“All rise,” the bailiff bellowed. “On this day of our Lord, August 4, 1997, face the flag of our country, recognizing the principles for which it stands; one nation under one God. The District Court for the great State of Alabama, for the County of Cher-o-kee, Department One, the Honorable Beauregard T. Callahan, Judge presidin’, is now in session. Be seated.”
I noticed that fat little judge walkin’ through a door ‘hind the bench while the bailiff did his hollorin’. A red bow-tie was peekin’ out ‘a top of his shiny black robe. It looked like a jewel on some fancy Hollywood lady’s neck. Lord, I knowed this was trouble. Pappy tol’ me: “Never trust no man wearin’ a bow-tie”.
There I was. Wearin’ stripes an’ feelin’ weak from only eatin’ hot baloney and gravy top a’ slice a’ Wonder Bread. Least Sundays they throw on an egg. My head was throbbin’. My hands was shaky too. Not a drop a’ alcohol since bein’ jailed last week. I weren’t in no mood for some bow-tied judge.
Junior Patton, sittin’ side me sweatin’ an’ stinkin’ like year ol’ possum grease, was the other prisoner in court. We was walked ‘cross the lawn ‘tween the jail an’ courthouse chained like cat-fish strung on a line. Deputy Atkins kept a twelve gauge at our backs. You’d think we was murderers.
“Call the case of The People vs. Silas Fenstermacher, 0-7-3-1-9-9-7,” that sour ol’ clerk yelled. An’ sho’ nuff, that clerk was wearin’ a yellar bow-tie. ‘Least the re’ porter weren’t. She was a nice lookin’ gal with legs comin’ out ‘neath a’ pink dress. But I weren’t in no mood.
“You be Silas Fenstermacher,” the Judge asked, his jowls jigglin’ while his bug-eyes narrowed-in on me. A fan on the wall ‘hind ‘em was on blowin’ a draft down his back.
“Yes, Sir,” I said, ‘fore the bailiff jerked me up by the collar.
“Stand up when addressin’ the Court,” he shouted in my ear. “It’s ya’ ‘onor, not sir, inmate.”
“But y’all tol’ me to sit down,” I said.
I looked at that re’ porter to catch if I was right. She kept on plukin’ on that machine ‘a hers. Didn’t pay me no mind.
“My, my, ya’ ‘onor. Looks like we got r’ selves a smart boy here,” the bailiff grinned, fixin’ to bash my skull with his stick.
I tried standin’ full-up but them wrist chains were so short I was yankin-up Junior’s hands. Junior didn’t help none neither. I was haulin’ up his lazy arms the whole time I was in front ‘a that judge.
“I’m only goin’ repeat myself once, Mr. Fenstermacher. Are you Silas Fenstermacher?”
“Sorry sir, ah, I mean judge, ‘er, I mean ya’’onor. That’s me all right.”
“You been charged with a violation of Alabama Code Section 13A-6-68, Indecent Public Exposure, a Class A misdemeanor. How do you plead?”
“But ya’ ‘onor, I was only peein’ ‘hind Smitty’s bar.”
“Mr. Fenstermacher, you got cotton in your ears? How do you plead?”
“I don’t rightly know.”
Mr. Fenstermacher, you plead guilty or not guilty. Otherwise, I’ll lock you up another week to think on it. Now what’s your plea?
I heard tell ‘bout Beauregard becomin’ a judge. He went to law school but worked as a disc-jockey ‘til Judge Curley, the one ‘lected ‘fore him, threw Leonard, Beauregard’s cousin, in jail.
Leonard was ‘cused a’ mo-lestin’ a Curley relation livin’ outside a’ town. A feud ‘rose ‘tween the Curleys an’ Callahans. The town was split even ‘bout whether Leonard did it. Beauregard decided to run against Curley in the next ‘lection an’ won by three votes.
Anyways, I learned ‘bout mo-lestin’ sittin’ in jail. Ol’ Junior was a real criminal, not a drunk like me. He’d been sentenced to five years for rape a’ his fourteen year ol’ step-daughter. At least she weren’t blood. He was also facin’ charges in the federal court down in Birmingham for sellin’ illegal firearms.
I didn’t have no lawyer, but Junior did. His name was Bobby Davis, a real smooth talker. No one called him Lawyer Davis. He was jus’ Bobby ‘cause a’ that baby face a’ his. Bobby won last year’s bass tournament. It don’t count for much though ‘cause a’ his ad-vantage havin’ the best damn bass boat in North Alabama. Cherokee County a-signed Junior’s case to Bobby.
Sound echoes off them jailhouse walls. I could hear Junior an’ Bobby talkin’ a day ‘fore we was sent to court.
