Specter in family court

I will go to court in the morning with my tail hanging like a dog prick between my legs, dead from shame. The judge will not worry with me. It will be a cool, brisk Winter morning and he will only care about his addict son and his daughter who spent her youth the right way. His wife died a long time ago, too long for his children to remember. My mother’s employment case is the reason we will go to court, and that will not be important to either of us.

The walls will be a darkened oak that men spent three weeks making look proper. The chairs will be uncomfortable, like school chairs, or chairs in a Catholic backroom where schoolchildren are educated on the magnitude of their sins. I had a vision between my beers that a man would approach us in the courtroom before my mother signs her check. He will be dressed in a suit, for the first or second time in his life, and I will not recognise him even though by birthright I should be able to know his face as half of mine.

The courtroom windows express the sun in full view, like the edge of a bullet bright in its short life. Our faces are normal and ugly. No one wants to be in the courtroom. The man coughs when the judge bangs his gavel and we all tense up. He keeps coughing. You can’t hear his accent when he coughs but his cough is not what you would hear in the South. It has no twang and it strikes the people sitting down as he keeps coughing. I look back, nervous and angry. My mother and I will rest well for a month if this check clears and my mother’s case is laid to rest in her favor.

Well, he coughs again, and walks up to us, my mother and I, and he lays a hand on my shoulder. His face is like the side of a freezer door. His facial hair is like the underside of a truck that hasn’t been run in a month or more, when it’s guts are leaking out in rust. So he lays a hand on my shoulder and he says, “Son, you’ve got more God in you than I could have thought.”

I cough myself because I’ve kept silent the phlegm in my throat out of respect for the judge during the last hour and a half. I don’t register the man’s words before my mother does. She yelps, like a dog stuck with a steak knife.

“What in the fuck are you doing here?” she says.

I don’t recognise him any more than I would a common stranger or a tattooed bum asking for change. His skin is like leather while mine is like paper pitted with raw acne, only cleansed from it a little while ago.

“I am here to see him,” the man says. My mother clutches at her chest. She tries to hit him in his face, right for his nose. She busts her knuckle on it and my white shirt turns red in little splatters.

I have not seen direct violence before, except for when my mother and I used to watch wrestling on television. Later on I learned when they made a real intense move, they used ketchup, which I think is too sweet to eat. But the man’s blood tastes like a nosebleed when it lands in my mouth and some of it lands in my hair.

“Bitch!” he says, and he clocks her onto the ground. I raise my hand but the bailiff is there before I can do anything. My arms are weak anyway. I feel like a girl while the man wrestles with the bailiff, who after a second has him on the ground and it looks like his arm is dislocated. The man is in cuffs, screaming at the people sitting who are sitting still like toddlers told to hush, and he thrashes around while the bailiff beats him with his nightstick. Something in me laughs even as I am shivering for my mother, who has stood up and resumed her glare at him except she is silent. I can hear something, something in her talking to me, but the courtroom is loud now and the judge has rushed to his office and I only wonder if I would have seen something like this every day, or if I would have seen this once and died the next day, from abject shame. The people sitting down look at me, not my mother, the bailiff, or the man.


~ by Jeremy on December 11, 2011.

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