Monday, October 20, 2014

I Deleted The Department's Financial Records on Friday

This week’s events include the following snippet of conversation:

The Judge:  “Thanks for the candy.”
Me:  “Thanks for not sending me to jail.”

You know those bits of paper that the sheriff brings you now and then?  The one’s with the funny little Latin name?  Subpeonas?  Subpeonae?  Muchos Subpeonos?   

A deputy visited my office a couple of weeks ago with one of those little mandates clutched in his meaty little mitt.  My presence was ordered for a upcoming proceeding in the northernmost county of the jurisdiction.  

After a week and a day spent out of the office for training and a holiday that I had forgotten the county observed, (Who’s off for Columbus Day, anyway?  Hell, the banks barely even take that holiday.) I decided to go straight on to my office in the southernmost county on Tuesday morning, rather than stopping to check in with my main office, in the middle-most county.  The middle county office is the one that had the subpoena sitting right in the middle of my desk so I would be sure and see it first thing when I got to work.  

The only thing that saved me for stern judicial rebuke was that the defense attorney also forgot about the hearing.  And instead of using my tactic of confessing to one’s own special brand of dumbassery and apologizing profusely, he chose to try blaming the Judge’s secretary for not notifying him of the hearing.  That didn’t work out so well for him.  

I owe that lawyer some flowers.  

That’s how my Tuesday morning went.  Tuesday afternoon started with me driving back to work following lunch with the court reporter, who’d made it home from all the way across the district after the aborted hearing.  We stuffed our faces and when I got back to the office afterwards, there was a pickup and a stock trailer parked across the street, next to city hall.  That’s normally where I park when I return from lunch, so this time I parked next to my office.

Half an hour later, I got a call from the Chief of Police.  

The Chief shares a first name with Supergirl.  But that, coupled with a penchant for law and order, is where the resemblance ends.  She is short and solid - compact.  Her close-cropped, mousy, brown hair is turning grey at a pretty quick clip.   She wears a heavy gun belt, a shapeless uniform the color of her hair and large plastic-framed glasses.  

And she’s got a hell of a voice.  

When this woman opens her mouth, Lee Marvin comes pouring out.  Lee Marvin with a horribly draggy Texas drawl.  I kid you not.  Lee-effing-Marvin.

I’d seen her earlier that morning.  She came by to give me some papers to deliver to the District Attorney.  I’m sort of like the pony express for offense reports and such.  This morning the Chief had a cold and sounded like Lee Marvin with corks stuffed in her nostrils.  She was taking a sick day and heading home.  

When I answered the phone, she drawled my name and said, “I realize we have much more important stuff to worry about in this town.  I really do.  But I’ve had a complaint that your car is parked illegally.”  

“Well,” I said.  I thought about it for a moment.  “I suppose my car is parked illegally.”  The ‘as if it really matters’ remained unspoken but not unheard.

She paused for a beat.  “Yeah.”  

“Ok,” I sighed.  “I’ll go out and move it.”

“Thank you, so much.”  She sniffled.  “You’re a doll.”  

Lispy Lee Marvin just called me a doll and hung up the phone.  I had to smile.  

I stood, stretched the kinks out of my shoulders and went outside, car keys dangling from my fingers.  Stepping to the curb, I looked left.  Then I looked right.  Then, since my office is on the corner at a four-way stop sign, I looked in front of and behind me.  

Then I looked in all four directions again, just to make sure.  

Mine was the only vehicle for at least two blocks in any direction.  

I sighed, grasped the keys more securely and stepped off the curb.  Once opened the door of my criminally positioned vehicle, I firmly planted my posterior in the driver’s seat.  I buckled the shoulder belt, adjusted my mirrors and looked both ways.  Just in case.  

Then I executed a Shriner-worthy U-turn and whipped the thing across the street and into a legally parked position at the curb right across the street from my office.  I got out of the car, and stepped back up on the curb, listening to the silence of the empty streets.  

And then I went back to work.  

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Lunch Lady

The Turn Around Cafe closes soon.

For the past two years I've eaten lunch there every couple of weeks or so.  The food is good and the atmosphere is...unconventional.

The owner is lean, lanky, and prone to wearing hospital grade support stockings with her cut-off denim shorts. Her long ponytail is mostly grey.  She's quick on her feet and even quicker to swish a damp rag across a spattered tabletop.  She's also more than a little bit caustic.

