There is a man standing outside the mall. The man is smoking a cigarette. He is wearing a white t-shirt with a picture of a castle on it. There is a watch on his right wrist. The castle isn’t crumbling. It looks well built and sturdy. It has a good drawbridge. The man is pacing back and forth with a map in his hand. All Fortune can make out on the map is a shape that resembles North America and another that looks like Greenland. Fortune isn’t too sure because he has never been too good at geography and the names on the map are different than the ones in class. He decides that he is going to ask the man what time it is.
“Excuse me. Do you know what time it is?” Fortune asks. Standing a few feet away from the man.
The man in the castle t-shirt stops pacing and looks down. The map in his hand flaps gently in the wind.
“Yes. I do. It is 10:15.” The man speaks out of only one side of his mouth.
“Thank you,” Fortune says. He looks at the map.
“You interested in this?” the man asks and hands the map to Fortune. Fortune looks down and inspects it carefully. He tries to locate all the lines that define the states and keep taxes out of New Hampshire but he doesn’t see any. Fortune can’t really make out any of the states he knows because there are lines drawn all over the place. This map has a smaller amount of states all made out of bigger chunks of land. All of New England is put together with a few other states and called, “The Kingdom of the East.”
“What is this?” Fortune asks, pointing to the map. “Where are all the states?”
The man with the castle t-shirt bends down on his knees. He blows smoke near Fortune’s nose and it makes Fortune feel a little sick. “This isn’t a map like the map you know. Is it?”
“No,” Fortune says.
The man bends down even further and a big smile appears on his face. “That’s because those are all kingdoms. See. What we do is we pretend that all these places are separated into different kingdoms not states. That is what we are here to celebrate. People from all these kingdoms. The best fighters and craftsman, archers and bakers from all over this great land are here this weekend. Hi, I am Roger. I am part of the SCA. The Society for Creative Anachronism. We are holding our annual medieval festival this weekend. And…”
Fortune doesn’t understand why the man in the castle t-shirt is talking about fighters and archers and kingdoms. He starts to feel scared and backs away. The man smells the way the basement smells, where his father hides his cigarettes and smokes them when his mother is at work. Fortune has heard his mother yell at his father a lot about the basement. Fortune remembers his mother telling him about crazy people on the street and how they will come up and talk to anybody about anything. She also told him to watch out for people who walk around trying to sell broken things to you for cheap. Fortune doesn’t know what one of these people the man with the castle t-shirt is but he knows he is at least one of them.
“Sorry. I need to go.” He turns and quickly reaches the door of the mall.