SHORT STORY: Judge Grotesque

Judge Andrew Whitehead sat in a small wooden chair. The seat was large by the standards of any common individual but underneath his mass it shrunk. Not even functioning as a place for him to sit; instead merely the space where his daunting figure happened to presently occupy. His size went beyond body type or even voice (his baritone was a honey drip). On the bench or in the street, a glance from that puffy face with eyes that were canyons could stop the most disengaged passerby. Everyone listened to Judge Whitehead. Everyone gave him the time of day. His presence was big and resonant. He once even talked down a bankrobber mid-act. The Judge assured everything would be okay if he walked away now he hadn’t committed any crimes yet- just a minor disturbance- nothing that could get you in any kind of serious trouble.

He didn’t feel bad about that lie. Regret only came from the experience ending too early. Though he did not know, Judge Whitehead feels better with his life in danger. Actually entertained. If he thought hard enough about this need it would explain why he asks his wife to do what she does when they go to bed (once a month). But he didn’t do much thinking. Even on the bench. He just goes through the motions hoping something will happen that can rise him from prolonged coasting.

On his desk sat evidence from the case he was currently coasting through: a black and white “zine” authored by a women’s rights lady. The contents ranged from educational to what he could only assume to be an attempt at crass humor. It portrayed drawings of various feminine hygiene products, gay sex, trans sex, public officials engaged in sodomy, and every other profanity under the shade. A section explained the uses for a cock ring. He didn’t need to read it because he already knew. Judge Whitehead liked the way the cheap newsprint rubbed off on his fingers. He didn’t like anything else about the vile piece of garbage in front of him. The “zine” (titled Pussy Cream) entered his life because its author (named Allison Rabble) chose to distribute at a private Catholic college and was subsequently charged for obscenity. She will be sentenced guilty tomorrow and then Judge Whitehead won’t have to think of the damned literature again.

But for now it occupied his mind constantly. From the moment delicate hands placed it on his desk to this current second, Pussy Cream never left. It followed him out of the office, down the stairs, into the front seat of his Oldsmobile where the idea sat mockingly beside him like an unwanted, arrogant passenger. Out of office… out of mind, the Judge tells himself as he attempts to direct focus on the night’s activities ahead. Normally, Andrew returns home, makes himself a cup of Zen tea, takes his fish oil like a good boy and spends the night’s remainder watching house renovation shows that his wife loves and then Hitler documentaries after she retires.

Tonight is different. Judge Whitehead knew his wife would be getting home late, as it was prom and she had to chaperone. That left the Judge with an evening to himself, to pursue any digression at his own discretion. The car parks and Whitehead smiles as the neon sign reflects onto his windshield: SAGUARO SAMMY’S FAMOUS STEAK AND SEAFOOD. He didn’t get to eat his favorites too much anymore due to his cholesterol which was loosely enforced by his doctor; strictly by his wife. But neither were around. He’s giggling as he steps inside.

Among old license plates and other aesthetic perversions stands the honorable Judge Andrew Whitehead. He faces a teen behind the cash register but his eyes are firmly glued to the plastic bag off to the side. He wishes the boy could ring him up quicker.

“…Total is $30 dollars even.”

Judge Whitehead sets a hundred on the table. The teen gazes apprehensively.

“Sir, we don’t accept bills over $20.”

“But this is currency.”

“Sorry. Just company policy.”

Judge Whitehead opens his wallet. No more cash.

“Credit?”

Teen shakes his head. Judge Whitehead lets out a long sigh.

“You mean to tell me that your establishment does not take valid US tender?”

It takes the teen’s whole willpower not to flinch. The Judge’s voice, which was small pellets before had been replaced with a canon.

“I can get a manag-.”

“Technically the owner of this establishment can chose which bills to accept. You’re within the law there, I’ll give you that, but morally… how could you?”

“I just work here, man.”

“Why do you crusade to enforce this artificial construct of a greater good? Do you even like working here? Why pay them any loyalty?”

He considers this then says: “Because I don’t want to get fired.” The teen glances back towards the bar where a woman in a “manager” pin pours a stout.

