This is a quick little pastiche, inspired by attending the fireworks yesterday (Chicago’s big display is on the 3rd.) I don’t foresee this showing up anywhere, at least not in this form, so if I didn’t write it quick I never would.
“Smut!” declared Geraldine Navarro in a powerful tone that shouldn’t have been possible from her feeble, elderly frame.
Judge Elizabeth Atkin smiled at the defendant kindly. She had practiced this smile for more than a decade, and she was good at it. Old ladies liked that smile—it calmed them down. For that reason, Judge Atkin got most of the old lady cases in Baxter County. It kept her surprisingly busy.
“Mrs. Navarro? While I have the utmost respect for the strength of your conviction… perhaps you could elaborate for me.”
Mrs. Navarro stood and began pacing in front of the bench. She walked with a cane, although she obviously didn’t need it; she forgot to use it for her first two passes. “I always considered the Fourth of July to be wholesome,” she began. “But this last Fourth of July. It was pure smut in the sky!”
“I take it you mean the fireworks,” Elizabeth said.
“I would hardly call them that. I would call them pornography.”
Judge Atkin hardened her eyes, just slightly. Still kind, but in a “get to the point” kind of way. Someday her highlight films would be shown in law schools.
“Some people would call them fireworks,” Mrs. Navarro admitted.
“Very good,” said Judge Atkin, half-softening her expression so Mrs. Navarro knew she’d done right, but still felt enough tension to keep on this path. “How exactly were they smut?”
Mrs. Navarro spoke as if speaking to a child. “They made dirty pictures in the sky. I was appalled!” She took a set of pictures out of her purse and handed them to the judge.
Judge Atkin looked at the first one in the pile, but turned them face down quickly. “This is a picture of breasts,” she declared.
“They’re mine. I wanted to provide a frame of reference for the next picture.”
Judge Atkin reluctantly took a look at the second picture in the pile. It showed a fireworks display—two round red bursts, a bit out of focus and framed well off-center.
“You see the resemblance?” Mrs. Navarro insisted. “They’re both round and erotic.”
“This is a standard form of fireworks, Mrs. Navarro. I believe they’re called ‘peonies.’ After the flower.”
“Sometimes they had these spiral explosions in the middle. It looked like a—“ here she lowered her voice—“stripper’s tassel.”
Judge Atkin flipped to the next picture, fully expecting another needlessly intimate image. In this she was disappointed—correct, but still disappointed.
Mrs. Navarro leaned in close. “I have to warn you that the next one is even worse.”
The next picture was a close-up of a wrinkly and rather desiccated scrotum. Judge Atkin lost her careful demeanor with a sharp “Mrs. Navarro!”
“It’s my husband’s,” Mrs. Navarro offered as explanation. “In case you’ve never seen one before.” She began gesturing wildly with her cane. “Imagine seeing that in the sky! It was traumatizing.”
Judge Atkin examined the next photo. It was a green cloverleaf explosion, although one of the points had failed to burst leaving it a bit off-center. “It is a fairly long trip from one to the other.”
“That isn’t any reason to provide our children with a road map,” Mrs. Navarro demanded. “I am here for them, you know.”
“You’re here because you robbed a liquor store with a gun,” Judge Atkin corrected, as kindly as she could.
“It was a political statement!” Judge Atkin compelled her to explain with a raised eyebrow. “The naughty pictures in the sky made me do it.”
“Do you really expect me to believe that?”
Mrs. Navarro bowed her head. “No, not really.” She smiled weakly. “I used to use that tone of voice on my children. They couldn’t resist it either.”
Judge Atkin put a couple of notes on a form. “You will, naturally, have a full trial. Until that time, I am going to have to keep you in custody.”
Mrs. Navarro nodded in acceptance as a bailiff gently took her arm and led her out. As this was happening, the clerk dropped an overstuffed folder on Judge Atkin’s bench.
“The Hall of Fame,” the judge observed. “Thank you, Richard.” She slipped the photos into it as the next case was called.