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Suing a Deity

Posted on August 31, 2010 at 8:46 AM

Author's Note:  Rated PG.  (So you guys have been funny lately.  I can do funny.)


The courtroom hummed. A hundred private and hushed conversations overlapped, as people adjusted their belongings, staked out their seats and prematurely opined on the outcome of my case.  A few snatches of gossip stung my ears, as the whisperers suggested that I didn’t stand a chance, yet none seemed to doubt the validity of my claims.  Voices swelled and ebbed at regular intervals; enthusiasm crested over decorum, and then snapped off abruptly when the audience recognized their own inappropriate volume.


On my side—the Plaintiff’s side—the low whir of chatter came from women.  Half of them flapped their jaws, while the other half leaned forward to get a better look at me.

On the Defendant’s side, men crammed the pews, while simultaneously doing their best not to touch each other. Predominately baritone, their voices suggested anger mixed with a more fundamental bias.  One man grunted loud enough for everyone to hear:  Whassup with that bee-atch, anyway?


The anonymous A-wipe was talking about me, of course.  I could understand his point of view.  I’m seriously, outrageously overmatched.  I’m just an average girl, a plain Jane really.  I did have a lot of gall bringing a lawsuit against a goddess, and now that the trial was actually in motion, I wanted nothing more than to run away and hide.  Foolish, foolish me.  Why did I ever listen to Paul Kernosfkie?


Paul, my pro-bono lawyer and ex-boyfriend, cupped his hand over my sweaty fist and cooed something.  I didn’t catch the words, but at this point  Ididn’t want to be coddled; I wanted to flee the county, change my name and vanish from public view. 


My gaze drifted over to the Defendant’s table.  F. Lee Bailey, freshly arisen from the grave by the goddess just for this occasion, turned and awarded me with a slow and empathetic grin.  Confidence oozed from his pores, along with an unpleasant stench.  Bailey paused long enough to give my lawyer a smirk too, although there was nothing sympathetic in his face when he glanced at Paul.  It was a Zombie look, a stare that said:  I would like to eat your brains.  Paul’s hand jerked away from mine, as he turned his back on the elder and slightly moldy jurist.


Aphrodite sat beside her undead lawyer.  She glowed. Her aura radiated over the table and cast a semi-circle of light behind her.  The men captured by this cradle of luminous light in the pews behind her, sat in rigid silence, too stupefied to speak or look at anything, except the back of their idol’s head—and a beautiful head it was.  Gold ringlets tumbled over her back.  Her hair seemed to flutter and dance in a breeze that did not exist inside the stuffy courtroom.  I suppose, she’d conjured some mystical air circulation to keep the rotting corpse of Bailey from offending her delicate nostrils, and I suppose it would have been imprudent of me to ask her to include the entire courtroom in that breath of fresh air.  I folded my hands, one atop the other, and stared openly and enviously at her, confident that I was not the first woman to do so.


 Aphrodite had donned a traditional toga for her courtroom appearance.  Stylish and yet simple.  Her irises—bigger than a mere mortals and a dark translucent violet—were locked on the judge’s high-backed chair.  I had the idea that it was not unusual for her to stare at a seat of power.  Covet it, even.  I was thinking of Zeus’s throne, of course, not the judge’s seat.  Her chest rose in long, relaxed breaths that drew the eyes to those marvelous and bra-less boobs.  I suppose, F. Lee Bailey, being a dead man, had a certain immunity from her presence.  He exhibited none of the trance-like state that her nearest fans were demonstrating.


The Bailiff called the court to order, breaking my train of thought.  It had begun.  As Paul said, history would be made today.  Never before, in all the centuries of law, had a human brought suit against a deity.  Papers would be filed and kept in secure locations, books would be written and newspapers would be sold.  Already my name flew across the internet and betting parlors were giving me long odds. Paul would become famous and I would…I would be lucky if I didn’t become the butt-end of every late night comedian’s joke.