The Turn Around sits on a corner at the edge of town, about a block from where the street dead ends.  The building started out as an old filling station.  The office area has been converted into the non-smoking dining room.  There's a sign on the front door that says "ring the bell".  The "dammit!" is implied.

The sign refers to a doorbell located just inside the door.  When you enter, you have to push the button so the bell rings in the kitchen to let the owner/waitress/cook know you are there.  Four tables fill the cramped space; you can take your pick.  Three of them seat four people and one old, yellow, Formica and chrome surface seats six.  If you want a menu, you have to get it your own damn self from a stack on the counter.

Eventually the owner/waitress/cook will appear from the back give you the daily special spiel. The special is always meat, bread, vegetable and cake.  It's good lunch-lady food.  Nothing fancy, just good, solid eats. There is only one problem.

Nine times out of ten, in my experience, the vegetable is Lima beans.  I hate Lima beans. 

Once she spouts the special you will be informed, with a scowl and a lip curl, that you could also order off the menu.  She hates menu orders as much as I hate Lima beans.

Generally I chance it, face her wrath, and order a burger.  She makes a mean burger and her French fries are pretty epic.  But it pisses her off something fierce when you don't eat the special.

Evidently no one else likes Lima beans either.  I usually get there a little early, just before the noonday crowd, so I can to watch the steam rise and her blood pressure visibly surge as diner after diner eschews the special in favor of menu fare.

By the time the last table is filled she's slinging napkin-wrapped silverware at menu-ordering noshers and and all but throwing the menus at late-comers pushing the bell button on their way through the door.

Once I saw her refuse to even tell a customer what the special was because he wouldn't want it anyway and would just order a burger.  So, he was getting a burger and that was that.  He meekly agreed.

Today we watched  the crowd dwindle and change for a little longer than usual.  One of the tables was occupied by two electrical construction company supervisors from out of town.  The waitress  easily bullied them into the special.  They even ate most of their Lima beans.  Once they'd sopped the last of the gravy and left, the men at the other two tables exchanged looks and laughed.  "Brand X," one sneered.  "Wouldn't trust 'em,"drawled the other.  My friend Sherri explained the hometown guys were both employed by the local electrical utility.  Both home-towners managed to avoid the Lima beans.

A few moments later, three more young men opened the squeaky door and tentatively made their way to the vacated table.  They were out-of-towners; laborers, young and hungry.

The waitress heard them, eventually, as they didn't see the small, handwritten 'ring the bell [dammit!]' sign.  She entered the dining area with a heavy sigh, grabbed a stack of menus from the counter (which the newbies didn't realize they were expected to pick up themselves) and flung them onto the table. 

"The special is chicken strips with gravy, a roll, Lima beans, and strawberry cake.  Or," she leaned intimidatingly over the table and growled at them, "you can order off. the. menu."

"C-can we have a minute?" the table's spokesman managed.  Another of them reached timidly towards the stack of menus. 

She slapped the table with her order pad, making all three jump.  "Fine," she hissed.  "I'll be back."

The 'I'll be back' would have made Schwarzenegger cringe  and I thought the table spokesman might tear up and cry.  The tiro appeared to want desperately to get up and leave, but were obviously too afraid to move for fear of reprisal.  And possible retribution.

Sherri and I about fell out of our chairs, trying not to laugh out loud.  Good times, y'all. 

Alas, however, all good things must come to an end.  The Turn Around closes at the end of this month.  The owner is moving out of town, following her husband to his new job.

The Turn Around still smells like a gas station.  The non-smoking dining room reeks slightly of diesel fumes.  The bathrooms are still outside, remnants of a time when the key to such retreats came attached to a tire rim or a cinder block.  The smoking area is the actual garage area of the gas station.  It's much larger than non-smoking, I believe, but I've never been inside.  I can only imagine the heady aromas that must fill the air in there.

Fortunately all is not lost. Two of the Turn Around's most loyal customers have bought the business and plan to keep it open.  My fingers are crossed, but I have my doubts as to whether or not they'll be able to reproduce the same high quality food.

After all, The Turn Around Cafe made Texas Monthly's top 40 list of small town cafes a few years back. 

I am hopeful, however, that the new owners won't serve Lima beans.

