After his arrest Eric lost his nerve. Now everything was wrong. Jerry was gone. He was broke; he was coming down with the flu. The cops– fucking monsters. His one phone call had summoned Bobby who’d paid the bail bondsman and waited for him in the Honda car in front of the jail. After he’d signed the receipt for his stuff, the desk sergeant said, “Have fun in court, Piss Pants.”
The key hadn’t fit the door of Jerry’s trailer. Mrs. Stiles told him he could have all the stuff when he came up with the three months back rent Jerry owed. “And don’t expect no deposit back neither. Took Earl half the day to clean up that shit hole. “ Now that Jerry was gone, fat old Bobby was the only one to ask for help.
“I told you Bucky, you always gotta place here,” Bobby said dumping the stuff from the Walmart bag onto the bed. “Lookie, here’s some underpants, a toothbrush; there’s toothpaste. Bobby’d heated a can of chile and poured it over hot dogs and set a two liter Pepsi and glasses on the table. “I gotta go to work, Bucky. You watch your TV, read your funny books, whatever. Don’ worry ‘bout none of this other shit. You gotta relax, boy. I don’ want you should worry ‘bout nothin’. And you don’ gotta wait up for me, okay? He’d left for his shift at the Seven Eleven. Bobby had been playing with Eric for years since he was thirteen but it was Jerry who was the real one. Bobby was just a game but Jerry was real and warm and loving and now he was fucking gone. Oh shit.
Eric felt like crap, snotty, rheumy, and hot. He had to be a court early Monday morning to get hooked up with the public defender. What if they read the police report in court? Aw shit. What if they fined him? He didn’t have any money. They’d toss his ass back in jail. He took two Tylenol and lay down on Bobby’s bed with a box of Kleenex and an X-Men comic, pulling the comforter up to his chin. He thought of Jerry, cried then fell asleep, drool puddling on the X-Men cover.
Bobby brought home a half-gallon of rocky road, but Eric was asleep and feverish. He woke Eric and made him take two Bufferin and a vitamin C with some orange juice. “Go back to sleep, Bucky.” All through Saturday and Sunday he dosed Eric with aspirin, vitamin C and Campbell’s Chicken Noodle soup. When the clock radio’s alarm beeped on Monday the flu was still with him. Still, he dragged himself through the shower and shaved. Bobby had ironed Eric’s jeans and one of his own white shirts, and hung out his sports coat which was wine colored with wide lapels. Both shirt and jacket were too large for Eric, but they’d have to do. Bobby tied a polyester tie with the dark green and red images of horse shoes for Eric. “For luck, Bucky, and here are two hankies.”
At the courthouse everything was confusion. No one could tell Eric or Bobby where to meet the public defender. At 7:45 a ruddy, fat lawyer with a clipboard and a cardboard accordion file called Eric’s name. “In here,” he’d gestured ushering Eric into a tiny room across from the courtroom. Replying to Bobby he barked, “Are you his father?—Then butt out. I don’t care if you’re Jesus Christ, if you’re not this young man’s father…I reiterate, I repeat, I say again—butt out. I’m too fuckin’ busy to argue. Now go, go!”
The stuffy room, scarcely more than a closet, was furnished with a little table and three chairs. Hot air blew from the overhead vent. Eric’s nose ran continually; he held a soggy handkerchief in his right hand into which he coughed and wiped his nose. “I’m Ed Whirly, your public defender. We don’t have much time. The arrest report here charges you with solicitation, that you offered fellatio to an undercover officer Friday night in the restroom of the Peacock Club. You wanna tell me what happened?”
“He was at the urinal next to me, lookin’ at me. He was playing with hisself, showing it to me. I thought he was gay.”
“Did you proposition him?”
“He had a hard-on.”
“Damnit, that doesn’t matter—what’s your name? Eric? Eric, did you tell him you’d blow him for twenty bucks?”
“But he had a hard-on. That’s gotta count for something. It ain’t right if he had a hard-on. He was turned on.”
“It doesn’t mean shit. He could be gay as mama’s Christmas hat—you offer to do him and he’s a cop, you’re toast, my friend. Looking at this arrest report, my advice is to plead guilty. If you’re telling the truth and got no priors –you’ll walk away with a fine.”
