Stuart paused at the door and took a deep breath. “Don’t take the stress home with you,” he muttered as he closed his eyes for a moment. After a brief moment he pushed open the door. “The king has arrived to his castle!”

“It’s about time, your highness. I expected you home a half hour ago so dinner is cold. We’ve already eaten. Did you remember to pick up the diapers on your way home?”

“Uh. No. But I’ll have some of my vassals take care of that.”

“This isn’t a castle, Daddy! And what’s a va-zl?” Cindi wrinkled her nose as she looked at him.

“Daddy’s just playing pretend, Cindi, like you do sometimes. He’s pretending that he’s a king and our house is a castle.” Mom wiped at Cindi’s mouth with a napkin.

“And you can be my princess.” Stuart tapped Cindi’s nose as he spoke and then kissed her forehead.

“But I don’t want to be a princess. I want to be a dragon!”

“A dragon?”

“Yeah, rawrh!” she stood in her chair. “A fire-breathing dragon!” Cindi breathed out an imaginary burst of fire.

“Don’t forget the trash needs to be taken out. Tomorrow is the pickup day.”

“A king can’t be bother with such duties. Where are my servants?” Stuart laughed. “I’m going to my courtyard to relax.”

Stuart dropped his briefcase in the floor as he walked into the living room. He sat down in his recliner and changed the channel on the television to the news.

“Oh no. Dad? You changed the channel? I was about to watch a show.”

“And good evening to you too, David. How was your day?” Stuart spoke in a pretend formal tone.

“So you’re not going to let me watch Phineas and Ferb?”

“Ah, come one! I had the tv on ESPN. Can’t we at least watch that?” Jay walked into the room as he spoke.

“You always watch ESPN, Jay! It’s my turn to pick a show.”

“Yeah, but you always want to watch dumb shows. What are we watching today, princesses and wizards?”

“Dad! Jay’s making fun of me.”

Stuart tried to tune out the noise but finally decided to give up. “Kings don’t watch television anyway,” he muttered, leaving the room.

Maybe the bedroom was the place for some quiet rest, he thought, but sensed his mistake as soon as he entered. Clothes were strewn into piles all over the bed and floor. It was obviously one of Cynthia’s projects. That meant work. He quickly changed into some shorts and a tee shirt and slipped out to the back patio.

He dropped into a lounge chair and took a deep breath. He was just beginning to enjoy the solitude when he heard his neighbor’s lawn mower start up. A few minutes later another mower started on the other side of his house. Soon the entire area was filled with a cacophony of humming mowers. Stuart covered his face with his hands and slowly ran them back into his thinning hair. He decided to go back inside in his quest for solitude.

“Mom! Jay and David are fighting again!”

Cynthia was talking on the phone ignoring the chaos around her. Stuart tried to think of somewhere he could go to find quiet. At times like this he wished they had finished the basement rooms. That was a project that had been on indefinite hold for some time now. Except…

The idea hit Stuart in a flash. He grabbed a magazine off from the kitchen table and headed to the stairs. He glanced over his shoulder as he slipped down the stairs and closed the door behind him. They had not finished the basement, but they had started on it.

The space was only about eight feet long by four feet wide with only a single, porcelain seat, but it was nice and quiet. Stuart knew as soon as he sat down that this was his domain. The king had found his throne.