Title: Fool School
Author: James Comins
Genre: Young Adult, gay romance, historical
Publisher: Wayward Ink Publishing
In the year of our Lord 1040, fourteen-year-old aspiring jester Tom is en route to Bath to begin his studies in the art of being a Fool, following in the footsteps of his father, and his father before him.
Along the way he meets Malcolm, a fire-haired boy with eyes green as forest glass. A Scotsman who’s escaped from the ravages of the usurper Macbeth, Malcolm elects to join Tom at school. Though the journey to Bath is hazardous, it pales in comparison to what they face at the austere and vicious Fool School, where all is not as it seems. A court jester must aim to be the lowest rung on the ladder of life, and the headmaster will not abide pride.
As they journey through life’s hardships together, Tom and Malcolm find they only have each other to depend upon.
I am standing on the deck of a ship. Men move around me. Salt mist is in my mouth, and there are ropes like a nest of foreign snakes circling my ankles. But it’s the boat’s rolling, the tipping over and straightening, the mama’s-baby rocking, that splits me open. It gives me the same discomfort as incense smoke in church. Worse. It gets in the way of my experiences. I wonder if all sailors begin their careers this sick.
I kneel at the edge and throw up. Am I my father? There’s no drink in me.
I’m immediately hungry, and that makes me sick again. I hate my body. It’s a cage for the soul. I should have been the son of a heretic Gnostic, meditating on a bird-flocked hill, pretending there’s no physical world around me.
Malcolm’s hand touches mine, and I follow him through the oak door in the house-shaped thing in back of the rocking ship, into the captain’s quarters. A pillar and pulleys connecting the steering wheel to the rudder lurch and creak through the middle of the room; the gaps in the ceiling are blocked by what looks like a manticore skin, black spots on a cured yellow hide. The captain is here–it’s the navigator easing us away from Cherbourg, I figure–and I point silently up at the spotted skin.
“Ah! I’m glad you noticed, lad.”
The captain is English and speaks French very poorly. He folds his charts and rises from his chair.
“The Ethiopes call it a leopard. Bagged it swimming off the coast. Dashed brave creature. Lucky to catch it. Gave us a dashed tussle.” He’s chatty, bewildering. A Saxon. He rubs his whiskers. “Sometimes I like to think we claimed its pagan spirit and converted it before it visited the leopard afterlife. That the Holy Spirit prowls the boat in the shape of a big cat. Thought about renaming the ship after it, but it wouldn’t be right to rename the Immaculate, of course.” That must be the name of the boat. “If it’d been the Burgundian, I’d have done it!”
I decide I like the captain. He doesn’t understand the Holy Spirit, but he likes It, and that’s a good mark of a man.
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JAMES COMINS is incapable of writing about himself in the third person. His future autobiography will probably be titled, “The Man Who Groaned His Way Toward Death.” He writes stories for children and adults.
Born down the street from Stephen King, he now divides his time between Denver and Seattle.
JAMES COMINS can be found at: