An Unexpected Letter
The day before yesterday I received an unexpected letter. The paper it was printed on was pink and it had the words JURY SUMMONS written in bold across it. Thanks to my remarkable powers of deduction, I guessed at once what it must be.
I was interested. My planned evening of translating my to do list into urdu rather than actually doing anything on it was shelved in favour of filling out the form.
They requested I use block capitals, but I didn't realise that until about halfway through so I wrote most of the answers twice. Even a simple question seemed to have me repeating the answer loudly for anyone who wasn't reading properly the first time, for example, where it said "Occupation" my response was "writer WRITER" and I fear they will disqualify me from all future jury duties on this basis alone.
As I wrote the form, I thought a lot about Perry Mason. I hummed the theme tune until I caught my mother's amused eye. My image of courtrooms is taken almost exclusively from television crime dramas. In my head, people with powdered wigs always give impressive speeches and someone as steady and idiosyncratic as Columbo inevitably takes the stand. There is always justice and unexpected plot twists.
I pictured myself as a juror as I continued with the form. There I was, standing at a crucial moment in the trial just to say "objection your honour”, because I really couldn't miss the opportunity, while the rest of the room looked at me in horror, except the judge, who merely peered over his pince nez so sternly that I sank back into my seat at once, without him even having to reach for his gavel.
There was me, again, offering to share the maltesers I had sneaked in with Juror Number Five as the prosecution droned on. I eyed the defendant. He looked shifty. So did his lawyer. I crunched and I judged.
That half a course on forensic psychology I did through the open university suddenly seemed like time well spent. I hoped the other half didn't contain something fundamental. I wouldn't have paused it to watch Once Upon A Time and never gone back to it if I had known I would one day be required to crack a case from the all seeing vantage point of the jury box.
I like to think I would be an attentive juror if I was really there because I would be keen not to convict the wrong man or to fail in the task I had been called on to do. I expect it would be far less daring and much more somber than it seems it might be when you hold the letter in your hands and think it will be your job to deal with jewel thieves or highwaymen...or the sort of murderers who leave proper red herrings and commit impossibly intricate crimes.
Real criminals are likely more erratic and mundane than the arts would have us believe. Less evil, too, and that's where it really gets messy. The law is blunt. At least as blunt as the lead piping Colonel Mustard uses in the library, and when it is being wielded against ordinary people the blow is not always fair or clean.
Despite knowing that, and perhaps especially because my health means I had to decline, I was rather grateful to be asked. Being summoned felt unusual and it made me feel that the world had noticed I existed. Enough that even the squeaky wheels of bureaucracy had turned in my direction.
For so many years no one and nothing summoned me because I was silent and almost totally unmoving. Even if they had drawn pentagrams and lit suitably occult looking candles, there was no way of reaching me. My existence had been disconnected and my eyes were firmly closed. I didn't notice the seasons changing and I didn't get to be part of them . It felt as though there was some Great Wall between me and the rest of humanity which I might never climb. My spirit has crampons though, so eventually I did.
Now, I sit on the top of that wall eating an apple (which may or may not be made of chocolate) and sometimes swinging my legs. I'm gathering strength so I can deal with a dragon or two, and then when they are vanquished I will abseil down to where the other humans are to be amongst them again. With their jury boxes and all.
The one thing to be said for the obstacles we have to conquer, is the view from the top of them, out over the world and all of the that life it contains. I grew up with the expression “the onlooker sees most of the game”. I think in many ways that's true.
It's a beautiful game, you know, and one I still want to play.
In the meantime, I guess I'm going to be up here, with the sky for a roof and the knowledge that this might be the epoch of something better. Something new.
I hope this, and perhaps, after all, I have proof.
For I have been summoned.
In this way, and in others, I keep being asked to attend.