So it’s come to this, Your Honor. You on the pedestal, eyes ceilingward while the lawyers on the case before mine babble on. I’ve no option left but to put my faith in you, to trust that you’ll cut through the bullshit, ferret out the truth and do the right thing. Judge of matters superior, assessor of evidence, impartial decision-maker in the interest of all things just, you seem too unfeeling to decide my fate. Bad enough I lost him to the dazzling redhead new hire in the branch office on the other side of the globe, but now he wants my boy, and so shamelessly litters your file with overblown illustrations of my initial wrath: transcripts of embarrassing messages that look so much worse in print, close-up images of a smashed-to-bits windshield, tiny shards clinging to the metal frame, the hammer, in still life relief on the hood, and all those pages and pages, logs of cell phone calls that when displayed like that look rapid-fire and insistent, don’t they and—shit, sir, excuse me, but though your gaze looks wise, you seem bored as all get out. I’m worried, Honorable Apathetic, what can you possibly know about a mother’s passion?

            How can I get you to see this: We were just fine, good even, busy, sure, with his career demands and me wrapped up with a toddler, but I swear to you and pledge allegiance on a stack of bibles that I never saw this coming. And though my lawyer says it’s irrelevant, unreliable and prejudicial and that you’ll never admit it into evidence, you really should take a look at Exhibit A: a picture of them in a so-called compromising position, sent to me by the redhead by way of introduction. Surely even you, Your Dullness, would understand the incendiary nature of such an act, realize it as justification for emails that under different circumstances might read as scripts for late-night comedians, or as the silly prose of a teenager trying their hand at artful obscenity. Is it possible that your lack of expression, your vacant eyes, the languid rising and falling of your chest, your judicial composure is all an effort to hide your own wounds and sadness and sorrow and heartbreak and humanity? Please say so, sir, because just when I’d thought I’d finally extinguished the last of the embers, after I clawed my way out of the depths of hell and regained my footing, this combustion—the motion that brings us before you, Honorable Insipid, will require a full court-assessment of right and wrong, a willingness to drive the gavel through the floor with a pronouncement that a boy will not be taken from his mother.

            Am I silly to hope that perhaps your training and experience cloak your compassion with a professional mask of ennui, that you’ve seen so much heartlessness from your hovering throne that you’ve found it best to cover your empathy like the cheap suit hidden beneath your robes? I’ve learned some tricks of my own, Your Untouchableness, like how to wear a face that says you no longer matter to me, and how to compose myself so that I advertise that all is well, that I’m just fine, thank you very much. But it’s understanding and humanity I need from you, oh Jurist of Prudence, a little fire and brimstone, may it please the court. An appreciation of the laws of nature: hell hath no fury like a mother scorned. Oh wait a minute, Judge Male Pattern Baldness, what about that? A mother’s lips must have covered your bald little newborn head with a thousand kisses once upon a time; won’t you join me in that image? Do you remember begging her to tell you ‘just one more story,’ maybe about her little brother’s antics from long ago, and her indulging you even though it was late and you’d both already dozed off a couple of times, snuggled together in your twin bed? And can you imagine the lump in her throat as she watched the bus whisk you away to kindergarten that first day, your face a contorted mix of excitement and fear? I’ll bet she stood there, willing you courage and hoping to carry the picture of you with the mismatched pants and shirt (she’d let you choose) in her mind’s eye forever. Please tell me you’ve not forgotten.

             But that vacant stare. How can it be that you, Your Glassy-Eyed Honor, can be my last hope? I’ve suffered enough, wouldn’t you agree? I’ve got serious concerns here, sir. Okay, I’ll just say it: I’m scared shitless. Would you mind recusing yourself in favor of a female judge? I don’t mean to hurt your feelings, Honorable Weariness, but it’s only fair. I hereby move the court: I want a mother on the bench. One who’s kissed boo-boos, calmed fevers, and dried tears. The kind of mom-judge, please, who’d crawl over broken glass on her hands and knees to get to her child. I beseech you, Judge Milquetoast, to appoint to this case the mother-jurist who’d give up everything without a backward glance in order to devote her entire being to her kid. The one who will stop at nothing to protect her girl. Who will throw herself in front of the bus to save her boy. The one who wrote the book on the best interest of children. If I must be judged, Honorable Blasé, she’s the one for the job.

Kathi Hansen lives in Coronado, California where she’s still trying to shake the memories of her years as a trial lawyer. Her short stories have appeared in a smattering of print and online literary journals such as Literary Mama, The Rusty Nail, and Per Contra. Someday she’ll have a website.

The inspiration for this story came from an exercise at The Writers Studio based on the beautiful poem “Patronized,” by Tara Hart. Hart’s narrator makes art out of extremely painful material in part by pinning her feelings on a target—one that in theory should offer comfort: a patron saint. The language is irreverent, mocking, but the underlying sorrow is always there. My aim was to reveal authentic, painful feelings with playful, unexpected language. The challenge was to keep it from becoming an angry woman's rant. 




Copyright 2009