New - 22 September 2008
We the Jury, a novel:
Jack woke up with a start, his body coming fully erect to a sitting position. For several long moments, he simply shook his head from side to side. Then, his eyes widening, he looked around his bedroom. It was his; everything was in fact in its accustomed place. It was also the beginning of the twenty first century and outside the bedroom it was still a bright, semi-arid Denver, Colorado morning. In other words, no fog. Even better from Jack’s point of view – the alternative possibilities having been recently revealed to him in living and stinking color -- his sheets were definitely clean. They were, admittedly, crumpled considerably from some early morning stirrings on the part of someone, but this minor infraction was insufficient to catch Jack’s attention. He had other more pressing thoughts.
Dreams were… well… dreams. Nevertheless, sometimes they really needed to be explained, interpreted, or somehow discounted. Worse yet, such explanations seldom manifested themselves when one was still lying in bed… with or without the sheets being drawn over one’s head. Dream interpretation needed instead a degree of wakened mobility, perhaps a bit of pacing. Jack was going to have to get up.
Jack twisted in bed and slowly lowered his legs to the floor. He knew that it was the intention that mattered, that one had to commit themselves. He had to put his feet squarely on the floor, so that the likelihood of his trying to slip them back under the covers, pulling the sheets over his head and praying for a darkening of the room, was no longer a viable possibility. The decision had to be made and acted upon. The dream he had just lived was not going to be easily dismissed, and this required Jack getting out of bed and getting on with his day. It was just one of the many requirements… and inconveniences… of life.
Still... as his right brain suggested... Jack could be allowed to sit for just a moment and silently exclaim, ‘Geez! What in the world was that? Clearly it was too intense, too clear for just another dream.’ Such a right brain allowance was only fair. That's what right brains are for: illogical intuitions that might actually be beneficial.
But such allowances were in fact not being offered by his fully conscious left brain. Logic, being in fact one of Jack's fortes, was not so easily persuaded, and suggested in a gentle, albeit contrary fashion, ‘Must have been something I ate. I know how that stuff effects me!’
‘Yeah, right.” Jack reflected on the only known example of two positives implying a negative -- and simultaneously declaring a cease-fire between the two hemispheres of his brain. Then he had a combined thought, ‘Either that or a precursor for my day.’
Jack had a lot of such conversations between the hemispheres of his brain. He liked to think that the quality of debate was far better when it was confined to him alone. It also made for some intriguing entertainments, with his right hemisphere constantly trying to assert itself with all manner of intuition, precognition, and the like – even while his left, currently dominant hemisphere was inevitably going to insist on rationale, logic, and a strict observance of nothing being real until proven scientifically with full adherence to approved forms of rigorous proof. (His left brain was also into run-on sentences.)
Such arguments were not to be concluded at this point, however. Jack, with a wry, semi-disgusted smile acknowledged as much and began to drag himself out of bed.
Dressed for the day and somewhat beyond his previously semi-conscious state, Jack descended the stairs from the master bedroom and taking the path through the family room walked into his spacious kitchen/breakfast room. As he did so, his cheerful, bright-eyed wife, Terri Bailey, greeted him.
“Good morning, Sweetie! Big day today!”
Terri had never been known for consistency in her manner. On the one hand, she always claimed to be on the leading edge of thought and protocols, and yet had willingly and eagerly changed her maiden name of Fyed to her married name of Bailey. Her traditional wife side kept popping up at the most surprising situations, even while railing against the lack of stem cell research and other such progressive public policy suggestions. With Terri, you just never knew. Jack had once attempted to prove that his wife's manners and moods were directly related to atmospheric pressure or the direction of the wind. But the data was insufficient for a definitive conclusion.
Accordingly, Jack was forced to simply tolerate Terri’s duality in her daily moods. It did have the slight advantage than each morning constituted a surprise for Jack when he came down for breakfast where he would discover what exactly Terri’s mood would be for the coming day.
It should be noted that Jack was almost always preceded to the breakfast room by Terri due to the fact that his wife had absolutely no interest in any possible snuggling in bed in the early morning. Terri suspected that such snuggling was not approved by tradition or custom… and that accordingly, it was far wiser to rise earlier than Jack and make her escape before the possibilities of any such fraternization could be raised… if you’ll pardon the pun.
Jack did appreciate her positive demeanor on this particular morning – as opposed to what could have easily been one of Terri’s more common habits of beginning the day by complaining about numerous infractions against the peace of the realm by any number of miscreants. The excessively bright and happy as a lark style was also just a bit much, even if one could not complain about a sparkling greeting in the morning, lest the complaints be directed toward Jack himself. Still… when one is burdened with the hangover from a very weird dream… other things are mere distractions.
“Are you kidding? This is our ticket!” Terri was excited even beyond her previous personal best of excitement.
The ‘ticket’ bit did manage, however, to engage Jack’s thinking process. “What in the world are you talking about?”
With that question Jack took his seat at the breakfast table, already laid for a substantial breakfast. Terri was already filling his place with a full complement of eggs, bacon, and small, previously processed waffles.
Not willing to even toy with the idea of stilling her giddiness, Terri easily dismissed Jack’s lack of comprehension.
