Western v. Eastern


Bailiff work is as easy as it is on television. I’m a Price Is Right girl. Exhibit A. Exhibit B. Lots of standing around in shoes like the ones that come with a rented tux.

The judge is named Judge Callahan, and there are multiple instances of courtroom duress where, under the breath of a possible ne’er-do-well, he’s been called Judge Half-a-Hand, because that’s what he has. He wears this homemade prosthesis that’s made of cast iron. It’s flesh colored, but nobody’s really fooled. He just got back from vacation and the prosthesis is a dozen shades lighter than his face and other hand.

I loaned him Bullitt with Steve McQueen about a month ago. Now whenever someone fumbles their words and looks to him with sympathy, he says, “You work your side of the street and I’ll work mine.”

When he gave me the tape back he said, “You know, it’s funny. His name is Bullitt, but he doesn’t even fire his gun until the climax of the film.”

“Isn’t that like what you do, though?” I said. “Judgment at climax?”

“That’s a good question,” he said. “But it might be a better one for a prostitute.”

And then he ran home, which I want to say is the exact opposite way Steve McQueen would have done it, except that when I passed him a few minutes later he was zigzagging on the sidewalk as if being chased or, I guess, chasing something.


~

Semi-important things about tort claims and a federal district court’s level of jurisdiction and some other stuff are being decided through the case of Jane Eastern and Anthony Western. The gist of it is that they were married and now they’re not and soon enough one person will take none of the blame and all of the money even though there’s enough of both to go around.


~

It was three days into the trial before I realized that I knew Anthony Western, that we went to high school together when he was named Tony Atlas. He must have picked a direction since I last knew him. Good for him.

We cruised around on the back roads a couple times and I smoked as much of his weed as he would let me, which meant all of it. He didn’t care. He drove with his hands at ten and two. He put pennies in his penny loafers.

His car stereo didn’t work, so he’d sing while we drove along. Mostly Motley Crue. “Wild Side” was his favorite. There’s that line where Vince sings, I carry my crucifix underneath my deathlist, forward my mail to me in Hell. He thought that was so cool.

There’s a pro wrestler with the same name as him, too. His old name, Tony Atlas. He motioned to the glove compartment once and I pulled out a folder with some pictures clipped out, all of them of a muscular black man who, when smiling, could have put a shirt on and passed for the meathead comic relief on a sitcom.

I put the folder back, and for no real reason, that was probably the last thing we talked about.

Jane Eastern wanted so badly to have nothing to do with him that she changed her name not back to what it was originally, but to as far away from him as she could get. I can’t think of a nicer guy who didn’t have any friends.


~

I had a girlfriend, a pretty blonde with bad teeth who didn’t know she was still a few years away from giving up on religion, who said she wasn’t afraid of dying.

“I know where I’m going when I die,” she always said. “What is there to fear?”

“I just filled my car up with gas. Let me think about that when it’s empty.”

But I bought a gallon of milk before my tank went dry. It was a terrible cycle. She asked me, “When is it we leave with nothing?” She said it like she meant the opposite and it was all very confusing.

While I personally had nothing against dying, I had to consider above all else what it was I would die doing and what would kill me to do.


~

I can understand why Tony married Jane Eastern. The sound of her voice makes everything look like it’s been smeared in Vaseline. She looks like Prince when Prince is at his most feminine. There’s an essence of purple to her.

I’m not paying attention when Judge Callahan says, “You sell whatever you want, but don't sell it here tonight.” That old VHS copy of Bullitt, was Tony’s. Is Tony’s. I never gave it back to him.

I start laughing but nothing’s funny. Just coincidences, the idea that our coolness is transparent, that our desire, when seen in a pure form, is off-putting for no other reason than its intensity.

The stenographer clicks across the keys trying to catch my laughter, but she hesitates. And I’m off.  

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