Two days later I was caught up on sleep and doing alright, my ribs still pulling like hell --- I'd be using my cane when I went up for trial --- and ready for the drive to San Francisco in six days. The District Attorney's office offered my air fare, but I told them I'd prefer making the drive over flying, and what should I do with the vouchers? They suggested exchanging them for cash and using the cash to pay for gasoline. Fine with me.
Suspiciously well-timed was a call from Lucy. Courteous as always, she waited until I'd had a decent amount of shut-eye (Bekka was in Encinitas) before calling me so share some news.
First of all: the reason Chelsea hated us so much? Aesthetics. It really did come down to her feeling that people who looked like us could not possibly be Christians. We were just too.... Slimy-looking to truly be people of faith, that our clothing was terrible (Christ essentially wore rags due to his poverty), Dutch and my haircuts were horrible (as a devout Jew, Jesus would NOT have had the flowing locks as shown in contemporary artwork; he'd have hacked it off with a knife before he let it get that long) and our boots were "tacky" (whereas hand-woven sandals are the height of fashion among you and your friends, eh Chelsea?).
Another big problem that she'd never admit is one of hypocrisy. Legality notwithstanding, she criticized our use of drugs.... But apparently kept a bottle of Yukon Jack, the heavy stuff, in her kitchen, where it did not gather dust
It's not like none of us drank. We simply viewed alcohol as a pedestrian intoxicant, nothing to get wound up around. The effects of drugs were just so much more interesting: six beers in a bar costs more than a hit of ecstasy at street prices. Which one was more likely to make you wreck your car, pick a fight with a stranger, or get all maudlin and morose around your friends? Hint: it's not the one that fits in your pocket.
So Chelsea's contempt of our drug use was definitely a matter of the pot calling the kettle black.
"I suppose the big news is Chelsea's plans for after the semester ends," said Lucy.
"She's converting to Catholicism and becoming a Carmelite nun."
"In a Midwest sort of way," Lucy explained. "She's going to go live with the Amish."
"I.... Have absolutely no idea how to respond to that. Shall I feel responsible for this in any way?"
"Believe it or not," said Lucy, "it's the pastor who brought this on. Remember how you gave the pastor a ride in Boss' hot rod? That was proof that you were capable of corrupting anyone, and the pastor was just as much a sinner as anyone else.
"You know what? I'm ignoring the the whole 'pastor is a sinner' thing. How have her parents reacted to this news?"
"No idea. They blame me for turning her into the pious object she is. It always made me sad, because I simply wanted her to be a good Christian, never the angry, judgmental woman she turned into. I never wanted her to be frightened of the world, passing down judgment on everyone she met.... Like you and your friends...." Lucy began crying quietly.
"Hey.... Lucy.... You can't blame yourself for her actions. You were kind and loving to me and my friends when we met, and she wasn't. So she didn't learn her attitude from you. C'mon, we're a bunch of weirdos --- " Lucy chuckled through her tears " --- yet you greeted us with warmth, you settled things out with Ellen, you broke bread with us. Chelsea refused to do any of that, treating us like enemies. The best comparison would be shadowing her against a Pharisee.... Very legalistic and very sure of the answers. Please, please don't hold yourself responsible for her actions, because her behaviors are her own, and no one else's. And her decisions are her own, no one else's I mean, I've gotta decide if I have it in me to forgive an attempted rapist. Seriously, can I do it or not?"
"Lenny.... What are you talking about?"
"Don't you remember me talking about having to go to S.F. to testify in a rape case?"
"It slipped my mind, apparently. What on earth happened?"
"Due to precognitive powers, I woke up in the middle of the night knowing my friend Ivanka was being attacked. I raced over to her apartment and got there right before.... Anything happened. I flushed the guy out with a baseball, believe it or not, and that's how I picked up that bullet in my side. Nobody talks about it out of good manners, you know.
"So I'm pouring blood and I still manage to brain the scumbag asshole --- sorry --- and use about a half a roll of duct tape to hog tie him. It turns out it was the property manager after me and the neighbor took his ski mask off. My friend had just moved in that day, so the asshole still had his pass key on him, plus he just happened to have a mask. Funny that.
"Anyway, in six days I have to go up and testify, do the whole 'witness take the stand' routine. I've told the story to SFPD so many times I don't know what they need me for, but they do.. I guess me gimping round on my cane will tighten the case down that much more. And I can tell 'em, I'm not faking.
"Now I understand why Bekka kept calling you a hero."
I pounded on the table. "But I'm not a damn hero! I'm just a guy. I did what needed to be done, I did what anyone would have done, and that's all."
Lucy said in a quiet voice, "Except far too many people wouldn't have done what you did. You faced down a madman with a pistol, you got shot and kept fighting with no gun of your own, and you came out on top in the fight. Like it or not, that is bravery and that is heroism."
"Okay.... He had a gun and I didn't. Still like to think any other man would have done the same thing in the same situation: distract him, then just trip him him and get the gun from him."
"Too many men would have run," she said sadly.
"But.... Why? I know you don't know the layout, but it was a walk-over to get the gun from him. If I hadn't been such a spaz, I'd have been fine. I fumbled. We both dove for the gun, and I fumbled like an idiot and got shot. Some hero."
