“Who is responsible for this mess?” roars Jack Tomlinson, editor-in-chief of The New York Times, chomping on his unlit cigarette so hard that it nearly splits in two.
He slaps down the April 1st issue of the paper onto his desk.
“That would be our Section Editor Ted Periwinkle,” says Bureau Chief Norman Atchinson. “He’s our best!” Norman turns and leaves.
“Perrywinkle, hmm,” Jack grumbles. He depresses his intercom and growls “Ted, this is Jack. I want you in my office now.”
“I am kind of tied up now, boss,” squeaks a voice. “How about after lunch?”
“Now!” roars Jack.
Several minutes pass, and still there’s no Perrywinkle. Jack lights his cigarette and puffs a smoke ring at one of the numerous awards and medallions hanging up on the wall of his office, including the most recent one for Editor of the Year.
Still no Perrywinkle.
Jack grumbles something then depresses his intercom again. “What’s taking you Perrywinkle? Are you there?”
“I’m kind of tied up boss, how about after…”
Jack‘s face turns crimson and an eruption is imminent, but then he recalls his high blood pressure and says in a softer voice “Would you be so kind as to drop by my office, Ted?"
“Sure thing, boss.”
Several minutes pass. No Perrywinkle.
Jack punches the intercom with a Tyson-like left hook.
Just then, the door swings open and Ted Perrywinkle shuffles in. He is holding a steaming cup of coffee.
“Put that coffee down, Ted,” says Jack with deliberate calmness.
“Yes, boss,” says Perrywinkle, placing the cup on Jack’s desk.
Jack considers Perrywinkle for a moment through the spiraling clouds of steam collecting over the coffee cup. Ted is a rather short man, with big shifty blue eyes and flaming red hair and a matching mustache.
“Good coffee?” enquires Jack.
“Well, actually not, now that you bring it up, boss. It lacks ambience and it coffee grounds are…”
“What’s the idea printing this story?” growls Jack, snatching the paper and displaying its bold headline about the Middle Ages. In doing so, he brushes the coffee cup, which wavers, but then rights itself.
“Oh that,” says Perrywinkle, beginning to chuckle and smile with mirth. “It was just a little April Fools’ Day joke that we concocted, boss. Ha ha (snort!). It’s all in good fun and…”
Jack glares at Perrywinkle, his face turning crimson. “This newspaper is a professional organization, and I, for one, will not tolerate your childish atrium games. After all,” he adds, gesturing toward his many awards and medallions, “we have a reputation to uphold.”
“Er, yes boss. I promise you it won’t happen again.“
“It had better not,” grumbles Jack. To his own surprise, he finds himself chuckling at the ridiculous headline.
Perrywinkle chuckles along with him.
“Go, do your job Perrywinkle,” says Jack, gesturing with his right arm and sending the coffee cup flying so that hot coffee spills all over his pants.
“Oh I think you need to change your pants,” says Perrywinkle.
Jack inhales deeply and says “Bring the cup.”
Ted retrieves his cup and turns to walk out.
As soon as the door is shut, Jack ponders Perrywinkle.
He is an insufferable twit, no doubt, but the general public love his stories and we need him, he thinks.
And, as far as Jack Tomlinson was concerned, that was the end of this little problem. Or so he thought…
One of the intercoms on Jack Tomlinson’s desk is blinking.
“Jack here,” he says, pressing the speaker while staring at the calendar on his desk on which today’s date, April 2nd, has been circled.
“Have we finished that story about the President’s trip to Brazil?”
“Not yet boss, but there’s something else you should know about.”
“What is it? Have aliens landed?” He laughs slightly.
“No boss, but some historical reenactors are blocking the entrance to this building.”
“Historical what? What are they reenacting?
“The Middle Ages sir.”
“They are wearing suits of armor and have swords and horses and things.”
“Well, call the police.”
“The police have already arrived. They are laughing at them and won’t arrest them.
“Hmph,” says Jack.
