Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Indictment: The Continuing Serialization of the Novel, "Jack:"

                                                     Chapter 24
                         The Indictment

Charleston, S.C., Charleston Harbor in Background.
Civil War Era Lithograph from Harper's Weekly.
     “Our Father. Who art in heaven. Hallowed be thy name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done. On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day, our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil, Amen.”
     “Mr. Brooks!” Master yelled right after we recited the Lord’s prayer as school began Monday morning. Two men from the church were seated in the room. “It has come to my attention, Mr. Brooks, that certain students in this classroom on Saturday defiled the Lord’s sacred altar at the Church while supposedly getting ready to practice their altar boy routines in preparation for Sunday masses upcoming. It has come to my attention Mr. Brooks that certain individuals were playing tag in the church and committed a most grievous outrage to the sanctity of that house of God by even playing tag on the altar and even jumping over the altar rail. And Mr. Brooks, it has come to my attention that one or more of these bad apples who parade their alleged goodness in sacred robes each and every Sunday before the congregation even jumped over the altar rail while another boy or boys was or were trying to catch them or him. 
      And Mr. Brooks, the devil definitely showed himself in one of these boys in the most horrific of ways and Mr. Brooks I will make it my personal mission to find out conclusively, Mr. Brooks, the exact identity of that malevolent boy who, disregarding and in fact having total contempt for our most sacred ceremonies and sacred articles, he being an altar boy on the surface but a friend of the devil beneath, I will see to it, Mr. Brooks, that this boy’s identity and bad acts are made perfectly visible to all and that he will be righteously punished if found guilty by our court today.

    Chapter 25 
                                The Trial Begins

      “So today’s lesson class is so important that we are going to skip spelling, skip mathematics, skip science, skip religion even, but we will have our civics lesson today, we will see how the courts of our great land work and we’ll see it up close because we are conducting a criminal trial here today to get the bottom of this outrage.
      “Mr. Philips, the church custodian, has generously volunteered to perform the duty of defense lawyer for the accused. I will be the prosecutor so that things can move as expeditiously as possible and we waste no time. Mr. Wormwood, who performs the Sunday collections for the Church, and who has generously given of his time as well, will perform the honorable function of judge of our little court. The witnesses will be announced in good time.
      “Now Mr. Brooks, I would ask that you take the witness stand which is the chair right next to my bench where the judge is now seated. Mr. Wormwood, the court is now yours.”
      “Thank you Mr. Whittemore. As you know ladies and gentleman I am the man responsible for taking up the collections at Sunday masses. But what we are doing here today has nothing to do with that. You need to be completely silent, there is no talking, no laughing, no snickering and no cheering, nothing. Understand?”
      “Yes Mr. Wormwood,” the class said in singsong unison.
      “Well then first thing you do is call me Your Honor, understand.”
      “Yes Your Honor.”
      “Okay good, then the first thing we do is, is …uh,  what did you say we do first Mr. Whittemore sir?”
      “The prosecution, Your Honor.”
      “The prosecution sir?” said the judge.
      "The witnesses! The prosecution witnesses! Good God!” said Whittemore.
      “Oh yes, thank you Mr. Whittemore.”
      “So the first witness is uh…the first witness…um”
      “Mr. Brooks is the first witness Your Honor,” said Whittemore.
      “Mr. Brooks, yes, please Mr. Brooks, take the witness stand.”
      “Me? What did I do? What did I do?”
      “Just sit there and answer the questions,” Whittemore said.
      “Sir,” said the judge reading from notes, “Do you promise to tell the whole truth in this matter so help you God?”
      “What matter?” said Brooksy. “I didn’t do nothing.”
      “Don’t worry about what matter you knumbskull!” said master.          
      “Just say yes.” The class snickered.
      “Shut your faces!” said Whittemore. The judge looked at master but master just shook his head.
      “Sir I’m going to ask you a few questions about what took place at the church on Saturday, understand?”
      “Sir I don’t know nothing at all except that I didn’t see anyone outside the school house the other day when you asked me to spy on ‘em.”
      “Mr. Brooks,” said master in as low a voice as he could, “we’re talking about Saturday at the church, not Friday at the school.” Brooks looked over at Jack who shook his head slowly and smiled.
      “Sir I don’t know nothing about Saturday neither.”
      “But you were at the church because others saw you and you are an altar boy are you not?”
      “Yes sir.”
      “So you were at the church?”
      “Sir? I said I was an altar boy.”
      “But you were at the church?”
      “When sir.”
      “Saturday! Saturday! We’re talking only about Saturday! No other time, is that clear Mr. Brooks?”
      “Sir, yes sir.”
      “And why do you keep looking over at Mr. Stone?”
      “Sir, I don’t know.”
      “What did you see happen on Saturday at the church, Mr. Brooks?”
      “Sir, I saw the minister and the boys and the man who plays the organ.”
      “Did you see the boys playing on the altar?”
      “I didn’t see anything,” Brooks said.
      “You were there! How could you not see anything? Are you blind?”
      “Sometimes I can’t see when I have a bad headache, sir, and that day I had a big headache so I couldn’t see much and I was a’sittin in a bench with my head down sir.”
      “So you saw nothing is that your testimony?”
      “Tetimuny?” said Brooksy.
      “Testimony. Your word.”
      “My word? What word?” said Brooksy. "I didn't see anythin'"
      “Is that what you saw, nothing?" said the exasperated master.     
      “Is that what you are so non-sensically trying to tell this court and these good boys and girls sir?”
      “Yes sir, I didn’t see nothing just like outside on Friday I didn’t see nothing only on Friday it was cuz I got a bad stomach ache from eating grass a dog peed on…” The whole class roared with laughter.
      “Shut your faces you snipes!” screamed master and the class went dead silent.
      “I have no more questions of this nincompoop!” said master.
      “Yes sir, kindly step to your seat sir,” the judge told Brooksy.
      “Your Honor, my next witness is one of the Sliney twins, both of whom saw the exact same thing at the church on Saturday-they are Johnny Sliney and Randy Sliney-you can’t really tell them apart unless you hear them speak for some time,” Whittemore explained to the judge. “So maybe we should have’em testify, Your Honor, at the same time because their stories are exactly alike anyway.”
      “Yes good idea,” said the judge.

