The Wedding Toast

heart2

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From:  themesanddeviations.com                                                                                             Hide 

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To: freecyclenewyorkcity@yahoogroups.com

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[FCNYC] OFFER: Wedding Toast; Brooklyn, 11218

April 2, 2013  5:27 AM.                                                                                   Mark

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Offering a Wedding Toast in very good condition. Barely used. Just once and it was no one you know.

It is spring. The wedding season is upon us. Love is in the air and your best friend has thoughtlessly asked you to provide the toast. Fear not! I am offering this ever so slightly used toast. Please feel free to edit, change names etc., as needs be. If you are really backed up I can give the toast personally in exchange for yummy hors d’oeuvres.

 

~~~~~~~~~

 

Good evening everyone, I’d like to say a few words about the happy couple but, sorry to say, I am not a man of few words.

 

I hope you are all….uh  drunk. If not, now may be a good time to reconsider your sobriety and to help you along let’s start with a toast. Yes, I know what your thinking. You’re thinking that a toast hardly ever starts with a toast but I say damn the rule makers and their beady little eyes with the whites all……….white. So let us start with a toast to..to..uh… pretty flowers.

 

You know it’s not every day that I get asked to stand up and make an ass of myself. I mean, ordinarily I do it without any prompting at all. I just volunteer for the position.

 

Now, when I think of Jean and Clem, I think the same things that everyone else thinks. My but they’re tall……. And pretty…… And smell nice. But that’s not the half of it. They are also good and decent people. And that is a rare enough quality to deserve……. another toast!

 

While this is not a World Wrestling Federation sanctioned event, at least not yet, it seems to me that Love is like wrestling. In fact, when love is really good it actually is wrestling.

 

So let’s have a look at the contestants. In this corner, weighing in at a feathery, oh, I don’t know, 11 pounds we have “The Cat Woman” Lean Jean Shin.

 

Let’s take a look at her. A person could look at Jean for a long time and it would be time well spent. Fiercely loyal, obsessively organized and ridiculously responsible she is not a contestant to be toyed with.

 

Blessed with a voice like blue fog and a mind like a train whistle she can easily overwhelm the unprepared opponent. In the ring she has a sure sense of where she is, if not necessarily how she got there.

 

Of course like any woman Jean exudes a quiet reserve that promises swift punishment for any infraction of the ever changing rulebook.

But hey, that is a good quality in a wife and a great quality in a mother.

 

In the other corner weighing in at a respectable oh, I don’t know, 19 pounds, we have that crazy cocktail himself “The Mighty Mixer”, Duke Clement.

 

Fiercely loyal, somewhat organized and occasionally responsible he is clearly a challenger to be toyed with. When I think of Clem a lot of things come to mind but wrestling isn’t one of them.

 

Blessed with a mind like cotton candy and a voice like Barry White on helium, Clem charms his opponents, leaving them hopelessly confused but strangely cheerful. In the ring Clem has no idea where he is but hey, it looks like a good place to throw a party.

 

Like most men, Clem doesn’t know where the hell the rule book is or even how to read it.

But hey, that is a good quality in a husband and a great quality in a father.

 

So these are the contestants. This match, this union, of brains and beauty, love and companionship promises us the most important thing that life has to offer:

 

Entertainment

 

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Once Upon A Time

rose

I had a brief conversation with a gentleman on the subway stairs this morning. I was walking down to the lower level platform where the D, N and R trains stop. He was walking up to the 9th Avenue Bridge platform where the F and G trains stop. He wanted to know what train I had just gotten off of; the one he had just missed.

“G?”

“Yeah, G.”

I guess I could have just said “G” and been done with it but I must have been feeling chatty. I had the same question for him.

“R?”

“No, D.”

I could tell things were really warming up between us. But the fact is, I knew the relationship had no future. We were simply heading in different directions.

If you are not from here you may think that this was an exchange between two people, in a city of millions, who will never see each other again. But that isn’t really the case. Traveling very early in the morning, well before dawn, catching the same train every day, you do tend to see the same faces. Actually you rarely notice the faces but you know these are the same people, day to day.

Down on the platform I take a seat on a bench. Same seat, same bench, every day. I sit on that bench for about five minutes before the R train comes and during that time, most mornings, a not unattractive middle aged Hispanic woman walks by. She’s heading to the other end of the platform because that’s where her stairway will be when she exits the train at her stop. It’s a subway thing and if you don’t live in a city with a subway it may not have occurred to you but there you have it.

