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Out of His Element

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Pompadour slowly removed his sleeping mask and peeled his eyes open. Would it be morning this time? Would it?

No, it wasn’t. It was still dark out. And the clock on his dresser showed that it was currently 2 A.M. Pompadour flopped back onto the bed in a huff. For some reason, he just couldn’t sleep lately. Or if he could, not through the whole night. Cornelius suggested that it may be stress from working too hard, but Pompadour pushed that thought aside. Even if he was working too hard, what could be done about it? Prime Minister of Protocol was an intricate job that required meticulous detail and took up much of the day, even with himself and Cornelius splitting up the work. With three new additions to the Royal Family, he was busier now than ever.

Giving up on sleep for the moment, Pompadour instead decided to get up for a glass of warm milk, hoping that would do him some good.

However, while Pompadour was tiptoeing down the hallway, taking extra care not to wake anyone, someone else was not. The silence was pierced by a soft cry coming from down the hall.

Speak of the devil, Pompadour thought.

The advisor made a quick detour to the room just next to King Babar and Queen Celeste’s (both of whom were sleeping soundly), and slowly, carefully cracked the door open.

Inside the room were three cribs.

In the leftmost crib, under a blue blanket, was Alexander, the youngest of the triplets, fast asleep.

In the center crib, under a pink blanket, was Flora, the middle child, also sleeping peacefully.

And on the rightmost crib, a white blanket had been tossed to the side, and Pom, the oldest of the three, stood up against the bars, and looked directly into Pompadour’s eyes.

Pom. Pompadour. Must be fate.

While Pompadour was grateful only one the children was awake, that was still one too many. “Master Pom,” he whispered. “I must ask that you quiet down, lest you wake His Majesty and Her Majesty from their slumber.”

Pom responded by raising his right hand and hitting the hardwood of his crib three times.

“No! Not that!” Pompadour cried in a hushed yelp. “That is the opposite of quiet!”

The calf would only continue to stare blankly at Pompadour while cooing softly. The older elephant did a double take. At this rate, Babar and Celeste would wake up, and no doubt they would want to know what he was doing up at this time. He certainly wouldn’t want to get in trouble with the king for waking him and his children.

Pompadour slipped into the room and made his way over the rightmost crib, looking down at Pom. He leaned in close and whispered.

“Now, listen to me. It is late, and everyone has work to do tomorrow.” Pompadour softly placed his hands on Pom’s chest and back and laid him back down, neatly covering him back up. “So do us all a favor, and go to sleep, alright?”

Pom looked up at Pompadour...and then started kicking and flailing, tossing the white blanket into Pompadour’s face. Dropping the blanket onto the floor, Pompadour was running out of options. Pom wasn’t crying, but he was still making noise that would no doubt wake his siblings. So Pompadour did what he’d seen Celeste do and quickly scooped up Pom in his hands. Sure enough, he immediately went silent.

Pompadour furrowed his brow and sighed. “You aren’t going back to sleep, are you?”

Pom blinked, and his temporary caretaker turned to leave the room. “It’s okay. I couldn’t sleep anyway.”

At first, Pompadour thought that if he walked around the palace holding Pom for a while, he would fall asleep. But by the time he reached the kitchen, his original destination, Pom was still wide awake. With another sigh, Pompadour sat in a chair at the table.

It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Pompadour wasn’t very good with children. His job had never required him to do so in the past. Except for Babar, but he was wise beyond his years as a boy. Even then, the closest Pompadour had ever come to handling a baby was Troubadour, but the assistant had mostly kept to himself during his time at the palace. He didn’t require constant attention, the way these three did. Really, it wasn’t his fault. With a job as time-consuming as his, Pompadour just wasn’t equipped to handle a baby.

“Fine. So maybe I am overworked,” he admitted. “But what’s your excuse? All babies have to do is be fed and changed. You should be asleep easily.” Suddenly Pompadour held the baby far away from himself. “You aren’t wet, are you?” Of course, Pom couldn’t answer that, so, reluctantly, Pompadour held his breath, and felt Pom’s diaper through his light blue pajamas.

Dry.

Pompadour exhaled with relief, but soon wished he had held on to that breath, because Pom started flailing in his arms again, accidentally kicking him in the chest. “Ouch.” Pompadour ignored the slight pain, as he had other problems to worry about.

Now there was the predicament of trying to make his glass of warm milk and watch Pom at the same time. Pompadour ultimately decided that it was a two-hand job and that Pom would be safer in the chair than tucked under his trunk.

