Archive | April 2023

Jury’s Verdict

While I had planned to arrive on time, before 8:20 a.m. I arrived at 8:25 a.m. feeling flustered. My pride in being punctual was wounded. Walking into the courthouse felt as if I were checking through TSA at an airport. A policeman took my purse and coat to be x-rayed. The metal detector alarmed when I walked through it, causing the officer tending the machine to lean forward and look down at my shoes. He grunted, “Buckles”.

Approaching a desk with a “Jurors Check In Here” sign, I apologized, “I’m sorry I’m late. I didn’t allow enough drive time.”

The jury attendant smiled reassuringly and said, “You’re just in time.” He led me down a flight of stairs to a room where about two dozen people were waiting. Within moments of my arrival we watched a film showing what was expected of a jury member. We were instructed to speak clearly, never nod our heads, say yes or no, answer only what was asked. Then we were led up a few flights of stairs to a courtroom.

As I slowly made my way up the steps, I thought to myself, “It isn’t even 9:00 a.m. yet and I’ve gone up and down six flights of steps. It’s a good thing my knee is doing as well as it is.”

The courtroom was large but there were no spectators in it. The case to be tried involved a young man contesting a DUI (driving under the influence) charge. A rap of the judge’s gavel signaled the start of the proceedings.

21 potential jurors had been summoned for the jury pool. In the following hour we were asked several questions to gauge our partiality, reducing the number of people qualified to serve. Questions like, “Have you or a member of your family ever been charged with a DUI?” If anyone raised their hand the next question was, “Will you be able be impartial in this case?” If they answered no, they were excused. Remaining potential jurors were approved or rejected through a collaboration between the prosecutor and defense lawyers. A DUI charge is a civil case, not a criminal one, so only six jurors were needed instead of the more familiar 12.

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The Summons

Late summer insects buzzed and hummed from clumps of tall grass in the ditches as I slowly limped down the driveway toward the mailbox. It felt good to be outdoors in the warm sun. A pleasant breeze playfully fluffed my hair as it scurried about in the yard. Stopping to rest my painful left knee, I anticipated the knee replacement surgery scheduled in two weeks.

Finally, having reached the mailbox, I rifled through the pack of letters.  When I saw a letter from the Marathon County Circuit Court, I involuntarily blurted, “Oh-oh!”

Hastily ripping the envelope open, I read, “You are hereby summoned to serve as a juror for a one-week term beginning…” The date listed was a little over two weeks after my knee replacement surgery. I doubted I’d be in condition for jury duty that soon.

With the help of my doctor, I was excused from the jury obligation on that date. While Marathon County acknowledged the validity of my excuse, they included a new date to serve. The date was so many months away, I had almost forgotten about it until another Marathon County reminder arrived in the mail recently.

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Donkey Milk

In the depths of the bathroom cupboard, was a familiar bottle. The lavender-scented body lotion bought while visiting France five years ago had slipped behind other toiletry supplies. The principle of ‘out of sight means out of mind’ certainly pertained here. Planning to use the lotion only on special occasions, other tall bottles had slowly obscured the container.

Lifting the bottle out of the dark recesses of the cupboard, I admired the pretty sprays of lavender that decorated its label. Why was I so stingy with the lotion? It needed to be used up before it dried up. My daughter Tammie and I are planning another international trip this year, so who knows what items I’ll be bringing home with me this time?

As I gently spread the creamy lotion on my legs, I futilely sniffed, hoping to detect its flowery scent. Unlike orange peels and crushed basil leaves, which my olfactory receptors pick up very well, lavender isn’t a scent I can enjoy. Placing the bottle on the counter, I reflected, “Not being able to smell it, surely contributed to my forgetting about the lotion!”

When I talked to Tammie later that day I asked, “Do you remember the long bus trip we took while in France?”

Shaking her head disapprovingly, Tammie answered, “I surely do! The French rail workers were on strike, so we couldn’t take the speed train from Paris to Lourdes. What could have taken only a few hours, turned into our spending an entire day on a bus.”

I agreed, “That was unpleasant but halfway through the day we stopped at a small strip mall. One of the stores sold nothing but locally supplied, farm-grown items, like wine, rapeseed oil, olives, wool, and products made with lavender. I bought wool slippers and a bottle of lavender-scented lotion. I used some of the lotion today. Did you know it was made using donkey milk?”

Chuckling, Tammie admitted, “I’d forgotten about that but it makes sense. They do things differently in France.”

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Pronouncing Judgement

After noon recess, we found the classroom windows open. A stack of papers on the windowsill fluttered in the balmy breeze. I heard red-winged black birds calling to each other and wished I could go back outside. The custodian started to mow the lawn between the school and church rectory. I closed my eyes listening to the familiar roar of the mower. The scent of freshly cut grass made me giddy with joy. The school day was half over. School would be out for the summer in a few weeks. Beautiful summer was finally returning to Wisconsin after six months of ice and snow.

My classmates and I could tell Sister Wilhelmina was in a good mood. She had a smile on her wrinkled face. At least I thought it was a smile, because that wasn’t something she did often. Standing in front of the chalkboard, Sister shared, “I love the scent of freshly mown grass. It makes me think of my childhood.” After a pause she uncharacteristically suggested, “Someone tell me what they like and will always remember about their childhood.”

A boy waved his hand in the air and eagerly shared, “I have two things. There’s a crick behind our house that I play in, and I kin crawl out of my bedroom window onto the ruf.”

Sister sat down heavily at her desk, clearly struggling with what to address first, his dangerous pastimes, sloppy speech, or his mispronounced words. Having decided, she weakly questioned, “Do you remember the proper way to pronounce words like ‘creek’ and ‘roof’?”

Red faced, the boy nodded and said in a rush, “Saying those words the way you want me to, don’t feel right.”

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