Xavier Fernandez came to court in Middle Village, N.Y. to fight a minor charge. Then a cross-eyed cat jumped on the table. “You got any problem with a cat being in this hearing?” said Hearing Officer Brad Lamel.
The Wall Street Journal
“He’s gonna sub for me today, okay?”
You better not have no problem with a cross-eyed cat being in this hearing, I thought to myself, being as how State Assemblyman Mort Shusterman (D-Middle Village), got me the job and he’s got more clout in his little finger–the one with the big pinky ring on it–than a mook like youse. Sometimes they plead “cat allergies”–like I ain’t heard that one before.
“Whadda you lookin’ at?”
I’m grateful for my job, don’t get me wrong, but when people dump on fine, upstanding, hard-working public servants like me, it really frosts my ass. I could be makin’ a lot more in the private sector.
“Doin’ what–Friskies commercials?” Bailiff Tony DeLoSantosuosso always says when I say that, then laughs real loud, like he’s some kinda standup comedian. A real card, that Tony is.
I keep a daily count of how many days I got left ’til retirement ‘causa guys like Tony. As soon as I max out my pension, I’m outta here to Jupiter, Florida, one of those sunny places for shady people, as they say. But until then, I’m just doin’ my job, makin’ sure no miscreants here in Middle Village pulls a nutty and goes after a hearing officer when they’re sentenced for crimes like putting plastic bottles in with your newspapers on trash-pickup-and-recycling day.
“Your honor, which eye am I supposed to look into?”
But until retirement–which is only 1,023 days away, not that I’m counting or anything–they can’t get rid of me. Not only am I a patronage hire, I’m cross-eyed, so I’m handicapped–a twofer! I oughta get somethin’ for the cruel hand that fate has dealt me–I don’t get no handicapped parking spot in the courthouse parking lot. No, that goes to Evelyn, the assistant D.A. who’s boinking the Judge. She needs a handicapped space cause of her allergies, she says.
Well, time to mete out some justice. The first perp walks in and who do I see but Mitzi, the smoking hot Persian cat who’s a dead ringer for Sally Struthers, or maybe Charo. I wonder what she’s here for.
Separated at birth?
The bailiff escorts her in and the docket clerk announces the charges: Leaving a discarded cat bed on the sidewalk, and not the curb, as required by Middle Village Code of Sanitation Regulations 1-203.745(a)(ii)(B)–not to put too fine a point on it.
She flaps her phony eyelashes at me, but I don’t bite. How many times have I sniffed her rear end, only to be told to go pound kitty litter? I’m going to love watching the Judge fry her wiggly little ass.
“How do you plead?” he asks.
“Not guilty, Your Honor.”
“On what grounds?”
“Necessity. There was some kind of doody on the curb. If I’d put it there, the cat bed would’ve been ruined and nobody would take it.”
“You’re throwing that out?”
The judge turns to the Town Prosecutor, a kid who went to an on-line law school and as a result had to take a job that pays less than a bartender, who can at least accept gratuities legally.
“Your Honor,” he begins, drawing himself up to his full 5′ 10″-inch height, “ignorance of the law is no excuse.”
“She said she was innocent, not ignorant.”
The prosecutor checks his notes. He’s been taught to think on his feet, but his feet are failing him right now. “If we let one person get away with this, soon our sidewalks will be cluttered with kitty beds!” The old “slippery-slope” argument; society will descend into chaos if we let people start ripping tags off of mattresses, willy-nilly.
“Counselor,” the judge says, and you can see the pathetic pride in the prosecutor’s eyes–he thinks I’m a lawyer!
“You have to address the specific circumstances of a particular defendant, not broad generalities.”
“I didn’t call her a broad.”
The judge’s head almost hits his desk, but is saved in the nick of time by his hand hitting his forehead. “Let’s start over–do you know of any cases that hold the defense of necessity is not available for kitty beds?”
He puts his hands together and does that little church-and-steeple thing, which means a lawyer is going to say something stupid but wants to make it look like he’s thought it over verrry carefully.
*I could really go for some Jiffy Pop right now.*
“Maybe he can’t, but I can,” I say, stepping out of my role in the interest of seeing justice done.
“Are you prepared to testify?” the judge asks me, one eyebrow soaring skyward like a pole-vaulter.
“Yes,” I say, and raise my right paw to be sworn in.
“Do you solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?” the court clerk asks.
“Ab-so-Friskies-lutely!” I say, not stinting on the emphasis–or the product placement.
“Proceed,” the Judge says.
“Your honor, the defendant’s story is a thin tissue of lies, an evasion, and a prevarication.”
“My dad used to own one of those–got good mileage on it for twenty years. Go on.”
“The defendant had no cause to be concerned about contaminating that bed,” I say.
“And why was that?” the Judge asks.
I turn and give Mitzi my steeliest gaze. She’s going to get her comeuppance, and also her come-down-ance.
“Because she’s slept in it with every tomcat between here and Mt. Kisco!”
There is an audible gasp–is there any other kind?–in the courtroom. Then the judge brings his gavel down–hard.
“If there are any more outbursts of that kind, I will ask the bailiff to clear the courtroom–is that understood?”
I gulp, and look up at him. He does that thing they all do–searching from right to left, trying to figure out which eyeball to look at.
“Perhaps I can settle this matter,” Mitzi says, in what appears to be an attempt to throw herself on the mercy of the court.
“And how do you propose to do that?” the Judge asks. Like many in the judiciary, he’s leery of alternative dispute resolution. Yes it may be cheaper, quicker, and more efficient–but it could put him out of a job!
“If I agree to go on one (1) date with the disgruntled court officer and get him gruntled again, would that do it?”
The prosecutor rises, starts to say something, and then thinks better–or worse–of it.
“Cat got your tongue, counselor?” the Judge asks.
“I have no objection,” he says finally. “Pure love between two cats is really a victimless crime.”
“Case dismissed,” the Judge says. “Oh, and Miss?”
“Yes,” Mitzi says with a tone of suspended relief in her voice, fearing she’s going to be put on probation.
“I don’t want to see you in my court again, understood?”
“Well, sure, your honor–but how am I going to do that?”
“Next time you throw out any old furniture, call me first.”