I don’t know the Hispanic woman’s name and I never will but she always smiles at me and silently mouths, “Good Morning.” I smile and nod back. It’s our little ritual. We’ve been doing it for about 3 years; maybe 4.

One time, on the ride home in the afternoon, I realized I was standing right next to her. We were sharing a pole; the train was crowded. The situation fairly demanded an acknowledgement. It was awkward but ignoring people on the subway is a skill learned early and practiced often.

I thought for a moment that I might say, “So, how was your day?” but we haven’t been formally introduced. In the subway, as in the supermarket, formal introductions are not strictly de rigueur but still, one has to properly read the situation. There are some people who will just break the ice and say “Hello.” Sometimes I’m that person; sometimes not.

But the fact is, I don’t know this lady and I don’t want to know this lady. I’m sure she’s perfectly nice, she’s got a pleasing little something going on in her walk and I know she likes to smile. But I don’t care what’s going on in her life and I don’t want to pretend to care what’s going on in her life. We already have a fully formed relationship. Perfect as a glass marble. Why ruin it with an introduction?

The R train comes; the doors open; I step in. It is the last car on the train; third door from the rear. When I exit I will be at the stairway that takes me to the escalator that puts me in front of the Staten Island Ferry. I sit in the seat by the door that has just been vacated by an overweight Hispanic man. Same as every day.

Across from me is a man who wears pre-washed jeans, a wine colored shirt and work boots that have never seen a day of what I would call work. If it’s cold out he will be wearing a jean jacket that matches his pants. A few stops later a tall woman will get on and she will sit with him and hold his hand. They don’t talk but they are contented in each others company. She is taller than he is and unattractively built but he adores her. He’s a little simple. She likes it that way. She wears a mix of blacks and grays. The colors of their outfits never vary. Season to season the clothes change but not the color scheme. I would guess they shop at Sears.

We will get off at the same stop, Whitehall Street. She will get on the escalator first. He will be one step back and therefore one step down, accentuating their difference in height. He will drum his fingers a few times on her lower back. Every single day. They are creatures of habit, as are we all. We are all headed to Lower Manhattan and I assume they work in the same building; a corporate cafeteria I’m thinking. They are both in their middle fifties. I think they probably met later in life; perhaps each is living with and caring for an elderly parent. It’s just a story I tell myself but it fits the evidence, scanty as it is. They recognize me because all of us that exit together recognize each other. I don’t know why they aren’t coming from the same place. I could easily ask them, but why? My explanation is as meaningful as theirs because I don’t have a pony in their race. And while truth is often stranger than fiction, sure knowledge lacks mystery.

And mystery is the dark matter that propels it all.

I used to have this girlfriend. We were in college together in New Hampshire. Back then, she was the love of my life because she was my first love. Her name was Carole and she was excellent in every way and through the good fortune of youth and my own inadequacies I was spared a life with her. We lived in a divided up old Victorian with 16 bedrooms. One person per room, except at night when a room might be empty and another room might have double occupancy. I’m still friend’s with one of our housemates, Dave. I think it’s my friendship with Dave that reminds me of Carole.

After I left college, Carole and I drifted without direction; further apart and further away until the distance was just too great to bother with. I was 19 and working in a factory. I quit and went traveling around the country. I did that a lot in my youth. I would just get in the car and go. My car or someone else’s, it didn’t matter. Backpack, sleeping bag, camp-stove. Sleep in state parks, bath in town pools, see my country, keep an eye out for local pies.

Heading east, I woke up one morning in a town park on the outskirts of Kansas City, Kansas. I was making my way towards Philadelphia to begin art school; my wanderings having run out of time. I sat over my camp-stove, boiling water for hot chocolate and instant oatmeal, studying the map and considering my options; fast and boring interstates or slow and interesting back roads? It was a Saturday morning. I needed to be in school first thing Tuesday. I only had 3 days but my search for the best route kept pulling me north.

I think detours begin somewhere in the chest. The heart, the lungs, the throat. That’s where you feel detours developing. Then up into the brain for calculating purposes; back down into the chest; double check with the brain. Decide.

Fueled only by beer, sandwiches and desire I drove straight through to Durham, New Hampshire; about 1500 miles. It took something like 28 hours but I wanted to see Carole. I missed her. I stayed for a day and then I left for school. I never saw her again  but I never forgot her either.

