* * *
Robin remembered that day quite well. He also remembered that he said, “What?” many, many times. It all started with...
“Robin, we have a bit of a problem.”
Robin turned to Little John and asked, “What problem? We have a beautiful forest for a home. We have all the meat we need. We’re ready to raid the Sheriff’s tax collector again. What kind of problem could we have?”
“Well, on that last raid Thomas got hit over the head and has filed a worker’s comp claim.”
“A worker’s comp claim.”
“What the dickens is that?”
“Well, I’m not sure. But according to the investigator...”
“The what?” interrupted Robin.
“Uh, the investigator. The worker’s comp insurance fund carrier...”
“The what?” interrupted Robin.
“Uh, the insurance fund carrier. It’s the company that insures all our employees.”
“Employees? What employees? We don’t pay anyone. We just rob from the rich and give to the poor. Then we keep whatever we need to live on. What’s that got to do with employees?”
“Ah, Robin. I don’t understand any of this. That guy over there,” he pointed, “the one in the gray, double-breasted leotard is here to ask a bunch of questions.”
“Tell him to take a hike.”
“Uh, he says we can’t. He has a letter that says he can talk to anyone while conducting his investigation.”
“A letter from whom?”
“Well, he says he doesn’t have to tell us that.”
“Oh, all right. Let him investigate. Whatever that is. Just leave me in peace.”
That peace lasted exactly ten minutes until Alan-A-Dale came up to the table. Robin Hood looked up and motioned him to sit down. Alan sank down on a tree stump and said, “We have a bit of a problem, Robin.”
Robin just shook his head and quietly asked, “What is it this time?”
“The grievance committee just met...”
“The what?” asked Robin Hood.
“Uh, the grievance committee. They just met and voted to file a class action lawsuit against us.”
“A what? What the dickens is that?”
“I don’t have any idea. But, they decided that we need to have a clearly defined maternity leave program. And, until we do, they refuse to go on any more raids.”
“Maternity leave? What are they thinking about? We don’t have any women in our band. Have they forgotten it’s Robin Hood and his Merry MEN?”
“Yeah, well that brings up the other problem.”
Robin let his head drop to his arms and wearily asked, “What other problem?”
“They pointed out that we are in violation of the Equal Employment Opportunity Act by not having any women in the band. If we don’t hire enough women so that at least ten percent of the members are women, they’ll file a complaint.”
“Aargh!” Robin sat with his head sunk on his arms and raised it just in time to see Friar Tuck waddle over and plop himself down on the tree stump at the side of the table.
“I know,” Robin said, “we have a problem. Right?”
Friar Tuck shook his head nervously. “Uh, no. Not exactly a problem. Not as such. No, I wouldn’t say we have a problem. There does, however, seem to be a small matter that needs to be resolved. Or at least we probably need to look at it. Well, that is...”
“Will you stop beating around the bush and tell me what the problem is.”
“Well, the safety inspector has seized all our bows and half our swords.”
“It seems the bows don’t have approved safety devices on them and many of our swords have an improper guard. Apparently someone could get hurt with them.”
Robin shook his head, “Swords are meant to hurt someone.”
“Ah, yes, but it appears that without the proper guard whoever is wielding it could be the one who is hurt.”
Robin dropped his head to his arms again until he heard a horn blow. Almost immediately an arrow with a green flight of feathers flew down and stuck in a stump just six feet from him.
A big smile lit up his face as he said, “Marian, thank goodness she’s here. I really need to see her after everything that has happened today.”
Friar Tuck pointed to an opening in the woods. “You might want to look at that, Robin.”
Robin, thinking of the happiness of the last picnic with Marian, looked down the glade and saw...
At least a hundred women were walking toward him carrying signs. They said such things as: “Men Need Women.” “Women Do NOT Need Men.” “Women Rule.” “Women Can Think.” “Blondes Rool!” And in the front was Maid Marian with a sign saying, “Support the ERA.”
As they got nearer, they started singing, “I am woman, hear me roar, in numbers too big to ignore...”
Robin walked down to meet Marian. “What the dickens is the ERA?”
“WHAT?” Marian shouted at him.
Robin, trying to be heard over the singing women, shouted back, “WHAT IS THE ERA?”
“I CAN’T HEAR YOU,” Marian shouted.
Turning to the crowd, Robin yelled, “WILL YOU KNOCK OFF THAT NOISE!”
Slowly the front ranks of women quieted down and the silence worked its way back through the whole crowd.
“Now, what the dickens is this ERA thing?”
“It’s the Equal Rights Amendment,” explained Marian.
“Amendment to what?” Robin asked.
“We want an amendment to your pact with the Merry People to include full and equal rights for women.”
“People?” asked Robin, “It’s the Merry MEN, not people.”
“Yes,” said Marian, “that’s the problem. Women have no say in how things are run, who we attack, how much is given away, and how much goes into the pension fund.”
“Pension fund? What pension fund?”
“That’s another problem. We have to have a pension fund. And vacation days. And sick days. And maternity leave. And a complete sliding salary scale. And overtime. Can’t forget that. And...”
Robin interrupted her, “Wait, haven’t you noticed that this is MY outlaw band?”
Marian looked at Robin slyly and responded, “And haven’t you noticed that you have a number of new problems recently?”
“My PAC has arranged them.”
“Why would you... wait a minute, your what?”
“What the dickens is that?”
“Political Action Committee. We organized it to fight you and your oppressive policies.”
“Fight me?” Robin had just about lost his concentration. Too many things were piling up for him to follow them. “Marian, I thought we had something going. Why are you fighting me?”
Marian made a circling motion over her head with one hand while grabbing Robin’s hand with her other and led him back to the table. As they walked, Robin saw the women start circling the camp pumping their signs up and down and, although they were no longer singing, there was a definite buzz of anticipation from them.
As they sat down Robin asked, “So how are we going to work this out?”
Marian smiled and said, “Well, as I see it the only problem is that you want to continue to call it Robin Hood’s Merry Men. We have to change it to reflect the reality of the situation.
Robin wanted to put his head on his arms and go to sleep, but he knew Maid Marian wouldn’t let him. “What reality?” he finally asked.
“Look over there, we have a guy from India.”
“Yes and that guy,” she said pointing, “he used to be a sheriff’s deputy.”
“Yes. And him, he was a sailor. And the man next to him was a delivery man for the King’s mail.”
“A mailman and a sailor?”
“Not just that, but all these people come from villages all over England.”
Marian smiled and continued, “So we have a policeman, a sailor, an Indian, and a mailman, and all are representing villages across England. Right?”
“Yes, and that’s why we can’t call them Marian’s Merry Maidens,” Robin said smugly.
With a sparkle in her eyes, Marian’s smile grew even larger as she said, “Okay, why don’t we call ourselves The Village People?"