                               Chapter Twenty-six 
                              Tattling Twins 

      “So Johnny and Randy, how long have you been altar boys?” Master asked when they were seated up front of the class near the judge.
      “Three years,” snapped Johnny Sliney. “Two years,” said Randy Sliney.
      “Well boys, which is it?”
      The twins looked at one another and then, at the same, time Johnny Sliney said two years but this time Randy Sliney said three. Some students snickered causing master to turn around sharply with a scowl and they all went perfectly still and silent. 
      “Well, skip it!” said master. “What did you see Johnny on Saturday.”
      “Well sir, I don’t like to tattle but I saw Jack Stone lifting up the Monstrance and standing behind the altar like he was the priest or something.”
      “Yes I saw the same thing sir, and I don’t like to tattle either. But it was Jack Stone behind that altar alright and he was getting everyone except Johnny and me to play tag around the altar. They were all running around, everyone-Jack Stone, and Jeremy, and Jimmy and Mike and all of them drank some of the wine from the bottle in the sacristy but I didn’t and my brother didn’t. We were behaving ourselves because we respect the church and they were just having a good old time. I just didn’t think they should be doing that so we told my mother and she told my father and he said you have got to tell Master Whittemore and the pastor. So that’s why we came to your house, sir, on Saturday afternoon, as soon as we could, to let you know that there was some wicked things going on at the church earlier that day. But Jack was the one getting everyone to do the bad things.”
      “Well there you have it, Your Honor. And what about Mr. Brooks?
     “Mr. Brooks was running around like everyone else-I mean like the others, not my brother or me. Brooksy was having a good ole time too and I didn’t think he had a headache,” said Johnny Sliney.
      “Nor did I sir. He was having much too good a time.”
      “I see,” said master with a big grin on his face. “I see.”
      “And you say Jack Stone was behind the whole thing?”
      “Yes sir, it was obvious to me. And Jeremy too.”
      “Really? Why Jeremy too?”
      “Because he just kept not listening to me and my brother calling us Hiney and Hiney’s brother because that’s what Jack liked to call us, and then all of them would call us the Hiney twins and another word I would not like to repeat, sir.”
      “Oh but this is a trial and you must repeat that word, Mr. Hiney, I mean Mr. Sliney, “ said Whittemore. The students roared at master’s name slip and master screamed again to shut their faces.  
      “Well sir, Jeremy called me a horse’s ass and said my brother was a donkey’s ass and that was totally inappropriate especially inside such a sacred place.” Many students held their hands over their mouths but could not prevent wind escaping violently through their mouths in great peals of laughter causing Master Whittemore to scream, “Shut your godforsaken mouths you idiots before I take a cane to each one of you!” 
      “Now! Why did Jeremy say such a mean thing to you and your brother, Mr. Hiney, I mean Sliney sir?” said Whittemore whose face turned beat red as more snickers were heard. Jack was trying to get the class to laugh from his bench up the back of the class and Mike started throwing little pebbles at Jack and other kids. Then Jack winked at Brooksy who winked back and Jack spit a spitball at Mike hitting him in the face. 
      Then master asked Mr. Philips, the defense lawyer, if he had any questions and Mr. Philips told the judge and master, “No sir, it seems pretty clear to me who the culprits are here and I don’t wish to waste the master’s time. I have no questions.”
      Then master said it was recess and that’s when Jack told me and Brooksy that we have to ask the court for a new lawyer cuz the one we have isn’t helping us at all and he asked no questions, and to say that we want Jack to be our lawyer. So that’s what we did.