Years later, I moved to New York City and eventually, through Dave, I found out that Carole had also moved to New York. Carole is a redhead and every now and then, when I would see a redhead, I would think of her and look for her face in the crowd. I found her name in the phone book and it felt strange. Something we’d started had, to my mind, never been properly completed.

I had always wondered what ever happened to her. I don’t know why but isn’t that always the case? Don’t we always wonder what ever happened to the people who inspired so much emotion? Especially those relationships that  have no clear ending.

More years passed but eventually we did meet up though I don’t recall how that happened. I credit Dave but he calls it blame and doesn’t want any part of it. Carole and I met at a bar and she told me about herself. She asked if I was seeing anyone and I said that I was seeing Heather. She asked if I thought I would marry Heather and I said yes, I thought I probably would. That was only slightly dishonest because, although we were not yet engaged, I have always known that, given the chance, I would marry Heather. I would marry her yesterday; I would marry her tomorrow.

At length, I realized that Carole and I shared nothing in common but our history.

I want to say that this meeting with Carole satisfied the question of what ever happened to her, but in a way it really didn’t. I realized that the reason I hadn’t known, was the very reason that we hadn’t stayed together. I simply hadn’t cared enough and neither had she. The question of what had become of her was so much more interesting than any possible answer that it ended my curiosity about pretty much everyone I ever lost touch with. In a way it was a gift because it freed me to move forward without regret or regard for the past.

In retrospect, I guess the real question wasn’t, What ever happened to her? The real question was, What ever happened to us? but the same answers apply. People like to assign blame for this sort of thing but assigning blame is a pointless exercise. It didn’t work out. That’s all. We were simply heading in different directions.

These days I only think of Carole when I see Dave and only by force of habit. It’s the dried flower of memory. The softness is gone. The scent, with all its associations is gone. Its fertility and promise are gone. But still, it is a flower, worthy of a moments recognition; a reminder that once upon a time, something innocent held an impossible mystery.

 

Duct Tape

 mousey

A man, A mouse, A dog, A house

 

About a week ago I saw a mouse in the kitchen. Actually, the dog and I both saw it. The mouse ran out from under the stove, zipped across the floor and under the dish washer. The dog looked up from her food dish and tracked the intruder with her eyes. Then she looked up at me to confirm that we had seen something. Satisfied with whatever she saw in my face she put her head back down in her bowl.

 

I got out a bunch of glue traps and figured I’d have it all wrapped up by morning. Morning came; nothing. And the next and the next. Ok, so these critters come in from the garden now and then; it’s been another unusually warm winter so maybe it slipped back under the door and returned to the wilds of Brooklyn. Having mentally set the mouse outside for the moment, I am left to wonder: How long do we call something unusual that seems to happen every year?

 

Days pass and last night my little guy and I are in the living room, sitting on the couch, working on his math homework. He takes a break to get a snack which is something he does about every twenty minutes, pretty much ’round the clock. He returns from the kitchen and says:

 

“Dad, there’s a lizard in the kitchen.”

 

My little guy is kind of known for attaching the wrong word to things but I suppose it is in the realm of possibility that someone’s lizard has wandered in. Still, it seems like an unlikely coincidence. I ask him where he saw it, just to confirm what I already know.

 

“It’s right under the thing with the numbers.”

 

There is only one thing with numbers in the kitchen and it’s the stove clock. Uh oh! That doesn’t confirm what I know. I’m still thinking floor. I can feel the paradigm shifting; it’s making me a little bit queasy. The laissez-faire approach isn’t going to work. I’m going to have to kill something.

 

“There’s a lizard in the kitchen? Is it possible he saw a lizard?”

 

Oop, it’s The Wife. Her paradigm is shifting all over the place.

 

This needs to be handled gingerly. She hates rodents of any kind. She also hates lizards. And amphibians. She’s not altogether too fond of birds either. Or fish. Insects, of course. Come to think of it, she’s shown a diminishing interest in children and the vast majority of adults too. She likes me and the dog. The dog and I are about on an even footing; we are locked in a battle for her affection. If I’m the bearer of bad news the wife is gonna freak and the dog is gonna rule, at least for a minute. Thankfully I can pretty much count on the dog to soil the rug at regular intervals but let’s face it, this is also a test of my manliness. And while ordinarily I am an excellent test taker, manliness may not be my strongest subject. Forced to choose sides along the hunter-gatherer divide, I would much rather gather. You don’t even need to force me; I like it better there. It’s like treasure hunting for snacks. Sure I could hunt for my meat if I had to but the fact is, I prefer to do my hunting with a fork. At Peter Luger’s or Spark’s; Smith & Wollensky or The Capital Grille; Five Guys Burgers & Fries or even a nice, store bought pemmican. The only thing I’m really able to kill with any efficiency is time. But that’s not gonna put Chateaubriand on the table or rid me of Stuart Little here.