And so, Pompadour left Pom in one of the high chairs and quickly retrieved his milk, being sure to turn around every three seconds to make sure he hadn’t moved. After just a moment, Pompadour returned, ready to take the first step towards a peaceful slumber.

But just as Pompadour began to sip, Pom started to cry. Pompadour looked up from his glass to see that Pom was reaching for it. Hastily, Pompadour tried to shush the child.

“No, no, no! Shhhh! You can’t drink from the same glass as me! That’s unsanitary!”

Pom’s cries continued, and it was clear they would develop into wails soon. Wails that would echo through the palace and wake everyone. Pompadour huffed and set his glass down.

“Oh, alright. Just a moment. There has to be a baby bottle in here somewhere…”

Pompadour may not have prepared a bottle before, but he had seen Babar do it. So, he swiftly returned with a fresh bottle and held it in front of Pom.

“There. Now drink, so we can both go back to sleep.”

Pom leaned to the left, avoiding the bottle. “What? No, Pom, it’s over here.” Pompadour moved the bottle to the left, only for Pom to lean to the right. This continued, and Pom began to make a fuss. “Come on, now! Why won’t you drink it?”

“You’re supposed to put some of it on your hand first.”

A deep voice came from the doorway. Pompadour turned around to see King Babar, standing there in his green bathrobe.

“Y-Your Majesty!” he exclaimed. “I’m...terribly sorry. We disturbed your sleep.”

“That’s fine,” Babar replied, not a hint of anger or irritation in his voice. He walked over and scooped Pom from his high chair, then took the bottle from Pompadour and properly fed it to him. “Thank you very much, Pompadour. I didn’t even realize Pom was awake, but luckily you woke up and took care of him for me.”

Pompadour thought about letting King Babar believe his misinterpretation, but decided he should speak up. “Actually, sire...I was already awake.”

Babar set the now-half empty bottle on the counter. “Oh? What are you doing up, at this hour?”

“...To be honest, I’ve been having difficulty sleeping lately.”

Pulling up a chair, Babar sat down next to his advisor. “Well, that’s to be expected. It’s just as Cornelius said, you’ve been overworking yourself, and it’s causing you stress.”

Pompadour stood up from his own chair. “But I have to work hard, sire! There’s so much to keep track of around here…if I don’t do it, then who will?”

“I see…” Babar looked down at Pom, rocking him as he yawned. “Pompadour, do you know why Celeste and I decided to give our children the names we gave them?”

Pompadour thought for a moment, and didn’t have an answer. He had just sort of accepted the names Pom, Flora, and Alexander when Celeste returned from the hospital that day. “Well...no, Your Majesty, I never gave it any thought.”

“I named Alexander after Alexander the Great, one of the Greek kings that I read about when I attended school in the city. I named him that because I knew he would grow up to be strong and resilient. Flora...represents the blossoming of a new chapter in our lives.” Babar stopped for a moment, and chuckled. “If we’d had three girls, Celeste might have named them all after flowers!”

Pompadour laughed with him. “I have no doubt about that, sire. But...what about Pom?”

“When Pom was first born, I couldn’t quite explain it to Celeste, but...I could see a bit of you in him. He has this...glint in his eyes, this look of...passion. And it reminded me of you. You always throw yourself wholeheartedly into everything you do, and I want Pom to be the same way when he grows up.”

Pompadour was taken aback by the compliment. “Th...thank you, sire, but...why are you telling me this?”

Babar stood up, and placed a free hand on Pompadour’s shoulder. “Because, Pompadour, I want you to know that I understand how much you care about your work. We all do. But if you push yourself too hard, you could end up holding yourself back, by not allowing yourself to work at a healthy pace.”

“I...I see.”

“We’re grateful for your help,” Babar looked down at Pom. “In more ways than one. But if you need to take a break once in a while, feel free! Between Celeste, Cornelius, and myself, you needn’t worry about things not getting done.”

Pompadour nodded. “Thank you for the advice, King Babar. Huh. Funny, I’m supposed to be the one giving you advice.”

A jolly smile appeared on Babar’s face. “Even advisors need advice once in a while. And right now, I advise you to get some rest.”

Pompadour placed his trunk on Pom’s head. “Trust me, after dealing with this one, that is a task I can easily manage.” With a yawn, Pompadour left the room. What he didn’t see was Pom reaching over his father’s shoulder and waving at him. The king sat down with his son in the kitchen alone, continuing to rock him.

“Yes, son, that was Pompadour. And I think he’s learned a valuable lesson. You know, this reminds me of something that happened to me when I was young…”

Babar cut off his own sentence by yawning.

“...On second thought, it can wait until morning.”