And, in a shining stroke of good fortune, the cafe is staying open an extra week or two past it's original closure date while the new owners secure title insurance.  The owner is keeping it going for lunch.  When Sherri asked about it, the owner said she is through cooking supper -  no more nighttime meals these last two weeks.

So if you require sundown sustenance, you are on your own. 


Have I mentioned her name is...Joy?

Thursday, May 29, 2014

For My Consideration

Earlier today I was asked by a four-time loser in the marriage game if my husband had changed after we got married.  Had his behavior altered significantly from his dating persona to his spousal persona?  After a brief consideration, I said no.

I thought about that question for the rest of rest of the day.  I realized I was wrong. 

When we were dating, he gave me roses.  Now he gives me rose bushes.

Make of that what you will.  

Monday, May 05, 2014

Just a quickie...

Do you remember Angela, the Taco Lady from my last post?  The one who stabbed her boyfriend because he couldn't produce the promised comestibles?  Or so she said, although it turned out to be more about him refusing to participate in a threesome with her and the neighbor lady, rather than a dearth of Mexican food.

Angela came to see me today.

Believe it or not, she is unemployed.  I began to question her about looking for work.  She receives disability for "mental issues", but can still work part time.  Paying for probation and paying off her bail bond, in addition to keeping a roof over her head, is going to take some doing.  She's going to need a part-time job.

When I presented her with that fact, her eyes widened with simulated horror.

"I can't!  I just can't do that!" she said, gasping for a panicky breath.  

"What's stopping you?"

"I have agoraphobia!  I can't be around people - I don't do crowds!"

As God is my copilot, so to speak, I did not say the first thing that popped into my head:  'Since when is three NOT a crowd?!'

Monday, April 28, 2014

Menu Boards Make Me Blush

I just realized why Randy refused to cook tacos for dinner tonight.

Last week I spent most of my time either in court or driving to counties where we were having court.  Court hearings are, as you've no doubt noticed, my favorite part of the job.  Monday morning was completely consumed with hearings and waiting for hearings.  I got several new probationers out of the deal and one of the newbies was Angela.

Angela is not from around here.  She and her son came to Texas from the Pacific Northwest at the behest of her boyfriend several years ago.  They assimilated quickly and the son is currently a long-term guest of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice due to his propensity unauthorized house sitting.

Despite promising beginnings, things didn't work out for Angela and her paramour.  They have been "on and off" for the last couple of years.  It's a shame really.  They made a handsome couple - she with her neck tattoo and he with his uncanny resemblance to an ugly Danny Trejo. Love did not conquer much, and Angela was in court on Monday to plead guilty to aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.  She got 10 years probation for knifing UDT.

Angela came to my office after lunch to begin the probation process. After gathering some data and explaining the rules and regulations, I asked her how it came to be that she stabbed Ugly Danny Trejo.

According to Angela, UDT called her on the afternoon in question and requested that she come over so they could talk.  He had amends to make and wanted to see her.  And he was making tacos.

Angela, who admits she'd been drinking, accepted his offer and went over to his house.

At this point, Angela paused in her narrative.   Her gaze faltered and she looked down, fingering the paperwork in her lap.

"Well?" I asked.  "What happened?  Why did you stab him?"

Angela's eyes hardened as she looked up from beneath bushy brows and answered, her voice grave.

"He didn't have any tacos."

 The End.

Well, it should be the end.   But it's not.

I managed to contain my laughter at Angela's highly serious comment and finished the interview.  She left with a fairly complete understanding of the terms and conditions of her release.  It was a busy afternoon, with several such interviews and when they were finished, I leaned back in my chair to relax for a moment.  I picked up the District Attorney's file on Angela's case which sat atop a precarious pile on the corner of my desk.

The DA is good enough to give me her files when we finish a hearing so I can go through it and copy anything that might be helpful to my supervision.  I knew there was something interesting in this file from the wicked smile that turned up a corner of her mouth as she slid the it across the counsel table to me at the end of the plea.  She never said a word.

Barely glancing at the letters back and forth between DA and defense attorney, as well as the bills from the hospital detailing the amount of restitution due for medical care, I kept turning pages until I found what I was looking for - the offense report.

I skimmed the officer's narrative and was looking for witness statements when I found it.  Fourteen pages of full color photographs of Angela's cell phone screen showing a long progression of text messages.

It turns out, that shortly after her arrival at Ugly Danny Trejo's house, Angela began texting the next door neighbor.  The gist of the texts were as follows:

Angela: Hey, you wanna come over and have a threesome?