 

I’m a product of urban civilization; highly evolved with a specialized skill-set but subject to bouts of the heebie-jeebies. Now it’s time to bring that skill-set to bear on this mouse. My specialty is heavy construction and I’m not sure how cranes, gas powered tools and concrete are going to help me sort this out but I feel certain they will.

 

“Okay pal, show me where you saw the lizard.”

 

Off to the kitchen and …… look at that; there’s a mouse on the stove top. We make eye contact and he’s into the heat vent for the oven, directly below the clock. Oh, this is gonna be a snap. Out with the glue traps again, I surround the vents and fire up the oven. In a few minutes the heat will drive the mouse out of the vents onto the traps and voila, mouse on the half shell. Until then I get back to parsing word problems with my young Einstein.

 

Okay, so let’s see:

 

Sheena needs to bake 55 cookies for her sleepover. She has already baked 21 cookies.

How long before Sheena realizes that cookies are loaded with refined sugar

and saturated fats and that diabetes is epidemic in her demographic?

 

It’s the new, New Math. I’m just here for moral support.

 

I return to the kitchen a little while later to collect my prey and there he is scampering across the counter seeking cover behind the fruit bowl. How is that possible? Really, it isn’t. It’s Inconceivable! He was completely surrounded by space age adhesive. I don’t have time to figure it out. He’s cornered and cowering and therefore at his most dangerous. His lightening speed, his barely discernible claws and somewhat bucked teeth are nothing to mess around with. I know! I saw that first Alien movie. Ferocious things come in small packages that come blasting out of your chest cavity. He’s capable of anything and I need to carefully guard my internal organs and major arteries as well as be ready for a screaming retreat if he turns and attacks.

 

And that’s the problem. What I want to do is stand up on a chair and shriek like a little girl. Mice give me the willies. I think it’s the hairless tail. But I’m gonna be no ones hero up on that chair. So what I’m gonna do is release the inner predator. Ok, I’ve released the inner predator and he doesn’t want to come out. Mice give him the willies too. I’m gonna have to go in there and drag his sorry predatory ass out and apply a little shame and encouragement. That done, I am now ready for battle. In his corner, a half ounce of mouse. Possibly ferocious. You can never tell, you know? In my corner, 155 pounds of Hebrew National Bologna. Unquestionably loyal. Questionably brave. Ferocious? I guess you never know until you’re cornered but all the evidence points somewhere west of fearsome; closer I think, to squeamish and reckless. You work with what you’ve got.

 

I rearrange the glue traps at the end of the counter, blocking his way back to the stove. I rustle the fruit bowl and he’s off again and…. I don’t believe it! He has somehow made it tiptoeing at high speed (my goodness they’re fast) across the traps on their plastic rims? Is that what I saw? Unbelievable! Inconceivable!

 

He crosses the stove to the counter on the far side and squeezes into the alcove that holds the microwave. I remember when microwaves first came out. If I had one of those beauties, before the shielding was more or less perfected, I could have turned the microwave to high and nuked him like one of those little pink potatoes. Just another drawback of man’s mastery over nature I suppose. 

 

The important thing is, he’s cornered. The problem is I can’t get at him. Once again I surround the area with glue traps but I’m losing confidence. I need to flush him out and force him onto a trap. But if I walk away I know he will somehow make good his escape. Time to call in my helpmate. By now she’s upstairs in bed with the dog warming her feet. I call her cell phone from my cell phone so as not to arouse suspicion or curiosity from the kids. I don’t need them to see either possible outcome. The one where I waste the City Mouse of storybook fame or the one where the helpless little creature kicks my ass.

 

Hi Honey. Are you two cozy up there?

That’s nice.

Could you please bring me

 

The Duct Tape and Some Bleach

 

Oh Yeah!

 

Gonna bring down some Trench Warfare on his furry little ass!

