Midday Matinee is our people watching, people doing and people being feature. Join the Woodland Creatures for an afternoon break.

Welcome back to Tuesday’s Tale, a weekly feature where we collaborate to write a story. Previous Tuesday’s Tales include The Sleep Clinic and Leave It to Beavers. We follow the basic rules of the “Yes, And” improvisational game – accept everything written so far as part of the story, and add your own paragraph (or so) where the last addition left off – except you needn’t begin your addition with “Yes, and.” I’ll start the story….

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“Are you sure this is a good idea, Your Honor?” Lily asked as she set up her steno stand. “It seems a bit … brusque.”

“Nonsense,” Judge Wallace Williams Wallingham said. Brusquely.

Lily nodded.

Judge Wallingham, while brusque, was not blind to the human condition. Lord knows he’d seen enough of it in twenty-three years on the bench. From traffic tickets to felonies, from wills to divorces, he had ruled on almost every variation of human malice, thoughtlessness, and stupidity. The combination of a baseless complaint about lawyers slipping him money across the bench and the closure of a fast food burger joint seemed to offer the perfect idea. He’d convinced the county to buy the burger joint, label one lane for plaintiffs and the other for defendants, and open a drive-thru courtroom. The bailiff was outside, directing traffic. The only other person in the courtroom was Lily, the court reporter. Judge Wallingham didn’t even need to wear a robe, although he’d put it on anyway out of habit.

Still, Lily looked upset and the judge didn’t like to upset her. Chief among his reasons was that he and Lily had been married for twenty-one of those twenty-three years, having first exchanged furtive glances while she transcribed a bench conference in a case that involved a missing weed whacker and a plastic bag of dog manure that was offered as evidence. Each had liked the way the others’ nose wrinkled, and the rest – as they say – was history.

“I know it seems short,” he said, “but you know the average case only takes a few minutes anyway. Out there in their cars, they can relax, listen to music, do whatever they want while they wait in line. No sitting on hard wooden benches, watching what happens to the cases ahead of you, getting nervous. I think they’ll like it, actually.”

“I guess,” Lily said. Doubtfully.

“So who’s up first?” he called to the bailiff over a walkie-talkie.

“Kevin Kratchwurth versus Ruth Anne Rannigal,” the bailiff answered. “They dated and broke up. Kratchwurth says she won’t return his collection of stuffed pandas. They’ve both been sworn in.”

“Send them up,” the judge said. He switched on the microphones at the windows. “Okay Mr. Kratchwurt. Tell me what happened.”

“Well shhhhhhhhhhachhhhhhhhh and then shhhhhhhhhhachhhhhhhhh and she shhhhhhhhhhachhhhhhhhh.”

Lily smiled. For the first time in her career as a court reporter, the people’s words sounded like her stenographer’s marks.

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Have fun!