepares to grovel for at least the assurance of his friends' lives. "I apologize for any trouble," Ketu began as the king held up a hand. 

"We just want to know how you learned the truth," the king said.

"What truth?" Ketu looked between the royal couple and took a moment to look for any way out of the manor.

The queen took a step forward, hands clasped over her stomach. She stops within a few feet of him. "That you are the real Prince Eckhart."

August 20, 2021 02:36

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