“Don’t you get it? It’s the ‘Pence Trial’. ‘Local Tycoon’s misguided and errant son accused of killing hundreds! Will millionaire Malcolm Pence defend his only begotten son?’ The headlines are full of it! I gotta tell you: this is the biggest thing in years. And we… that is, you have a chance to be on the jury! I just know you’re going to get it! Aren’t you excited?”
Jury duty having never been construed by the public at large as anything other than a royal pain (pardon the pun), Jack could only answer, “Don’t be absurd! Jury duty is nothing but a pain in the…” Jack waited momentarily for Terri to intercede with an admonition to not use profanity in the house. But then Terri surprised him.
“Not if you can write a best-selling book about it! With your writing experience and background, you could get a seven-figure advance! We could retire young… just like we’ve always wanted! This is our chance!”
Terri’s glee was almost… almost… catching. But then there was also the traditional get-rich-quick glint in her eye, as she sat the small pitcher of molasses next to Jack’s plate. Greed never takes on a pleasing countenance, even when drowned in molasses, especially the "Northern Comfort" brand.
Jack nevertheless remained calm, and in a measured and careful voice said, “Terri. I’ve been called for jury duty. It might not be for the Pence trial. It could be for some back alley burglar. Besides that, we don’t even know if I'll be selected. Let’s face it: I’ve got a modicum of intelligence and brains.”
“What difference does that make?” Terri was genuinely mystified.
Jack was blasé. “In general they don’t like people on juries who are too intelligent. It confuses things. Tends to increase the turnaround time on verdicts. Might even encourage the real monster: the exercise of reasonable doubt.”
“Well, that’s no problem. Don’t tell them, silly. Just say you’re a landscaper… and not a landscape architect. Which is true… kind of. We do have a landscaping business. But for heaven’s sake don’t tell them you’re a writer. That might sound too… intellectual.”
Jack began to pick at his food. “If they ask about my writing, I can’t lie.”
Terri sat down at the table, kitty-cornered from Jack. She was not looking pleased with Jack’s obstructionist attitude. “You don’t sound very excited about the possibilities here.”
“I’m not,” Jack said as definitely as possible. “The courts in this country suck! The legal system is a sham! It's a closed shop that specializes in preying upon others."
“Now look who’s being absurd!” Terri countered. “You’ve been writing about Russia before World War II, when the trials and courts really were a sham. You can’t possibly be considering the idea that our court system is not a huge improvement from that.”
“It’s just that,” Jack continued, striving to remain calm, “I’ve had some bad experiences with what passes in this country as justice.”
“One bad experience! Big deal!” Terri was adamant
Jack suddenly reeled back in this chair, his butter knife in one hand waving about for emphasis. “One bad experience? Two dishonest judges, four corrupt lawyers, and enough pure bullshit to last me a lifetime? One bad experience, you say?”
“Jack, honey,” Terri replied, in her patented gentle manipulation technique. “I know we lost a lot of money because of that court case. And it really set us back on our early retirement plans. But this is your chance to get it all back. Best of all, you don’t have to risk anything! No matter what the verdict… we still win!”
“Yeah… just like a stock broker who makes his loot by buying and selling… and not for selling at a price more than the purchase price, the more traditional means of making money in the stock market.”
“Whatever,” Terri quickly dismissed the distraction. From her viewpoint, Jack had such an issue with unfairness that it really got in his way from taking advantage of reality. Where was his moral flexibility when you needed it? Clearly she would need to reframe the conversation and avoid negativities.
“But now,” she announced, “Without any risk on our part, you can make the system pay!”
“Actually, I’d be pretty much content to have a few moments alone with those thieving judges.”
Terri’s eyes suddenly widened, as a possible complication entered her mind. “Jack… promise me you won’t mention your court experiences when they’re talking to you about being on the jury.”
“Yeah, right. If they ask me anything of importance, I’ll just lie. I’ll tell them I love the system, that I watch all of the television court dramas, that I’m a big supporter of Capital Punishment.”
“But that’s true, isn’t it?” Terry was momentarily confused.
Jack didn’t answer, as he leaned back in his chair, his eyes defocusing from the immediate surroundings. Having an active imagination, Jack could see it all in plasma screen vividness and living color.
Jack was at the bench, using a gavel to pound the head of the sitting judge, his honor, Judge Samuel Starling. Starling was in turn seemingly only vaguely aware of Jack, and apparently feeling hardly anything as Jack pounded away with a gavel, the latter slowly transforming into a one-hand sledgehammer.
Judge Starling was pontificating in a style perfected over several lifetimes.
“I realize the defendant, and most other people for that matter, think their lawyers charge too much. But I can assure you, from my personal experience, that they’re well worth any price! As Officers of the Court, they are absolutely required to fulfill the letter of the…”
Starling’s ability to speak was suddenly hampered, as Jack began to choke him. Then Jack took a shotgun from the ether and began to insert the double barrel into Starling’s mouth. Upon encountering a certain degree of resistance, Jack resorted to reaching up to pull a large lever. A large set of weights – the kind found on exercise machines – began sliding down a pair of stainless steel runners in the direction of Starling’s head. Starling looked up at them, his face still a mask of nonchalance. He was, perhaps, recalling a time when weights were laid upon accused persons in order to encourage confessions… the possible source of the expression, “the weight of evidence…”
Ah, yes… the weights were sliding down the stainless steel runners… ready to meet someone’s destiny.
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