I entered a contest to celebrate the release of a Kurt Vonnegut tribute book titled So it Goes. The deal was to pick a fictional book authored by the Kurt Vonnegut alter ego Kilgore Trout and write a chapter. I chose the First District Court of Thankyou and wrote the chapter titled: A House Within. This was the first place submission and I hope you enjoy it.
The First District Court of Thankyou
A Novel by Kilgore Trout
Chapter Five: A House Within by John W. Howell ©2013
No sooner had Madame Zane put down the gun, the policemen tackles her and drives her into the spectator chairs.
“You’ll never take me alive,” she screeches.
Some in the first few rows believe she is right. A bunch of overweight policemen pile on top of her as she takes out about ten or so folding chairs in the first two spectator rows. The people in those chairs are like ten-pins in a bowling alley scattering to left and right as if driven by the ball-like fusillade of police and the woman.
“Order.” Judge Treadheart is rapping the little plate on his dais with his gavel. “Order I say or I will cleah this courtroom.”
No one is paying attention as the mayhem gets worse.
“I’ll kill the son of a bitch.” The big woman struggles under the mountain of police. “Give me one hand free and I’ll pull out the little prick’s heart.”
“For the last time before I hold you in contempt madam, I am asking for order. Bailiff please restorh order.”
The bailiff goes over to the pile of police and the one woman and demands that all cease their disruptive activity. The police finally get up off the floor, in turn and two of them are holding the woman by each arm.
“Please restrain her,” the judge orders.
The biggest policeman removes his handcuffs from his belt and snaps one on the left wrist. He tries to force the other arm behind the women but she fights the maneuver. He finally asks for help from one of the officers and the women ends up with her hands cuffed behind her back.
“Have her sit down at the defense table,” the judge says.
The policeman half drags the woman to a seat next to the lawyer, who is there to defend her and drops her into a sitting position. The lawyer looks as if he is afraid of her and tries to scoot his chair so that there is a little more room between them.
“Gentlemen approach the bench.”
The two lawyers; defense and prosecution approach the judge’s dais with an element of trepidation. Before the woman pulled out a gun the prosecutor, Jeremiah Moses Sweetwater, was asking her if she in fact had been responsible for helping Bill Ray Soltis hold up the First Federal Bank of Beauford. It was all he could do to keep from soiling his pants when she pulled out that .357 magnum from under her skirt. The prosecutor is sure the judge is going to hold him in contempt for badgering the witness.
The defense attorney, Jimmy John Dwyer is sure the judge is going to hold him in contempt for failing to restrain his client. As he rises and moves toward the bench he is thinking, how the hell did she get into court with a pistol bigger than a mule?
“You boys have a lotta ‘splainin’ to do,” the judge whispers. “Move closeh to my bench and try to give me an idea in fifteen words or less what is goin’ on around heah.”
Jimmy John clears his throat and before he can speak, Jeremiah asks the judge for a contempt of court citation to be issued to Jimmy John for failure to restrain his client.
“Your honor,” Jimmy protests. “I had no idea that she was packin’ that gun.” Jimmy starts to plead, “Your honor I am as sorry as anyone that she was able to smuggle that thing into your courtroom. You have to believe me.”
“Take it easy son. I’m not about to issue any citations that could cause this case to go off the rail. Once this trial is oveh your client will have an opportunity to appeal to a circuit court if she loses heah. Since your client has waved a jury trial, I don’t want any messy citation or any more gun play to interfere with the judgment in my court. Do I make myself cleah?”
“Perfectly clear sir.”
“As for you Mr. Sweetwater, I don’t want any more motions for contempt citations. Do I make myself cleah?”
“Yessir your honor, but ─”
“No buts councilor. I mean it.”
“Yes your honor.”
“Now you boys go back to your respective tables and get this case tried.”
Jeremiah and Jimmy go back to their seats. The judge raps one more time and tells the prosecutor to continue. Jeremiah calls Madame Zane back to the witness stand. Jimmy helps her get up, since with her ample girth, not having the use of her hands makes getting up almost impossible.
Jimmy also escorts her to the witness stand and helps her into the chair. “Your honor may we have the handcuffs removed?” Jimmy is facing the judge.
“Afraid not Mr. Dwyer. Your client has pretty much convinced this juror that she is not to be trusted unfettered. Take your seat sir. Mr. Sweetwater you may question the witness.”
Jeremiah rises from his chair and walks toward Madame Zane. He stops short of getting too close. “Can you hear me Madame Zane?”
“Yes Mr. Sweetwater I can hear you. You may think me dumb but I can hear.”
“Thank you Madame Zane. Before you ah … exposed your gun, I was asking a question about the bank in Beauford. Do you recall the question?”
