Megillat Esther: Chapter 1
I once heard someone say, “Uneasy is the head that wears a crown.”* Personally, I’ll be happy if I still have my head at the end of the day.
I’m really not sure how it all got so out of hand. Things were actually going pretty well. It was a big party season in the capital. The King had just come off a festival to celebrate the third year of his reign. That may not sound like much, three years, but with the amount of palace intrigue that goes on daily here in Shushan, it’s quite an accomplishment.
The party was a total blow-out. All the ministers, the army higher ups, the royal appointees, and all their support staff were invited. It was quite a shindig. Some of Achashverosh’s predecessors have thrown month-long parties, but I don’t think anyone has gone 180 days before. Then, to top it off, Achashverosh announced a seven-day party for all the people of Shushan.
If King Achashverosh will be remembered for anything, I think he’ll go down in the annals of Persia and Medea as the Party King (but that’s why I love him. He’s always thinking of others). I don’t think there was a pig left in the kingdom of 127 nations that hadn’t been slaughtered and skewered with an apple in its mouth. And with all that wine flowing, it was not a good time to be a grape, let me tell you.
I also decided to throw a party. Mine was for the women of Shushan. I thought it was time someone acknowledged their contributions to the realm. That, and I like a good party, what can I say? It was very popular—who would turn down a ladies night out?
It wasn’t a wine and meat party, like the men’s version. We had crudites, vegetarian polow, khoreisht and a kookoo sabzi. We went with ragunah and halva for dessert, with pomegranates and quince for those on a diet.
For entertainment we hired an amazing harp and lyre duo from Tyre, and there were wonderful singers, all eunuchs and women—there were no men allowed. I think everyone had a good time.
We were starting to wrap things up when the King’s chamberlains burst in and announced that the King wanted to see me. I was supposed to come with my crown on my head and entertain the boys.
You could smell the alcohol on the chamberlains’ breaths. And they kept giggling. I knew this was going to be trouble.
All the women were watching me. Would I go and be a party favor for a drunken king and his frat-boy friends? There was even a rumor that I was expected to appear in—how shall I put it?—less than full evening attire. I just couldn’t. I know it would have been the smart thing to do, but there was no way I was going to go with all of my friends and half of the women of Shushan watching me. I was sure the King would understand. Achashverosh was such a softy. I could always smooth it over with him later.
The chamberlains looked a bit surprised at my response, and it looked like they were going to make a scene, but when the mob of women started murmuring, they left.
Personally, I thought that was the end of it. But the next thing I knew it got blown up into a big scandal. Achashverosh was none too pleased when he heard I wasn’t coming. He probably would have calmed down if given the chance, but his advisors decided this would be a good time to flex their muscles. They convinced him to punish me, big time. What would the women of the kingdom say when they heard Queen Vashti dissed the King? Please, give me a break.
This was when the media really took off with the whole thing. I heard some amazing stories floating around Shushan. One reporter said I didn’t go to the party because I had pimples. Can you imagine? Another media outlet portrayed me as a radical feminist. I don’t even know what that is. I even heard about a report that described me as the great-granddaughter of King Nebuchadnezar. I’m just a simple country girl from Medea who won a beauty contest. This queen thing? It was fun while it lasted, but I come from a very modest background.
I’m not sure what’s going to happen to me, but suffice it to say my days as queen are over. Judging from how quick people are these days to set up the gallows and put a noose around your neck, exile is sounding rather inviting right about now.
How things went so wrong I just can’t say. I have an Israelite friend who once told me that everything happens for a reason, and it’s all part of their God’s plan for history. I’m a lapsed Zoroastrian, so I wouldn’t know of such things. Still, if I were the next queen, I would tread lightly. Learn from my mistakes, and don’t make any waves. The best way to achieve longevity as the Queen of Persia is to just sit back and enjoy the show, know what I mean?
*Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part 2. A little anachronism never hurt anyone.
By Larry Stiefel