 

In my one hand, I am armed with Duct Tape; the indispensable tool of homeowners, jerry-riggers and paranoid survivalists (is there any other kind?) the world over.

 

In my other hand, household bleach. Sodium Hypochlorite (NaClO) 5.25%, the A-list antimicrobial pesticide and corrosive. Gas Attack! Cruel but effective.

 

I tape the sides of the microwave to the wall, I tape the bottom to the counter, I cover the top. There is a single opening, with a large glue trap in front of it. Pop the top on the bleach, a half cup down behind the microwave and there he is dancing across the glue trap on his extended little claws. He’s on the counter, clear of the trap. He sees me and jets right back the way he came, picking ninja style, like he’s walking on water. Worse yet, like he’s walking on pavement. It’s Inconceivable. If I so much as look at one of those traps it sticks to my elbow.

 

On reflection, these many days later, it occurs to me that this little creature, with its awesome will to survive and its Fred Astaire like dance moves, might have made a fine little pet. But that is today. Last week my course was set. I was determined to follow it through to its hopefully bloodless conclusion.

 

For House & Family!

 

To paraphrase an old saying, if you can’t bring the mouse to the trap, you must bring the trap to the mouse. I seal the entire microwave to the surrounding wall and counter after dumping more bleach. It’s unconditional warfare now. People used to do this to each other so there’s a lot of historical evidence as to its efficaciousness.

 

Ok so that’s a wrap. I wash up and go to bed figuring to dispose of the mortal remains before I go to work and before anyone gets up tomorrow morning.

 

~O~

 

Rise and shine and let’s go see the carnage. Pull the tape, slowly pull the microwave out of its niche; it’s creepy, you know. Dead things are creepy. And mice give me the willies. I am facing down a case of the creeping willies here.

 

What is this? No mouse? Just an empty bag of Gummi-bears? You know, I was wondering where those got off to. So this is where the kids hide the evidence. Only the evidence isn’t so empty. Theres a live tail sticking out. It’s Inconceivable!

 

Thats it! I’ve had enough! I cover the bag with a bleach soaked dish cloth and an oven mitt to prevent escape and I start punching. This is maddening! It’s an outrage! I’m all juiced up with disgust and regret but the inner predator is out and he’s pissed.

 

I want it to be over but nothing is going to be easy about this one. No tidy package to slip into a bag and forget about. This will be a killing. In cold blood. Blunt force trauma. I’m shooting for the stars. Infinity and beyond.

 

I’d like to tell you it ended there but it didn’t. I went for the broom stick. Like an overhand pool cue I jab at the offending mass with the handle. One mouse in the corner pocket.

 

I read somewhere that mice have no bones. The whole thing is built on cartilage. But nowhere have I read that they have no internal organs. I pull back the dish cloth and I’m detecting life. It’s Inconceivable! I’m beginning to think that word does not mean what I think it means.

 

With my bare hands, I wrap the whole thing up in the bleach soaked dishcloth and pick up where I started off. Duct tape. I wrap the whole thing up like a homemade baseball and I am done. That was brutal. I kicked a rat to death at work not long ago but this was more hand to hand. More intimate.

 

Later, from work, I texted my wife:

 

The Mousey has left the Housey

 

 She wrote back:

 

Thanks!

 

Somehow “Thanks” does not seem like thanks enough. I think I have Post Traumatic Mouse Disorder. I’m still a little amped up.

 

I text her back:

 

It was a mighty battle

 

Her return text:

 

My Hero!

 

Ah, sweet victory!

 

Move over Rover.

The man of the house is coming home. 

Day #7 – Courtus Interruptus

And so it ends, not with a Bang but with a Powwow. True to form, we The Jury, are told to be in no later than 9:15 so that we may get closing arguments out of the way before the scheduled 10:30 fire drill. By 10:00 it seems clear that something isn’t going on. Even John, our Court Officer, seems to have abandoned us. I guess it’s about 11:00 by the time we’re called.

Another juror has fallen by the wayside. It seems her nails had dried and her makeup was finally right and so she decided to go to Boston with her boyfriend for the weekend. She had a lovely face and a voice like a sharp tool. I’m glad for her departure because her entire opinion was going to be based on her low regard for The Angry Fat Girl. It’s almost like I care; not for the plaintiffs or the lawyers or even The Judge, though we did exchange a friendly glance during the preceding day’s session. It’s the concept. It’s flawed (wow is it flawed) but it’s decent. And not decent like it’s just ok; decent like it’s endearing.