“Don’t look at her. Look at me, boy, and ruminate.”

The teen takes the tender from the table and slides Andrew Whitehead his meal along with $70 dollars in change. Whitehead doesn’t tip. Buzzed from the triumph of persuasion (and the indulgence that awaits), the honorable Andrew Whitehead has an urge to sprint out the door. Instead, he walks with an heir of proud dignity to his vehicle. He turns the Olds around the corner, under an overpass.

Judge Whitehead moves the bag to his lap. He rips the plastic until he clutches the black styrofoam container and pries the lid off. He inhales the white steam as it fills the car; thinning to reveal lobster tail and a well-done steak. Andrew Whitehead wastes no time. He digs in using the plastic utensils until they break in beefy leather. He tosses them to the side then clutches the steak with two hands, going in for a dunk of clarified butter first. He’s in a frenzy: white lobster meat falls into his lap, the filet’s grey interior is now lodged in his teeth, he brings the red bone to his face and gnaws. Whitehead sips the clarified butter and it drizzles off his chin into his lap. He sweats in the excitement. For the first time today, Judge Whitehead felt at peace.

A flashlight shines into the car illuminating this bear of a man. Andrew dives for the passenger seat, crushing the remainder of his meal. He notices a police cruiser drive by as his mind begins to race, imagining them testifying in the past and recognizing him today. The Judge peels the steak and seafood out from underneath him and absently minded finishes the scraps (now tinted with the faint flavor of his body). Inexplicably, Pussy Cream enters his mind again. As the filet’s remainder graces his tongue, he recalls page 24: a lengthy erotic piece featuring a hidden romance between a priest and his bishop. Crude, ink drawings included, of course.

Judge Andrew Whitehead was no stranger to the grotesque and desirable. But the blatant filth of Pussy Cream left a bad taste in his mouth that dripped all the way to his soul. He struggled to comprehend his feeling’s root. They only intensified after meeting Allison Rabble on their first day in court. He had expected its creator to be raving and deranged. Instead she was the opposite: laid out her aims and justified them more articulately than her cheap lawyer. Besides the Judge, her voice was most commanding in the room. Allison Rabble was too decent and talented to publicly author something so offensive. No judgement to what one does in their private life but to advertise that behavior is reprehensible. Reputation still matters. Judge Andrew Whitehead parks at the strip club.

He waits in the car for these thoughts to dissipate. The Judge rustles around his backseat until he finds a wrinkled fedora. With one motion, he puts it on and exits the car. As concrete brushes against his loafers and the bar grows closer, the Judge’s head clears. The bouncer gives him a familiar nod. He’s home. No windows; only light comes from neon, perfect for anonymity. The Judge pulls the fedora tight around his head as he walked by vagrants and someone who asked want a dance baby? The Judge never accepts. He just sits at the bar, speaks to no one and orders a martini (that always had too much vermouth) and watches.

She wore a tight blue jumpsuit with long green feathers trailing: a peacock graced the stage; beginning elegant and quickly become raunchy to the tune of “November Rain”. When her right breast emerged the Judge wondered if his wife was home yet. With the exception of these ventures, he had never seen another woman like this besides her. Wasn’t one for affairs but loved indulging in fantasies of them. When the left breast emerged, the honorable Judge Andrew Whitehead imagined how many times he was going to cum when he got home. Or more importantly where? He had already marked the walk-in closet and a chaise lounge from Ruth’s mother. Maybe it was the pantries turn…

“Did Violet go on yet?”

The Judge turns to find a woman in a stained Harley Davidson t-shirt and shorts that barely went beyond the buttocks. The wrinkles in her face smelled like cigarettes from decades long gone. She was the kind of individual he would pass by without a thought. An irrelevant lump in the background as he went about his essential, judicial work.

“Normally she comes on at 11.”

“I love the little coochie on that one. You seem familiar.”

Panicked thoughts of “have I seen her on the bench before” intersected with “stop being ridiculous”. She toys with the mouth of a Bud.

“I visit here sometimes.”

“Me too.” A sly look. “And by sometimes I mean every night.” She laughed in a way that should have been a cackle had it not been so warm.

