Municipal Judge Gerald Briller strode purposefully toward the bench after quickly opening the door to chambers, the few persons in the plain room standing without comment. Judge Briller almost slapped three files down next to his gavel, sat down silently and opened the first, a grimly impatient look pulling down the corners of his mouth.
“Mr. James Curtis, speeding and reckless driving,” Briller’s voice bounced off the back walls, fluorescent light winking off his thick glasses as he glanced at the deputy District Attorney and a peace officer. A tall, heavy man eventually stood up and nodded. “How do you plead?” Briller almost barked.
Oh shit, Glenn Duey said to himself, I’m next on this.
“Your honor, I have something to tell you something first,” the tall heavy man said.
Gerald Briller’s head and glasses swung toward the man with beaming lasers of black-eyed intensity, swooping to a stop when he reached the tentative gaze of the defendant. “It’s irrelevant, how do you plead?” he snapped.
“But you’re your honor, I need to tell you something,” the man said earnestly.
Judge Briller sighed, fixed his gaze on a back corner of the room, slowly leaned back in his chair and eventually tapped his fingers together in a gently undulating teepee. He finally looked at the open file with a seemingly benign look, lightly pressing his hands together. “Go ahead, Mr. Curtis,” Judge Briller said ominously.
“Your Honor, this officer here who wrote me this ticket called me an asshole,” the tall man blurted out defensively.
Judge Briller immediately turned an open, fleetingly amused look at local peace officer Jeremy Stanson seated in the first row of court next to the jury box, tall and resplendent in a tan uniform. “Officer Stanson, did you call Mr. Curtis an asshole?” Briller asked earnestly.
Stanson easily stood up with a plain face. “Yes, your honor, I did,” he said.
Judge Briller looked at the defendant, his lips tightening. “Now that it’s been firmly established you are in fact an asshole, Mr. Curtis, how do you plead?” Briller’s voice ricocheted around the room, making Mr. Curtis blanch.
After shuffling his feet and staring at his hands the defendant suddenly squared his shoulders and looked right at the judge. “Guilty,” he said.
Briller looked at him. “You could have just mailed in the ticket and the fine without wasting my time with this, you know,” he said forcefully.
Mr. Curtis swallowed. “I know, your Honor, but I figured the truth was really all I had right then,” he said, looking at his hands again.
Judge Briller stared at the defendant, his fingers gently tapping again. “It’s always a valuable commodity, Mr. Curtis, this is very true,” he said loudly. “You can perform 30 hours of public service at the food bank instead of picking up freeway trash,” he said, writing quickly in the file. “$350 fine, 1 point, plus court costs,” he said efficiently, continuing to write. Finished, he folded his hands together and flashed the defendant with another laser flash of deep black eyes and winking glasses. “I don’t expect to see you in this courtroom again, Mr. Curtis, do you understand?” he said, syllables sharply bouncing off the walls again.
Mr. Curtis swallowed. “Yes, your honor,” he said quietly.
Judge Briller closed the file and grimly opened the next, the tall man walking away. Looking at the second file the same distaste pulled at his mouth again, his fingers tap-tap-tapping away as he unhurriedly read the contents. “Mr. Glenn Duey, reckless driving, public endangerment, second citation,” he said, sighing deeply and looking steadily at Glenn, who had the sense to stand up automatically. “On a bicycle,” Judge Miller said lightly, eyes probing Glenn’s set face, gaze fixed on the local municipal seal.
“Yes sir,” Glenn said plainly.
Judge Briller glanced at the open file and then looked steadily at Glenn. “Explain this, Mr. Duey, such as it is, and don’t waste my time doing it,” he said in a crisp way that got Glenn to look at him in the face.
Glenn sighed and clasped his hands. “Your honor, I like drafting with the county busses on Wenlan Avenue, I don’t see the harm in it,” Glenn said quietly, looking the judge in the eye. “Drafting is riding in the air swirl behind a bus, it pulls you along,” he said. After Judge Briller said nothing Glen swallowed. “It’s fun,” he said quietly, a small edge of defiance in his voice.
