She talked about the dog next door.
"I like him well enough. I never hear him bark. Actually you hardly even know he's there. He looks more like a pig to me, at first that's what I thought. But black. He walks around like a pig is the funny thing, with his nose down in the grass sniffing and investigating everything. I don't have a problem with him, except they don't keep a leash on him. That's wrong! He'd taken to walking the perimeter of my yard it seemed around the same time every day. I watched out the kitchen window because it's around the time I do the dinner dishes. Anyway on this particular day I was out back in a lounge chair, taking in some sun. There he was. He walked the back part of the yard, keeping a low profile, his nose in the grass. Like I said, he's a nice enough dog. Then he cut to the middle of the yard and right in the middle stopped and squatted and took a big old shit. Oh sorry, can I say that here? Yeh, and he really enjoyed it too, wiggling his ass and everything -- a lot came out! Needless to say, this changed everything DRAMATICALLY, I felt VIOLATED. As I watched, it instantly came to me that this dog pig was probably doing that every time. I knew I had to act, wouldn't you?"
She looked up at the judge. It was hard to tell from his expression what he thought, whether he cared one bit. Was he empathetic? She smiled her best smile. If anything, he only looked bored.
When the lady next door moved in, Velma Johnson's her name, no one really thought much about it. I mean she seemed a "nice, quiet lady, keeps to herself." That was the word on the street. Now her son sat in the front row of the courtroom while she was up on the stand with her right hand on the bible, getting herself sworn in with her hand on heart and that whole "nothing but the truth so help me God" thing. Her attorney paced back and forth in front of the stand then asked his first question.
She talked about the neighbor.
"I keep to myself, ask anyone. That day I was getting ready to head out the door to see old Doc Wilson, ya know, he's downtown in the medical center? He's my family doctor. Anyways, that's when I saw her coming up my walkway. She was holding a tray of roast beef sandwiches. When I opened the screen door 'I made them for you' is what she said. Now that was nice and everything and I thanked her, but immediately thought it over-the-top. It was a big tray, enough to feed an army. Why me? I could see it was fancy bread and seriously they were at least two inches high, with a lot piled on, and roast beef costs a lot of money, right? Well anyways, I invited her in and did tell her I was heading out, then she started in with her whole life story again and it seems the life story of everyone on the street and asking me bunches of personal questions and saying with that strange smile 'aren't you going to thank me for the sandwiches?' I had thanked her once already when she handed them to me, right? Did she want me to jump up and down for joy? By now she was sitting down on my mahogany bench in the foyer. I sat down next to her, ya know, being polite. But she was getting too close, if you know what I mean."
She looked up at the judge. He now was curious.
The attorney continued. "So the plaintiff brought in the sandwiches and then sat 'too close.' Was she still holding the tray?"
"Well I was eating a half a one, trying it out, being neighborly. I put the tray on the dining room table. I mean they were too generous with horseradish and everything, although I did tell her my son would gobble them up, maybe in one sitting! (Defendant laughs). But she kept on about my thanking her and didn't they make me happy ya know and weren't they 'special' etcetera. In the meantime, she had moved her thigh up against mine and was leaning into me. I could smell her eau de toilette. She was pressing me into the corner of the bench. My dog Sammy was lying on the rug watching us. I tried again to be nice again saying 'yes I can't thank you enough for the sandwiches' etcetera, as she was so on that, ya know. Then I slid out from under her and opened the screen door, telling Sammy to go out and do his business."
"So the plaintiff was pressing you up in the corner of the bench and you rebuffed her advances?"
The courtroom had the usual traffic ticket scofflaws and fender benders and this one suing that for contracts gone awry, and was a place where no one paid much attention to anything else except those up front: botched haircuts; workers falling off ladders; the secretary who the boss claims was skimming off the petty cash; the tenant who for some reason smashed every window in his apartment while his landlord sat there looking like he'd been through this WAY too many times -- the WAITING and waiting -- when he'd much rather be playing golf or spying on that sexy neighbor across the street.
This caught their attention.
"So you politely rebuffed her advances, then what?"
"Well yes, indeed," she hung her head and spoke softly. "A lesbian pass? No lady was gonna make a pass at me!"
There was catcalling and hooting from the courtroom and the judge banged his gavel, "Order, order."
"I mean going on and on about the sandwiches, like she was fixated on them. So what I did was get up and let Sammy out. Johnny Jr, my son there, he was in the living room watching TV and he saw the whole thing, well, he said out of the corner of his eye he did. I have no reason not to believe him. I let Sammy out and thanked her again. I indicated the open door and she got up saying 'That's prime quality lean roast beef there' and walked out."
