(A parody pic, not the real name or location of the illustrious judge in this story)
The musty, typically laid-out, dark-paneled courtroom had hard, wooden benches for seating, giving a church-like, reverential ambiance as if sitting and waiting for an intimidating country preacher to enter and bellow his usually long-winded, intense, fire-and-brimstone sermon about being damned eternally to Hell for falling into Satan’s captivating grasp.
The chamber was packed with sundry individuals who fidgeted nervously in their seats. Some sweated profusely and wiped the moisture from their slick brows. The air-conditioning was on the fritz.
All the tall, wooden window slashes were wide-open, allowing bees, wasps and other insects to enter, creating some comic relief, watching full-grown adults screech like children while their arms flailed and hands flew about like contestants at a karate match.
I decided to wait for the time being in the hallway by the payphone and call Kat, asking her if she had five hundred dollars to lend me just in case of my being convicted as charged for aggravated criminal littering.
My housemate said she didn’t have all of it but would take up a collection from the others with whom we shared the premises. “Amongst the seven of us, surely we can come up with most of it,” she said. “Write them a check. It won’t clear the bank for at least two or three days, giving you some more time.”
“I can’t do that. I’ll get caught for fraud and locked up for sure. I’ll call you back around lunchtime to see how you made out.”
“OK, I’ll be here. You’re lucky you caught me on my day off.” Kat was such a sweetheart.
As a last resort, I phoned my boss at the radio station, explaining my unusual dilemma in detail and asking for an advance on my salary if needed. He thought the whole scenario was hilarious and offered to do a live promotion in front of the courthouse, with giveaways of Alice’s Restaurant albums, WZAP-FM t-shirts and balloons, asking for donations as a benefit in support of my outrageous situation.
“Come on Rocky (his real name), we can’t do that. Somehow I think it might be illegal, a mockery and an obstruction of justice. They’ll throw me in the clink and toss away the key.”
“Ha-ha, just kidding around; where’s your sense of humor? No problem, Mike. If you need it, we’ll cut you a check.”
“Thanks, Boss. You’re a lifesaver.” I immediately dialed Kat back to call off her fund-raising activities.
“All rise for the Honorable Judge Roy Bean,” the bailiff announced as I had just taken my seat inside. The robed jurist took his place behind the lofty, hardwood bench and told everyone to be seated.
“Cranston City General Court is now in session.” He smacked his gavel hard on the sounding block, sending a nasty chill down my spine. At least my beard was noticeably shorter than his, although the hair on my head wasn’t; but I imagined he wouldn’t hold that against me.
The first case called was a doozy. An old-timer, looking like Walter Brennen’s Amos McCoy, wearing his Sunday-best, going-to-meeting bib overalls, complete with a red polka-dot handkerchief, which was dangling from his right rear pocket, was charged with manufacturing an illicit quantity of marijuana in a large field in his back nine acres of farmland on the outskirts of town.
Looking horribly shaken, as if he had just seen a ghost, the elderly gent said he was not guilty of that crime, adding his appearance was for a traffic violation.
“Mr. Shyster, how did this case come up this morning in general court, when it should be heard in criminal court on Thursday?” The prosecutor nervously picked up the trial folder and read through the top page.
“This is the wrong file. I must have mistakenly put it in the pile earlier when speaking to someone about his littering charge.” Shyster turned around and gave me the evil eye. He had seen me as I sat down in the first row. No other seats were left.
His eyebrows had reached almost to the ceiling. “Mr. Johnson here is charged with reckless driving on his tractor, doing 75 MPH in a 50-MPH zone.” The defendant’s docket was the next one down in the stack.
“That’s even more dad-burned ridiculous than this man’s raising pot on his land. How could he be speeding on a tractor?” the judge said.
“Perhaps, Your Honor, you should see this man’s Massey Ferguson with a 426 cubic-inch Hemi engine, a four-speed, high-torque transmission and a limited slip differential, combined with a rear-end reduction gearset.” The prosecutor handed the judge a snapshot presumably of this monster machine, for which the magistrate raised his semi-bushy eyebrows in amazement.
“Very impressive; I’d love to test that baby out myself. How do you plead?” Judge Bean said.
“Guilty, Your Honor; it was on the straightaway in front of my farmhouse. My hay field is across the street. No one was around except Officer Obie (not his real name),” the gravely voiced chap said. “No way was I going to admit to that other charge of growing Mary Jane, although I have a DEA permit to grow hemp on my back nine.”
“Very well, Mr. Johnson; since you were traveling on the secondary highway at the city limits, not greatly inhabited and mostly farmland, I’m not going to revoke your license,” the jurist cited. “I can do that for reckless driving, you know; but your record is clean otherwise. Your fine is $250.00 plus 4 points—next!”
The judge pounded his highly polished gavel, sounding like a gunshot, reverberating throughout the small courtroom.
The majority of ensuing cases dealt with contested parking tickets, domestic disorders and petty larcenies. A break for lunch at twelve noon gave me the opportunity to clear my head and gather my thoughts for the upcoming battle of wits between Mr. Shyster, Judge Roy Bean and I.
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