Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Illegal Pleasures

The Thought Police picked me up today. I knew I was risking the ire of certain Bush Administration officials who weren’t exactly pleased with the outcome of the Midterm elections, but I never dreamed that something so innocent could be punishable.

The bailiff brought me, still cuffed, into the courtroom where I was to be arraigned before the Honorable Judge Whitney Baird, magistrate for the Third District of All That Is Holy. A tall, gaunt, stern-looking man, he emanated condescension as he sat down and called the court into session. I had the feeling that I’d seen him before, but I couldn’t remember exactly where or when.

The prosecutor, a dark, swarthy man of a certain age (who closely resembled Alberto Gonzalez), stood and called criminal after criminal forward for his or her case to be heard. The offenses varied in gravity, from theft of a previously-happily married woman’s heart to the immoral electioneering charge against the campaign manager of the newest Democratic senator from the state of Missouri. I watched as one after another the charges were read, a plea was offered and each was found guilty and sentenced without any further discussion of the matter.

When the court clerk finally called my name, the bailiff jerked me to my feet.

“Your Honor,” the prosecutor said, his face now contorted into a pained expression, “Mr. Church is charged with violation of Article 38-A of the Personal Offenses Code, possession of an illegal smile with intent to distribute, a class B felony carrying a maximum penalty of two years in Purgatory.”

Judge Baird continued to look at the sworn complaint in front of him until, after a few seconds, he looked over the top rim of his bifocals and scowled at me. “You’re a Democrat, aren’t you?”

“Guilty, Your Honor!” I offered, in a voice unnecessarily loud and perhaps a bit more joyous than good sense might dictate under the circumstances.

“You disgust me…” he said, anger crawling out from between his clenched teeth with each word, like roaches who realized that the lights just went out, “How do you plead?”

“Guilty again, Your Honor!” I repeated, a smile representative of the exact offense for which I was being charged now plastered from ear to ear like a half-wit ten-year-old who’s just been told, screw the cavities, it’s Christmas and he could have more candy.

“Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t throw the book at you,” he challenged, his face now twisted into a sneer worthy of Jimmy Cagney during his portrayal of the young tough in Boy’s Town.

Suddenly, I remember where I’d seen him! He was the guy I’d seen Tiffany Trim get into the cab with on Fifth Avenue, after she left my apartment. Quickly, I put two and two together.

“Well, Judge, may I approach the bench… alone?” My smile persisted.

A quick motion of his finger and the bailiff released me from his grasp. “I think a man of your obvious wisdom and great compassion might be inclined to reconsider a penalty if a certain defendant knew where his wife really spends each Tuesday evening from five to nine p.m. and was willing to inform the whole court of her, um, love of French culture.”

I swear the man’s face turned seven different shades of crimson before all color disappeared. “Step back…and not another word, do you understand?” he whispered, his eyes suddenly looking very sad and a bit teary.

Standing up, he declared, “Mr. Prosecutor, this is not an illegal smile! Have you never before seen a shit-eating grin? You are free to go, sir, with the apologies of this court.” The gavel slam was of sufficient ferocity to cause several spectators to jump. “Case dismissed!”

Never again will I question the ability of Karmic forces to protect the clueless or punish the haughty… another reason why this smile will last until next election when the job is finished.

19 comments:

hfurness said...

"protect the clueless" - I knew that there was something in my own cluelessness.... Another great view of our time and need to smile at ourselves (otherwise we would all spend our time crying). thanks - a fan

Shirley said...

Just one of those onces when it's not who you know bur rather what you know about them! Great reading, as always!

Dan said...

I imagine this is how Eliot Spitzer got busted. Good story, Bob, and remember there are many forms of justice.

kaylee said...

Tiffany Trim now if i knew
what that was I could comment.
So shall just sit here
and grin,
is that a sin?

klk

amuirin said...

Entertaining read...

karma's a fun creature.
I've never understood 'shit eating grin' though.

It doesn't seem like the sort of activity that would be accompanied by good nature.

Bubba said...

Hi, everyone... This whole piece was an off-shoot of a John Prine song, "Illegal Smile".

Harry-- I consider cluelessness an absolute virtue in some situations.

Shirley-- You're right.

Dan-- Is that a warning?

Kaylee-- Some things are better left unknown.

Amuirin-- Ain't that the truth? I've never understood the meaning of it, either, but it's one of those words that found its way into the lexicon of the times, for better or worse.

Thanks, everyone...

PaulS said...

Man, that is one contagious smile, thanks, beautiful bit of back referencing made me smile too and the judge's turn around remark, supercool, i knew you could write,

Bubba said...

Paul-- (I assume you are the esteemed GingaTao of no small repute in some circles) Thanks for wandering by... I have my moments in the sun when the stars align and my drugs are timed right (even if it is pretty hard to see the stars when the sun is shining brightly). But I digress... I'm sure there's a point in there somewhere, even if it escapes me right now. If you happen to come upon it, please let me know, I like to be right from time to time.

paisley said...

i love who you are when you pull these little "walter middy's" on us......

Bubba said...

Paisley-- Thank ya, thank ya, thank ya... nice of you to say so. Me and Walter used to go to different schools together, back in the good ol' days when we walked four miles to school and six miles back home... uphill both ways, of course, and it snowed every day. 8>{)

Scot said...

sitting here with a shit eating grin

good one!
signed
another MO boy :)

Bubba said...

Hi, Scot... thanks for stopping by. I checked out your site as well, and anyone with a Favorite Poet's List that reads like yours, I consider a friend. Brodigan, Kerouac, Ferlinghetti... what's not to like?

KnotKeats said...

Karma, eh? I knew a Karma once, and she turned around and bit me on the ass. Under other circumstances that might have been fun.

But then, I didn't have to explain it to the judge.

Good story. Keep 'em comin'.

Bubba said...

Knot--"I knew a Karma once, and she turned around and bit me on the ass."... as Karmas are wont to do, from time to time. That's what makes them Karmas. Thanks for stopping by... you're welcome, any time.

petersonion said...

I want to be a Judge someday and sit serenely in my ceremonious robes and frown at the defendants as they are led in in chains, dirty and dejected. I'll lead the commons and the prosecutor in righteous condemnation and then, when all seems hopeless and lost . . .

They bust through the door to apprehend ME! Whahoo! It is Carnevale and the world is turned upside down!

(I escape through the window, in case you are wondering)

Lee's River/Zlatovyek said...

HA! Love it! (will be back for more)

Bubba said...

petersonion-- Sounds vaguely familiar... like this might have occurred recently in The People's Republic of Albany, perhaps? Ha! Once again, life mimics art...

Lee's River/Zlatovyek-- Thanks for stopping by! I checked out your site, but since I'm an Ugly American incapable of conversing or understanding any other language than American, I couldn't read the French. I think I'll try to find a way to have it translated...

Lori Witzel said...

Hehehehhe! Found you via Lee's River, and I swear this is better than coffee. Well, almost -- but it sure made me smile.

And don't mind Lee and the French thang. She speaks merkun just fine, and even went to Piggly-Wiggly back in her time in FL.

Bubba said...

Hi, Lori! Thanks for stopping by, and though I claim none of the capabilities of coffee, as far as pleasure is concerned, I have been told that my words carry the long-term effects of caffeine...

Yea, I found Lee's River, too (finally, and with no small amount of brain heat expended). I hope you'll come back... I have no doubt you'll learn, in fairly short order like everyone else, that reading my stuff on a regular basis is the physiological equivalent of drinking vinegar or light beer... it won't hurt you if taken in small quantities, but it does tend to leave a bad taste in your mouth. Welcome!