It’s been a trying week and I needed to just let out a little craziness. This is partly inspired by a ridiculous lunch time conversation yesterday and partly by the article 5 Writing Exercises That Will Make You More Creative. Anyway, enjoy (maybe).
“Patrick McCallister, you stand before us today charged with the most heinous crime of the murder of Santa Clause.”
Echoing from the bench, the voice of the Judge reverberated around the chambers with the leaden solemnity and gravitas of a tomb. His face peered down, a terrifying visage cloaked with the fury of a well worn and aged mantle of authority, and locked onto the tiny trembling form of the boy. Cowering in the dock and barely managing not to wet himself, Patrick tried to hide under the full glare of the assembled court.
“How plead you?”, demanded the Judge. The three words slammed into place with the force of locking bolts on a prison door.
Patrick squirmed. On or twice his mouth opened, but no words would come. He wriggled in his seat, perhaps betraying the size of his small four year old bladder. He tried looking away, but when he caught a glimpse of the packed courtroom and rank upon rank of reporters, his confidence took a further hit. Turning his eyes to the floor, he shrank into the smallest ball he could and remained silent. It was soon evident that no answer would be forthcoming.
The assembly noticed movement and swivelled their attention as the defence attorney rose from his seat. With the sleekness of a puma, he paused to iron out the creases from his suit with his hand before responding, “Your Honour, my client wishes to plead ‘Not Guilty'”.
Around the room, people came to life as they responded to the plea as if to a jolt of electricity. The reporters were ecstatic. This trial had a long way to go. So many storied to be written, their excited babble almost drowned out the outrage erupting from the Santa Impersonators Union. Having been put out of their seasonal work, they had come en-mass to see the criminal who had destroyed their livelihood and spat venomous insults at the pint sized assassin who sat before them.
Toy manufacturers, paranormal investigators, researchers from Harvard Law, Groklaw journo-legals and all manner of people had come to this, the fourth trial of the century to have been offered this decade. And, over it all, presided Judge McCallister, his face a transparent picture of fury at the plea now on offer. In his fury he didn’t respond with his customary swiftness to still the cacophony before him, but eventually he did respond, his gavel beating out a staccato of taps to accompany his calls of, “Order! Order!”
The room responded promptly, the Judge was well known for his merciless court discipline, and he continued in his practised authoritative tone.
“Very well, let it be recorded that the defendant has pleaded ‘Not Guilty’. We proceed to trial. Dr Brody, please outline the prosecution’s case.”
Standing with a well practised ease, Dr Brody positioned himself in the centre of the courtroom. He was an expansive man, filling his shirt, which he wore without a coat, until it stretched taut against his stomach. A pair of suspenders held his pants up and he hooked his thumbs through them as he began to pace the room. In his Southern accent, with a conversational tone that was carefully calculated to put the Jury at ease, he began.
“Ladies and Gentlemen. Your Honour. What we have before us today is a case of cold calculated murder. A boy – yes I admit it, he is a child – but a boy who none-the-less has a hard bitter vengeful hatred of that man we so loved and cherished. That man who brought us all so much joy. The man in red, Santa Clause. A hatred that lead him to murder.” Emphasising his last word, Dr Brody paused for effect, allowing time for the significance to sink in.
Abruptly his demeanour changed, taking on an air of innocent credulity. “Now the defence will argue that their ‘client’,” he said using air quotes and a knowing smile for the last word, “is just a boy. That his act of poisoning was done accidentally. That as a four year old he would have no way of understanding the repercussions of his actions.” Changing his demeanour once again, he followed with a visage of wisdom and gravitas, “But don’t be fooled by their lies.”
“During the course of this trial, the prosecution will allege, and demonstrate mind you, that on or about 8:30pm on the 24th December last year, the defendant, Patrick McCallister, did knowingly and wilfully leave out as a snack for Santa, crackers with off ham and rancid milk, thereby giving him the fatal dose of food poisoning that killed him.”
The court was silent. Patrick was still curled up in his little ball in the dock, but a reedy voice called out, “S’not true.”
Just then, the doors to the chamber burst open and a man in a lab coat came running up the aisle. Glasses askew on his face and panting from his unaccustomed exercise, he gasped, “Stop the trial, stop the trial. You have the wrong person.”
Glancing up at the Judge, Dr Brody looked uncertain and then asked, “Who? You mean Patrick?”
“And who the heck are you anyway?” demanded the Judge.
Catching his breath slightly but still visibly heaving, the man replied, “No no, not Patrick. Santa! You’ve got the wrong man with Santa.” This definitely had everyone non-plussed. It wasn’t what the Police had said.
“Look I’m the pathologist assigned to this case, and this morning I figured I should probably get around to taking a look at the body. You know, what with the trial starting today and all that.”
He wilted slightly under the whithering glare of the assembly. “Oh come on give me a break,” he protested, “I’ve got so much work to do, and you know … Santa, jolly red guy. Everyone knows what he looks like and all that. It’s not like the Police were going to get it wrong and so I figured …” His voice petered off as he saw his excuse garnering no sympathy and, if anything, just digging himself deeper.
Changing tack he said, “OK, ok, fair enough. Bad me. But look, I did get around to it today and I’m telling you, this ain’t Santa. Well the body I mean, obviously. He’s not here in the courtroom … sitting on my slab … back in my …” The glares were just intensifying and he couldn’t bring himself to finish a sentence under such searching silent accusations.
“And so, pray tell, who is the victim in this case?” asked the Judge with a sickeningly horrific calmness.
Eyes downcast, the pathologist mumbled, “Well I’m not 100% sure but I think from the dental records that it might be Patrick’s father dressed up in a Santa suit.”
In the dock, Patrick’s head snapped up, tiny eyes open wide like saucers and he started blubbing softly.
“But who would do such a heinous thing?” the Judge demanded in astonishment. “Everyone knows that to impersonate Santa requires a license. This is sacrilege and probably a bigger crime than the murder in the first place.”
With a thunk, the editor let the manuscript fall to his desk. He motioned for his assistant to come over and said, “Jerry, this is probably the worst ‘Law and Order’ fan fiction script I’ve ever seen. Please don’t let anything from this author cross my desk ever again.”
With that he binned the manuscript, chose another from the pile and sat back to continue reading.