Monday, January 18, 2016

Warren Sparrow's Weakly Reader

                   The Weakly Reader

Vol. II, No. 1                   Winston-Salem, North Carolina                  17 January 2016

By Warren Sparrow

Welcome to the First Edition of Volume II of The Weakly Reader, a publication dedicated to the enjoyment of all souls who spend too much time looking in their rear-view mirrors.  It is the mission of this publication to encourage its readers to keep their eyes on the
road ahead and have a good time doing it.   Today’s issue features a snapshot of a life well-lived

But, first we want to tell you about some news of the future and then a little about the present. Our future news is from the plains of Kansas where our granddaughter Melanie lives with her husband Kyle Krier.  They informed us during the holidays that they were expecting a baby.  It will be our first great-grandchild.

Our present news is not news at all.  We soldier on, our days dominated by TV shows and books.  Here is a representative sample of our TV favorites:  PBS mainstays, i.e. Doc Martin
and Midsomer Murders.  We are not as excited about Downton Abbey as we once were.  As far as books are concerned, our current project is Big Red:  Three Months On Board A Trident
Nuclear Submarine by Douglas C. Waller, HarperCollins 2001.

Now, with all due respect to Captain Marvel, I zoom past the Rock of Eternity and find myself stuck more than 10 years ago in the shoes of a street lawyer.

For forty years I wandered across our state’s judicial wasteland, hacking at every windmill in sight.  Had it not been for my wife Becky’s support, I would have abandoned hope long ago.  What a shame that would have been.  I would have missed what happened yesterday in the basement of the Forsyth County Hall of Justice.  Listen to this….

At 9 a.m. District criminal court was packed.  The regular docket was 190, maybe more. There seemed to be an unusually large number of deputies and police waiting for cases.  Being a
good soldier I was in court when Prosecutor Bob Brown, an Oklahoma alum, gave his opening speech and called the docket.

Judge Denise Hartsfield took her place at 10 a.m., putting on her black robe as the bailiff opened court.  She wanted us to see her new dress, which was a spectacular one.  The “fun”began when she announced that she would hear bond forfeiture cases before she would take up the regularly scheduled cases.

At that point I knew my 4:30 p.m. tennis time was in trouble.  It took the judge 30 minutes to get through the bond-forfeiture docket.  My mind spun:  It was after 10 a.m. and there were still 190 items to go.  Throw in a 90-minute lunch break and my afternoon tennis plan was in serious peril.  To make matters worse, my client wanted to fight the charge.  In real life, that meant we would be among the last of the day’s cases.


Corn Doggedness

My client was charged with selling a corn dog at Cook’s Flea Market, taking it from its wrapper and placing it in a microwave without having a permit to do so.  This is a serious crime,
according to the health department.

It is OK to sell a pre-packaged corn dog without a permit but it cannot be opened and microwaved before it is handed to a customer.  For the transaction to be legal, the customer must
open the package and place the corn dog in the microwave.

Bewildered, I pressed ahead like Don Quixote against another windmill.  Two health-department inspectors were there along with two supervisors.  Obviously, this was a big windmill.  We waited our turn, suffering through a series of “motions to continue” cases to a later date and a few guilty pleas.  Then came the 90-minute lunch break.  “Be back at 2,” we were told.

The health-department inspectors had prepared a report for the prosecutor who let me read it during the lunch break.  Upon reading the report I was convinced that my client was in big trouble.  She is 60 and has a clean record.  I could not imagine why the health department would go to so much trouble over so little except for the fact that the inspectors had tried to get voluntary compliance and my client refused to follow their rule.  I thought what my client did was like jaywalking.  Nobody gets charged with jaywalking. Who the hell cares if somebody takes a corn dog out of a wrapper at a flea market?  Forget what I thought, let us get back to our

 Not long after the lunch break, the prosecutor called our case.  The first inspector testified that on two occasions he saw my client take corn dogs out of wrappers and put them in the microwave and hand them to customers.  In my skillful cross examination I was able to illicit two violation reports that had been signed by my client.  What an excellent job I did to help the state’s case.  Prosecutor Brown was gleeful.  Confident of victory, he introduced the reports and rested his case.