"All this after the lesbian pass?"
The cackles and now hollering too were taking hold. The judge banged his gavel and said wearily, "Counselor, your point please. Remember, this woman is the defendant. The worst outcome is she pays a fine for trespassing and not curbing her dog. This is small claims, Counselor, not a criminal trial -- please make your case."
"I'll make my case, your honor." The attorney rubbed his chin. He paced back and forth in front of the stand. The room had quieted and Velma sat there, expectant. The attorney turned and pointed to the plaintiff in a dramatic fashion. "That lady made a lesbian pass! We're not only talking about dog shit here."
Yells and laughter and hard banging of the gavel.
Velma was covering for her son. Well as far as the actual specifics of the case. The pass was bad enough, true, but Johnny Jr. witnessing it made it a whole 'nother matter. They wouldn't even be in this courtroom today if it wasn't for his butting in. Wasn't coming to this new house supposed to be a fresh start for them? Although she didn't fuss at him about it too much anymore, Velma felt being he was approaching twenty-five, he oughta be out on his own and married and raising a family, not living with her like some roommate. And always getting mixed up in her business.
He felt it was his place.
Witnessing the pass brought up all kinds of bad memories for Johnny Jr. They'd moved around so many times and he'd seen his mother go through so much, and she never did speak up for herself or anything. Wet blanket. How long could she be pushed around? The morning after the sandwiches, Johnny Jr. took Sammy out and walked down by the creek adjoining both properties. It was dawn and the neighborhood was still asleep. Johnny Jr. walked Sammy along the perimeter of the property, him sniffing and investigating everything, and then to the center of the yard. Johnny Jr. stood there encouraging him, and waited for him to complete his business. A big old dump, wiggling his ass and everything! Johnny Jr. held a grin as they returned to the house. Later that night and the next morning too he schooled Sammy through this same routine and watched him from the back porch, sniffing and walking that same route, right to the center of the yard.
Velma left the stand.
The judge banged the gavel, eying the bailiff. "I've heard enough. Bailiff, approach the bench."
They got in a huddle. The judge motioned him to move closer and said in his ear, "We can't get caught up in a case about a lesbian pass. I'm waiting to be reappointed. The media would have a field day."
People with cameras and microphones had come in and were lined up in the back of the courtroom. Apparently word had gotten out about the hubbub. The courtroom crowd had hardly quieted. Both plaintiff and Velma sat discretely on either side of the front row.
Speaking loudly while banging his gavel. "Order, order here. Court is dismissed for a ten minute recess when I'll be back with a verdict. I'm tempted to dismiss this case," he said to the front row, "and let you two duke it out amongst yourselves or refile in another court that'll hear you. In the meantime, Bailiff, keep order here! This is my courtroom. Bailiff, ensure civility while I'm in chambers. We'll have no hullabaloo here."
The judge disappeared in the back. "I'll be damned," he said to himself.
The courtroom murmured. Johnny Jr. stood up, stretched his legs and feigned a yawn. He wandered over to the neighbor accused of the lesbian pass. She sat shoulder to shoulder with her counsel. They looked confident.
"You're the kid right?" she asked Johnny Jr.
"I'm twenty-five years old."
"Did you eat any of the sandwiches?"
"Ma'am I wish you never brought over those sandwiches. Ever since we moved in you've been riding us and making us uncomfortable with your ways. This is all your fault."
"That was Boar's Head beef, young man. I was making a neighborly gesture."
Johnny Jr. had turned red. He was never good at making eye contact, but looked her dead in the face. "If you didn't come over and shit on my mother I wouldn't have sent Sammy to shit on you!"
There was laughter from those who overheard. The judge made way back to the bench.
Twice hitting the gavel.
"I find the defendant not guilty." The courtroom roared. "QUIET PLEASE". Banging gavel. "If anything, plaintiff was unwelcome in defendant's home and based on this narrative, this case is not anything about a dog. No, not about a dog but some personal entanglement, and this isn't the court to hear such a case. Bailiff, please approach the bench."
The bailiff approached the bench. The judge handed him a clipboard. "Bailiff, please read the findings."
"Court finds the defendant innocent. Court charges plaintiff with trespassing, per an amendment to Local Law No. 2 of the year 1997 which prohibits trespassing. This court levies the maximum fine of two-hundred and fifty dollars, payable to the cashier on the way out." The bailiff handed back the clipboard.
The judge spoke directly to the plaintiff. "Sandwiches aside, I'd charge you with simply being obnoxious if I could, but that's beyond my jurisdiction. This court is dismissed."