“I only did it ‘cause I didn’t have no rent money. My roommate, he kinda flipped out and took off, see. I never sold it before”
“Listen, inside that courtroom that’s all beside the point. Let’s get in there, Eric. You’re with me on this guilty plea then?” Eric at the long table in the front of the courtroom. Two black men, also Whirley’s clients for arraignment, sat at the table. The light-skinned one stared at Eric’s face. He was used to this; his face was young and pretty. He had the downy cheeks and long eyelashes of a boy. His mouth formed a perfect cupid’s bow and a swath of freckles bridged his nose.
Jesus was he ever scared. His immediate fear was that the judge would read the arrest report aloud. It was so ugly. It had happened to Jerry when he’d gotten busted. The judge had read all this shit in open court. People snickered and giggled and stared at Jerry, who’d cried wiping his tears and nose on his sleeve in front of the judge. No, he wouldn’t think of Jerry because if he did he would cry. Too late, lines of tears already coursed down his cheeks. He pulled out one of the hankies and blew his nose. The light-skinned negro had seen the tears and Eric feared he would make some smart-assed comment.
“Hey, you alright? Muss be yo’fus’time, hey? Don’ be worryin’ none, sweet cakes. Ain’ nothin’ gonna happen to you, fus’ time. Here, take you some LifeSavers, make you feel lil’ bettah,” he said softly, passing the opened roll of candy to Eric. “Mista Whirley in wif all these judges. You be outta here ‘fo lunchtime.”
“Thank you.” He peeled a green LifeSaver and placed it on his tongue. He’d forgotten to ask Mr. Whirley what would happen if he didn’t have money for a fine. Wasn’t for that bitch Mrs. Styles, he could hock Jerry’s TV and DVD. He closed his eyes, “Oh Lord, please I don’t want to go to jail. I don’t believe what I did was so wrong, but if it was I am sorry. Please don’t let them put me in jail, Lord, and please help me not to think about Jerry until this shit is over. Thank you, Jesus.” He placed a yellow LifeSaver on his tongue.
Mr. Whirley came in with another black man dressed in bright orange jail overalls who joined them at the long table. When the bailiff commanded “All rise,” Eric’s knees shook and he had to steady himself with his hand on the edge of the oak table. During interrogation he’d been too frightened to ask to go to the bathroom. After the arrest when the big cop had shoved him, he’d peed in his pants. Not a lot, but enough that they all smelled his urine a little later. When the big cop ended the interrogation he told the little cop to “get this pissy little fag outta here, “ Now he concentrated on not peeing himself no matter how frightened he was, and on not thinking about Jerry which would make him cry again. The dark-skinned negro was first. He was charged with driving off from a gas station without paying. The judge read the arrest report. Mr. Whirley entered his guilty plea and the judge sentenced him to 30 days in jail. Eric’s stomach flipped, and his knees wanted to buckle. Next the black man in prison garb was arraigned for burglary. He listened to the judge read the details of the arrest. The he pleaded not guilty and the judge set a trial date two months later. The light-skinned negro leaned over, and whispered to Eric, “I know you scairt, but don’ be worryin’, honey. I talked to da Lord and He told me you gonna walk outta here. So don’ be worryin’ none, you hear?” With no bail money, the prisoner was handcuffed by the bailiff and taken out.
When his name was called, he stuffed the hanky into the sports jacket pocket and stood with Mr. Whirley. The judge read the charge, but not the arrest report, because Mr. Whirley spoke up and said, “Your honor, we’ll enter a guilty plea.” The judge leafed through the arrest report then stared down at Eric saying nothing for a full minute.
“Son, you ever been in trouble before?”
“You’re headed down a rocky road, son. Are your parents in court?”
“No sir, Daddy’s passed on and my mama she lives in Alabama.”
“She know about all this?”
“Oh no sir. She don’t know none of it.”
“ Adjudication withheld. Bailiff, show this boy to my chambers. I’ll have a little talk with him.”
(c) Gary Ives 2013
Published in Clones, Fairies, & Monsters in the Closet, edited by Bill Olver, Exter Press, 2013, p. 82, ISBN 978-0-9836449-8-9