“Hey, did you hear about the royals?” my sister-in-law asks me when I’m over. “And the latest scandal with Prince Harry? It was pretty scary what happened.”
“What, Kansas City?”
“No, Harry and Meghan. The royals.”
“I seen that show, I think. What about it?”
“It’s not a show, they’re people.”
“Well, what are they doing? Is that the one with the hotel and the crazy people? Or the one about the girl? In high school? Doing, uh, whatever it is she’s doing over there.”
“She means the royal family in England,” my brother says from the living room.
“Oh. What about them?”
“They’re not in England,” my sister-in-law says. “They live in America now.”
“We don’t have royalty in America. This is ‘Merica.”
“Don’t tell her mother that,” my brother says. “She’ll start thinking Uber Eats wasn’t invented by the Habsburgs to bring rich people their dinner in 19th century Austro-Hungary.”
“They live in California,” she says.
“Or’ll stop trying to write letters to Anthony Gig-nack…Khalid Bin al-Saud.”
“I’m standing right here,” my sister-in-law turns.
“What?” my brother shrugs. “Am I wrong?”
“No,” she says.
“We got royalty in California now? That can’t be right,” I said.
“First, it was he abdicated the…not—what was it? Not the throne,” she says, “but…his position in the family, I guess?”
“You never go against the family. That’s Mafia 101, right there.”
“Then he wrote that book, and everybody got mad because he said his brother got mad and knocked him down, all because he wanted to get out.”
“Once you’re in you can never get out. That’s, like, Mafia 102.”
“They had his mom whacked?”
“No! It was an accident!”
“Are you sure? Because that totally sounds like something they would do on purpose.”
“We’re not talking about the mafia here!”
“If you say so.”
“And—oh, and he tried to buy police protection, but they just ruled just now that he couldn’t do it.”
I threw up my hands and looked at her.
“For when he goes back to England!”
“You know what I want to know?” my brother says, suddenly. “Is how come no one’s referring to them as ‘Heghan’ yet?” We both looked at him. “Heghan,” he says again.
“Look, are you sure this guy isn’t in the mafia? Because it could just be the feds doing that.”
“Oh, and his little baby had a christening last month. So cute.”
“Great time to ask him for a favor, by the way.”
“You’re thinking of his daughter’s wedding,” my brother says.
“Eh, same thing.”
“He’s not the mafia!” my sister-in-law says.
“Look, look, I don’t know anything about whether this person in question may or may not be affiliated with anyone in this so-called ‘mafia’ of which you speak, but the only ‘royalty’ we have in this country is the obscenely rich. And people just below them. And just below them. Aaaaand then right below them.”
“So, like, twenty-five percent of America,” my brother says.
“Basically,” I shrugged.
“That’s not royalty,” my sister-in-law says.
“Sure, it is. I mean, for all intents and purposes. In reality, they’re way more powerful.”
“They got acute influence in state and federal politics.”
“How do they have that?”
“Super PACs. The revolving door of executives, consultants and government officials. Making friends with judges and lawmakers, running in the same circles. They can basically control information, mass media. Uhh, they spearhead technology. Control retail commerce. Control agriculture. The banks, savings and loan industry. Influence the market. You name it.”
“When you said ‘acute’ influence just now,” my sister-in-law says, “I totally thought you meant to say ‘cute’ influence.”
“Me, too,” my brother says.
“They’re not some baby at a…baby christening,” I said. “That’s where they circumcise them, right?”
“Well, anyway,” my sister-in-law says, “we don’t have royalty-royalty in this country, it’s true. ‘Cause this is ‘Merica.”
“Yeah. Just rich people.” I shrugged. “And I guess the mafia.”
“Eh. Same thing,” my brother says.