Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Judge Jestus and the Lawn Dart of the Soul

The nightmare replayed itself every few months: Judge Jestus, aged fifteen, seated in the head master's office at Upper Canada College.

"Your breach of protocol is devastating to the moral fabric that binds this venerable institution!" the headmaster harangued. "You were in direct violation of one of our most fundamental rules --"

The headmaster broke off, breathless with outrage.

He regained his composure and refocused his ire: "Hang your head low, Carlysle Jestus! Hang your head low, knowing you have disappointed a great many people!"

The dream was horrid enough, but during waking hours when the judge reflected upon its true horror, he wondered how he survived the actual event all those years ago. The exclamation points of the headmaster's rebuke came at Jestus like lawn darts dipped not in poison, but derision.

"Maybe you're not an Upper Canada College man, after all," the headmaster mused darkly. Within the nightmare, Judge Jestus writhed with shame; an eclipse of rawest, blackest remorse cast a cutting shadow across his soul.

"The worst part of the whole catastrophe is your inability to go back in time and make a better choice," the headmaster dramatically intoned. "If only man had that capacity -- to go back in time and rectify his wrongs."

And there sat fifteen year old Carlysle Jestus, alone in the universe to ponder his crime: caught reading a Tarzan novel after "lights out" in the dormitory.

How would his soul recover from such a transgression?

Judge Jestus woke with a start within the oxygen in which he slept each night. His heart palpitated precariously inside his sunken chest.

Tarzan after "lights out", he mourned. How could I have been so careless?

He turned his eyes to the reassuring glow of his Queen Mother nightlight and wondered if redemption would ever be his.

. . .

Carlysle Jestus did graduate from Upper Canada College and went on to become a barrister who was most distinguished with his poetic touch with chattles and torts and estates.

If you had a tort-mired estate overcome with chattles, Jestus was your man.

When a sufficient number of cronies from Upper Canada College were in positions of power, Jestus was elevated to the inevitable position of Superior Court Justice. It demonstrated what Upper Canada College Men were all about that they were able to look past his Tarzan transgression, which had been the talk of campus decades before.

With his aid, valet, confidant and food-tester, Tink Husbandblood, by his side, Judge Jestus presided over his courtroom with the silent prayer, "May I always temper justice with mercy," as he'd once heard the judge on the TV show Divorce Court similarly pray each day before he took up his robe and ​gavel.

Judge Jestus soon found after gaining ascension to The Bench, that a courtroom calendar was no chattle, tort or estate. It was a beast practically beyond his comprehension.

No matter how early he and Tink -- just Tink, really -- attacked his calendar, the other justices were always more sly about slipping out of the most troubling cases.

When the case of the lawn dart and the laundry mat arose, Judge Jestus sought not to avoid it, much to Tink's great dismay.

"No, Tink," Judge Jestus said. "I must pay for my own transgressions, for no man is above God's law and we all must atone for those times when we have caused . . . disappointment." The judge's voice broke on those last syllables.

. . .

The case of the lawn dart and the laundry mat had transfixed the community:

On November 11 -- so cruel was the universe that this blight upon civilization occurred on Remembrance Day -- Nathan Treacle walked into the Dawson Street Washateria with a lawn dart in his hand. He approach one Shiv Nemac, and from a distance of approximately seven Imperial feet, Treacle threw his lawn dart at Nemac, lodging the long-banned toy in Nemac's clavicle area.

Nemac immediately gave chase, in spite of his wound, proving the "floodgate theory" true to any interested observers.

He caught Treacle 32 Imperial feet down the sidewalk, uttered a number of memorable epithets and proceeded to strike Treacle across the face with an open hand.

This would prove to be the most intricate and landmark case Judge Jestus had tried in years: Treacle charged with throwing the lawn dart and Nemac who was, in turn, charged with assault with intent to humiliate.

The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal made its interest in the case very public, but Tink managed to find an obscure codicile in the Ontario Charter of Law and Conduct that specified the criminal aspects of the case had to be sorted first in a court of law before any human rights issues could be looked at.

Judge Jestus understood none of this as Tink explained it to him, but managed to nod sagely at the conclusion of the explanation.

. . .

Tink sorted the details of the double-edged case meticulously for Judge Jestus.

"A double crime, but there is only one gavel," the judge said in a philosophical moment as Tink prepared a poached egg for Jestus's breakfast the morning of the first day of the trial. "The gavel, like the Pedulum of Time, swings not by man's desires or wants, but in accordance with the highest nature of all . . ." he trailed off.

"And that is?" Tink asked.

Judge Jestus waved his hand impatiently. "You know."

. . .

The brief that Tink prepared for Judge Jestus, which the judge assiduously didn't read, outlined the long criminal history of Nathan Treacle.

Treacle came from a ne'er do well family, he was a poor student in school -- no matter how rigorously his teachers were blamed for his dismal performance, his grades never improved. Petty theft led to petty violence, then on to petty sexual assault and petty attempted murder.

Social workers, clergy, corrections personnel, Social Services empaths and even his bookie all described Treacle as an irredeemable miscreant who relished breaking the law.

"He knows no other way to live," Father Flathorn, Treacle's substance abuse counselor, once wrote in a report. "He breaks the law like police write traffic tickets -- it's like Nathan Treacle has a quota to fulfill, or something."

Even if Judge Jestus had read the brief, he wouldn't have believed it. To this day, he recalled his headmaster at Upper Canada College's words at commencement: "There are no bad boys. There are only bad decisions."

The judge did glance at the brief Tink compiled on the perpetrator of the crime, Shiv Nemac.

It appeared that Nemac had much to hide, behind his steady job, his stable family and his community work.

The fact that he did not have any offenses in his record merely told Judge Jestus that Nemac was more clever than Treacle. And since when did the Canadian Justice System condemn and sentence a man for being less clever than another?


