Jam smeared and restless, the judge banged his gavel.
“Order! Order in the court!”
The agitated spectators filling the pews on either side of the aisle fell quiet. A few more bangs of the gavel because the judge liked the sharp noise. Time to bring out the accused.
The courtroom was brilliant white. The walls and ceiling were the white of ivory chess pieces and gossamer angel wings. But the white of the judges glorious high chair was dirtied, tagged with sticky strawberry residue, cookie crumbles, and streaks of crayon. He pawed with pudgy fingers through a container of cheerios. He wanted every eye in the room to be on him. Wanted the air to be so fraught with anticipation they would all get headaches from the strain of it. He crammed too many cheerios into his mouth and some fell into his bib, lodged in the fleshy crevices of his skin, or stuck to the coagulated jam on his arms.
When the quiet reached its most absolute he said, “Bring in the bad guys,” and the blue uniformed police at the back of the room opened the great white doors. The audience welcomed the accused with a howling stomping cacophony that splintered the silence. The police led three cuffed figures down the gauntlet to a tumultuous soundscape that burgeoned with each step. Even the judge joined in with a screech of his own, forgetting his composure in the excitement.
When the three stood on the platform before the high chair at last, the noise ebbed to a dull roar and the judge settled back to contemplate the three. He looked each up and down with that wide eyed stare. He wanted milk but his sippy cup was empty.
The first of the accused was a young girl perhaps six or seven. The judge thought she was beautiful with skin almost as pale as the spotless courtroom walls and wide eyes red from crying.
The second was ugly. No breed of man that he knew but an animal with chains on its neck and ankles as well as hands. It was a dark smudge against the white backdrop.
“What’s a donkey doing here?”
He giggled and the people tittered.
The third was a blond officer, straight backed in his blue uniform with the gun and holster. The handcuffs looked out of place on him, like he had been put on the platform by mistake and really belonged beside the judge with the police. He nodded at them with familiar greetings. Hey Marty and, long time no see Jeff.
Judgement began with the girl. The judge turned to her and the weight of the crowd’s attention descended upon her. He asked the question.
“What did you do?”
She sniffled and sobbed for a few moments and then, “I was seducing men.”
But that’s all she could get out between hiccups. The judge looked to one of the police by his side for translation. Seducing was a big word.
“She was being a whore,” he explained. “Tempting men.”
“I really didn’t mean to,” she said. “I only wanted to wear my brand new dress and I didn’t know it was a crime.”
The words were thin and fragile. The judge wished she would stop crying. Soon the tears and snot would smudge her beauty.
“I’m so sorry,” she said.
“Slut,” someone yelled. And that started a barrage of similar angry projectiles.
The judge banged his gavel until they settled.
“I’ve decided” He said. The spectators leaned forward, eager for the first sentence of the day.
“She said sorry so I won’t punish her.”
There was a smattering of boos.
“So instead, she’ll be mine.”
The crowd considered this.
“She’ll be my wife.”
They settled on a reaction and there was a collective awww as the crying bride to be was relinquished from her cuffs and brought to stand by the judge. Everyone was happy.
“Now, for the donkey,” he said.
The spectator had liked the show. Especially the beginning when the mighty voices of the people swept him up and filled him with adrenaline. But once the judging began, he felt isolated, exempt from what seemed to be the unanimous opinions of the audience. The judge was a child and so inflated from the crowds worship his head was in danger of bursting.
It was time for the second man to be judged but someone had placed felt donkey ears onto his head and drawn fur on his face with black. Every time he tried to speak or remove the donkey ears a policeman swatted him with a stick making a soft farp sound. The crowd had a lot to say about him and and the spectator contributed a few of his own jeers so as to not stand out but he had an odd queasy feeling.
A policeman told the judge, “as he is an animal, I will be speaking for him.”
The man with the donkey ears seemed on the brink of protesting but the stick farped against his ankle.
“He stole a book”
There were mutters of disgust all around the spectator.
“Animal,” someone spit. “Savage ,” hissed another. Through the sound the spectator heard the man dressed as a donkey say, “I didn’t steal anything. Please. Why am I here?”
“In my opinion stealing is a terrible offense,” the policeman continued. “The thing should be put down.”
The crowd loved this. They surged forward stepping over benches, reaching as if to pull the man from the platform to be swallowed by the crush of bodies. He went pale beneath the makeup, the girl beside the judge cried even louder, and the cuffed officer on the platform said, “That is too kind a sentence for something so vile, am I right Jeff?” and winked at the police.
The spectator felt the anger of the crowd and found himself chanting, “Kill the beast,” quieted only by the gavel.
The judge said, “Hang him.”
The spectator swallowed his unease and cheered along.
The donkey seemed to shrink on the platform beside the blond officer. The blond officer thought they should have removed the eyesore and brought back the pretty little girl but he didn’t let any of the cruel revulsion show in his face. It was time for the judge to look upon him. The judge eyed him, chewing on his collar and drooling a bit.
“Let me first say,” began the blond officer, “I am disappointed to be put beside such extreme examples of human declination. A whore and a creature. You all know me.”
He smiled at the police. Some smiled back. The judge seemed captivated. Here was a man who made sense. A reasonable man. In the whiteness of the room he seemed in his element.
“I am no abomination. I wouldn’t hurt a soul.”
No one called him names or threw things.
“I am here because I have been wrongfully accused of murder.”
A few onlookers laughed at the ludicrousy.
“Three police say they saw me shoot a husband and his wife.”
The blond officer looked at his feet to show his deepest regrets.
He was remembering the man and wife though. The dirty animal and its bitch. After he shot, the males body thudded, and the bitch screamed in anguish before he shot her too.
“Of course, these officers were misguided, and the tragic death of these two individuals was an accident. Their breed shouldn’t be allowed things like guns. They’re bound to shoot themselves by mistake.”
The police shook their heads apologetically. They felt silly for putting the cuffs on him.
The people were uncharacteristically subdued. Sighing in sympathy or nodding in agreement with the blond officer’s story. The judge wiggled his toes and swung his legs, not particularly fazed by the weight of a decision. After a beat, he shrugged.
“Take off his cuffs. He’s free.”
There was thunderous applause. A policeman removed his cuffs but a keening cut through the celebration.
The donkey fell to his knees with his bound hands extended towards the now free officer as if in prayer. “Free me too. Don’t let me die. I don’t deserve to die. Please.”
The blond officer flinched in revulsion. All the officer heard was the grating bray of a donkey.
“Don’t touch me.”
The donkey reached again but this time the officer pulled out his gun. He aimed at the donkey’s head, stay back, and pulled the trigger.
At the last moment, the donkey knocked the gun, the shot missed, and the bullet went straight into the heart of the little girl.
Chaos erupted. The spectators flooded the platform, clawing the donkey and each other. With a crash, the high chair toppled and the judge began to wail. The officer shot again into the crowd. The spectator let the mess unfold in a daze.
Only the little girl was still. Red against white. On the heavenly white walls and floors was sprayed, all her blood and organs.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
I have lived in Nelson, BC since I was six years old. I enjoy being creative and this place has given me inspiration for my creativity. I love writing, drawing, and painting. When I create, whether that be through storytelling or visual art, I explore problems that intrigue me. Mostly, I am interested in people’s internal struggles and how society contributes to these struggles. I hope to meld writing and visual art together some day.