The Prime Minister was greeted at the door by the Chamberlain who told her that the weekly audience with the Queen was cancelled. Her Majesty was under the weather, he said. The Prime Minister heaved out a sigh. Her Majesty was under the weather a lot lately. Mind you, she was over a hundred years old and had been on the throne since the age of three.
“Can’t be helped,” said the Prime Minister. “There was only one matter I wished to discuss. I’ll leave the report with you; perhaps Her Majesty will be kind enough to peruse it at her leisure. When she’s up to it, of course.”
The Chamberlain glanced at the first page. “The Depletion of Helium supplies and its impact on the Health Service.”
“Yes, I know,” the Prime Minister read his expression. “Dry as hell but it’s vital. Without helium to cool the magnets or something, those MRI scanner thingies can’t do their job. People will die.”
“And what do you expect the Queen to do about it?”
The Prime Minister shrugged. “Damned if I know. But with her birthday coming up, she could set an example. No more helium-filled balloons. That stuff just escapes into space, you know. The world is running out.”
The Chamberlain scowled. He took the Prime Minister by the elbow and steered her into a nearby storage cupboard.
“Now, listen here,” he hissed. The Prime Minister recoiled from a spray of hot spittle. “Nothing is going to mar Her Majesty’s birthday celebrations. It could well be her last.”
“We’ve been saying that for twenty years but the old bird keeps hanging on.”
“This time I’m serious,” the Chamberlain’s jaw set grimly. “No one outside the palace knows but Her Majesty had a fall, incurring a head injury. We don’t know the scale of it yet. We’re awaiting test results.”
The Prime Minister nodded. “An MRI scan…”
“Exactly. We’re keeping this quiet. What with all the bad news lately, it is felt that the country couldn’t take a Royal death at this point. And so, you must oversee the national celebrations to keep morale high.”
The Prime Minister wailed. “Why me? She hates me; I’ve always known it.”
“Nonsense. Her Majesty would not let any personal opinions affect her duty and neither should you. I suggest you use the time freed up to you by the cancellation of your audience to make a start on the party plans.” He thrust the helium report into the Prime Minister’s hands.
“Right,” said the Prime Minister.
She returned to Downing Street, chewing her thin lip all the way. The country was falling into wrack and ruin and that stuck-up snot of a Chamberlain thought all that was needed was a shindig on the grand scale. Bet that old trout put him up to it. Just after we stumped up the cash for a new yacht and refurbishments of three of her residences. How much longer was she going to be a drain on the public purse? Why doesn’t she kick the bucket already? Let her son and heir have a go. The Prime Minister knew he was already more sympathetic to environmental concerns. Silly cow! With no helium left, she won’t be able to get her head looked at!
She paced the floor of her office. Her eyes fell on the report. She snatched it up and fed it into the shredder and then pressed a button on the intercom.
“Lionel,” she addressed her P.A. “Call a press conference. I want to make it known that for the Queen’s birthday everyone in the land is to be given a helium-filled balloon.”