The Judge wanted to move on with his night of perverse solitude but instead asked, “What’s your name?”

“Mary. Mary Temperance.”

He nods.

“Well, c’mon you gotta tell me yours now.”

“John… John Doe-Smith.”

The warm cackle comes again.

“If you’re gonna hit me with a fake one at least be more creative. Why lie, John? I thought we were pals. You’re married aren’t you?”

“No.”

“Then what’s with the ring?”

He goes silent.

“Come on, you can’t play a player. Wanna get out of here?”

Every rational part of the Judge set off alarms. Instances with strangers and obscure locations only end in tragedy or regret. It was time to put his chips down and walk away. But his deeper part reigned dominant. That primal sense which kept him glued to his seat. The pull of desire. He was a clay figure under its power as a reckless sculptor forced his mouth to utter a syllable:

“Yes.”

After the drinks disappear, they’re in Temperance’s car (which has dents all along the front. The Judge found this shameful as he took his Olds to get washed once a week. How could anyone be so careless, he considered). She takes her eyes off the road and faces him.

“I know what you’re thinkin’… she ain’t much but in all of 20 years this old girl has never let me down. Specially up the climb.”

She points forward; Andrew Whitehead follows her finger’s gaze to see a winding path that ascends a mountain. The image of them both falling off the edge wrapped in distorted metal flashes through his head. Instead, the car climbed smoothly. He rebuffed most conversation which covered the usual bases (where you from what do you like to do want to get high at the top) until they reached the summit.

Andrew scanned what lies beyond the ledge’s end: a few streaks of light dotted on both sides surrounded by the unforgiving blackness of desert.

“Wow.”

“That’s what I was tellin’ you about, shit is prettier all the way up here,” Mary Temperance said with a joint in her mouth. They both appreciate the silence as she lights up.

“Gets me all self reflective and shit.”

“How so?”

“When people look at me they only see dark and no one likes the dark. It makes everyone hella uncomfortable and shit so they turn away. But they don’t look from the right perspective. They miss light inside.”

Silence again. The Judge’s knee jerk reaction is to ridicule her. Call her thinking cliched and her outlook simple and to request passage to a more reasonable elevation. He allows the silence to drive him before gaining the courage to speak.

“I feel like the opposite. I didn’t mention it earlier but I’m a judge. Most people take that into consideration and see positives: prestige and power. They don’t look close enough. They will never know I’m someone who visits strip clubs while his wife is chaperoning children. Or someone who gorges on takeout shellfish under cover of darkness. Someone grotesque.”

Mary Temperance laughs again- more of a howl this time that echoes throughout the canyon.

“A judge… I should’ve known. Judge’s are the prudest they are. Until you pry out the inner sicko. You’re not even that bad.”

“Really?”

“No… Jesus Christ look at yourself. You’re ashamed to even flaunt it. Shotgun this beer with me.”

He takes the warm can and inhales the beer, which was light enough to be sparkling water. Suds drip as he looked at Mary. Any skepticism disappears. The Judge may have even loved her, not in a romantic sense, but she brought him a powerful ease.

“Nice one, Judge Whitehead.”

The Judge’s mouth hung open.

“Took me a Dallas minute to decide but when I know I know. You’re Judge Andrew cocksuck Whitehead.”

He felt a buzz in his ear that could only be terror until he settled into its wavelength.

“Did I do something to provoke you… or was that a term of endearment?”

Her tough face almost softens.

“Five years ago I was livin’ in a trailer in Vista Park. We camped there for decades until a billionaire developer said we caint anymore and then the lying fake bullshit courts back his rich ass up.”

Whitehead doesn’t know how to respond. Moonlight reflects off her eyes giving her the appearance of a cat.

“You know I could kill you right now. You know I got a knife on me?”

The Judge was thriving from adrenaline. He would disarm her how he did that bank robber, how he got the server to accept with hundred dollar bill: with the powers of persuasion. But then he gazed deeper at the eyes; the wilderness they contained, and knew reason wouldn’t cut it. He looks at her and speaks:

“I have one sentiment for you…Motherfucker.” From the depths of a neglected digestive system comes a belch. Silence then an explosion. Mary keels over laughing.