With considerable egg of my face, I called my client to the stand.  She said she had not sold corn dogs either time.  She said there were others who sold corn dogs at the flea market.
Those folks wanted her out of the flea market, one where she had sold things for 26 years.  She also said that the second incident involved an inspector who was seated behind the prosecutor
but had not testified.  She said the inspector confronted her with a corn dog on a plate, saying a“lady” had bought it from her, etc.  My client denied any suggestion of wrong-doing.

At this point my client testified that the inspector told her it was his girlfriend who bought the corn dog.  My client insisted she did not sell the corn dog.  The prosecutor’s cross examination was perfunctory.  I am sure he was convinced that my client was not being truthful.

That was the way I saw it, too.


Ignoring the egg as it clung to my face, I called a witness (witless?) who was a friend of my client.  She said she did not see my client do anything wrong.  I rested after introducing some photographs of my client’s set-up.  Judge Hartsfield encouraged Prosecutor Brown to call a rebuttal witness, the other inspector.  The inspector took the stand and much to my surprise described the “girlfriend” incident.  He said it really was his girlfriend who bought the corn dog with two dollars he had given her.  Of course, she was not in court.  Prosecutor Brown rested.

The judge looked at me and said, “I’ll hear you.”  I was gripped with fear.  The egg on my face had turned to concrete.  I had no idea of what to say.  I muttered something goofy about
reasonable doubt.  Brown took his best shot, saying the most troublesome part of the case was that someone was lying.  The clear inference was the liar was my client.

For reasons known only to God, the judge said my client could go, that she was letting her off on a “technicality” and she should follow the rules.  As we left the courtroom my client said, “I told you, the Lord looks after those who are not guilty.”  Indeed.  And, the Lord created windmills just for me.


Joyfully I made in on time to my tennis match.  However, my euphoria was dampened when early in the match it became obvious that my bird legs were not up for rigorous exercise.  I won the first set, 6-3 and lost the second, 3-6.  To determine a winner we played a tiebreaker:
First to win 7 points and be ahead by 2 is the winner of the match.  I was humiliated, 7-4.  My humiliation peaked when I was ahead, 4-1¸ but missed an overhead which would have made it 5-1.  Totally discouraged, I did not win another point.  

In this moment of despair I took heart:  There are many windmills remaining to be defeated.

Let me at them! 

                                                           *     *     *

 We hope you have enjoyed today’s program and we urge you to support our sponsors, Ralston Purina and Oxydol.  Without their support and the support of readers “like you,” publication of The Weakly Reader would not be possible.  We close today’s edition with a poem by William James “Billy” Collins who was born in March 1941 and was Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001 to 2003:

                                              On Turning Ten

The whole idea of it makes me feel 
like I'm coming down with something, 
something worse than any stomach ache 
or the headaches I get from reading in bad light-- 
a kind of measles of the spirit, 
a mumps of the psyche, 
a disfiguring chicken pox of the soul. 

You tell me it is too early to be looking back, 
but that is because you have forgotten 
the perfect simplicity of being one 
and the beautiful complexity introduced by two. 

But I can lie on my bed and remember every digit. 
At four I was an Arabian wizard. 
I could make myself invisible 
by drinking a glass of milk a certain way.

At seven I was a soldier, at nine a prince.
But now I am mostly at the window 
watching the late afternoon light. 
Back then it never fell so solemnly 
against the side of my tree house, 
and my bicycle never leaned against the garage 
as it does today, all the dark blue speed drained out of it. 

This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself, 
as I walk through the universe in my sneakers. 
It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends, 
time to turn the first big number. 

It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light. 
If you cut me I could shine. 
But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life, 
I skin my knees. I bleed.

That is all for today.  We wish you a joyous 2016.

- Warren Sparrow