This is so juvenile I can hardly believe that I wrote it. It's not at all the sort of joke I usually ever make, either (although having two sons may have mellowed me a bit). However, I was working on a real Princess and the Pea story, and once this particular pun occurred to me I couldn't let it go.
Sasha double checked the sign on the palace side door before knocking loudly. After a moment, it was opened by a housemaid in palace uniform. "Yes?"
"Hello. I saw an ad in the local paper" –she held it up—"that said you've a position open for a princess. I'd like to apply."
"Oh. Okay. Come on in."
The maid let her into something like a stone-lined vestibule, and left her alone. A few minutes later an efficient-looking woman with a sweeping gown and a clip board appeared. "Good morning. You're here about the princess position?"
"I'm Alice, and I handle all the applications."
They shook hands briefly. "I have a few questions first, to establish your eligibility to apply." She consulted her clip board. "Are you a princess?"
"Is that because you a) were born to it, b) were promoted/adopted to it, or c) married a prince?"
"Very good. Are you female?"
Sasha tried not to roll her eyes. "Yes."
"Are you between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four?"
"Are you, or have you ever been married?"
"Very good. Sasha, it looks like you qualify to begin our application process." She led the way down the hall. "I have some paperwork for you first. We need to know in what country you're a princess, your exact relationship to the rulers of that country, how long they've been ruling it, that sort of thing." They came to a meeting room with a long table and lots of chairs. "And all applicants must, of course, pass a standard background check and a pea test."
Sasha's head jerked around. "A what?"
"A pea test."
"Oh." She wrinkled her nose. "Well, I suppose."
"Is there a problem?"
"No. I just didn't realize that they did that sort of, erm, test for, you know, princess positions."
"Oh yes. It's a princess pea test, to determine whether you're really an authentic princess."
"Really? They can tell that?"
"Of course. It's very accurate."
"Our princess pea test is performed according to the same traditions and standards that have been in use for hundreds of years."
"I have to say that that doesn't sound very scientific."
She looked offended. "Our princess pea test is respected the world over. Other countries are beginning to subject their princesses to pea tests too, and if you pass, you'll receive a princess certification which is good in twelve countries on four continents."
Sasha threw up her hand. "I'm sorry. I suppose I'm just behind on these things. So I fill out the paperwork, and then you do a background check and the test with my pea—"
"Actually, I'm sorry, but it's not your pea."
"What do you mean?"
"We don't use your pea."
"Well then what do you use?"
"We use the queen's pea."
"The queen's pea?!"
"Yes, to ensure its authenticity."
"But how can the queen's pea indicate if I'm a princess?"
"I'm sorry, but those are confidential details. It could affect the outcome of your test if I were to tell you."
For several long moments Sasha stared into Alice's perfectly calm, perfectly serious eyes. She didn't look crazy.
"Would you like to look at it?" asked Alice.
"Look at what?"
"The queen's pea that we use for the test. You can touch it, too, if it will make you feel better."
"No. No, thank you. I really don't care to see or touch someone else's pea."
"Well, it's perfectly normal, you know. I mean, the queen doesn't have a special kind of pea or anything, but by using her pea instead of yours we can control the test. Not that I think you would try to substitute something else," she added, "but we have to be safe. You wouldn't believe the women that come in here sometimes, claiming to be princesses, and they wouldn't hesitate to switch their pea for something fake."
"But isn't the queen's pea fake in a sense, if it isn't my pea? I mean, I'm the princess, shouldn't I use my own princess pea to pass the princess pea test?"
"I'm sorry, but that's just not allowed. The queen wants us to use her pea, and that's it."
"Do princes ever have to pass a pea test?"
"No. The test is designed for princesses only."
"That doesn't seem fair."
"It's true, there has been some discussion of creating a general royal pea test, applicable to all members of royalty, but so far the men have been resistant to the thought of undergoing any sort of pea test at all."
"That surprises me."
"Well, men, you know." She laughed lightly. "They're so stubborn. So when would you like to schedule your pea test?"
"Can we do it now? That is, if the queen is available."