Chapter Twenty-seven
              Jack Comes to the Rescue

        So when we got back from recess I went to the judge and asked if we could have a new lawyer cuz our lawyer wasn’t doin nothin. The judge said he didn’t know, that it was up to Mr. Whittemore.
       Whittemore was more than delighted with the request. “Oh and who is your choice-pick anyone you like? The evidence is so strong at this point that it really makes no difference to me, I assure you. Would you like the judge to play a dual role, that is, being your lawyer and the judge?”
        “No sir. We all talked about it and we all want Jack to be our lawyer,“ I said. Master’s smile deserted his face like it was the sun blotted out by a big black cloud.
        “You want to place your fates in the hands of that good-for-nothing boy who doesn’t know the first thing about lawyering!“
        “Yes sir. All of us do. We want Jack!”
        “So you want Mr. Stone to match his wits against mine in this trial even though he himself is on trial as he clearly is the accused at this point. So be it Mr. Foster! It’s your own neck in the noose! So be it! Your Honor! I humbly accept the challenge and I really look forward to learning how Mr. Jack Stone intends to slither his way out of this one!”
        “We rest our case Your Honor,” Whittemore said. “Go forth Mr. Stone to your downfall, I expect.”
        “Yes Your Honor, I call the Slineys back to the stand,” said Jack. The twins took the seats at the front and the entire class riveted their attention on Jack.
        “So, are either of you friends with Jeremy?”
        “Not really,” said Johnny.
        “What about your brother?”
        “No, you know I’m not.”
        “Friends with Mike?” Jack asked.
        “Nope,” said Randy.
        “Friends with Jimmy?”
        “You’re friends with Brooksy then?”
        “You’re kiddin right?” said Randy.
        “Nope,”said Johnnie.
        “Why not? Why would I be kiddin?”
        “Cuz why, ain’t he good enough for you?”
        “It’s not that,” said Randy. “Brooksy’s not somebody we would nomally associate with.”
        “But why not?”
        “He’s too weird!”
        “You don’t like him do you?”
        “Can’t say as I do.”
       “Same here,” said Johnny.
       “Do you like me?”
       “Nope,”said Randy.
       “Why not?”
       “Because you’re a lousy student and you’re a bully-always pickin' on my brother and me.”
       “You recall what happened about two weeks ago right outside this school when your brother gave me some lip?”
       “Yeah,” said Randy. “You picked him up by the seat of his pants and dumped him into the trash barrel head first! It was unforgivable.”
       The class roared and Whittemore glared at them causing an immediate cessation of their fun, at least on the surface.
       “That’s right it was unforgivable wasn’t it? And didn’t you say I was goin' to pay?”
       “So what?”
       “So now you makin' me pay and worse than that you’re makin' my good friends pay who are no friends of yours?”
       “No? Did master want you to say somethin' against us?”
       “He just wanted us to say what we saw.”
       “Say what you saw or make it up?”
       “Say what we saw.”
       “He make any promises?”
       “No. Just said we were two of his best students which everyone knows we are and we probably were going to pass with high marks.”
       “Oh so he promised you both good grades if you talked against us, now I get it.”
       “I didn’t say that.”
       “What did ya say moron?”
       “Objection!” said master rising from his seat. “Mr. Stone is being abusive to the witness.”
       “Mr. Stone, please stop that behavior,” said the judge.
       “No problem. So Mr. Randy Sliney, you don’t like any of the accused boys including myself and you say master brought up the subject of good grades while you was talking to him about what you were going to tell the judge?”
       “We get good grades anyway and master was just saying it in passing.”
       “What exactly did he say?”
       “He said what I said, we were good students and probably would get good passing grades.”
       “How ‘bout you Johnny Sliney? What did master say ‘bout your grades?”
       “Said the same thing. I’d get good final grades because I was a responsible student.”
       “Didn’t you think that he was a'tryin' to bribe you or something with grades if you’d say bad things at the court today?”
       “What did you think?”
       “I think he thought it was the responsible thing to do.”
       “What was?”
       “Tell what happened”
       “Or what didn’t happen?”
       “You lied for good grades?”
       “Objection judge!” yelled Whittemore.
       “You lied because myself, Jeremy, Brooksy, Mike and Jimmy all say we never did any of those things.”
       “Not true. You did ’em.”
       “Your brother convinced you to lie cuz I dumped you in a barrel and he said he was goin to get revenge! Isn’t that what really is a'happenin' here Hiney’s brother?”
       “Objection!” yelled Whittemore.
       “You lied didn’t you?”
       “No way!”
       Jack then turned to the class and said during a stream of noisy objections from Whittemore, “Stand up and say the Hineys are lyin' if you think they is and that we are innocent!?”
       At that the whole class stood and yelled “Innocent! Innocent!” and “the Hineys are liars!”
      Mike and Jimmy and me stood our benches and yelled at the top of our voices, “Masters a cheat! Masters a cheat!” 
      Then the whole class except the Slineys chanted, “Master’s a cheat! Master’s a cheat! The Hiney’s are liars! The Hiney’s are liars! Liars and cheats! Liars and cheats!”
     “Shut up! Shut up!” Whittemore screamed. He finally asked the judge what was the verdict.

Be sure to read the next set of chapters to be serialized later in the week.

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