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Tears of King Petar
“I am digging a grave, your Highness... For myself. And if I do wake up in the morning the grave would be just as good for someone else.”

By: Milovan Vitezović

King PetarThe slightly burned Serbian flag which was honorably taken off the dome of the Royal Court in Belgrade, which he put over the little trunk with Miroslav’s Gospel and over Makrena’s stockings for Marinko Spasojević, reminded King Petar where from he knew the tall and thin man, with a long face and with big eyes, the schoolboy who started digging something in the frozen soil, in the overnight stay in Fleta, so clumsy but very stubborn. It was the same schoolboy who put the Austrian imperial flag, taken off the same dome, in front of him to walk over it and enter his castle, a year ago, at this exact moment, in the time of glory. He should have asked for his name.
The court Marshal, colonel Knežević followed the King’s expression.
“Your Highness, this is the boy from yesterday” — colonel Knežević expressed his gratitude for the boy who saved him from reporting.
“I see” — said King Petar. “Is he digging again?”
“Digging what?”
“I don’t know, I guess he wants to warm himself up a bit.”
“To warm himself up?” — the King looked at Knežević with suspicion, convinced that the schoolboy does everything by plan and with a goal and that is what bothered his curiosity.
“You have to take you quinine” — suddenly said doctor Simonović, which was very strange and unexpected for King Petar, despite all doctor Simonović’s medical care, for which he was well known.
“Should I ask him what is he digging?” — asked Colonel Knežević.
“You have to take your quinine” — continued Doctor Simonović.
“Stop! I shall ask him myself” — said King Petar and walked up to the by followed by the caring expression of Doctor Simonović.
“Christ is risen!”
“Indeed, he is risen, your Highness.”
“What are you digging, my son?”
“Nothing, your Highness.”
“One cannot dig nothing” — King Petar looked at the eyes of the confused schoolboy: “What are you digging?”
“A grave, your Highness” — said the surprised schoolboy. “It is a bit shallow, but it will do.”
“A grave? For whom?” — said the King amazingly.
“For myself, your Highness” — the boy admitted.
“What do you mean, my son?!”
“For myself, your Highness, if I do not wake up in the morning.”
“God forbid, my son, your are only fifteen.”
“Your Highness, for my age, I have seen a lot of death... We are walking by our unburied poor men.”
“You are not supposed to die!” — shouted King Petar.
“Well, your Highness...” —  the schoolboy was a little scared. “If I do wake up in the morning the grave would be good for someone else...”
“Please, my son” — the King began to shed tears. “You do not need a grave!”
“Don’t cry, your Highness” — said the schoolboy. “I wish that no one needed it!”
“Are you all right, your Highness?” — asked Doctor Simonović, and he knew that the king did not really care about the quinine comparing all the bitterness he felt.
“Nothing is all right”  — said King Petar. “Doctor, you knew what the boy was digging?”
“Where did you get that from, your Highness?”
“You insisted so much on the quinine so that I don’t go and talk to him.”
“If you say so, your Highness.”
“You also know who the boy is?”
“I know, your Highness, it’s Rastko Petrović, the son of Mita Petrović, the chief of the tax office and the brother of the late painter Nadežda Petrović.”
“And he is all alone?”
“There are three of them. They go to the same class in high school. Rastko, Aga, the son of Stevan Mokranjac and Ivana Ivanić, the daughter of professor Ivanić... Today, they shared one cube of sugar for three cups of tea...”
“Give them our sugar” — said King Petar, not caring about doctor Simonović who was worrying if there is going to be enough sugar for the King’s men, and, then, he said after a long period of silence: “Remember this, doctor, if I do not wake up tomorrow morning, bury me in his grave.”

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