At any rate, John, our Court Officer, does finally come around and leads us to The Court. He enters and closes the door. We are left in the hall for awhile during which time we decide that our case is very likely being settled out of court even as we stand there. Well not exactly stand there. Actually we shuffle back up the hall a few paces to the next courtroom. The door is open and we are taking a kind of professional interest in the proceedings. At length, John, our Court Officer, opens the door, gets the go ahead from The Judge and we file in.

The plaintiffs lawyer has his briefcase on the table and nobody has any papers out. It’s obvious that it is over. The Judge asks us if we want the good news or the bad news first. We all say “The good news” except for the twenty one year old juror who would prefer the bad news first. I’m sure this has meaning but there is no time to deliberate on it. The good news is that the parties have come to an agreement. The bad news is that we won’t be able to deliberate on this and thus bring it to conclusion. I must confess that up until this very moment, that bit of bad news would have fallen under my definition of good news. But that was a moment ago, and now, now I am inclined to agree.

More good news, she tells us, is that we have been an exceptionally fine jury. I believe this to be a transparent fabrication told to 99 percent of all juries. Still, it’s nice to have avoided the One Percenters. There is some levity as she notes that another juror has dropped out and I tell her that only the good looking ones are left. And then the really good news. Both lawyers want to meet with us to ask questions. Even the Court Secretary wants to be there. This is great because it will give us the opportunity to ask some questions of our own as well as decompress somewhat from this pressurized atmosphere. Not surprisingly The Angry Fat Girl speaks first. The shocker is that she asks us if she comes off too strong. I am equally shocked to find the group generally voicing support for her but then, we aren’t cruel. We let her know gently that this is the case but I doubt that it makes much impression. This is her nature; let it be. That said, in this new air, she actually seems likable and we are glad for her company. JFK Jr. asks the same question and gets a modestly more approving answer.

Then we cover some real meat. Tactics, and how certain ones work though they are transparent and others don’t, even when they are well cloaked. Who has credibility and why. Why some evidence was introduced and why some experts weren’t. The atmosphere can only be described as jovial. I tell The Court Secretary that it is a shortcoming of the system that jurors are not informed of the rules of examination and cross examination. It makes it more difficult to understand the tactics which are being used and it prevents jurors from mining out deliberate omissions.

JFK Jr. then closes in on several of the members and in a low, almost intimate tone asks again about how we viewed his performance. I see him more clearly now, not just as a professional polishing his delivery, but as an unwholesome contagion trading on his good looks and easy manner. However, his vanity is a useable tool and I use it for leverage. I ask him if he knows the other lawyers. He says that he has just met them but that the Spiky Haired Lawyer has already asked him to take a case. It’s almost too easy. I tell him to pass on this message. “Stop with the coat buttoning thing. It doesn’t work.”

Day #6 – St. Valentine’s Day Massacre

A Juror dropped out today. His kid was sick and there was no one else to look after the little tyke. That was the story; as generic as it was unconvincing. This has the happy consequence of bringing into the mix the one other person in the jury-room I feel like I can actually communicate with. He was the First Alternate; one of three backup jurors assigned for just this kind of occasion. He works in the field of Corrections. His name is George and I only mention it because the Religious Lady inflects his name the way “Weezy” did on the Jeffersons. To get it just right you have to tuck your chin in to your chest, make your cheek muscles tight and thrust out your lower lip. Were these two married, it would be ample grounds for divorce.

The Religious Lady is an odd one. She reads her religious paperback but her true love is gossip. Any gossip. All gossip. She is dark, small and rather uptight in a loose way. It’s not easy to explain. She is a stereotype of sorts. She has patterned herself as an Evangelical emulating a Protestant who is satirizing a Baptist. She is full of manic energy and quick to judge; the more so if a condemnation is within easy reach. And yet she will change her tune at the very slightest sign of rational thinking. I’ve been trying to figure it out in terms of race because these issues are clearly at play as evidenced by her several hair styles. These hairstyles suggest that she is a fan of early Jane Fonda movies. Barbarella comes to mind. She wears a crucifix that has the stars and stripes waving diagonally through it. A clear conflict of the separation of church and state.

