At 5 in the afternoon.
(after Federico Garcia Lorca)
March 4 prompt, “A Writer’s Book of Days”
(First, who’s Federico Garcia Lorca? Oh. A Spanish poet, playwright and director of the 1800s.)
The reverberation of the wooden gavel striking its sound block was felt across the courtroom. Not a difficult accomplishment as the room seated only around 25 at capacity. That day, it was inhabited by only three, which amplified the striking of the gavel all the more.
“Mister Abrams. Are you fully aware of the charges brought against you?”
“I am, your honor,” he responded, meekly. Dumbly. He didn’t truly understand. He did not understand how he could be brought to court for violating the peace and sanctity of another’s home. He thought the world was his oyster. His. H-i-s.
That his thoughtless, inconsiderate and obnoxious behaviors could so impose upon another human being, intrude into another’s home and ruin, if not obliterate, the “quiet enjoyment” of a tenant’s home as provided by Arizona law was a concept beyond the scope of Mr. Abrams’s intelligence and understanding.
“I’m a man,” he thought. “My family is from Egypt.” The machismo of his culture escaped his awareness. Ditto his — their — macho attitudes. He was the center of his universe, like most men of his culture.
Moreover, he was nearly revered as a god by his girlfriend, who sat in the gallery with a tissue already dabbing her eye. A blonde, shapely, busty lady. A real catch by Egyptian standards.
By America’s too. She was young, not merely in age — 25-ish — but life experience. Hers was not an old soul with innate wisdom, neither a soul to acquire wisdom quickly.
She was naive and for that she easily succumbed to the “charms” and powers of a macho dark-skinned man. Danielle Steele couldn’t have penned a more romantic figure. Cliched? You bet! But cliches and fantasies sell romance novels. Not realities.
“Well then,” announced Judge Heathrow, leaning back with all the earned authority of his 26 years on the bench. “Let us proceed. You are charged with excessive disruptions and disturbances of the peace of those around you, including and specifically the neighbor who lives below you.”
“Yes sir,” said Mr. Abrams.
He still didn’t understand how disruptive and distressing his actions were and had been. Months and months of stomping about, stepping with the force of booted Russian soldiers trudging through snowdrifts. Pounding and hammering and dragging heavy furniture across wooden floors into the night. Where was team lifting with the busty girlfriend? Even the judge wondered.
Months of dropping things that sent waves of crashing sounds reverberating across the plaintiff’s ceiling. Abrupt thumps and thuds and ruckus that caused her to literally jump inches from her chair. Her nervous system, overwrought by the continuous intrusions, no longer burned. It’d morphed beyond into a cold steel. She, the prosecutor, was done. She had had enough. Had enough of being unseen, unheard, disregarded by her neighbors. By HIM, the macho Egyptian.
She took the case to court. The judge had listened with fairness uncommon in this modern age of unreason marred by self-serving attitudes, political correctness and gains in the liberal agenda at any and all cost.
Judge Heathrow sat upright in his judge-ly chair with the tall black leather back. Straightened his shoulders. Looked with a poker face first at the defendant, then the prosecutor, then briefly a piece of paper on his bench.
Then, with that same poker face displaying but one expression: an unyielding commitment to fairness and peace that was his task, purpose and mission to uphold, he announced his ruling:
“I rule in favor of the defendant.”
Mr. Abrams’s gasp was as audible across the courtroom as the gavel bang had been. The busty blonde girlfriend’s too.
“With conditions,” he immediately and emphatically added.
The cheer of Mr. Abrams and his busty blonde girlfriend deflated, their shoulders sagged.
“The prosecutor has excellent grounds for this case. This court has found it a case of merit. You have, Mr. Abrams, been inconsiderate. Thoughtless. Inattentive to the right to peace and quiet enjoyment by not only this prosecuting tenant but all tenants in your building.”
Mr. Abrams, seated at the defense table before the judge’s bench, looked down at the floor.
“You have been found to have been arrogant and unconcerned about the impact you have on others.
“You have been the cause of distress, unwittingly perhaps initially. Yet when it was brought to your attention in a neighborly dialogue, you disregarded the agreement toward cooperative harmony and peaceful coexistence in tight quarters. I am assured of such by the photographs entered in the exhibits.”
Mr. Abrams bit his lip. He looked ready to both cry or punch the judge’s lights out. As macho men are wont to do when their machismo is usurped.
“The prosecutor in this case has convinced the court of the validity of every claim. She is, in fact, by law, in the right and in the spirit of the law has won this case.”
Mr. Abrams looked up at the judge, confused.
“To answer your question,” the judge proceeded, “I have ruled in favor of the defendant.”
“That’s me,” whispered Mr. Abrams.
“It is not because she is wrong. She is right. It is you who is wrong. And yet I rule in your favor because it is you who must learn the rules of community cohabitation.
“It is you who must remain at the property, not because you have the means and resources that enable you to do so.
“You have been an unneighborly neighbor and until you learn to be kind, thoughtful, considerate and mindful of those around you, you will continue to live there and received continual reminders from the divine and from tenants below that you are crossing the line,” the judge stated firmly.
“When you have learned that community living involves others, not solely your self and/or your girlfriend, you will be released from your lease by circumstances and forces greater than yourself and you will go on to become a better neighbor in the next location.”
Mr. Abrams’s expression of puzzlement was astounding.
Taking the cue, the judge “dumbed down” his ruling.
“In other words, Mr. Abrams, while the court has ruled in your favor, it is not because you have been in the right. You have not.
“It is because you have been inconsiderate and unneighborly. Until you learn otherwise, you must remain in your current residence and be subject to remands and reminders from those around you about your transgressions so that YOU might grow.”
“Oh.” It’s all Mr. Abrams could muster.
At 5 o’clock that afternoon, under crisp cloudless blue skies and a full moon, a Judge of Uncommon Fairness & Reason made a seemingly confusing if not convoluted ruling that favored the offender rather than defender.
Yet in his supreme reason, wisdom and insight, he issued a ruled ultimately designed to serve the good of all.
It meant, for the plaintiff tenant, opportunity after opportunity to speak up on behalf of herself and the sanctity of peace and serenity in her home.
It meant, for the defendant Mr. Abrams, lessons in growing up and mindfulness toward others.
Lastly it meant for humans and future neighbors of Mr. Abrams and his blonde-busty- “what a catch!”-girlfriend a quietude that otherwise they’d never enjoy.
A win-win-win in a landmark case on the books that receives none of its due recognition and applause in the legal profession. Unfair? You bet. As are humans.
At 5 o’clock that afternoon on March 4, an unconventional, even whacky, case was sealed with a reverberating strike of the gavel on its sound block.
The judge rose in dignity ad silence, turned and retreated to his chambers.
At 5:15, after hanging up the black robe on the coatrack in the corner of his chamber, he poured himself a thimble of superb single-malt Scotch and sighed a deep sigh of tremendous and voluminous weariness with the human race. “Why must people be so unfair. So unreasonable. So selfish.”
Sadly, he found no answer in his law books, his compelling wisdom or dignified sips of Scotch.