workshop ’09: where?

We were away longer than I thought we would be, but here’s the next chapter in the workshop.

But first, let me say that I’ve been liking all the bits and pieces that you’ve been posting. Some of you have a knack for dialog, others are most comfortable with characterization or narrative. When I’m done with this, I’m going to write a couple posts about what I see in the contributions, and some craft issues to consider.

So for now. You’ve got your two arguing characters. Now jump forward in time, pass the crisis point and over the edge to where one or both of them are sitting in a holding cell, waiting to be arraigned on charges of public nuisance and disturbing the peace.

One of your characters has to explain to the judge how he or she ended up in jail, in a short narrative or monolog. Not more than a page.  Think hard before you start. It might be more interesting to have your character plead guilty, and explain why, than to claim innocence. It could be that your character didn’t get into a fight with your second character, but with the police officer who got involved in the original conversation.

In any case, it will go best if your character has managed to regain some calm and perspective. This doesn’t mean the monolog has to be dry or detached, but it does mean that he or she is aware that it would be best to keep the drama low. Outrage would be harder to pull off than offended dignity. Icy anger would be better than a tantrum.

And remember, in this case especially, your character is going to be unreliable in narration, and the judge is very aware of that fact. But we don’t want to hear from the Judge, okay? Just your character.

So here you go.

the end result
the end result

14 Replies to “workshop ’09: where?”

  1. “Your Honour, it is true, he is a minority and I did call him a… racist name during the altercation, but it was not an intentional act motivated by bigotry as he claims. Have you ever just called somebody something when you got angry with them? He made me so mad I couldn’t think straight.

    Also, I do have a black belt in Karate. I know my hands are now considered a weapon under the law but I did not start this. He verbally and physically attacked me. I try to keep control of myself at all times but I am only human.

    Perhaps I was a bit… overzealous when it came to restraining him. But it is not my fault he has brittle bones, people who break easily should not be starting fights.

    If anything I am the injured party here, I was taken away from an event I was involved in planning in handcuffs and my reputation and business will suffer as a result of this.”

  2. Well, your honour, it’s true, I did attack this man. And I guess I did hit him with my handbag, though it was certainly never my intention that he suffer an injury.

    Besides… please try to see things from my perspective. My side of the story, so to say. There I was, at the playground in the park with my daughter. Her name is Caitlin and she’s seven years old. I’m all she has and she’s all I have…

    Anyway, there I am in the park with my little girl. And suddenly I see this man, sitting on a bench right beside the playground. He’s watching the children play, and at first I thought he was a father. Except that – well, you know how it is with children. They always go “Mommy, Mommy”. But none of the children on the playground ever called out to him or paid the slightest attention to him. As if none of the children was his.

    And that’s when I got the first hint of suspicion. I mean, a lone man on a playground with a teddybear, for goodness sake! Honestly, what would you think? And besides, I’m a mother. It’s my duty to protect my little girl and any other children. And in a situation like that, I’d rather be safe than sorry. Surely you can understand that, your honour.

    I’d only planned to call him out. Call him out and scare him off. I didn’t intend for things to get violent. But then he started yelling and invaded my personal space and I… I felt threatened, for heaven’s sake. I was scared, terrified. So I… well, I whacked him with my handbag. But it was purely in self-defense. And I couldn’t know that the clasp would cut his forehead. You must believe me, I never intended to hurt him. I only wanted to protect myself and keep my daughter and all the children on that playground safe.

    If you are a father yourself, your honour, then surely just must understand that I only did what I had to do.

  3. “Judge, see, I tripped. I had Mimi’s cotton candy in my hand. Mimi, she’s my daughter. My sis has her. Mimi was so scared when the policeman put handcuffs on me. Sis took her back to her apartment.

    “Anyway, I just simply tripped. I fell into the palm reader, and the cotton candy got mashed into her face. I stood up, and the palm reader was coming for me. I had to defend myself, didn’t I. So I slung my handbag at her, not to hurt her, just to tap her and get her to stop coming at me. I don’t know why she fell down. I didn’t hit her. Just a tap.”

  4. “Your honor, there is a reasonable explanation for all of this. From what you all have told me, I was laying in the street and caused a–how did the cop put it–oh yeah, an “obstruction”, that’s it. I was out of it, slurring my speech and generally incoherent, and they say I took a swing at a cop when they tried to move me. I’m sure that’s all true, I just don’t remember it. And I’m sure the assumption the officer made that I was a junkie was fairly appropriate given the circumstances. But your honor, I have epilepsy–oh, the correct term these days is seizure disorder I’m told. I’ve had seizures since I was a little kid. They don’t happen all that often. I guess I got a little cocky and figured maybe they had stopped, like some people out grow them I guess. I hadn’t had one in over a year. The medication gets expensive and… well I guess I was trying to spread it out over time, make it last longer, ya know? And that’s another point…the possession of narcotics charge. Yes, the little baggie of phenobarbitol is mine, you can check with Dr. Simmons who writes my scripts. I know I should keep it in the prescription bottle but I got this new teeny handbag and I need every inch of space… well you don’t need to know about that. And, with all due respect your honor, please don’t tell me I need to wear an alert bracelet. I’ve got the alert bracelet–two in fact, presents from well meaning aunts–but dang if they aren’t the ugliest things. Now get Tiffany’s to make a medical alert bracelet and I’ll wear it, but until then I guess I’ll have to take some risks. Anyway, I’m sorry I caused an obstruction and struck out at a cop, when I come out of a seizure I’m pretty confused for a bit, but I’m not a junkie and I didn’t mean to cause any problems. If you don’t mind, I really do need to get going though, I have a new job, I’m on probation still, and I have to get back to the convention center pronto or I’m toast.”

  5. “I’m guilty, your honour. I pushed him into the water fountain and I can’t apologize for doing it because I’m not sorry either. There I was cutting across the courtyard at City Hall on my way back to work after lunch and there they were–my husband, Gordon, and his ‘nutritionist’, Coco–right in front of the front window of the bank. And as far as I could see her mouth had two tongues and his didn’t have any.

    Do you know that window, your honour? It has some kind of energy efficient coating so it’s like a giant mirror. Whatever’s in front of it get’s reflected back about a dozen times. I stood there and I looked and well, pardon my language but I was so damned pissed off at what I was seeing I pushed Gordon into the fountain. I truly am sorry about the flood and I’ll pay for the clean up. I had no idea Gordon’s toupee could clog up a drain like that though I am starting to wonder if that’s why we’ve had to have the bathroom sink snaked twice in the last four months.

    I’ve noticed judges always wear black. It’s very slimming isn’t it? If I’d put on my black pants this morning none of this would’ve happened, that’s for certain. But there I was in front of that window with my backside times twelve reflected back at me. I guess you could say I saw red. Because I’d asked him, “Gordon, do these red pants make me look fat?” And he’d said no. So I pushed him. Woman to woman, your honour, wouldn’t you?

  6. Explain myself? Well … I can’t. Not with any reasons that anyone can really understand. Sure, you’ll might feel sorry for me, who wouldn’t? I mean really, someone like me, educated, well-respected in her field, a university professor, in jail. When my colleagues learn of this, well, I’m glad I’m tenured.

    So what happened? I have to give you some perspective, some history. My husband nearly died of a heart attack this week. He’s only 35, and almost died of a heart attack! We’ve been married all of a month. Just a month! I finally find the love of my life and I almost just lose him.

    You could say that I’ve been under a lot of stress, new husband, new house, new family members to deal with, nearly losing my husband.

    Anyways, when I found Jonathan at the front door, well hadn’t I had enough of dealing with my husband’s family for a while? Their passive aggressive ways, little comments here and there. I didn’t expect anyone to show up.

