“Order in the court! Order in the court!” the judge screamed, and while the blood vessels in his neck, small ropes under his skin, bulged, he swung his gavel like a maniacal swatter of flies on a pig farm. The instrument snapped in two, and the sound was like a shot fired in a crowd. The gavel flew end over end, striking the bailiff directly on the face.
Stillness fell upon the court located in Boone County on the planet Pluto.
“Oh, shit! Henry, are you all right?”
“Yes, Your Honor.” This after checking his nose for blood.
“Any further laughing or outburst of any kind and I will clear this court faster than you can say, ‘jail.'”
Judge Peat eyed his jury.
“Lucky for you Henry is a robot, and I hate luck; it disgusts me. Makes my skin itch. My shrink says I’m jealous. I hate that guy too and I’m way past that with you losers. What a pathetic group. They must have drug the bottom of the pond for you guys. Any more of this nonsense and I’ll fry you in oil and eat you!”
The jury squirmed in panic and like hooked fish began consuming mass quantities of water.
“No more questions, Your Honor,” said the defendant’s lawyer, Zack Zuni, taking cover behind his desk, avoiding the judge’s wrath.
The witness ran to her seat and the bunny ears of her costume flopped from side to side.
The judge, an older man with receding bleached blonde hair and black scrubby beard, picked up a jug and poured half its contents into a tall mug engraved with elk running through a forest. He leaned back and closed his eye. ‘I should have stayed on earth,’ he thought.
Laws were a bit different compared to, say, 2006, but in the year 2076, Judge Peat gave himself the right to drink. Jack Daniels, straight up. Empty bottles rolled about, while others sat like bowling pins under his bench. It was a hot day and escape was out of the question for everyone involved in the case, but Judge Peat saw the light at the end of the tunnel and it came in the form of a picture, exhibit B, smashing the plaintiffs claim.
‘So this is what all the fuss is about; it’s about time,’ thought the judge.
Judge Peat looked closer at the picture, exhibit B, and with his one good eye, the one not covered with a patch, he noticed the photographer’s name, “Taylor,” written in the lower right-hand corner. ‘What fine penmanship,’ he thought.
“Henry, look at it. Study it well. The answer to this case is right in front of our faces. When did we get this, and the photographer, did he testify?”
“Yes, Your Honor, he was the first witness this morning. You fell asleep.”
“Oh yeah. Big time. It was like a storm of tree trimmers at dawn, Your Honor.”
“Henry, you mean I missed everything?”
“Well, I’m not exactly sure, Your Honor. What Mr Taylor said buzzed right past my mechanical brain fluids and in a rather odd and complex way. He told the jury it was a painting or picture made by dipping something somewhere. Jewell, could you read this morning’s testimony of Mr Taylor back to His Honor?”
The court stenographer, Jewell, sat cross-legged. The judge, in a quick move, cocked his body to the side, craning his neck over his bench just as she bent over. He found the view worth the effort. The straps of her dress lay off to the side revealing a solid bikini line, causing his good eye to pry deeper.
“Your Honor, please, not now,” she whispered. “Not in front of everybody. Later, at recess.” Her index finger tugged on her bottom lip, soaking itself with moisture, then made a slow descent to the bare skin between her observation points. It stopped and she smiled.
“Judge Peat? Your Honor? Should I read his statement now?” she purred.
“Oh, sorry. Now, where were we? Oh, yeah, baby, oh yeah. Proceed. Give it to me.”
“The testimony of Mr Taylor reads…
“In a dream, in a vision, as sleep closed my eyes, there came to me in colours of green and purple hues, of man and machine and water, and magic castle views. When I awoke I started, as shivers ran down my spine, and I used a medium, foreign to this date and time. So, from a prone position, waiting for my cue, my assistant grabbed a passion fruit and shook it, deepest blue.
“Now, after that, Judge Peat, I was… Hello? Judge Peat? Judge? Should I continue? I think he’s asleep? Okay. Well anyway…
“We, my assistant and I, mixed it up on a base of golden palm leaves and poured it on hot sheets before dipping it in a sweet jar of cherries, topping it off with two tablespoons of condensed milk and whipped cream, combined. We waited two hours before repeating the process, changing positions, while I ate oysters. I then froze it and smashed it with a hammer and began to paint.”