"Well the test needs to take place overnight, here in the palace. The queen is away right now, so it won't inconvenience her one way or the other."
"Oh." Sasha sat and thought about this for a moment. "It takes all night to do a pea test?"
"Using the queen's pea?"
"Not very fresh, is it?"
"The pea. It's obviously not fresh or anything."
"Oh no. It's dried. We've been using the same pea in every test for the last ten years, actually."
"And it's still good?"
"So… if I pass this pea test, and get the position of princess, does that mean that I could be queen some day?"
"If the prince takes to you, yes."
"And then whose pea will be used in the princess pea test?"
"Once you become queen you'll have the right to use your own pea."
"Well that would be up to you, but we highly recommend dried over fresh. It just works better."
"I see. And those princesses who come in, will they get a chance to, um, look at and touch my pea, if they want to?"
"Certainly. It's only fair, you know, that if we're going to be testing them using your pea, that they get to inspect it for themselves, to make sure it's real."
"Of course," she muttered. "Look here, I don't have to do anything strange with the pea, do I?"
"Strange? What do you mean?"
"I mean, I don't have to… you know, drink it, I mean lick it, or rub it on me or anything like that?"
Alice looked at her very oddly. "No, you don't have to do anything with the pea at all."
"Oh, thank heaven."
"You wouldn't want to anyway. It wouldn't be very sanitary."
Alice continued to eye her. "All handling of the pea is done by palace officials."
"That's fine with me."
"Are you sure you wouldn't like to see it now, before the tests begins?"
"Oh, well. I suppose you had better start your paperwork now."
"I suppose so."
Alice went away and Sasha finished her paperwork. Afterwards they arranged for her to return to the palace the following night, although she really didn't understand why she needed to be there at all, since it wasn't even her pea.
When she arrived, she was taken upstairs to a large bedchamber where there was the tallest bed she'd ever seen in her life. It was like a mountain of white, to be ascended by a rickety ladder.
"Here you go," said Alice, who had suddenly materialized. "Just climb up there and go to sleep, and in the morning we'll see how you did."
"Oh. Okay." Sasha climbed the ladder and settled herself cautiously into the bed. Aside from a touch of acrophobia, she found the bed quite comfortable initially. As the night went on, however, she discovered there was one particularly hard knot right in the middle of her back. No matter how she shifted around she just couldn't seem to avoid the spot. Finally she grabbed the top most blanket, climbed down the ladder, and curled up on the floor.
When she woke up, the first thing she saw was Alice's face. "There's a lump in your bed," she said.
Alice scribbled something down on her clipboard. "And where was this lump, exactly?"
"Right in the middle of my back."
"I don't know, it was right here." She twisted her arm around to indicate.
"I apologize for asking, but do you mind if we check the spot for bruising?"
"Why, do you have palace liability insurance?" But she let them lift her shirt and inspect her back.
Alice beamed. "Congratulations."
"You have passed the princess pea test. You are now a certified princess according to the standards of the Department of Royal Pea Testing of Acrimonia. You'll be issued a certificate shortly."
"Really? Just like that?"
"Just like that. Next comes your interview with her majesty, when she returns, and then if she approves you'll get to meet the prince, but only after you've undergone our basic court etiquette training course, and…" Alice went on listing the process to come while Sasha just sat there thinking that that was the strangest pea test she'd ever heard of.
Twenty years later…
"No," said Sasha firmly.
"But, your majesty-!"
"But it's tradition!"
"I don't care. Nobody's using my pea. It's a stupid way to determine princesses anyway."
The little man looked shocked. "But, your majesty, you took a pea test…"
"And it was stupid. Really, all I did was spend the night in a hideous bed while some palace official performed a test on the queen's pea that had nothing to do with me at all. What's the point of a pea test if you don't use your own pea? And like princess urine is actually different from anyone else's!"
He looked at her for a long moment. "Erm, your majesty…"
He picked up a bowl filled with small green spheres. "We were going to suggest that you choose one of these peas."
Sasha looked at the bowl. "Ohhhhhh."
Please leave a comment and tell me if you got the joke!