“Listen, Junior, I need help. I’ve gotta’ tell Judge Callahan something good. Give me anything.”
“Why shit, Bobby, I was drunk, passed out, don’t remember nuthin’.”
“Anything Junior. We’ve got to change that sentence. Did she entice you, come at you with her tits showing?”
“Listen Bobby, y’all know how it is. Hot-blooded fourteen-year-olds is all hormoned-up an’ stuff. She’s Elmira’s kid. Growed-up jus’ like her Mama too. Never saw a dick she wouldn’t suck.”
“Look, Junior, I’m trying to get your time put together with the federal sentence so you won’t serve two terms on top of each other.”
Hearin’ Junior and Bobby talk got me thinkin’; why don’t they ‘gimmie some silver-tongue like Bobby?
Then a loud commotion on the second floor made it so I couldn’t hear ‘em anymore’. A deputy was arguin’ with a’ colored inmate. Us white boys was kept on the first floor ‘cause it’s cooler. Course, even downstairs was scorchin’ hot in the summer.
Layin’ on my bunk I wiped sweat outta’ my eyes tryin’ to catch a nap. It was too damn hot for sleepin’. ‘Fore’ long though, I could hear ‘em talkin’ again.
“Listen, Junior. There’s no statute of limitations on those federal charges. The Feds want you to serve time with the state. Then they’ll re-file the gun charges so you serve both terms in a row.”
“So soon as I finish in the state pen I’ll start all over again? It ain’t fair, Bobby. It jus’ ain’t fair! That weren’t the deal when I plead.”
“That’s what I’m telling Judge Callahan tomorrow. Now give me a little help.”
“Shit, Bobby, I don’t know nuthin’.”
“Common, Junior, there must be something.”
“Bobby, jus’ tell that judge it was her fault. She’d been askin’ for it. I’d been resistin’ temptation for months but the Devil got me drunk. I been prayin’ to Jesus ever since.”
“Shit, Junior! Judge Callahan won’t believe a word of that.”
“Then ‘least tell ‘em my soft county-cut was gentle on her insides.”
“I’d be careful with that one. It’ll remind the judge about the trauma Dr. Mary reported.”
“That bitch! If she was any kind of doctor she’d a’ knowed it was on account a’ my big dick.”
“Junior, the last thing the Judge wants to hear about is the size a’ your dick.
“Your plea, Mr. Fenstermacher, your plea,” the judge said, still waitin’ on me.
Just then Bobby walked in with Attorney Dunsmere, the D.A. Dunsmere always wore the same ol’ seersucker suit. It had tobacco stains on front a’ the jacket an’ shit stains on back a’ the trousers.
“Ya’ ‘onor,” I said. “How come I don’t have a lawyer? I want Bobby to be my lawyer jus’ like Junior.”
The judge smiled, real big. “Very well,” Mr. Fenstermacher. “You’re hereby re-manded to the Cherokee County jail for e-valuation of your eligibility for a lawyer pro-vided by the county. See y’all in a week.”
Everyone was grinnin’, even the re-porter. At least I got to sit back down.
The bailiff whispered behind me: “you stupid drunk, he’d a’ given you time served for pleadin’ guilty. Besides, only special criminals get free lawyers, an’ you ain’t special.”
That bow-tie judge never let on ‘bout time served an’ free lawyer rules.
“Calling the case of The People vs. Junior Patton, Case number 0-4-4-1-9-9-7,” the clerk yelled.
Bobby an’ Lawyer Dunsmere stood up. Junior didn’t have to budge off his butt.
“Permission to approach, your Honor,” Bobby said.
The attorneys walked up to the judge all friendly like. The clerk was shufflin’ papers an’ the re’ porter put her notebook on a table an’ went outside for a smoke.
The bailiff kept eyein’ me while he poured water in the glasses on the lawyer table usin’ a pitcher with a broke handle. He wiped his forehead on his sleeve then went ‘hind the bench an’ ad-justed the fan to blow down on the lawyers too.
The lawyers was huddled in front a’ that bench yackin’ up a storm. That bow-tied wearin’ judge’s face got redder than a baboon’s ass. He slammed his fist on the bench. “Junior is pre-vert’,” he said, “but he’s a son of Alabama! The Feds are playin’ with us. I hereby commute Junior’s sentence to time served.”
Then it was over. The bailiff unchained that pre-vert sentenced to five years an’ lookin’ at gun charges to boot. Bobby put his arm ‘round Junior an’ walked him right outta’ that courtroom.
Deputy Atkins walked me back to the jailhouse in chains, for a pissin’crime.
Jus’ my luck.
Kenny Wilson is an attorney who writes to clear his head. His work is seldom published, but we can report that one of his stories is included in the Chase Entertainment’s soon to be released anthology The Nettle Tree.