“Ouch! What a visual! Recess!” roared the judge. “Whether it’s a painting or a picture, Henry, what’s the difference?” he said as he stood, yanking his robe off. “Who cares? It’s our ticket out of here, Henry. I gotta go; we’ll be right back. Jewell, I need your assistance and bring that transcript. Henry, it will be a ten- or maybe a twenty-minute recess. Keep an eye on these losers and remind me later to have you serviced. You’ve got a screw loose somewhere.”
The doors had opened that morning and a rush for the best seats caused the guards to stand like wooden statues afraid to move. A female stampede was underway. Women jammed the spectators’ seats, along with a “packed to the rafters” gaggle of reporters and writers, all women. The CEO, also a woman, was being coached by her attorney in a dimly lit back room just moments before her testimony. He agreed to take her case pro bono.
The courtroom was now like a zoo, a cartoon zoo filled with cartoon characters, and while they waited for the next bit of action a breeze rippled through white curtains, causing feathers on hats to flutter. Exaggerated makeup fronted by a sea of purple eyeliner covered the faces of most. The shoes of some were yellow, while those of others were blue, like boobies’ feet; still, others had come barefoot.
A single supporter showed up for the plaintiff. She took up several seats, her limbs spread wide, hussy-like. Her green hat, made from seaweed, shifted with each of her nervous moves and she held a bouquet of red roses. She was enchanting.
The clock struck twelve. The judge returned carrying his drink, and a cigarette dangled from his lips. Jewell followed, applying lipstick.
“High noon, Henry,” whispered the judge. “Just two more hours of this crap and it’s done. Did you know this is our thirty-third day of listening to this dribble? It’s hard to believe. I’m giving the jury two minutes to come to a verdict or I’m pulling the plug on those suckers. Remember, we’re going fishing with Huck when Mickey’s little hand reaches the four, so let’s just keep our fingers crossed.”
Engineers, in weeks prior, had described in detail what led up to the accident that had occurred inside the “Pirates of the Matterhorn,” a real money maker. Combining the best of the “Matterhorn” and “Pirates of the Caribbean”, Disney was finally breaking even, having spent so much on the castle, its trademark.
The whole crew, Mickey, Minnie and Goofy, sat near the back of the courtroom, wearing dark shades to avoid the paparazzi. The smell of the infidelity scandal permeated like the smoke from Clinton’s cigar so long ago. The seven dwarfs had been booted out by the judge, falling short of the height requirement, but standing in each of the corners of the courtroom was a large assortment of strange-looking fellows in tall hats and no moustaches.
The gallery was a hen-house at daybreak, and more fat was being chewed than a truckload of auctioneers at a blubber convention, to mix a few metaphors.
“Quiet! Quiet! Can I have it quiet in here or I’m putting gags on all of you!”
Covering the microphone, he leaned towards the bailiff and asked, “Henry, can we do that? Do we have enough gags?”
“Yes, Your Honor. You’re the man, and we have enough gags!”
Leaning back he continued. “Now, folks, this is a serious matter, and I will not have my courtroom turned upside down by all you loony toons. Now, where was I? Oh yes… Mr Zuni, your next witness.”
Testifying that morning was the CEO, Claudia Van Wooten, a crowd-pleaser.
Stacked up on high heels like a ’57 Chevy burning rubber, she made her entrance smoking her way down the straightaway. All stood, even the judge. Her sway jabbed the aisle sides like the pendulum of a clock on crack. Men’s eyes – yes, there were men, just a few – were lodged and occupied. Her spilt-over cleavage stopped just short of falling while those men fainted, and the women blushed, dabbing their cheeks with white handkerchiefs.
A breeze unfolded her blonde hair, and streaks of red became visible. Her see-through clutch bag contained not-so-hidden treasures, akin to her lips and eyes. Her hot pink pedal pushers were gauze mixed with glue then brushed on, seizing the eye. Red spotlights lit her path as she walked and turned, taking her oath.
Then she breathed and began.
“I’ll tell you a thing or two!” she yelled, pointing at the plaintiff, then looking at the jurors. “This little bastard has almost ruined me! Attendance is way down!”
The jury listened through interpreters hired by the court and was protected by thick glass. It consisted of twelve sumo wrestler-size fish, seven-male-carp and five-female-bigmouth-bass picked from a pool inside the “Kingdom.” Most swayed back and forth as Claudia took another deep breath and continued.