Neighbor Lady: With who?  You and your ex?

A: Yeah.

N:  I don't know.  Your ex-husband?  That's kind of weird.

A:  Come on over!

N:  I've never done a threesome before.


N:  Well, only with two guys.  Not with another woman.

A: Come on - you know you want to!

N: Do you have dope?

A: No dope. (That was the most surprising bit of the entire exchange.)

N: I'm nervous.  Do you have alcohol?

A: Yeah - we've got lots of alcohol.

N:  I don't know.  Still nervous.  Will you hold my hand?




N:  Hello?

A:  He's really still, but I think he's still breathing. 

N:  What?!  What are you talking about?

A:  There's a lot of blood.  And he's really still...

N:  What is going on?!  What have you done?!


N: Angela?  What is going on?!


N:  Where are you?

N: Angela...?

N:  Should I still come over?

I sat up straight, dropping my feet from the edge of the desk and flipped furiously back to the witness statements.  Turns out, UDT was not only not interested in menage a trois, but he wasn't interested in any kind of sex with Angela, at all.  He just wanted to thank her for 'being there' for him during a recent emotional upheaval and he'd hoped they could bury the hatchet.

Angela seemed to be all for the hatchet burying part.  She got pissy and stabbed him in the gut and the hand.

I've told this story a couple of times this week.  The clean version, which ends with "He didn't make any tacos", is chuckle worthy.  The 'trois' version illicits a different level of response.  Men and women definitely react to it differently.  The women laugh out loud.  The men laugh but seem to be weighing their options in case they are confronted by a similar situation.  I reacted with the snarky, which proved to be a mistake when I got blindsided by unexpected snark from another quarter.  I'll probably never be able to look at the beer store menu board again without blushing.

And all of that is why Randy wouldn't cook tacos for dinner tonight - dinner with Katie's boyfriend who was meeting us for the first time.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Hamilton Burger Would Not Approve

I like to wait.


I like to wait when I am waiting for court to start.  Only then. 

Today, the Judge, DA, court reporter, bailiff, an interpreter and I cooled our heels for an hour while an over-zealous attorney made sure his client understood not only the plea bargain but the underlying statutes governing the decision, the constitutional supports behind it, the intentions of the original framers of same and the general dyspepsia of the whole Magna Carta assemblage.

The clerk from the tax assessor's office who was going to be acting as the defendant's in-court interpreter (the family functioned in this roll while the defendant met with his attorney) had never been in court before.  She sat silently in a chair at the front of the bar, more apprehensive than any of the defendants.  After about half an hour of free-gratis entertainment courtesy of the judicial floor show, the DA balanced her chair on it's back legs, hooked her high heels on the bottom of the counsel table and grinned at the clerk from over her shoulder.  She apologized for the delay and told the woman, "We really do work around here.  There's just nothing we can do until the defense attorney gets ready."

The clerk looked a little shell-shocked, but tried to smile and remained silent as we returned to a spirited discussion of the cultural significance of Dazed and Confused and Matthew McConnaughey's Oscar acceptance speech.

At long last, Mr. Holland and his Opus entered the courtroom prepared to face the seat of Justice.  We proceeded rather painfully slow through that hearing, as the attorney was apparently being paid by the word.  Despite the verbosity, the Judge remained sympathetic to the plight of the illegal alien he was about to send careening intro the open and welcoming arms of the Texas prison system.

He let the man testify, via the highly nervous translator, to all manner of merriment.  The defendant told the Court he was having health issues, then said something that caused the interpreter to do a double take.  The attorney caught the man's meaning and said dubiously, "He wants to show you his problem."

I knew this had to be good and I whirled in my chair to face the defendant full-on, not wanting to miss the show.  The DA, still balanced on the back two legs of her chair, rolled her eyes and stared up at the ceiling.  The Judge, comprehending what was about to happen, threw up his hands and said, "No!  Really!  I don't need to see!"

But, in the immortal words of Ray Stevens, it was too late.  He'd done been incensed.

The defendant whipped his shirt up over his head, revealing the most distended gut I've seen this side of a Sally Struthers commercial, complete with a deeply angry and inflamed colon surgery scar.

The Judge sent him to prison.  But not before promising to do what he could to expedite medical treatment for the defendant.  He obviously wasn't malingering.