Three days later, the wailing of police sirens can be heard echoing down the busy streets of New York.
Jack, annoyed at the noise, stares out the window onto the street below and his mouth gapes! There, in little groups scattered around the sidewalks, are people scurrying around dressed up as serfs, knights and nobles, holding up traffic and making a nuisance of themselves.
The editor-in-chief puts a cigarette in his mouth, but struggles to light it, as his hands are shaking. He gives up and depresses his intercom.
“Perrywinkle, we have to talk.”
“I’m eating my lunch now and…”
“I’ll order pizzas for the whole staff, Ted, now please…”
“I couldn’t possibly eat pizza after the salad vegetarian lunch I just ordered, boss.”
“Very well!” screeches Jack. “I am coming to your desk, so don’t leave it unless your life depends on it.”
“Oh, I value my life very much,” says Perrywinkle.
Jack wipes his forehead and then strides out of his office. When he arrives at Ted’s work area, Jack notes that many staff members are watching TVs tuned to the local News Station, which is featuring a story about people wearing all sorts of medieval garb and clothing.
“Perrywinkle!” blurts Jack.
Ted is nibbling on a piece of cabbage, which he swallows noisily, and then says “Yes, boss?"
“Could you please explain to me what is going on?”
“I am having my lunch,” says Perrywinkle, grabbing a massive stalk of celery.
“I mean why are people dressing up like it’s the Middle Ages?” Jack asks, gesturing towards the TVs.
“Oh that,” says Perrywinkle, crunching the celery noisily. “It must be because of my article.”
Jack stares at Perrywinkle for a moment.
“Please tell me that this stupidity is only temporary,” grumbles Jack. “It’s beginning to get on my nerves.”
“Oh, I doubt that,” says Perrywinkle, between bites. “Things spread really quickly on social media, you know.”
“I want you to write a follow-up article, Ted, telling people to stop being bone headed morons and pretending it’s the Middle Ages.”
“Oh, that won’t work,” says Perrywinkle, scrunching a radish thoughtfully.
“Why not?” blurts Jack, folding his arms and staring at Perrywinkle.
“Have you ever taught children, sir?” Ted enquires.
“No, I haven’t.”
“Well, if you tell young children not to do something, I can guarantee it only encourages them to defy you.”
“You mean that there is nothing we can do to stop all this?”
“No, there isn't,” says Ted Perrywinkle.
Jack glances at the calendar, in which the date April 10th is highlighted, then glances out the window again. He could have sworn that he had heard horses earlier. Yet it is absurd. True, the New York police sometimes use horses.
It must be a parade or something, Jack surmises, as he turns aside the curtain to have a look. His mouth gapes open and he lets out a gasp! There, on the street, are hundreds of steeds, all decorated with embroidery and being ridden by knights in shining armor and being followed by a horde of people toting Medieval clothing and weapons.
Unaware that his face has lost most of it color, Jack storms out of his office and is greeted by the sight of all of his staff members gathered around the TV sets, their eyes glued to CNN News.
“What’s going on here?” roars Jack.
Jack glances at one of the TVs and feels his heart skip a beat.
The screen is filled with scenes from a bewildering array of locations spanning the globe; London, Paris, Rabat, Tokyo, Beijing, New York ,and many others. In each city, masses of people have gathered toting traditional medieval armor or clothing.
Ted is gazing at the TVs, a silly grin etched on his face.
“What are you smiling about?” roars Jack, approaching Perrwinkle's desk. “You think this is funny?”
“No,” says Ted. “Just mildly amusing. It will blow over.”
“Let’s hope so,” says Jack. “For your sake.”
“By the way,” says Ted. “Can you ride a horse?”
Jack doesn’t answer for a moment. “Er, no, why do ask?”
“This is outrageous!” screeches Jack Tomlinson, banging the latest edition of The New York Times on his desk.