“I sure do. You had the gall to ask me if I was involved with Bill Ray Solis in a bank hold up.”
“And your answer?”
“Hell no I wasn’t involved with that pig farmer in nothing.”
Jeremiah was about to ask the judge to censure Zane on the swearing but he thought better about it. “So to be clear, you are saying that when the police raided your house on a tip from the bank teller who was in possession of your driver’s license that was left by Bill, it did not involve you in any way?”
“You are trying to confuse me. I don’t know how Bill got my driver’s license and no way do I understand why the fool left it in the bank.”
“Well what about the fact that the police found a bag of money that was part of the loot Bill ran away from the bank with?”
“Don’t know nutten about bank loot. Bill gave me that money as a down payment on what he owed me.”
“Five thousand dollars was a down payment? How much did he owe you?”
“Objection, not relevant,” Jimmy says.
“Sustained. Move on Mr. Sweetwater.”
“Do you know where the money came from?”
“I do now, but didn’t then.”
“The fact that the bag had First Federal printed on did not give you a clue?”
“Objection, Asked and answered. Madame Zane already said she did not know where the money came from. The prosecutor is badgering the defendant.”
“Sustained. Mr. Sweetwater please get to your point and either call another witness or sit down.”
“Yes your honor.” Jeremiah moves a little closer to the witness stand. “Madame Zane I have only one more question. Where is Bill now?”
“If I knew that I wouldn’t be sitting here. He would.”
“Prosecution rests your honor.”
“Very well Mr. Sweetwater. Mr. Dwyer is the defense ready?”
“Yes your honor.” Jimmy passes Jeremiah and makes his way to the witness stand. “Now Madame Zane I would like to ask you the same question that Mr. Sweetwater asked about the bank hold up. Did you help Bill Ray Solis hold up the bank?”
“Nawsir I did not.”
“Do you know where Bill got the money he owed you?”
“He still owes me. He only paid me five thousand dollars.”
“Let me rephrase my question. Do you know where Bill got the five thousand?”
“Nawsir I do not.”
“Can you tell the judge why you pulled out that gun?”
“I didn’t think that I did anythin’ wrong.”
“You are in trouble for bringing that gun into court. You know that don’t you Madame Zane?”
“Yessir I know that. I didn’t steal no money though.”
“Your honor the defense rests.”
The judge calls on the prosecutor for any final questions. There are none. He then asks for a summary from each side. The prosecutor sums up that it is clear the defendant was in possession of stolen property and her license linked her to the crime.
The defense summary includes the fact that Madame Zane did not know where Bill got her license and had no idea the money was stolen. It is also pointed out that there were no eyewitnesses to place Madame Zane in the bank at the time of the robbery. Mr. Dwyer calls for acquittal on the grounds that there was no real evidence that the Madame robbed the bank.
The judge takes a few minutes in his chambers and comes out with his verdict.
“I find the defendant not guilty of the bank robbery,” He says. “I do find her liable for brandishing a gun in my court which is cleahly against local and federal laws. I ask the bailiff to take Madame Zane into custody. Mr. Sweetwater I ask you to charge her with unlawful possession of a firearm and unlawfully threatenin’ the safety of an officer of the court.”
With the drop of the gavel it is obvious that the session is over.
“Your honor,” Madame Zane says.
“I have a license to carry if that matters.”
“Yes it does matter. Why did you pull out the gun in the first place?”
“Well your honor. When I sat in the witness chair the gun was hurting me.”
“Why didn’t you say anything before bringing it out?”
“It didn’t occur to me and when those police men jumpt me I guess I just lost my head.”
“Madame Zane,” the judge now seems cross. “I have to believe that you meant no harm but still don’t understand.”
“Well your honor this is the First District Court of Thankyou and I just didn’t think anyone would think I would hurt them. After all, the purpose of this here court is to try people who have not given someone a proper thank you for a favor they have done for them. I did not think this court would actually accuse me of a crime. When I sought to relive myself of the gun irritation I did not see a problem.”
“It is true this is the court to determine the punishment of those who are not grateful for favors done but the other courts have been overrun with crimes against the people and they have asked us to fill in. I did not want to let my fellow jurors down.”
“Did they thank you?”
The judge actually looks stunned. He sits with his elbows on the huge desk and his face in his hands. He seems to be thinking but does not give any sign as to what is running through his head. He raises his head and takes a deep breath.
“You have a point Madame. I should not be trying criminal cases and I think there are some people who need to fall under my jurisdiction. Bailiff and Mr. Sweetwater I would like to see you in my chambers. I think there are a number of judges who might need to be served with some Thankyou subpoenas. Madame Zane you are free to go. Oh, and thank you for your wisdom.”