"You got shot.... And you kept fighting, Lenny. Think how brave that is. You were shot and you still managed to come out on top. You are brave, and you are a hero. Just like when you want after the child molester at the taco stand. You may not have gotten him out of the car, but you got his plate number and a description. I heard the police saying they'd been looking for the man for a while, but you were the one who provided the useful information.
"It's almost like you feel like you feel as if people are making fun of you, and they're not. They're proud of you, and you have to believe that. Please do, please."
"I will try. It's just the feeling that anyone could have done what I did."
"Anyone could have. The difference is that you actually did. You didn't run away, or pretend to not see, or panic. You acted and made a difference."
I chuckled and said, "Yeah, and I get to see my friend Ivanka on the city of San Francisco's dime. That's not so bad."
The trial could have gone smoother, but only if the defendant, L. Thorson, had slapped his dick on the (female) judge's podium (or whatever it's called) and began singing a medley of 2 Live Crew songs, using his dick-slaps to keep a steady beat.
Hey, here's a handy hint for those facing trial for violent crime: hire a lawyer experienced in such matters. Don't cheap out like our man Thorson did and get a lawyer with no experience in criminal law, deciding to hire a family friend who, if I remember correctly, was.... A tax attorney. This is not the movie "My Cousin Vinnie." Having your relative read a lot at night will not save your ass.
If you're going to use props, be consistent. For example, Defendant Thorson was bent out of shape over the skull-bashing I gave him, so he was using an ice bag. Fine and dandy, unless you decide it's annoying so you take it off and leave it off. Hell, the judge called him on that one. In my case, if I moved around, I was on my cane. I genuinely needed it, but still....
Oh, and don't audibly announce the complainant to be "Just another stripper, they're all whores." If you do, say it quietly so the jury and the front half of the courtroom can't hear you.
Fun With Miranda:
First, a correction about Miranda: You're Mirandized when they are going to interview you and have what you say used in court. After you're Mirandized, you have to watch what the hell you say, because it's probably being taped. This is the wrong time to announce to the attending officers your hatred of strippers, booth girls, and women, period. They won't nod and agree with your statement that they're all cunts. Your misogyny will certainly be entered into evidence, and possibly underlined with a big red pen.
Generally speaking, keep any statements about how much you hate the complainant and her gender. Miranda is read, you shut up.
Witness For the Prosecution:
First of all, get enough sleep. It's just good form. Yawning is bad, especially if the judge pointedly asks you if you're all right. Explaining that you left the house the day before far too late so you didn't get you your (court-assigned) motel until early in the morning.... See, that's a good excuse. "Me and the complainant were up fucking most of the night" is a not-so-good excuse.
(And why was a witness for the prosecution fucking the complainant, Ms. Ivanka Kovnik, early in the morning? Because I'd promised we would. One likes to keep promises to friends, even at inconvenient hours.)
You can't call the defendant "the rapist." He is referred to as "the suspected rapist." Actually, I prevented any rape from happening at all, but describing him as a definitive is out until he's been found guilty.
Also avoid phrases like "that bastard," "the jerk," and "the son of a bitch." These were descriptives which surprisingly did not draw objections from the defense counsel, but from the judge, who requested I use appropriate language in her courtroom. I quietly explained to her that I was in the same room as a man who had attempted to assault my friend, and it was difficult to restrain my feelings about him. She said she empathized, but nonetheless, protocol must be kept.
As the convictions were read out, the district attorney whispered in my ear, "That's eight years.... That's three years.... That's two years...." It was music to me and Ivanka, who embraced in the hallway. The district attorney caught up with us to provide two pieces of news: first, Thorson would be demanding a retrial due to incompetent counsel, and he (the D.A.) would be pushing for a no-parole sentencing, due to the sexual nature of the conviction.
The cop stopped by to offer his congratulations. "Ain't it nice when then things go smooth?" I agreed and gave him more good news: I was driving a ten year old Honda on this trip. "See, that's what I wanna hear!" he told me, jogging down the hall.
So, justice was served in San Francisco. There were still two towns left --- Santa Barbara and Carlsbad --- but I had no idea whether my presence would be needed in Santa Barbara at all, since I was simply a reporting party. The Director would be happy that we'd wrapped things up three days early.... Or a day early, since I wanted to spend time with Ivanka and her messenger pals, who still held me in a bit of awe. "Dude, you got shot.... I'm afraid I'd just freak." I pointed out the incredible power of adrenaline to keep a person focused and moving. Besides, I'd saved Ivanka, and that was the ultimately important part, right. She was safe and I'd heal. This was agreed upon with many high fives, even if most of them had yet to meet her: I'd saved their favorite little girl.
Oh, and I was a hero on this trip. Three flat tires changed in the space of eighty miles. Two Mexican families who didn't know how a drop-down spare worked, and a little old lady who just couldn't handle the job ("scared the dickens out of me when the tire blew!"). I politely refused the five dollars she offered me for doing the change.
Heroes don't get paid. And doing those tires made me feel like a hero.
I finished my Mountain Dew with my foot on the bumper. Threw the bottle in back, fired up, and rolled out.