A Likely Story

Roger Clark
October 2020

 I’ve been to court a few times in my life, and it’s not like it is on TV. But then, nothing is like it is on TV, including hospital rooms, baseball games, the legal process, and trailer trucking. Just to remain grounded in reality, in fact, I’ve stayed tuned into Keith, Kenneth, Creflo, Joyce, and Benny.

I grew up, according to close friends, somewhere around age fifty. Family members have fond memories of my childhood, when I would run away from home, and they’d rent out my room. The first time in court, accused of stealing library books, the judge revoked my glasses for a year. 

 My parents were politically conservative public servants, with a bent for law and order, so when I ran away with the circus, they made me bring it back. They were mostly right, usually Christian, always certain, and often wrong. Yet we were taught to work hard, serve well, fear the past, and respect decorum in the courtroom.  

As a result, my siblings and I have all been part of the criminal justice system. One as an attorney, another as a witness, one more as a juror, and the fourth became a defendant. It was not a front-page story. It didn’t even rate space in the small print police blotter, but “Failure To Display IFTA Tag” required a personal appearance. In the interest of full disclosure, I POSSESSED the sticker, I just hadn’t done the hard work of placing it on the truck.

 The defendant who represents himself has a fool for a client, and my mama didn’t raise no fool. Well, okay, maybe she did, but it was my brother, not me. Unfortunately, he was my lawyer that day, and had better luck negotiating a plea bargain with a candy machine than with the crusty old judge. As a result, I was fined fifty dollars and brother got busted for contempt.

It wasn’t his fault. As we were waiting in the courtroom to be called up front, I opened my briefcase which held a pair of my shorts.

“What’s that?” he asked quietly, and I responded with a whisper, “My legal briefs!”

Well, I didn’t expect him to laugh out loud, and he didn’t anticipate a fine from the judge, but we were both wrong, thanks to the legacy of our parents.

 Some years later, accused of leaving the scene in my bright orange Chevy S-10, witnesses claimed I was bearded, skinny, and driving a dark blue jeep. Well, I’ve never had to shave, say no to a cheeseburger, or driven anything 4-wheel drive, so I was released without charges. But I did have to sign an affidavit confirming I was non-Hispanic before I could testify. 

I never did learn why that document was even necessary, but it has transformed my life. From that day to this, I’m driving nothing but Fords, eating only healthy foods, and changing my name to Michael Martinez. As a result, I can resist anything but temptation!

 Like so many other things in our lives, not just prime time, the legal system can be an intimidating circus, but remember what FDR said. There is nothing to fear but fear itself. And snakes. And lawyers. And wimmen. And believe me, as someone too familiar with divorce court, sometimes they’re all the same person.

With a little bit of luck, however, sprinkled with years of hard work and personal sacrifice, I finally found the perfect mate. I even said to her once, don’t judge me until you’re perfect. Don’t worry, she told me with a smile, I am!