At least, not on Judge Jestus's watch.

Ah, and Nemac is a landlord, the judge thought as he breezed through the brief.

Judge Jestus knew all about landlords from the B movies and pulp novels he'd read as a young man.

Landlord's rented rat-infested hovels to the lowly and dispossessed, charging exorbitant rents. And when their impoverished, groveling tenants could not pay, the landlord found other means by which to extract his rent -- by soiling the honor of a tenant's flowering daugher or availing of the tenant's firm, supple wife.

And this landlord thinks he can swagger around my city and slap people across the face at his whim?, Judge Jestus thought, his heart pounding with righteous indignation. No, sir, you will not! Not on my watch!

. . .

During Shiv Nemac's first day of trial, the Crown Attorney was only a few words into her opening statement​ when Judge Jestus pounded his gavel and said, "I find the defendant guilty!"

Defense counsel, who had already grown tiresome on the judge's nerves, jumped to his feet to protest. "But we've yet to present any evidence!"

"Evidence?" Judge Jestus intoned in a Mosaic stentorian voice. "This, sir, is a courtroom! There is no place for evidence here!"

At that point, the Crown Attorney approached the bench and quietly informed the judge that, unfortunately, evidence was often presented in court. Judget Jestus stoically took this under advisement.

. . .

The blah-blah-blah of the evidence was presented. All the while, Judge Jestus wished for a crossword puzzle or one of the Tarzan novels of his youth to pass the time.

When counsel had rested their respective cases, the judge sat back and weighed all that he'd heard. A moment later, he addressed the defendant.

"Sir, you are accused of a most heinous offense," Judge Jestus said. "You slapped a human being across the face! The face is the mirror of the soul, so your offense is tantamount to slapping a man across the soul. Only God can do such a thing."

Shiv Nemac looked at his attorney who didn't even dare shrug.

The judge continued: "Everyone thinks they know the law; that they know what's fair. I will tell you this -- the purpose of a sentence is not punishment. I have the unfavourable task of delivering a sentence which will reform the criminal's behavior. Having access to all of the evidence, and with my extensive education and experience, I find you guilty, sir -- woefully guilty of this offense.

"I understand you are a landlord, sir," the judge continued.

"Yes, your honor," Nemac said.

"Then I sentence you to give your tenants three years free rent."

"But that would ruin me!" Nemac exclaimed. "I can't afford that!"

The judge banged his gavel. "Oh, you can't? Well, can you afford nineteen months in prison?"

Nemac hung his head.

"The sentence is 36 months of free rent for Mr. Nemac's tenants, and Mr. Nemac -- clean the place up for the poor wretches and raggamuffins."

"They're condos, your honor," Nemac muttered.

"What's that?"

"I own three condos. They're brand new. They're in better condition than where I live."

"Condos?" the judge said. "As in 'condominiums'?"

"Yes, your honor. My parents died last year and I invested the life insurance proceeds so that my kids --"

Judge Jestus cut him off, musing: "I hear condos are quite nice this time of year." Then the judge returned to his chambers.

. . .

That day, over lunch, Judge Jestus asked Tink about booking a holiday in Cancun for him.

"But you have the trial, sir," Tink said.

"Trial?" the judge said. "I just finished the trial! Try and keep up, Tink!"

"No, your honor, you have the second trial."

"Second trial?"

"One Nathan Treacle is charged with assaulting Shiv Nemac with a lawn dart."

A wistful smile came to the judge's face. "You know, Tink, I used to love playing lawn darts when I was a catamite at Upper Canada College. I'll never forget an upperclassman named Leicester Galway, who had the most magnificent underhanded pitch --"

"I'm sorry, sir," Tink interrupted. "You have that trial this afternoon."

"That's preposterous!"

. . .

But it was not. Judge Jestus was due in court that day. He walked in, sulky, wondering why no other judges were available for this trial, especially after he, Judge Jestus, had just finished with a trial.

The judge's mood, however, changed the moment he gazed upon his courtroom and saw ... him.

"Bailiff, who is that person?" the judge said.

"Uh, sir," the bailiff replied, all eyes of the courtroom on him, "that is the accused."

The accused. It was like something from an Andrew Marvell poem.

He was a small, ferret-faced man who looked like he'd lost his last quarter on a pay toilet door that wouldn't open.

Judge Jestus once had a pet ferret named Himmler. How he'd loved that ferret even after it had nearly disemboweled his baby sister.

The judge gazed at the accused.​ Oh, you shifty-eyed street urchin, you don't fool me. You've got a puppy dog heart and just need a good bath and a bowl of Habitant pea soup, the judge thought.

"I would like to see counsel in my chambers," the judge said, rising. "And bring the accused."

The Crown Attorney and defense counsel exchanged puzzled looks.

They adjourned to Judge Jestus's chambers. As the attorneys were about to sit down, the judge said to them, "You two can go. I wish to speak to this gentleman."

The attorneys looked at one another. "Sir?" the Crown Attorney said.

"You may go," the judge said.

"Should we send in the bailiff?"

"No, no, I would like to chat with this young man -- alone."

The attorneys reluctantly left the judge's chambers.

Nathan Treacle looked at the old judge, sitting in his leather wingback chair. He'd been in situations like this before. Nathan had fucked his way out of trouble in the past. He wasn't much into old milkshakes, but a guy had to do what a guy had to do to get out of shit.

"Sit down, young man," the judge said.

Treacle sat in one of the leather wingback chairs. If it weren't for the grime on his jeans, he would have slid right out of it.

"So, how do you want to do this?" Treacle said.

The judge reached down beside his chair and picked up a book.

"Sit back and lend me your ears," he said. He opened the book. "Are you familiar with the hijinx of Curious George?"

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