The gray-bearded king shifted uneasily on his hard throne as the trumpets blared behind him. He sighed, dreading all the tired pomp-and-circumstance formality that encumbered such events. He just knew he felt tired. So very tired, in fact, that he couldn’t even recall what event he was here to suffer through.
He sighed and his eyes scanned the room. He saw the strange faces of new dukes, assorted lords and unknown ladies dressed in their finery, lesser-ranking noblemen and women.
“Where are all my old friends?” he wondered to himself, “Who are all these people? Why don’t I know anybody here?” Occasionally faces in the crowd seemed fleeting familiar, but the brief recognition would slip away before a name could present itself.
The trumpets died down and there was an uncomfortable silence. It seemed they were all waiting for something - he couldn’t remember what - then a low murmur started at the far end of the room, followed by a growing wave of applause. The crowd parted and a man came through carrying a large white cake with an unlit candle on top. A... birthday cake? “My birthday cake!” the king suddenly realized, “Good! I like cake!”
The man brought the cake forward, bowing as he presented it to the king. The man lit the candle on the cake, said “Happy birthday, Dad!” and began singing. The crowd joined in, voices filling the room. When the song ended the king looked around, adjusting his paper crown and smiling uncertainly. It seemed that he was supposed to – do - something? Oh, of course!
He wheezed air into his lungs and weakly blew out the candle. Everybody clapped and smiled. The man moved the cake to a table and began cutting pieces and putting them on paper plates. He brought the first piece to the king with a fork and a smile. The old king smiled back because he liked cake. He dug his fork into the cake and took a big, sweet mouthful.