The judge took his seat and nodded at the Bailiff.


“Jane Smith verses Aphrodite the Goddess of Love,” the Bailiff said, and he did a pretty good job, too, except when his voice soften on the word love and his knees seemed to buckle a bit. The Bailiff, a skinny squirrel of a man with thick glasses, glanced at the Defendant, sighed and scurried back to his position beside the judge.


It seemed a short and blunt beginning.  I expected more, but I suppose a civil lawsuit, does not carry all the pomp and rigor of the law that we become accustom to in the movies.


“The Plaintiff’s lawyer will make his opening statement,” the judge said.  The judge, a wise and elderly man, kept his eyes averted from the Defendant’s table.  Bless him. He was trying to be impartial.


“Your Honor,” Paul said, rising from his seat, “my client is suing Aphrodite for pain, suffering and damages.” Paul walked across the room and handed the judge a fat envelope. “I’d like to enter into evidence several impromptu and nude photographs of my client.  I want the judge and the jury to note that even though my client, Miss Smith, has reached the age of thirty-eight, she still has an above average figure; and, therefore, should be quite appealing to the opposite sex.”


The judged opened the envelope and slid the pictures out.  He sorted through a dozen square 9x 5’s.  My first instinct was to rush the dais and rip the photos from the judge’s hands. Paul had never discussed the, incidental, fact that he was going to share nude snap-shots of me with the court. Where and when did Paul take these pictures anyway, I asked myself.  My humiliation was complete, or so I thought.  I gave in to it.  What else was there to do?  I couldn’t just scream, ‘Stop.  Stop, now. I withdraw the suit.’  Or could I?



There were more photographs; but, apparently, the judge had seen enough.  The Bailiff leaned over the judge’s black robe and took a freebie peek. Sensing his guardian squirrel, the judge relented and handed the pics to the Bailiff.  The magistrate rested his big head in the cup of his right hand and nodded in the general direction of the seated jury.


I thought my eyes were going to pop free of my head, as I watched the Bailiff sashay across the floor. Once the photos passed to the jury, I couldn’t look in their direction anymore.  Worse of all, I hadn’t even seen the ‘evidence’ myself, so I had no idea what the pictures looked like.  My mind fluttered over the…well, what can I call it?  The one-night stand that Paul and I had shared.  A ratty motel room with flowered wallpaper in the background—that’s what I remembered best—which says a lot about our little tryst.


“Don’t be shy, ladies and gentlemen of the jury,” Paul said.  “Have a good look.  Miss Smith has a perfectly acceptable female form.  I want you to know, with one-hundred percent assurance, that there is nothing out of the ordinary or abnormal hidden beneath her clothes.  And consider this:  after thirty-eight long, long years my client has never been loved. No, not once.  Love has been denied to Jane.  Time and time again.”  He pointed at me.  “And there is nothing wrong with her face, either.  She’s tried different hair styles and multiple colors, but nothing works for her.”


Pumped with enthusiasm, Paul stomped back to the table and gathered up a sheaf of papers.  I took the opportunity to beg him with my eyes, but he only winked at me.


“I also have several affidavits from many well known dating services and internet corporations, who all state that they have been unable to find a male companion willing to propose to the lonely Miss Smith.”  Paul fluttered the papers in the air and took a deep breath, ready to forge ahead.  “I will also produce several witnesses who will testify that Miss Smith has a pleasant if somewhat sedate personality.”


Paul walked back to the judge.  At this point, my lawyer let his shoulders slump and he turned his hands out, in a gesture of being at a loss for words, which had never been true of Paul for as long as I had known him.  He made a show of regrouping himself.


“In summation, your Honor,” Paul said, “A reasonable person can conclude only one reason for this lack of romance and lack of companionship in my client’s life.”  He turned and pointed a shaky finger at Aphrodite. “The goddess has ordained that poor Miss Smith shall never be loved.”