That was just the first case.  The next case was a per-trial hearing for a defendant famous for bawling through all of his previous court appearances.  His attorney, Mr. Slightly-Sleazy addressed the court and explained that he and his client had talked on several occasions since the last hearing and the client no longer wished to fire the attorney. 

However, during their most recent talk, held in a witness room while the previous case was being heard, the defendant made his attorney privy to information which Mr. Slightly-Sleazy was going to be forced to investigate, requiring the attorney to request more time before the case was set for trial.

This information, most notably Code 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9 - at this point all heads snapped up and questioning eyes turned towards the attorney - if verified, would significantly change the direction of their defense.  If Code 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9 was not verified the attorney would be making some "other motions".

At this point I sat on the edge of my seat, thoroughly flummoxed, wondering what the hell was going on.

Simultaneously, the Judge leaned on his elbow, forehead  propped on his palm, and peered at the attorney around the side of his hand, one Vulcan-esque eyebrow disappearing into his hairline.  "Counselor, you have completely lost the Court.  What is Code 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9?"

"Well, it's something I'm going to have to investigate, Your Honor.  I need to talk to some phone comapnies to see if it's even possible.  And, depending on what I find out, I may have to file some 'other' motions."

The Judge stared at the attorney for a moment longer, no less confused than before.  At length he sighed, straightened in his chair and granted the continuance.    Once the attorney and the client left the courtroom, we looked at one another, looking for some sign that someone, anyone, knew what had just happened.

"What the hell is Code 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9?!" the Judge demanded.

The red-headed deputy with the Borg/Bluetooth device permanently attached to his earlobe, who was acting as bailiff for the day, got up from his post by the door and proceeded to explain.

"It's supposedly a code that, when punched into a cell phone, will put you in touch with the FBI agent who evidently gave the defendant permission to drive down the highway at over 100 miles an hour, waiving papers out the window while fleeing from police, as well as authorizing the use of all the meth the guy smoked, as a part of their 'ongoing investigation'."

"Ohhhhh," everyone said.  The Judge nodded jurisprudently.  "Well.  I guess now we know what the 'other' motion is going to be," he said.  "I'll go ahead and schedule this case for a competency hearing."

As the Judge reached for his calendar, the attorney and defendant for the third case came in and settled at the defense table.  The defendant made a good-natured show of greeting the players in his own personal courtroom drama.  He was the absolute epitome of the George Martin character from the first Police Academy movie.

There was a brief wait while paperwork was procured.  During the lull, the DA teased the young attorney about not wanting to take his case to trial. 

"I want to go to trial here," Mr. GQ said.  "But you never give me any cases that I could win!"

"Do you know why that is?" the DA asked with mock gravity, lowering her chair to all fours.  "It's because Barber County Grand Juries take their job seriously!"

The defendant looked up from contemplation of his shackled hands and feet and said in a plaintive voice "They sure do!"

It was one of those serendipitous moments of perfect timing and the courtroom erupted into laughter.  Once the congregation regained some semblance of decorum, the Judge called the case and proceeded with the hearing.  He followed the usual formula of questioning the defendant about his plea and whether or not it was free, voluntary and made for the sole reason that the defendant was guilty and for no other reason.  The DA and I sat quietly at our table, doodling on legal pads and listening to the soft schik, schik, schik of the court reporter's keys as she typed out the spoken words.  After questioning the defendant, the Court spoke to the attorney and began a standard litany, starting with "Do you have any reason to believe the defendant is not competent to stand trial?"

"No, Your Honor, I believe the defendant is competent."

Before the Court could ask the next question, the defendant snickered audibly and stage whispered "Show's what you know!"  His timing and delivery was scary good and the courtroom again dissolved into laughter.

Later in the hearing the defense attorney requested that the judge waive certain surcharges for the defendant, given his low income.  The Judge contemplated the defendant for a moment or two before turning to the court reporter. 

"We're going off the record."

She nodded and removed her hands from the keys.

The Judge leaned over the bench and looked down at the shackled defendant.  "I've never granted a request for waiving surcharges," he said.  "But I've also never had a defendant who made me laugh out loud during a hearing.  So, I'm going to grant your request." 

The defendant replied with a huge grin and the Judge directed the reporter to begin the record again.  He formally waived the surcharges and adjourned the hearing.  We were done for the day.

If we had court more often, I'd be thinner.  That kind of laughing is really good for your abs.