    Maybe I shouldn’t have had that extra glass of wine before dinner, but what would anyone else have done? Really, I’m not a violent person. There is no other explanation, I just lost it. I just took out all my frustrations on him. And what’s worse, is he just took it. He stood there and took it.

    And well, if the new neighbor hadn’t been worried that I was being attacked with my yelling, I doubt I’d be here. The police said I had to be brought in. They called an ambulance for Jonathan, but he refused to go to the hospital. He refused to press charges. Can you believe it?

    There it is, I beat an innocent man. My husband’s own brother, the one least deserving of my outrage. Giving my husband something else to worry about. For nothing more than stress.

    I’m not proud of any of it. Trust me, I am appalled and disgusted with myself. And knowing that Jonathan is the one waiting back there, waiting to take me home, that I have to face him. Well, I don’t know what could be worse.

  7. “Your Honour, I plead innocent to the charges.” Henry paused to stand up straighter, pretended he was in his Customs uniform, with the full authority to kick someone disturbing the peace out of his country. It did help.
    “No one has explained to me the process by which Officer Witkowicz came to suspect me of disturbing the peace. I would like to explain events from my point of view.”
    The judge nodded and smiled faintly. In this way, Henry knew he’d pronounced the police officer’s name correctly. He was not a stuttering senile, now, was he? No. He knew how to address a judge at least. Helped the judge’s name was Kuzkowski, and that Henry had spent two years as a town police officer in Dauphin, home of Manitoba’s premiere Ukrainian festival.
    “I did not plan to be at the convention yesterday. I am a tourist, merely offered a ride from a polite lady who thought I might enjoy the excitement of the nominees arriving at the convention. This lady, that is to say, Mrs. Stoddart, sells cosmetics, and had just pointed out an example of said cosmetics, on the face of one of the women on the other side of the police fence.” At this point, Henry faltered only a little, because he wasn’t sure whether it was smart or naïve to criticize the republican nominee for president’s wife’s method of make-up application. He shrugged off his worries, and carried on: “Mrs. Stoddart pointed to the woman, Mrs. McCain, as it turned out. I was unaware of her exact uh, rank, within the arrivals, at the time. Of course, I would recognize her now. But at the time, she was merely an example of the cosmetic application Mrs. Stoddart has been trying, and failing, to sell for the past year and a half.”
    “What make-up is that, Mr. Ross?” inquired the bemused Judge Kuzkowski.
    “Mary Kay, your Honour.”
    “And you expressed your opinion, Mr. Ross, by exclaiming it was, let’s see, “the scariest face” you’ve seen in your time working on the border?”
    “Yes. Your Honour. It was not a personal comment. It was the make-up. Honest.”

  8. “Yes, your honor, I did attack him. I did put Mr. Stevens in a coma, due to blunt force trauma to the head. And yes, I do plead guilty to this fact. There isn’t any use hiding behind technicalities or so-called pleas as self-defense. I can say, however, that protecting myself from that man was paramount if I wanted to see another day, and your honor, I wanted to live.”

    She raised her face, her eyes intent on the judge. She forced herself to think of something tragic, something sad — anything at all — so that tears stood out in her eyes. “If you should know, the man thinks he owns me. He thinks he can do whatever he wants in the privacy of our home and no one would know. Or care. Or think to say he was doing wrong. And by god he was doing me wrong. Every day. He has scarred me far more than it will ever show. I think I should be the one in the coma, if all the hurts he’s done to me could be presented to you here.”

    She slid her gaze to the beefy lawyer representing Mr. Stevens and his family. She would have smiled at him if she dared. “Your honor, I may look as though I do without a care in the world. I am both blessed and cursed by my beauty. It makes people overlook the fact that there might be something more, that my life might not be perfect.” She schooled her expression into one of grief, crossd her arms across her chest, and tried to look small — a woman crushed. “I may be guilty of attacking Mr. Stevens, your honor, but he is guilty of robbing me of everything: my heart, my soul, my confidence. He is the one who ought to stand trial, not me. I was only protecting myself.”