The goddess gazed at Paul, as if seeing him for the first time, and he seemed to shrink inside his power-blue suit.  Even his tie sagged, but he bravely held his ground.  Paul wanted, above all things, to be a famous lawyer; or, failing that an infamous one.


“We mortals may ask ourselves why the goddess has done this,” Paul said.  “But why is not the question that this jury faces.  The defendant’s quilt is obvious, to any reasonable person, and my client has suffered and will continue to suffer.  Maybe she will never know love.   Unless the goddess relents, Miss Smith may die as a bitter old maid.”


I began to cry.  I suppose my tears could have been mistaken for perfect timing, but I didn’t plan it.  Paul had always been good at making me cry.  The six women in the jury box brought hankies to their faces.  Sympathy.  Oh, how I hated sympathy.


“The Plaintiff rests,” Paul said and finally sat down.  He actually had the unmitigated nerve to smile at me.  I squeezed my hands together, praying that my degradation was over.


“The Defense will give its opening statement,” the judge said and my belly threatened to erupt.


F. Lee Bailey begged the court’s pardon and requested to remain seated—owing to the fact that one of his legs had rotted off.  Indeed, his right leg was tucked discreetly under his seat like a forgotten umbrella. The judge nodded.


“Your Honor,” Bailey said and his voice boomed across the room. The jury swayed back from this vocal pounding.  He may have lost certain body parts, but death had not weakened his vocal cords. “This is a frivolous lawsuit. Nothing can be proven.  Can we divine all the reasons that men find Miss Smith unattractive?  No amount of naked photographs can tell us about all the missed cues in her romantic endeavors or replace lost telephone numbers or negative rumors that might abound.” His voice softened and the tempo slowed. “Perhaps her pheromones emit an aroma that men find debilitating.  Perhaps her well is dry.  Perhaps she does not shave her legs at regular intervals.  Or, perhaps, Miss Smith is just terrible unlucky.  Bless her heart.”


Bailey slammed his hand down on the table.  Two fingers on his right hand rolled away.  The courtroom tittered.  Bailey picked up his errant fingers and slipped them in his pocket.  He smiled to let everyone know that he was a good-sport and not offended by their laughter.


“I would like your Honor and the court to consider the future of the Law.  My client is a deity.  Of what use is a civil lawsuit, a point of tort or even a criminal judgment?” Bailey said and continued with hardly an in-take of breath. Do dead men breathe, I wondered.  “Aphrodite owns everything; and, yet nothing on paper. The plaintiff can gain nothing in monetary fines against my client.  Or, perhaps, Miss Smith expects Aphrodite to take a job as a waitress to pay off her court penalties, should such be awarded, injudiciously, to the Plaintiff?”


The courtroom tittered, again.  It was hard to imagine Aphrodite in a polyester uniform, a wad of gum in her mouth and a miniature pad in her hand.


“What jail could hold my client?” Bailey asked, “And even if this was a capital murder case, what punishment could the court demand?  Aphrodite is an immortal?”  He raised his finger toward the sky.


Bailey shook his head. Completely ignoring the jury box now, Bailey held his eyes on the judge.


“Your Honor,” Bailey said. “My client’s quilt is not the question here.  The court’s ability to exact a negative ruling is the question.  The very future and order of the Law, as written by man, is in danger of being over ruled by Zeus, himself.  Will we risk that for the sake of one lonely; and, perhaps, very unlucky girl?”


The judge pulled back from his desk and let the idea roil around like slushy water in his brain.  His ruminations lasted about thirty seconds. 


“I judge this to be a frivolous lawsuit.  Case dismissed.”  The judge slammed his gravel down.


And me?  Well, I’m just glad that it’s over and wondering if I have enough money in my bank account fora ticket to Aruba.


