The book, by John Grisham, featured a court case about a hand written will that wrote the family out of an inheritance, leaving almost everything to a housekeeper. One suspected that there was a deeper thing going on, but the lawyer was still digging. More than half way through the book, each chapter was revealing a little bit more of the mystery. But there were other things that needed to be done and I could not afford another day with my head in the book.
I shifted from the fictional court to the real court. A friend of ours was due to appear before the Sheriff for brawling in public. Drink was involved somewhere as were slurred words and swinging fists. It seems that a next day apology made by all involved was not sufficient to avoid an appearance in court.
I’ve never been to the court before. I asked politely if I might sit at the back. No objections were raised as long as I kept my mobile phone switched off. The man I sat next to was skimming through Facebook on his. The teacher in me longed to say something but I was a guest in unfamiliar surroundings. An official spotted the light from the phone and insisted the man hand it over. I’ve seen that look of innocence before. Huh? Who me? The official was no fool and held out his hand. The phone was surrendered. There was a certain comfort in knowing that it’s not just teachers that fight the give-me-the-phone-now battle.
I had forgotten my hearing aids. I am connected to the loop system and was looking forward to using it. I had to content myself with analysing body language as I could hear almost nothing. There was none of the theatrics of John Grisham. No one accused the judge of being a racist bigot. The judge did not need to warn anyone about being held in contempt of court. There was no jury. No large woman wafting a folded piece of paper to keep herself cool. No fan whirred noisily on the ceiling shifting hot air around the room and there was no crowded gallery of “town folk”.
The folk that were there – I think I recognised a face or two. I think I taught the kid in the suit a year or two ago. His face was familiar. He was up for joy riding – I think. He was banned from driving for three years and given a fine. Another kid was definitely in one of my classes just recently. Without his school uniform he looked different somehow.
I spent an hour with my good ear pushed forward but it was really no use – all participants from judges and lawyers, criminals and court officials mumbled quietly. There was a steady stream of men and women, sitting and rising in the dock and nodding their heads as the sentence was pronounced.
Some of the younger offenders, first timers, looked very scared. They were dressed on their Sunday best, scrubbed red behind the ears with eyes that stuck out on stalks. Others looked as if they had been there before. Dressed in jeans and sports hoodies they nodded at the other regulars. Respect for the system was just a veneer. One man on being sentenced turned to a pal with a victory fist – the kind you see in tennis matches after a well won point. Perhaps he gained a lighter sentence than he expected or deserved.
I wasn’t sure if my friend had already been through the system. He wasn’t sitting on any of the benches outside the courtroom. I wanted to show support. As the hours wore on, I felt my eyelids fall. Not being able to hear anything, and having sat through more than half a dozen cases, with not much to tell them apart, and nothing nail-bitingly tense I decided to not stay. The sun outside was shining and I could taste an ice cream in my future.
I thought about other courtrooms. I wondered how Jake was faring in the book. It was much more interesting than the real life court I was sitting in.
I imagined me, in the heavenly courts. The prosecution, the devil, would flick through a thick file of my offences. While he is puffing himself up for his opening statement, Jesus, my advocate and saviour, strides in waving a sheet of paper. One word written in red – not ink, my friend, but His precious blood – SAVED.