“I was having a bad week, your honor. A really bad week. I’m talking from-hell type a week, you know what I mean? I had sprained my shoulder getting out of the way of a demonic minivan that seemed determined on running me down no matter which way I tried to avoid that fate. Myrna – that’s my hairdresser – well, ex-hairdresser now – had completely messed up my hair. She ruined it. I mean, look at this, would you go anywhere with your hair looking like this?”
“The plaintiff may not have noticed but I don’t have any hair at all. If I had your locks I would be grateful for them and try to fix them on my next appointment.”
Great, a funny judge. My lucky streak continues. I forced out the best fake chuckle I could muster under the circumstances, which only seemed to antagonize him. Maybe he wasn’t being funny. Maybe he really did want my fried, hacked-off orangeish hair. We can work this out, your honor. Just let me go and I’ll give you every tress.
“And my favorite TV show got canceled before we even found out who Carly was going to marry. And then this morning I was late for work. Again. And again it was not my fault. According to the radio there was an overturned chicken truck on the interstate blocking traffic for miles.
“An overturned chicken truck. That’s the kind of week I was having, your honor. How does that even happen? Do all the hens all decide to lay their eggs on one side of the truck and the weight of all that albumen tips the thing over?”
“That’s neither here nor there, Ms. Masterson. As much as I’d love to spend the day discussing possible causes of poultry pile-ups I do have other cases on my docket.”
“Right. Sorry, your honor. So, ordinarily when I’m stuck in traffic, I try to use the time to get something done – usually prep for a meeting at work or planning an upcoming party, but even if it’s just filing my nails I figure I might as well get something out of the situation. So I was reaching for my purse when I realized I’d left the sodding thing at home. And of course in addition to my emery board and my drivers license, it had everything I needed for that meeting with the Smith-Klein corporation that I was already late for
“And that was when I threw up my hands. ‘Great!’ I said, ‘that’s just great!.’ And I just kinda asked heaven – even though I don’t believe in heaven or God or any of that claptrap and before you say anything, yes, I realize that’s neither here nor there – ‘What else could go wrong?’
“Like, I said, I’m not a believer, but wouldn’t you know, for once heaven answered. The lady behind me – her over there with her hair all tamped down on one side like that where you can tell she never stops talking and should really invest in a bluetooth if you ask me – well, she was evidently lost in a deep cell phone dream, and hallucinated that the gridlock surrounding us was actually a smoothly functioning chickenless municipal thoroughfare and ran into my back bumper knocking my little Prius into the SUV in front of me and throwing my shoulder – which had been edging its way slowly back into his socket – almost through the windshield and up onto my now crumpled-up hood.
“When I got out to give her a good cussing-out – which must be the thing to do in these circumstances, since the tattooed bruiser in the SUV, who as you can see looks a whole lot like Joseph Stalin only not near as friendly was rappeling down from his gas-guzzler to give me one too. Which he did, your honor, and it was a much meaner and more menacing cussing than I gave Suzy Cellphone there.”
I stopped there because the judge was holding up his hand. He took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes.
“The court is prepared to give you the benefit of the doubt, Ms. Masterson, and assume that you misheard the question and are answering a whole lot of questions the court never asked in the hopes that you might stumble upon the correct question. To save us both some time however, why don’t I repeat it? Why did you push the gentleman there into a ditch?”
“That’s exactly the question I am answering, your honor. But it won’t make much sense if you don’t have any background on the situation.”
I could tell by the way he smirked that he didn’t think it made a whole hell of a lot of sense even with the background information, and I had to admit he had a point.
“All right, so I’m cussing out Suzy Cellphone, Joe Stalin there is cussing – and threatening – me, when up walks this guy. ” And I turn to point to the guy who more than anybody was responsible for my being where I was. He was sitting in the front row of the court but he wasn’t paying any attention. He was gazing out the window, looking at something that commanded his full attention. Maybe they were already working on building my gallows out there, who knows.
“As you can see, he’s all scruffy and unshaven, and I have no idea where he came from, where his car was or what in the hell he wanted from me. I thought at first he might be homeless but you don’t get that kind of flawless skin living out on the street and he didn’t talk like a homeless guy or smell like one either.”
The judge held up one finger and brought it crashing down onto his desk or pulpit or whatever you call that thing he sits behind. And although I don’t speak sign language I knew he meant “Get to the point.”
“So he walks up from out of nowhere in the middle of all this cussing and blaming that’s going on and he starts apologizing. For what I have no idea. But he’s all like, ‘Oh, I’m so sorry. This is all my fault.’ At first I ignored him. I mean with the day I’m having the last thing I need is some nutjob with flawless features to go blithering on about how he somehow caused this accident even though as far as I can tell he doesn’t even have a car. Then the light goes on, and I think I know who he might be.
“But I don’t get a chance to ask him cuz right then Stalin there grabbed my shoulder – the sore one I told you about – and spun me back around cuz he evidently has a strong preference for spewing profanity in my face rather than at the back of my head. Suzy cellphone was still chatting all this time, by the way, and I think we all assumed that she was talking to the police, until she goes, ‘Okay, Randy, I’ll see you tonight. I love you too’ and even makes this little kissy-kiss bye-bye sound.
“Well, I wanted to take that phone and shove it up – I mean, fling it somewhere, maybe through Josef’s back window or something. But I don’t. I show restraint and suggest her next call be to 911. Then I turn around to the homeless guy who’s still apologizing and I say, ‘Are you the guy who was driving the chicken truck?’
“And he goes ‘Chicken truck? What chicken truck?’
“And I go, ‘If you’re not the guy who caused this traffic jam, then who the hell are you?’ and he goes, ‘I’m Hershel, your guardian angel.’
“That was when I pushed him into the ditch and I’m sorry I did that, your honor. But as I think I’ve demonstrated, I was having a bad week and an even worse day, so I was in no mood for crazy talk.”
After that they put Hershel or whatever his name was up on the stand. He said no, he wasn’t hurt, no, he didn’t want to press charges, what he meant when he said he was a guardian angel was that he was a good Samaritan and he wanted to see if he could help in any way.
He was charming as all hell and the judge not only bought it, but it seemed to imbue him with such goodwill toward man that he let us all go, he even dismissed the ticket the cop had given me for driving without my license, though he did give me a stern warning that if was caught driving without it in my possession again the sentence he would give me give would curl my hair even worse than it already had been.
By the time we got out of the courtroom it was after eleven o’clock. My meeting was long over. So too was my career probably, since my cellphone was still at home in my purse and I never even called to explain to my boss why I wasn’t there.
I was standing outside at the curb waiting for a trusting cabdriver to come by, one who looked like he would believe me when I told him that although I had no money I would be able to pay him when we got to my house, when homeless Hershel walked up beside me.
“I really am sorry about everything that happened today,” he said.
“Is that all you know how to say? ‘I’m sorry’?”
He smiled. “No, I also know how to say ‘Can I buy you a cup of coffee or some lunch to make up for the trouble I’ve caused.’ ”
I was about to point out that he had only caused a small percentage of my woes, but I felt like I had used up my quota of verbiage for the week on the judge – who didn’t appreciate it half as much as he appreciated the few honeyed words from Hershel – and besides, all I wanted to do was get home to an overflowing bowl of mint chocolate chip ice cream and the Discovery Channel. I did not want any more penitent palaver with this lunatic.
“Look, I’m too tired to be polite, so I’ll just tell you flat out I don’t like coffee and I don’t like you. So