Author's Note:  http://cmmarcum.wordpress.com









Categories: Short Story, Humor, C.M. Marcum

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Reply C.M. Marcum
10:19 AM on August 31, 2010 
Seriously, I would have never posted such a long story on ER.
Reply jipper
3:43 PM on August 31, 2010 
Excellent story, Daz.
The F. Lee character is such a comedic description. Loved it when he put his fingers in his pocket, Ha!
Was really wondering how this was going to end. This has so much potential to be a much longer piece.
Enjoyed much.
Reply George Spelvin
4:07 PM on August 31, 2010 
Don?t know how I feel about this, except it probably takes a long time to arrive at the end (which seems a letdown after all the care you?ve taken to get there). I have to admit that I didn?t laugh, sorry. I like humor and it?s very tough to write. Here are some observations:

Their voice??? Seems like both should be plural

Might be better to say Wassup? rather than the ?oh so correct? What?s sup


Might want to revise the words you use, because when you say ?you?re a plain jane?, your style belies your words

I?m trying to imagine how a tie can sag

If you?re saying cooed, you don?t need to include soothing (Cooed is already soothing)

And even if this were a capital? shouldn?t this be the subjunctive tense because of the uncertainty of ?if??

Yes, the writers on ER had the attention span of a flea!
Reply Christopher Law
2:26 PM on September 1, 2010 
This really made my laugh, a little whimsical and totally sarcastic. I think I might have missed out on some of the references - who the blue blazes are Paul Kernosfkie and F. Lee Bailey? You seem to be referencing cultural figures I know nothing about, but I think I got the gist.

Very, very funny.

On a technical note, I think you should place the narrators comments on their own - you've put them in italics but I think the comments would make more impact if they stood alone.

It is also, for me, encouraging that you seem to have the same problem I have when posting - words running into each other when you know you put a space in.

So, to sum up, you can do humour (you really, really can) and I liked this. I'll save the essay on the litigous nature of the Greek gods for another day - the sub-text of half the legends is about boundry disputes and other small-claims court disputes.

Nice, dude :)
Reply C.M. Marcum
12:45 PM on September 5, 2010 
Great comments, guys. Thanks for reading.

Jip, I was wondering if I'd made too many turns in this story, but I guess it wrapped.

DO, I appreciate your edits. I know it takes time and effort to read that close. I will amend.

Cris, as far as the words running together, my grandfather use to have a saying: 'Makes my a$$ want a dip of snuff.' I think that means: it is a real pain. F. Lee Bailey was a famous defense lawyer and very good at getting 'the guilty' off. Paul and Jane are nobodies, but I would like a better name for Jane.

It is true what you say about separating action-reaction-internalization into different paragraphs. If I was writing a book, I probably would. But I don't know. It just seems to me that a short story, with short thoughts that are a essentially a reaction to the action, just doesn't need it. IMHO.
Reply George Spelvin
3:08 PM on September 5, 2010 
I cracked up when I read your father's comment. My MOTHER used to say exactly the same thing. Though she was born in Riverside she was in Arkansas, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and Northern California. And she was the COMPLEAT RACIST, but I loved her 91 years on the planet! I think it's OK to write "ass" in 201o. Don't they have long ears and eat grass?
Reply C.M. Marcum
12:08 PM on September 6, 2010 
Yeah DO, you're right. It was whimpy to write a$$. I am in a constant state of self-imposed censorship. You have no idea how weird I can get.
Reply George Spelvin
1:31 PM on September 6, 2010 
How about this?

Jack and Jill went up the hill to ****
Jack fell down and broke his ****
And Jill ****

I guess that's real self-censorship!
Reply Christopher Law
3:36 PM on September 6, 2010 
Thanks for filling in the blank spot, I like trivia and might actually get my sieve memory to retain this snippet.

'Makes my ass want a dip of snuff'? That's excellent but I promise not to use it - I doubt it'll sound as good with a Home Counties accent
Reply C.M. Marcum
10:19 AM on September 7, 2010 
You can use the saying, Chris. I didn't write it. It's an old country saying, and as such it's fair game for anyone.