We get it, Sir John, you’re literally the lord of the manor—and we’re merely your vassals. But you’re also a bully and a blackguard, Portwright... and the feudal system, even as sensible as it is, isn’t going to last forever. So this is fair warning: Quit oppressing the lower class, or you’re going to find yourself on the wrong end of an ugly uprising. (You know that old joke about the revolting serfs? That’s exactly what we’re talking about.)
You might have put it out of your mind, but we remember well our all being in school together, where most of us called you “Portly Portwright”—because you were a sniveling peasant whelp as wide as you were tall right up until we were all graduated at age 7 and sent to make our ways in the world. Our sincere apologies if we were unkind thirty years ago, Sir John, but, really, get over it. And get over yourself. Almost anyone can be a lord these days.
Come to think of it, aren’t you actually somebody’s vassal? That’s right: Your lands aren’t even your lands. You swore your fealty to William Head-Paine, didn’t you? Yeah, we know. We might not be able to read, any of us, but we keep our ears to the ground. Most of the time, we’re listening very carefully to hear whether the seeds we’ve sown are germinating in the godforsaken English soil, because if they don’t, our crops won’t grow and we won’t be able to sell them for money with which to pay your exorbitant rents, you scoundrel... but occasionally someone picks his head up and hears something through the grapevine, where we grow grapes to press to make wine, which we drink to get drunk to forget how miserable we are as your tenants. And not long ago someone heard that you, yourself, are a vassal. Knave!
So how’d you do it, then? How’d you scrape together enough capital to rent land from Sir William? Because we all know it wasn’t money you earned for doing anything useful to society, being that you don’t possess any practical skills. Your name’s not Baker. Or Brewer. Or Carpenter, Cook, Fisher, Fowler, Fuller, Gardener, Harper, Luther, Mason, Napier, Potter, Sawyer, Thatcher, or Waggoner, for that matter. You’re a Portwright. What the hell’s a portwright?
Ah, who cares how you got the money. Money doesn’t make a boy a man, or a man a good man, or a good man a saint, plenary indulgences notwithstanding. In fact, remember what the Holy Bible tells us about rich men and camels: Rich men are stupid and smell like camels. That describes you pretty well, Portwright. We think so, anyway.
If you’ve gotten this far and haven’t put down this letter to, say, see whether you can fit an entire leg of roast mutton in your mouth (or bunge-hol), you might be wondering what we, your long-suffering vassals, want. We’d like you to take the “me” out of demesne and the “no” out of manorialism. In other words, stop being such a tyrant. Leave that to the King. Here are some specific changes we request—no, demand—that you make in your—our—manor:
Okay? You got all that? Good. Because our next step would be to take this up with the Department of Housing and Feudal Development. And then things could get ugly. Queen Matilda the Misshapen ugly.
Matthew David Brozik wrote this and many other short humor pieces, which have been published in print and online by The New Yorker, Adult Swim, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Grin & Tonic, The Big Jewel, and no one.