This morning we are sitting in the jury-room. One of our comrades is two hours late and so we tell stories, read and snack. Sometimes we are laughing and shouting and sometimes the time passes quietly. I’ve read two hundred pages of my book since court started. Finally we move into the courtroom and sit down. We are immediately dismissed for an early lunch because the Religious Lady has a doctor’s appointment. We are to return in one and a half hours.

The woman who was two hours late offers to drive the Religious Lady to her appointment to make sure that everything goes smoothly for the rest of the day. They arrive back from that appointment almost three hours later. It is mid afternoon and we have yet to do a thing. It feels like the group is falling apart around the issue of time. Meanwhile, across the hall another jury-room is alive with laughter and shouting and there are fast food wrappers everywhere. They are nearly out of control and their Court Officer openly keeps company with them. On the other hand, they have been here for seven weeks. I think they would make an interesting case study in group sensory deprivation.

We do finally get into court and we actually have an Expert Witness for the defense. He is eloquent and credible. In a matter of thirty minutes The Angry Fat Girl, with the help of an actual Doctor of Radiology, has completely turned the tide around. Again! The painstakingly assembled sand castle built by JFK Jr. is swept out to sea. You can feel it in the room like an ocean breeze after days of fly infested land breezes. It is somewhat thrilling. The Angry Fat Girl is wearing a heart bracelet and locket and I think to myself, “Somebody loves her.” Then I note the wedding ring on her finger, which I had noted the lack of up until this point, and I feel like maybe they are only props; a way to ingratiate herself to us. It is beyond explanation but because today is Valentines Day I indulge the idea that someone does love her.

The cross examination by JFK Jr. is all about undermining the credibility of the Expert Witness. But as the lawyer for the Injured Van Driver, I have to say, he needs acting lessons. He ends up looking mean and petty. Both he and The Angry Fat Girl use the tactic of saying things that are sure to be stricken from the record but nevertheless are heard by The Jury. The idea is to plant the seed in your brain, never mind how. I am all the way back around to where I started, which is basically to send the plaintiff home with enough money to buy a lotto ticket, but I know the rest of The Jury will not go there. At the end of the day, The Judge admonishes us, as she does every day, not to discuss the case, even with each other until the very end.

As we leave the building, George and I discuss it intensely. We walk together for five blocks; I am lobbying him and I know it. He is not fully convinced. I will give some and so will he. We are ready to take this up tomorrow after closing arguments. George and I take our leave and as I walk home alone, I realize that the plaintiff’s lawyer, JFK Jr., never brought in a live Radiologist to support his Chiropractor’s claim. The reason is obvious; he wanted the Chiropractor to be the one to interpret the MRI, not a Radiologist. If he had produced the Radiologist who wrote the report, it would have given the defense a chance to cross examine. There are some very specific rules about how to ask questions and what can be asked depending if you are examining or cross examining. The Jury doesn’t get clued in on these rules but given a little time you can figure them out. Once you know the rules, you can unravel the tactics and the tactics are everything. It is very much like chess but, given this case and these players, it looks a whole lot more like Scrabble for Juniors.

Day #5 – Can I Get A Witness

John is our Court Officer. He is assigned to us, or rather, we are assigned to him. His function is to escort us from our jury-room to The Court. John tells us when it is ok to enter The Court, and then he escorts us back to the jury-room. He lets The Judge know when we have all arrived. This is rather more involved than one might think. We, as a group, are never on time. We have an assigned hour when we are due in the morning and also when we are due back from breaks. The Judge tells us these times as we exit the courtroom and John, our Court Officer, reminds us again before we leave the courthouse. It is to no avail. We are never on time.

Because time is such an abstract concept in general, and especially so in court, this should come as no surprise. In fact it doesn’t come as a surprise. Like all the other court officers, John, our Court Officer, has all our home numbers and cell numbers. He calls us when we are more than thirty minutes late. That he doesn’t call when any one of us is ten or fifteen or even twenty minutes late only reinforces the sense that time here is not of the essence. In fact, it hardly even enters into the equation.

In the beginning, John, our Court Officer, had to lead us around keeping careful tabs on one and all because the place is a labyrinth of courts and offices. We’ve been here long enough now to know that once we leave our jury-room it is a simple right, right, stairs, left, left, right, left, right, left to get to the courtroom. John, our Court Officer, always reminds us of bathroom opportunities. There are a very limited number of things for him to say to us and no doubt he is only allowed to say those few things. His delivery is flat. He wears his uniform, coat unbuttoned, in a way that makes them look like pajamas. His face is uneventful, his boredom is infinite. He wanders away during court or dozes off in the observation area of the courtroom.