“Damn, you ARE crazy,” she sequels then laughs. He laughs too.

They lay on the car’s roof, staring at the light in the sky. For the next hour they entertain themselves with progressively disturbing games of fuck marry kill and would you rather. They finish laughing which turns into a pause that they both inhabit. Mary digs into her purse.

“You know what you’d love…I found this really fucked up magazine on a newstand by the college. Check this.” She passes him the most up to date issue of Pussy Cream. He jumps up.

“Take me down. Now.”

“You didn’t even open it,” she says through a laugh.

“No more discussion. This is over. Take me down.”

“You trippin’.”

Even with the acceptance of a fellow peer, who specialized in the depraved, the magazine remained an affront. A confidant presenting this to him was nothing less than a slap. How could it have followed him to the top of Earth? Judge Whitehead realized he was destined to see it forever, in every case he tried, every face he encountered. It would become so internalized that he would look in the mirror and see Allison Rabble’s opus stare him back. He panicked as these thoughts raced, any precision in his movement was long gone as he took Pussy Cream out of her hands and ripped it in half.

“Get me out of here, Mary Temperance.”

The weight of his presence no longer existed. He ceased to be someone to listen to and instead one to disregard: a pathetic old man who felt threatened by a piece of paper, pleading for a safe return. Mary shakes her head then enters the car. As his hand grips the door handle he hears a lock.

“This is what you get for disrespecting my property. I’m gonna leave you stranded like you left me.”

“No.”

“It’s been fun… your honor.”

As her car pulled away, he hears one last cackle from the cracked window. The Judge sighs. He makes his way down the mountain as howls from coyotes ring off in the distance. He should’ve smelled mesquite and nature, though neither made it past the numbness. As he passes cacti and aloe and other plants that depended on unseen, deep dark roots to live, he slowly put his mask back on. Soon he’d be kissing the wife good night and returning to monotony. He hopes he’ll get the few hours of sleep he needed. Trial was tomorrow.

Allison Rabble faced dull oak and duller prospects. She could go to jail. The thought didn’t thrill her but at least she was proud of why. Besides, there was no greater badge of honor for a writer than getting locked up due to dangerous material. Better than any Times review. She thought of the sales then the legacy, and felt at peace.

She noticed the Judge fidget with his hammer. This only registers because of how stoic he was for the trial’s majority. He presided over things fairly but with a subtle contempt that could only come from misogyny. She noticed the way the room changed when he spoke. His speeches content had no great rhetoric, he achieved this effect because of his tone and a world that’s conditioned to pay more attention to males who talk loud and low. She couldn’t help but think Judge Whitehead was a little sad: the kind who had wild sexual fantasies but hang ups on the actual act itself. She found it pathetic that his biggest concern was being presentable to a society that could care less about true decency. A society that has marginalized all but his kind since its North American inception. He played with that hammer as if ready to pound it on the gavel and scream an objection. Allison knew this wouldn’t happen. Allison knew she was going to jail.

A thin 19 year old juror in a tank top read her verdict: “We, the jury, find the defendant, Allison Rabble, to be guilty of the charge of obscenity.” He drones on; Allison feels all tension release. She closes her eyes and smiles toothlessly when gasps surround her. Allison’s eyes snap open, shocked at the reaction this expected outcome elicited. Her mouth falls open next in a fetal, confused gesture. The Honorable Judge Whitehead had his penis out.

His dick was similar to every other element of him: large and dominant; circumcised and shaved. The head bulged from a thick neck. Though, dry it glistened in the court’s static light. He waddled up to the gavel and slapped it with his other hammer. You could hear an eyelash blink, although no one did that. After a long pause, the Judge tucked himself away then walked off the stand and asked the bailiff to arrest him. Allison Rabble laughed as the bailiff came for her next.

Although Andrew Whitehead knew he could be disbarred and, at least, disrespected by his peers (accurate on both accounts), he felt the same peace Ms. Rabble did. A lifetime of professional pretending, no more. He was seen.

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