“Your stupid lawsuit has no merit! It was your own doing, you greedy little shit! You jumped into the water, destroying our ride, and made it look like an accident just to get money!”
“Thank you very much, Claudia, I mean Miss Van Wooten. You may take your seat,” said Zack Zuni, moving towards his chair.
“Excuse me. Don’t I get to cross-examine?”
“Who said that?” asked Judge Peat.
“Me, Your Honor, George Go-Getter, the Third, the plaintiff’s attorney, remember?”
“What a wuss of a name, and stand up when you talk to me, son.”
“I am standing.”
“Bailiff, get this man a pair of stilts and from now on when you address me, put ’em on. Where have you been this whole trial? I’d say your client, Mr Harps-Yardle is up the creek! Now, sit down and shut up!”
Another recess was called, and while the bailiff looked for stilts, Judge Peat listened to Jewell yodel.
The plaintiff’s lawyer was a small man with huge glasses which reached out to the sides like a hammerhead shark. When seated, his Hubble telescopic lenses were all you saw…
“Mr Peepers in a sharkskin suit” is how the defendant’s lawyer, Zack Zuni, described him in a TV interview fed back to the States via satellite.
Mickey’s little hand was on the “one” when the judge returned.
“Bailiff, get those sheep out of here and tell Bo Peep this has to stop! Now, where were we? Oh yes. Oh yes! Where’s the plaintiff?”
“But, Your Honor, my client does not wish to testify.”
“I thought I told you to shut up and stop towering over me. Bailiff, couldn’t you find this man a shorter pair of stilts? Ah, forget it. Listen, shorty, if you think I’ve sat through all this crap and will leave without hearing his story, you, my little man, are sadly mistaken. Harps-Yardle, get your sad arse over here. You’re testifying!”
Mr Harps-Yardle stood, slicked his hair back, then walked to the bailiff and recited his oath.
Defence attorney, Zack Zuni, was ecstatic about questioning the plaintiff and raced to the stand while the flippers from his zoot suit flowed behind. His lightning speed sent sparks flying from his steel taps and his toupee made a quick shift backwards, falling. The crowd’s roar was short-lived when the judge looked up.
“Isn’t it true that on the day of the sixth day, Mr Harps-Yardle, just as the seven vakls passed the moon, you decided to …?”
“What? What in the hell is a vakl? Remember, I’m just a tourist. Your hair is on backwards.”
“At sunset, sir, at sunset!” said Zack, twisting towards the jury and adjusting his hairpiece. “Let me reword that. Mr Harps-Yardle, can you describe to the jury just what happened on that day?”
Sitting like a nervous bowl of Jell-O, Mr Nathan Harps-Yardle, swallowed before answering.
“On my last trip to Disneyland, a mechanical breakdown made me part of the park’s amusement. Not to me, mind you, but all those who stood laughing. Bastards!”
The crowd hissed.
“No, I’m not the one with the horns and pirate pants and all that crap!” he said, pinpointing the exact location on the picture with his bandaged middle finger. “I will be the one-off to the left with my head just bubbling to the surface like a turtle seeking air. The Magic Kingdom, my arse!”
Pointing at the picture with his cane, he circled the area where the castle was shown in the background. He then continued.
“Try swimming with a live octopus attached to your groin. Talk about suction. Jeepers! I didn’t know whether to kill it or kiss it; and sure that guy with the horns is fake, but let me just tell you, the electricity or zillions or whatever you Plutonians call it is about as ‘live’ as you can get. Trust me!”
“Using your own words, Mr Harps-Yardle, you just stated that you, and I quote, “didn’t know whether to kill it or kiss it,” referring to the octopus in the picture, a Miss Seiko Sulky, is that correct? And is it not true as well that you jumped into the water, finding passion under the seaweed? And again, is it not true that you and she have secretly wed, and plan on using the money for a one-way ticket to earth?”
The gasp from the gallery shook the walls of the courtroom into silence.