  9. This is fun to read! I hope you had a great time away with your hubby. I’ve never been to the West Coast, I’m jealous!

  10. Your Honour, I really am not sure what to say. I’m sure you have heard all about this already as it has been splashed all over the media for days. Exaggerated immensely, I might add, and all because I am married to a senator, and not because anyone really cares about me and what I do.

    I have to admit that I did do it though; that’s the thing. I did do it, but I am not guilty if that makes any sense at all.

    Oh dear…I wish i could explain properly….Maybe I should just start at the beginning, and just tell it how it happened, and let you make up your own mind.
    I know, that’s what you want me to do anyway, I can tell you are losing patience with me sir. I promise to be accurate and to the point, it’s just that…I…Oh well, this is what happened;

    I was at the republican convention you see, with my husband. I don’t really serve any useful purpose, I’m just there as the spouse to make up the required pair and smile for photos, and it all got a bit too much for me – you know, the uselessness of it all –
    I mean, I used to be a person in my own right. I used to have opinions that were my own and people actually wanted to hear them.
    Now…now I can only have party-approved opinions and can only make party-approved comments – or preferably none at all! I’m just a no-body these days, and it rankles a bit let me tell you.
    So anyway…yes, I’m sorry, I know I digressed a bit, but it’s all relevant, well, sort of…

    Anyway. I couldn’t stand another minute in that place. Couldn’t take one more person asking me how good it is to be married to such an interesting man…asking if I feel lucky. Lucky! I don’t feel lucky when I’m picking his underwear up from the bathroom floor, and I don’t feel lucky when I cook all evening only to find out that he won’t be home until midnight because there’s “something important to be dealt with.” No…I don’t always feel lucky.

    Oh yes, right…where was I?
    Yes, so I slipped outside – just for some fresh air, and there were reporters hanging around, so I went for a bit of a walk, just around a couple of corners, just to get some peace, away from all that hoo-haa and all the questions.

    And there he was..the boy I mean, like I assume you’ve heard about already. He was sitting there, – half asleep i think – and had just finished painting a – a – “piece” I think he called it. It was a large graffitti piainting my Lord.
    Actually, it was really good once you got a look at it. Not my kind of thing, but really really well done and – well, anyway, I spoke to him about it.

    I was asking him why he would do such a thing when it is against the law, defacing people’s property etc. Well, he was a bit upset at that. I think the poor boy is having a tough time of it, – His brother was killed in Afghanistan you know – and he seemed to regard his work as art. He pointed out that he never does it on someone’s private property, only on unused derilict buildings like that one was. I had to agree in a way. Really there was no harm done and it was very colourful and attractive.

    Anyway, as I said, I was sort of telling him off and he was defending what he does and …well, we got to talking I suppose. Sorry sir, I am getting to my point, really. And so where…Oh yes, we got to talking, and he asked what I do. Well, that was a sore point with me as I have told you already, because, well I don’t do anything do I? I’m not even very decorative any more, just a frumpy middle aged woman, but here I am living my life like an ornamental china doll.
    So, I was saying more or less this to him, and he seemed to understand, which is susrprising – well, actually, that was rather patronising of me wasn’t it? I mean it doesn’t have to be surprising that someone who does graffitti would understand things would it? I mean, you can be intelligent no matter where you come from or what you do, can’t you?

    Sorry sir, yes I understand; to the point. yes.

    Ok then; I was saying that I felt useless and that I had once been quite involved in life and was passionate about things and that I no longer felt able to be like that, and he said – well…. he offered me one of his cans, – a pink one – and said I should try painting.

    “Just a little” he said; Just to get the feel of it. Well, I took it without thinking but then I said I couldn’t and that it was vandalism. He got really angry then, I think it was the last straw for him – thought I was judging him I think, – and that’s when he told me about his brother. Then he ran off, shouting at me. I called for him to come back, as I felt bad for what I’d said. I think maybe I was just too old fashioned and too hemmed in to the party correctness to understand his point, but now when I have had time to think, I realise he’s right. Why shouldn’t someone brighten up old dull places like that? Why doesn’t the City make some of these walls available for talented young people to decorate? The only difference between a crime and a legal act is whether or not there is a law to say it is wrong. We should change the law a little to make controlled graffitti ok, so that these boys can feel like part of the community instead of fugitives.