This morning John, our Court Officer, gathered his ducks and led us to the courtroom. John always enters first and tells The Judge we are here and asks if he should let us in. This morning, he should not let us in and John, our Court Officer, steps into The Court and closes the door. We are left to stand in the hall alone. Something is going on. We try to listen to The Judge through the door but it is difficult because the next courtroom down has its door open and a lawyer is doing his summation. In a loud voice, full of disgust and accusation, he is talking about the Plaintiff’s Testicles. Also about painful urination, unsatisfactory intercourse and the plaintiff’s admission that he lies under certain conditions. This guy is making headway no doubt about it. When he accuses the plaintiff of lying, even about his lying, I am completely convinced. It takes me hours to unravel that one but of course by that time The Jury had already rendered its verdict and anyway a little showmanship is always appreciated. We pretend to be repulsed as we turn our ears to this other court but it is no use. The shouting behind our own door has become audible, almost legible. Yep, something’s going on and Her Honor has lost her composure.

Then it’s quiet and John, our Court Officer, opens the door and tells us to enter the court. We file in and take our assigned seats. Her Honor has her “Gosh, it’s nice to see you!” smile on. She tells us that she can’t tell us the Robert Burns poem again because she’s already told it to us but that, unfortunately, the same reason applies. The doctor for the defense has failed to show up again. I look over to The Angry Fat Girl and she smiles like she’s holding down a furball. And that’s when I see it. At first I misidentify it because it’s so large. She must have been desperate or something. It is one more sign from a loud person who doesn’t believe she is being heard.

John, our Court Officer, escorts us back to our room. Alone with each other again I say to the group “Either she’s been working on her car or it’s Ash Wednesday.” The juror who has the tote bag emblazoned with:

“The Family That Prays Together Stays Together”

beats me with her newspaper.

Day #4 – Of Mice And Men; Ladies Too

For some reason, we were treated to the testimony of The Cabby today. At no point has it been held that he was anything but liable for the whole affair but there he was. The main idea seems to be to impress upon The Jury that the impact was, in the eloquent words of the plaintiff’s lawyer, “A Big Boom.” The defense attorney a.k.a. The Angry Fat Girl, rebutted that the “Boom” was not in fact a “Big Boom” between the offending cab and the fifteen passenger van in front of it, but a “Little Boom” in which the barely harmed fifteen passenger van crushed the front end of the Crown Victoria sedan taxi behind it.

 

Big Boom, Little Boom. The Jury isn’t really impressed with this use of time. The surreptitious passing of hard candies continues unabated. It doesn’t seem like The Court actually cares about the use of time or even about time as a general concept. After the Big Boom Theory testimony, which resulted in a lot of hard feelings and more than a little bit of cynical word exchange between The Judge and The Angry Fat Girl, (a thing which is no longer shocking to the jury, yet maintains all of it’s original entertainment value) there was to be an Expert Medical Witness for the defense.

 

The Judge, maintains a somewhat convincing facade of generosity and caring. She always bids us have a wonderful lunch or a pleasant and relaxing evening. She must have done this hundreds or more likely thousands of times but she has that way about her that seems to worry just a little about her charges. At any rate, the Expert Medical Witness for the defense is a no show because after all he is a doctor and an emergency came up and his hour or two is far more important than the eight jurors, the swift deliverance of justice and all manner of other considerations. It goes without saying of course that this emergency, whatever its nature, could be handled by him alone. In all the universe he was the only competent doctor available.

 

Does this make The Angry Fat Girl look bad? With all her weight, the balance is not tipping in her favor. The Judge is pained by this turn of events, which must be a common occurrence, and so she recalls to us a Robert Burns poem about a field mouse; reciting the first stanza from memory and in dialect. She lays out the rest of the story and then asks us why she’s telling us this mouse tale. It is a rhetorical question and even the dim among us don’t try to answer. We are in her hands and we’re kind of cozy there. The answer to her question is that the best laid plans of mice and men, often run astray. I knew that from the first and I am pleased with myself, as if we two now share a bond of understanding. I want to share with her the Robert Burns poem which answers the question; “What is the best weather for having sex?” but I restrain myself. Then she smiles her grandmotherly smile, tells us to return two mornings hence (there being a court holiday the next day) and wishes us a wonderful and lovely day.

 

She is enchanting.