“The evening shade had done little to cool off the heat of the day. It was a sticky August night, and I had already been feeling sticky from the basketball game...”
Evening shade? Sticky August...sticky game? Egad. I pushed the legal pad away and stared out the window of the train, desperately seeking inspiration.
It was seven o’clock, Monday morning. And, instead of rolling out of bed, as I’m usually in the habit of doing, most Mondays, I found myself on a train bound for Boston, thanks to a jury duty summons that I had received in the mail a few months ago. It was time to do my duty before Lady Justice. My number had been picked, and now it was time to pay the piper, in District Court.
At least the summons was giving me time to work on some writing on the train, instead of struggling through traffic on 95. Truth is, I’ve been pleased with the progress that I’ve been making with my next story…I’ve already gotten three chapters written out, and now I’m in the middle of my fourth, with a fifth chapter thumb-nailed out, as well. All of this was going to put me in good shape for the long dry creative spell that was bound to fall once I start planning for “Anything Goes,” the play that I’ll be directing in the spring. Directing and writing don’t always mix well.
Then again, neither were my metaphors this morning. If only the coffee clatch of middle age women sitting to my left weren’t so goddamn perky. Maybe then, it’d be easier. I groaned and squirmed in my cold leather seat, trying to ignore the ringleader of the group, who was prattling on about her son’s soccer practice. As if anyone cared.
Getting to District Court was easy. Fun, even. It was a short trip into South Station, one short exit on the Silver Line, and then, there I was.
It’s eleven in the morning, and I’m sitting in one of the court chambers, a potential juror. The judge is calling off names during jury selection, and I’m hoping like hell that he doesn’t call me.
The judge has just finished deliberating over the latest line-up of twelve that has been positioned in the jury box. He turns off the white noise that softly fills the room as he deliberates with the attorneys and turns to the box, looking over at them, kindly. “Now, I’m going to ask you to state your occupation, as well as that of your respective spouse.”
One by one, the twelve jurors dutifully tell the judge where they work, where their wife or husband works. “Retired, sir. Used to work as a carpenter.” “My wife was a hairdresser.” “My husband spent his days as a fluffer.”
I sat there, imagining my conversation with the judge. “I’m separated, sir,” I tell the judge.
“Separated?” asks the judge. “You seem awfully happy about that fact.”
“It was a good separation, sir.” In my head, I hear a chuckle from the group.
The group ends their recitation. The judge thanks them and turns the white noise on again, to consult with the attorneys. Bored, I open up the book I brought with me— The Case of the Dead Deb, by Alice Kimberley. It’s perfect light court-time reading, with just a touch of Rhode Island, and I’m already halfway through with it. In fact, I’m a bit nervous. The book is too enjoyable, and I need to make sure it lasts me through the day.
I get through thirty more pages. And suddenly, I hear my name called.
Dutifully, I move to the jury box. I could be juror number twelve. I take my seat, between an older man with his black hair slicked back and a woman clutching her pocketbook between her legs as though it contained state secrets.
After a while, the judge gets to me. “Please tell me what you do for your living, as well as what your spouse does.”
Which one? I want to ask. But I control myself. “I work in Public Relations, sir.” And I name the company.
“And your wife?”
Ah, the punch line moment. “I’m separated, sir.”
The judge stares at me in annoyance. “But what does your wife do, exactly?”
So much for my fantasy world. I slink down in my chair and answer the question. Five minutes later, I'm dismissed.
Like a Super Friend, I leave the Hall of Justice around two o’clock. It was a busy day at the court. In fact, the court clerk had informed us that it hasn’t been that busy in over four years. But I bet he says that to all the juries.
On my way home, I sit alone in one of the seats on the lower level, polishing off my book. I’m three-quarters of the way through.
Suddenly I hit page 189, and my ears perk up.
The heat of the day had given way to a breezy night. With my car windows rolled down, the pungent scent of Quindicott’s saltwater inlet permeated the air. The cloudless sky was jammed with stars, and the roads were virtually deserted as I moved through town and out of the countryside. I didn’t see another set of headlights until we approached the main highway. Along a wooded stretch without streetlights, I slowed my car.
Hmmm. Not perfect, but a damn sight better than my attempt. I reach for a pen from my duffle bag, and mark off the passage.
It was nice to see the day come full circle. And actually learn something in the process, too. I’d have to take that yellow legal pad out, and think about that summer night, one more time.
Perhaps there was a bit more inspiration to gleaned found out of this whole experience, after all.