Judge Briller stared at Glenn for around five seconds, a long time in the quiet room. “Officer Stanson?” he asked quietly, looking at the tall peace officer again.
Jeremy stood up. “Your honor, I’ve gunned Mr. Duey repeatedly behind county busses at 25-35 miles per hour,” he said wearily. “He’s good enough to do it, but at over 20 miles per hour his helmet is useless, it’s just not rated for those speeds, and he’s wearing zero productive clothing.” Jeremy shook his head. “He’s distracting the bus drivers and making them nervous, often they have 30 people aboard. I cited Mr. Duey 170 days ago, then three weeks ago, he keeps doing it,” he said.
Judge Miller looked at Glenn. “Explain this again, Mr. Duey,” he said, irritated.
Glenn’s eyesight had drifted to the municipal seal again, face and shoulders sliding into an old set. “I know what I’m doing, sir, I can take the risk.”
Judge Briller started tapping his fingers again. “What branch of the service where you in?” he asked suddenly.
Glenn looked at him. “United States Marine Corps, sir,” he said.
“Rank at discharge?”
“How long at your current address?”
“Seven years, sir.”
Judge Briller stared at Glenn, who looked at his hands. He glanced at Jeremy, then leaned back in his chair, fingers tapping away. “You know what you’re doing,” he said nodding, an airy happiness lacing stern mocking in his tone. “Did you know this repeated foolishness on a bicycle would get you in front of me?” he demanded.
“Aha,” said Judge Briller, the loud word classically popping up in tone like a abrupt hill on a rollercoaster. “You know, Mr. Duey, life is funny, I have to deal with you and all of a sudden that Sydney Pollack scene from Tootsie just busts into my head, that scene where he sees Dustin Hoffman in drag for the first time and says ‘Michael, I begged you to get into therapy!’” Judge Briller nodded. “Remember that?”
“Yes, sir,” Glenn said quietly.
“Funny how some thoughts can just jump into your head at times, Officer Stanson, isn’t that so?” Judge Briller said.
“Yes, your honor,” Jeremy replied. Judge Briller looked at him and tilted his head with an acquaintance’s subtlety: see me later. Jeremy barely nodded, slowly closing and opening his eyes.
“Mr. Glenn Duey,” Judge Briller said with an ominous calm. Suddenly he leaned forward and pinned Glenn to his lonely stance with a threatening extended forefinger. “If I see you again about this I’m throwing your ass in jail!” he yelled, making Jeremy wince and getting Glenn to look at his feet. “60 hours food bank community service, $500 fine, court costs, two points,” he spit out, writing in the file. “I see that’s 3 points in 8 months, Mr. Duey,” he said sternly. “One more and your driver’s license is suspended. Still know what you’re doing?”
“No, sir,” Glenn said quietly.
Judge Briller nodded, looking at Glenn with a set face. “That’s all, Mr. Duey, don’t make me deal with you again. You understand?” he said. Glenn nodded. “Mr. Theodore Ledder, drunk driving,” he said sighing, opening the other file as the corners of his mouth turned down inevitably again. Jeremy turned on a heel and walked steadily toward the courtroom exit.
* * * * *
“I’m sorry, Glenn,” Jeremy said, catching up to him in the parking lot.
“Fuck you!” Glenn hissed, furious, his jaw set as he kept his eyes forward.
“Come on, Glenn,” Jeremy said, putting a hand on his friend’s shoulder.
Glenn smacked it away and stopped. “Two points, $500, you son of a bitch!” Glenn said. “Being friends with a cop is supposed to help with the law, god damn it, Jeremy!”
Jeremy looked apologetic. “Judge Briller was in a bad mood today, a little bad luck there,” he said.
“A little!” Glenn spat out. He looked at Jeremy’s polished brass and gold on his tan uniform. “Fuck you,” he said forcefully, walking toward his car again.
“Aw please, Glenn,” Jeremy said, standing still. “We still on for Thursday night?”
“Fuck…you!” Glenn shouted, keying his car door open.
Jeremy stood calmly still, watching Glenn squeal and chirp his car out of the parking lot. “Ain’t much respect for the law these days,” Jeremy said easily, turning back toward to courtroom.