How would Robert Parker write about frogs?
December 20, 2014
ROBERT PARKER SAT at his keyboard and scratched his head as he looked at the prompt for this week’s writing group selection.
“Frog,” it said.
Parker didn’t want a repeat of the fiasco from last week when Hem and Faulkner gave him hell about his Mary Had a Little Lamb piece.
“Hem will probably write something about the French Resistance. Faulkner will do a diatribe about a slithery green amphibian with bulbous eyes,” he said.
He put his fingers on the keyboard, closed his eyes a minute before he started to type.
Chief Jesse Stone hired Theodore Blevins straight out of the police academy. The kid stood six-four, weighed in at two hundred and seventy five pounds, most of which he wore in his belly that lopped over his belt like blubber from a male adult sperm whale.
Jesse called Blevins into his office.
“Your first trial today, Blevins?”
“You know it, chief,” Blevins said.
“Who’s on the other side?”
“Some lawyer named Williams.”
“Remember to keep your answers short. Address the judge as ‘Your Honor,’ always say ‘yes, sir’ and ‘no, sir’ to whomever asks the questions,” Stone said.
“Go get ‘em,” Jesse said.
Jesse waited long enough for the lawyers to complete jury selection and their opening statements before he walked across the street to the courthouse. He sat on a wooden bench in the back of the room and listened.
The prosecutor led Theodore through the facts of the case and then passed him to Williams.
When Williams stood up, he glanced at Jesse, winked almost imperceptively.
“Here we go,” Jesse said under his breath.
“Officer Blevins, you didn’t see my client at the scene of the crime, did you?”
“No, sir,” Blevins said.
“As a matter of fact, you didn’t see him at all until about three hours after he allegedly shoplifted the carton of cigarettes, did you?”
“When you found him, he was a home watching TV?”
“Did you find the carton of cigarettes at his house?”
“No, sir. We found it later in the bushes behind the convenience store.”
“And the convenience store clerk described the shoplifter as a young white male?”
“How many young white males live in this town, Officer Blevins?”
“Quite a few,” Blevins said.
“So all you have on my client is that he happens to be a young white male who lives here?”
“Pretty much,” Blevins said. “But, I think he did it.”
“You base that on your extensive police experience?”
“Yes, sir. I guess.”
“How long have you been on the force?” Williams asked.
“Three weeks, sir.” One of the jurors chuckled.
“What kind of grades did you make at the academy?”
“I passed, sir.” Another juror giggled.
Williams waited a minute.
“Officer Blevins, you said your name was Theodore?”
“Do you go by any nicknames?”
Blevins squirmed on the stand, looked down at his hands.
“Some of my friends call me Tad,” he said.
“I know Thad is a nickname for Theodore, but why would they call you Tad, Officer Blevins?”
“It’s short for Tadpole,” Blevins said.
All the jurors laughed.
“Order in the court,” the judge said.
“When I was a kid, I would catch tadpoles with my bare hands and eat ‘em,” Blevins added unsolicited.
Williams sat down at the defense counsel table and the judge excused Blevins from the witness stand. He walked down the center aisle and took a seat next to Jesse.
He leaned over to Chief Stone and whispered, “How’d I do?”
“I don’t believe I’d been telling that last part,” Jesse said without looking at him.
The jury was out thirty seconds before it returned a not guilty verdict.
On his way out the door, Williams stopped and shook hands with Chief Stone, then Blevins.
“You’ll get me next time, Froggy,” Williams said before he turned and walked out of the courtroom.
Parker sent the piece to the printer, grabbed it and read it aloud. Then he wadded it up in his hands and threw it the trash.
He got up and retrieved the crumpled paper, smoothed out the wrinkles, stuck it in a file folder.
“What are they going to do to me? I’m already dead,” he said as he walked out the door to join Faulkner and Hemingway at the Paradise Café.