“How so, boss?” asks Norman
“Just look at these lead stories!” Jack points at today’s lead headline: GOVERNMENTS BAFFLED OVER MEDIEVAL MADNESS. “And this!” he adds, pointing to another article titled: TEUTONIC KNIGHTS RETURN.
“It isn’t outrageous, boss,” says Norman. “These are great stories. And our paper’s circulation has almost quadrupled since this Middle Ages trend started. Many people here now consider Ted Perrywinkle to be a genius. Um, are you ok, boss?”
“Oh, I’m not feeling so well,” says Jack, rubbing his forehead.
“That’s too bad. As I was saying, Mr. Perrywinkle’s stock has shot through the roof lately, and some of us even see him as your logical successor.”
Jack slumps in his chair and starts pounding his desk methodically.
“Um, you seem stressed, boss,” says Norman. “Why not take a short vacation?”
Jack frowns and then his frown gradually turns to a grin. “Why thank you Norman, I think that’s exactly what I’m going to do.”
“Golly!" Norman Atchison blurts, glancing at the TV screen. “America has a King!”
“Why can’t we have a Queen?” growls Anna, a sports editor.
“What a pretty crown,” says Ted Perrywinkle.
At that moment, there is a kafuffle at the entrance to the newsroom as a man stumbles into the newsroom and everyone looks up.
Jack Tomlinson, face crimson, eyes glazed, stops in his tracks. As he looks around the newsroom, Jack’s eyes nearly pop out of his head! Everyone is wearing medieval era outfits and clothing! Jack shakes his head, wondering if he is dreaming, but it quickly becomes apparent that he isn’t.
Jack marches directly to Ted Perrywinkle’s desk.
Ted is decked out in a gleaming full suit of armor.
Jack bangs on Ted’s visor.
Ted opens the visor. “Yes?”
“What’s the meaning of this nonsense?” roars Jack. “Take off these ridiculous medieval clothes immediately!”
“On the contrary, boss, I would suggest that it is you that is improperly adorned.”
Jack growls and grabs Perrywinkle’s chair firmly and swivels it to face him.
“Talk to me, Perrywinkle. They took my car, TV, fridge, cellphone, computer, everything! "
“Oh, that’s hardly surprising,” says Perrywinkle.
“The United Nations just passed Ordinance 17, which stipulates that all inventions made after the 15th century, when the Middle Ages ended, are now officially banned.”
“Why that is… “
"The said ordinance," continues Perrywinkle, "overrides all national or state laws and must be obeyed immediately."
Jack notices that several journalists are busily scribbling furiously with feather pens.
“We are writing the paper by hand?!?” blurts Jack.
“Well, cursive looks prettier,” explains Perrywinkle.
“Tell me this,” says Jack, in a different tone of voice. “Why is this happening?”
“Why is what happening?”
“This medieval balderdash!”
“Oh, that”, says Ted. “People are feeling pretty stressed out by the frantic pace of modern life and they feel a strong nostalgia for a simpler past. Perhaps they wish to return to a time when values like chivalry, valor and honor were the norm.”
“Thanks for clearing that up for me.”
“Oh, and you’d better change those clothes immediately, boss. The Medieval Police could arrive at any moment.”
“Well, I’ll warn you if I see any of them.”
Jack slinks into his office and slumps in his chair. He lifts the curtain and stares out. He sees a steady stream of horse drawn- wagons, carriages and horses clattering down the street below.
When will the madness end? Jack ponders.
He glances at a painting on his wall, The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo.
An idea begins to form in his mind. Renaissance, he thinks, and he smiles for the first time since April Fools’ Day.
Twelve people are meeting remotely. What makes this meeting unusual, however, is that they are all wearing various masks to hide their identities.
“The Absolute Monarchs have taken over Europe,” says a gruff male voice.
“Indeed,” says a female voice. “The Habsburgs have control again of my native Austria."
“So desu ne! The Shogunate has divided Japan into feudal estates.”
“We similar troubles,” says a male voice. “The Qing dynasty wants to re-establish the Chinese Empire.”
