Monday, November 28, 2011

Cruise Control - Part 16: Rock-A-Cry Baby 2

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  Judge Severe banged her gavel a second time, hoping to quell the antics of the heathens in the audience, and then turned to me. “Now, then, Witness Person, let’s try this again, continuing with your testimony. I trust that you got my notes on the matter after we recessed last night?”

  I nodded my head.

  The judge sighed.  “The court reporter can’t really hear that. Try again.”

  “Yes, your honor, I received your documentation at 3am this morning, after getting a truly extensive 7 minutes of sleep. I thoroughly reviewed both volumes, including the 93 pages of footnotes. I now understand exactly how you prefer that proceedings take place in your judicial arena, and I will strive to meet those standards, although I must say that the one bit about the-”

  Judge Severe held up her hand. “You’re doing it again, using 400 words instead of one. Would you like to try answering again?”


  “Did you receive my notes?”


  “Very good. See how that works?” She offered something that might have been a brief smile, but could just as easily have been an intestinal disturbance. “Now, let’s continue where we left off, something about the rocking of the boat.”

  “But I did have one question, about that one bit.”

  She sighed. “Let me guess. The bell. You are troubled by the bell, and could easily expound on your troubles for days on end.”


  The judge did something flippant with her hair, a remarkable feat considering we hadn’t seen a single strand move a millimeter over the last two days. “I like the bell, and we’re keeping the bell. But thank you for reminding me about the bell, as I nearly forgot about it, what with all the excitement of getting to hear you speak again.” She now did something sarcastic with her hair, and then turned her attention to the viewing audience. “Has Ms. Freebush arrived?”

  Claudette had, leaping to her feet in a spasm of attention and validation, wearing an even smarter pantsuit than the previous day. (She had also made a rather surprising choice in lipstick color, but this would probably prove irrelevant in the end.) “Yes, Your Judgmenttress, I am present and prepared for my assigned duty.”

  “Please approach the bench.”

  Claudette promptly scurried forth, practically knocking the little “unimportant people stay behind here” gate from its hinges and crossing to the bench at lightning speed. (Now that we could see her more clearly, the unfortunate lipstick choice was more apparent, and could still be an issue at some point.) “I am ready for the bell.”

  Judge Severe pulled out a satchel from the dark and mysterious place under her desk (Anne Frank probably handed it to her) and began to shuffle through it. After tossing aside a tire iron and a hefty container of cooking spray, she produced a tiny silver bell and an even tinier little hammer. Both of these items were presented to Claudette with a flourish generally reserved for state functions attended by royalty.

  Claudette took possession of said items with equal reverence, her eyes shining with awe and future blog posts. “And the instructions are the same as we discussed in the chat room?”

  Judge Severe nodded, then skillfully recalled her own admonishment to me about the court reporter and her lack of visual interpretation. “Yes. Yes, they are. If the witness strays from the testimonial path with pointless anecdotes and useless imagery, you are to strike the bell soundly, and the witness must immediately curtail the pointless uselessness and return to a more valid plot objective.”

  Claudette looked as if there was nothing in the entire world she would rather do more, getting to make me stop talking whenever she wanted. (Side note: That sound you hear in the background is hundreds of my friends and family members rushing to find out if this magical bell was available on the Internet.) “I understand completely.”

  “I don’t,” I said, with perhaps a more grating flavor of insolence than recommended.

  “Your issue?” inquired the judge, although she clearly didn’t care.

  “Why does she have to ring a bell? Can’t she just say something?”

  Judge Severe sighed, as it was such a bother having to explain things to stupid people all the time. “Because this is a much more sophisticated manner of raising an objection than crude bellowing. Besides, I happen to like bells.”

  “I love bells!” enthused Claudette. “And I greatly enjoy hitting things.”

  Judge Severe beamed down upon the irksome Claudette, pleased that she had cultivated another convert to musical adjudication. “That’s wonderful, Ms. Freebush. Now, if you would return to your seat in the Unimportant Section, we can finally begin.”

  Claudette retraced her enthusiastic steps with haste, only pausing twice to allow other jealous audience members to briefly touch the power-status bell. Then she got settled, perching on the end of her chair and clutching her sonic alert system.

  I glanced over at my attorney to see if he was getting any of this, with an expression of “isn’t this a bit wrong, what with the judge allowing complete strangers to edit my testimony, especially a stranger with an undue fondness of pantsuits?”. He just looked back at me with his own expression of “dude, you made me stop playing Angry Birds when you’re on the witness stand, so I think I’ve contributed more than enough to society today, don’t push me”.

  “Mr. Lageose?” inquired the judge, somewhat icily, “if you’re done flirting with your lawyer, we should proceed with the rest of your story. Let’s get back on the cruise ship.”

  (“Thank God,” muttered a previously-unknown member of the audience, a Frenchman named Olivier who had only come to the courthouse after hearing a rumor about Tomato Tart Provencale being served in the cafeteria, but instead ended up in Courtroom B listening to this increasingly frustrating tale.)

  I took a deep breath. “Okay, it’s still the first night on the ship, and we haven’t yet-”

  A clear but echoing chime rang through the courtroom.

  All eyes turned toward Claudette. “What? I was already bored.”

  Judge Severe smiled sourly. “Sweetie, let’s at least let him finish a paragraph, shall we? Then you can commence with the judging.”

  Claudette nodded. “Got it.”

  All eyes turned back to me. “So, it’s the first night, and the rocking of the ship is causing me to feel a little bit nauseous. Not real bad, but I can tell things are brewing and we might have a potential issue. But I don’t want to take any Dramamine, because then my body would depend on it and I’d have to keep taking it, and besides, that stuff can make you sleepy and I didn’t want to spend my whole time in the cabin.”

  (“Just take the pills, you fool,” muttered Olivier. “Pills can be little, round miracles.”)

  Claudette raised her bell, hammer poised. “Was that a paragraph? Can I hit it now?”

  Judge Severe shook her head. “I’ll grant that he’s rambling, but instinct tells me that he might be slightly headed toward a point, and since we haven’t really seen him do that yet, I’d like us to get there. Objection over-dinged.”

  I nodded in agreement. “Yes, I was talking about the nausea because I did have it off and on, never for very long, but long enough that I would get sweaty and pale and I would stagger a little bit. That’s what was happening when that one witness saw me and later said that I looked a little… unkempt.”

  Judge Severe flipped through her notes. “I believe the phrase was ‘wild-eyed and foaming at the mouth’, does that sound right?”

  “Foaming? I wasn’t foaming, you’d think I would remember something like that. Oh wait, I also had a little bit of acid reflux going on, because there had been a lot of fried food on the dinner buffet and I have a hard time passing that up even though I know some of it is going to repeat, and maybe that’s what-”

  My lawyer suddenly jumped up from his table, marched through the little social-segregation gate, grabbed the bell away from Claudette, and then began to ring it like a Salvation Army worker on crack.

  This surprised even the usually-nonplussed judge. “Counselor, are you interrupting your own client?”

  “That I am,” confirmed my lawyer. “This story is still days away from the time of the crime and we are never going to get there at this pace.” He shoved the bell back into Claudette’s hands, with her looking devastated that her moment in the sun had been snatched away. He then stomped back up through the gate and right up to my startled face in the witness box.

  “On the night of October 17th, did you or did you not try to kidnap your sister?”

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