    But I was telling you what happened, wasn’t I? Ok, well there I was with the paint can in my hand, and I felt really bad because I knew I had hurt him. So, I did the only thing I could think of. I sprayed “Sorry” just below his lovely piece. I hoped he’d come back to see it again, and see that I was sorry. I had no other way to communicate with him, but I wanted to apologise for not understanding.

    So, I sprayed the word “Sorry,” – not very well, – there is definitely a knack to these things and I don’t seem to have it, that’s for sure! But I wrote it as well as I could and I still hope he will see it. Then, I put the paint can in my handbag. I couldn’t just leave it lying there could I? I mean it’s a pressurised can, it needs to be disposed of respinsibly. I intended taking it home and placing it in my re-cycle bin. Our local council has recently given us new ones, and we can put all our re-cyclable goods in it. Such a good diea, as many more things will be re-cycled now and…right, yes…sorry…I just wanted to explain why I put the can in my bag.

    I returned to the conference, and went in the back door just as Harry’s speech was about to start. They had all been looking for me and were quite frantic. – I was needed on stage you see – Not for any real reason, just to stand there and look aggreeable and supportive – but I didn’t make it to the stage before I was grabbed by security men.

    It seemed some news-men had followed me to the wall where the graffitti was, and had seen me spray the word below it. They thought I had painted the whole thing! I ask you…in five minutes? And with one can of pink paint?

    Well, the evidence was in my handbag, and you know the rest my Lord, so here I am standing before you telling you that Yes, I did actually spray that one word, but No, I am not really guilty of graffitti. I did not paint the whole thing, just that one little word underneath.

    Why the whole country has gone mad is beyond me. I am no one important, just the wife of a senator, but all these head-lines screaming out “Senator’s wife arrested for graffitti vandalism on public buildings!!!” were a little strong don’t you think?

    But that, my Lord, is the whole story.


    I thik if I was that judge I’d let her go just so she’d stop talking!

  11. Clearing his throat Andrew begins, “first, please allow me to take this opportunity to apologize to this court, the arresting officers, and the City of Minneapolis for the incident in question; however, I was not involved in the protest, at least not intentionally. I was there to meet someone which is why I was reluctant to leave when the officers started removing people. I’ve traveled a long way to meet this person, and I doubt I’ll get the opportunity again. As stated in the report, I was in possession of alcohol, but I can assure you that it was not a factor in my arrest. Thank you for allowing me to explain myself. I will be of no further nuisance to the city for the duration of my stay here which will be brief.”

  12. “I plead guitly, Your Honor, to all charges.” With a deep breath Bradly began, “although I feel I was provoked to the breaking point, I did in fact assault Deputy Sanders. He came to my Mother in Law’s home when she called 911 due to an argument between myself and my ex-wife. Please, You Honor, let me explain! Trish and I have been fighting for 2 years over custody of our 7 year old daughter, I was angry and tired when I approacehd her at home. I lost it, I just my temper. When our argument escalated and I punched the wall…I’m so sorry to have acted that way in front of my little girl. When Deputy Sanders came at me I was still wired up and I’m sure you can see how I could swing with out first realizing what was happening. I was so in the moment, so angry I saw red. I feel this time in jail has given me a lot to think about and I don’t feel any more time away from Cambria will help the situation. I want to begin putting this behind me, and repairing whatever damage this has done to my custody suit. I know Trish has already began a motion to have all rights taken due to this incident; please Judge, I need to fix this so I can have my little girl back.” With a deep sigh, he said “I don’t always make the right decisions; but I do try, and I think that’s what makes a good person, and a good parent. I’m sorry.”

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