“Really? Well, our cursed Tsar now controls Mother Russia again and has reinstated serfdom.”
“That’s awful! Our President just flew into exile in Luxembourg on Air Force 1.”
“Oh I love Luxembourg,” says a squeaky voice. “It has such pretty castles.”
“You’re that man!” roars a gruff voice with an English accent. “You’re that Perrywinkle!”
“Ted Perrywinkle, yes.”
”You’re not supposed to reveal your identify, birdbrain,” snaps a woman’s voice.
“We have the right to know why you did this, Perrywinkle!” roars an iron voice.
“Actually, it was only an April Fools’ Day joke. I guess it sort of spun out control.”
There is a long pregnant pause.
“I’m truly sorry about any inconvenience this may be causing any of you,” he squeaks.
“You should be exiled to Siberia,” growls a voice.
”I have a proposal to make, ladies and gentlemen,” says a deep throated voice.
“Shut up, Perrywinkle. Now, we have to do something dramatic to stop this medieval madness in its tracks, do we have agreement on that?”
There is the sound of a throat clearing “Ask yourself this: what historical events led to the end of the Middle Ages?”
“The Renaissance!” blurts a voice.
“The Age of Discovery!” asserts another.
“So what are you proposing, old chap?”
“I am proposing that we attempt to repeat history. We must collect all the world’s experts on Classical Greece and Rome and use them to foster the flowering of a new modern day Renaissance in the arts, literature and philosophy.”
“Why, this idea is simply smashing! We could also consider sending out space explorers to Mars and beyond to take people’s minds off this Middle Ages rubbish.”
“It is agreed then,” says the deep throated voice.
Jack feels so giddy he wants to do a little tap dance.
The top story on CNN News remains on every TV: U.N. Votes 199 to 1 to end the Second Middle Ages.
“We did it!” Jack roars to nobody in particular. “We did it!”
Jack's intercom flashes for the third time.
“Perrywinkle here. Please come to my desk, boss.”
Jack raises an eyebrow at this request.
Arriving at Ted’s desk, he finds Perrywinkle looking introspective and morose.
“What…” begins Jack.
“I challenge you to a joust,” says Perrywinkle in a dry voice.
Jack’s first impulse is to refuse. Then, surprising even himself, he says “Challenge accepted.”
This, naturally, causes a sensation in the office, and a betting pool is soon set up, with Perrywinkle receiving 2-1 odds to win.
They are gathered in New York Central Park. On one side is Perrywinkle on his white steed, in his full suit of armor and carrying a replica jousting lance, and likewise at the other end, wearing a lighter suit of armor, and on a black steed, is Tomlinson.
The crowd consists of office staff and some curious onlookers, including some of New York’s finest. Colorful pennants with coat of arms wave in the wind, those of House Perrywinkle and House Tomlinson.
A man in medieval garb strides up ad blows a horn. He unrolls a scroll and shouts “By the grace of Almighty God, the challenge to a jousting contest by one House Perrywinkle is accepted by one House Tomlinson!” Then he blows a blast that could have been heard in Brooklyn.
The crowd roars its approval.
Perrywinkle lowers his visor and prepares himself. He had never expected Jack to accept this challenge. He had wanted to say to his boss: I thought you said that you can’t ride horses! Ted had noted that Jack had winked at one of the mounted police officers and he had winced.
Another blast of trumpets and the two jousters clap their stirrups and gallop towards each other, Jack’s steed running like the wind, Perrywinkle’s moving slightly erratically as he struggles to hold on to his steed.
Perrywinkle raises his lance, as does Tomlinson. There is a clash of arms and as the crowd roars its glee, both combatants tumble off their horses and fall hard.
A hush falls over the crowd.
“Draw!” yells the trumpeter.
“No,” says Jack, lying on the grass, inert. “Perrywinkle is the winner.”
The crowd erupts into a frenzy of cheering.
“Honor is preserved,” says Ted, pulling Jack up from the grass.
“Yes it is," says Jack.