While the judge was off doing whatever, Mr Harps-Yardle began to sweat. His gaze dashed about the room looking for the exits. The fellows with big hats stood blocking them all. Seiko, the assumed bride, began to slither towards an open window. Jewell kept her fingers limber by practising American Sign Language on the judge. Henry was oiling his nose. Zack was looking down at Claudia’s robust cleavage and drooling. Mr Peepers practised walking on stilts, fell twice. A self-propelled vacuum cleared the floor of sheep droppings. The jurors swam about in groups, looking hungry and stupid, while everyone else chattered like a thousand pairs of naked southerners at the North Pole.
Shouting down from his stilts, Harps-Yardle’s, attorney, Mr Peepers said, ” Listen, Harps-Yardle, that picture of you is killing us. Before, it seemed like the fish were leaning to the left, our way. Now, look at them. They are leaning to the right. There goes my trip to Mars.” And with that, he fell into the jurors’ tank and was devoured.
His platform shoes rose to the surface. His glasses sunk like lead falling deep into the waters below and came to rest on the jury foreman’s face. Its magnification became like searchlights prowling the depths to the others floating near the surface. From the foreman’s point of view, it was a real eye-opener. His charge to the surface was like a torpedo and was just as scary for him, as the sight of a crazed pair of twenty-foot fisheyes, coming like hell, was to the others.
Grabbing exhibit B, Harps-Yardle tears it up and stuffs half of it in his undershorts and began chewing the rest.
“All rise. All rise.” and when they did, Mr Harps-Yardle, began to crawl along the floor towards the window, just as twelve, five-hundred-pound -fish shot out of their tank-like dolphins at the same time Judge Peat, himself, was wobbling back to his bench from his chambers.
Then the pin dropped. (And all heard it.)
“Good night, nursing little fishes, and just what do we have over here? I’m gone for a minute, and a cockroach walks in! Who in the hell are you?” screamed the judge, but this time he was looking straight at me. I looked down at my laptop.
2 lb lean ground meat
2 tbsp vegetable oil
4 tbsp minced onions
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tsp Gravy Master
2 tbsp ketchup
2 tbsp yellow mustard
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 cups beef broth
Cook the meat in the oil, breaking it up. When it is cooked, add the rest of the ingredients, stir, then simmer uncovered for about ten minutes. Serve on buns and eat with spoons.
“I asked you a question, sir, and I want it answered! Who in the hell are you?”
William Hager, I responded.
“What are doing here and what do you have to do with this case?”
Oh, I was sent here by the Boston Globe, Planet Earth Edition, to write about this trial, and just now I was getting my wife a recipe for…
“Hush! I don’t care what your wife wanted. Bailiff, bring me his laptop.”
“So… It seems as though you have added your own touch to what’s happened today in my courtroom. It appears you’ve written this from an omnipresent point of view, then changed it. It also looks like you’ve written a story that goes absolutely nowhere except to the bottom of this page. How can you do this to people?”
I guess I got carried away, Your Honor, and …
“What a selfish little bastard! I’ll tell you what I’ll do. You can keep what you’ve written, but your fat ass is leaving this courtroom now!”
What about the story and the outcome of the trial? The readers can’t be left hanging?
“Wanta make a bet? You write fiction, right? They read fiction, right? Well then, both of you figure it out. Plus, the fact that the guy was last seen crawling out of the room should tell them something, unless they’re related to you. Then I could see there might be a problem. And furthermore, what I just read of your observations of this trial, in my humble opinion and I’m being kind… why is that? Henry, call my dumb-ass shrink and fire him. Where was I? Oh. This is the biggest load of rubbish I’ve ever read in my life. Hey, Bo Diddley!”
I took a swig of coffee and while all eyes were on me it overflowed my lips, running down my chin.
“Mr Hager, let me ask you something else. How come you put quotation marks on what I say, but not you?”
Oh? I’ll fix that later. It’s because I’m not part of the picture or story.
“You are now.”
“Oh?” I looked down at my coffee-stained shirt with the Disney logo and hung my head. “You’re right.”
“Yes, Mr Hager, I’m always right. I’m the judge. I’m giving you ten seconds to pack and leave or you just might be… No, strike that Jewell! You will be swimming with the fishes. Get my drift?”
I left in under five seconds, and I’m sorry to tell you this, my loyal readers, but I have no idea what happened next.
I was escorted off the premises by two men wearing blue shoes, tall hats and no moustaches, and one rather buff guy with horns and no bikini.