Fantasy Sport

I walk into the house (construction site) almost every day. I’ve witnessed the progression from crumbling plaster to see-through walls and temporary beams. And now, it’s getting filled back in. To be our home.

Passing my key through the lock and opening the front door, my nose twitches at the smell of sawed wood, and it tickles with airborne sawdust. Actually, there’s very little dust. The construction team does a most excellent job cleaning the site. Nightly. Every night. We aren’t living there, so it’s mostly for them. Guess it’s easier to keep track of tools. But we’re all impressed.

Right now, though, I’m playing.

As I unbolt the door and pass into the “house,” I imagine I’m standing in the refurbished threshold. I stand on the subfloor that will be a black and white hexagon mosaic. I turn to the new, wide opening for the French doors. They will be glass and usher crosslight from the west bay of windows to the east bay. Beautiful.

I pretend to hang my coat in the newly framed hall closet. Then, with a great flourish, I burst through the doors (that will be delivered in a week). Looks like the electrician was here. It’s the telltale array of blue boxes nailed to the 2X4s. The one on my left must be for the sexy fan I selected for the den–the room that was formerly known as the toy room.

Hmmmmm. I frown a little. I can’t reach the switch until I close the door.

Walk in, close door, engage switch, re-open door? That needs to change. I make a mental note as I walk behind where the couch will be. I walk off a few steps, measuring with my feet, and wonder if both bookcases can fit. Next time I need to bring a tape measure.

Behind the couch is the (phantom) pocket door. This door is scheduled to be half glass, all the better to bring in light, my dear. I step through that passage into the office and play open and close with the linen closet across from the bathroom. I mentally flip that switch.

I run my hand across the air run of maple desk and imagine the chairs tucked neatly underneath. I don’t think the short cabinets are going to fit behind them. Need a Plan B.

The next phantom door leads to the back bedroom. It’s pretty much the same as it ever was. I turn to open the closet.

Hmmmmm. I purse my lips. No closet is framed. I know it was in the plans. That needs to change, too.

Squeezing through the sticks that demark the wall, I find myself standing in the pantry cabinets. Stepping out of them, I choose to enter the kitchen via the dining room. With a renewed flourish I sashay into the kitchen and place my bag on the imaginary island.

I turn from the island and affect the opening and closing of the refrigerator door. Looking up, I see the exhaust vent. Standing underneath it, I turn the red knobs in my head, pantomiming in the air. I reach to place an invisible plate on an invisible shelf. Ninety degrees later, I fake the faucet and look through the framed sheathing to what is likely to be my back garden. In my game, I’m adding a tomato plant or two.

Next to that big window wall is the place for the glass door. I look through the wood, at the back porch. Now, finishing a 180° turn, I simulate opening the microwave and the to-be-installed convection oven. I look through the last window.

Hmmmmm. My eyebrows are raised, and, almost, my hackles.

The window abuts the wall. But if it’s there, it will be blocked by the cabinets–including my spiffy new appliance garage. I look for the design plans, but I know that the window is off by maybe thirty inches. This gets added to my “to discuss” list.

I think about looking out that misplaced window as I’m preparing coffee. The countertop here will support the kettle, and, likely, our toaster.

The crew is happy that my game exposed errors. Everyone makes them. Finding and fixing early saves time and money.

Me? I practice opening the cabinet below the correctly spaced window and filling the bowl of The Beast with doggie kibble.

It will do. It will all do.

Dub Squad

Empty swings in the schoolyard. At least it's a sunny morning.

Zoe had been hoping that her orthodontist appointment would last longer. Or that it would start late. Or that the dentist office would catch fire. Anything to delay or, even better, avoid going to school. Mom wasn’t having any of it.

But Mom was being selfish. Said she had to get back to work. Zoe felt very strongly that it would be better if they had lunch together, then maybe go shopping. She made her case smartly and forcefully. Mom was having none of it. Stupid office.

Things didn’t go so well at the end of yesterday. Somehow the day got out of hand. It was that idiot project. She was working with Emily and Emma, like they almost always did. They were all in the gifted and talented program. They were all in the orchestra. She and Emily played flute. Emma played the violin. They were all on the same soccer team. Emily’s dad coached. They were called the Purple Reign because their uniforms were violet and they loved to sing “Let’s Go Crazy” on the sidelines. It psyched them up. They all had iPhones and sent each other the most hysterical emoji messages ever. Their moms couldn’t decipher their code.

They stopped singing the songs from Frozen this year. They switched over to binge watching The Hunger Games trilogy. Katniss was more relatable than the cartoon Elsa. The archer’s moodiness was more like they sometimes felt. Alone together. They were growing up.

Yesterday was ridiculous, though. They were close to being finished with their presentation. They worked in Justin Bieber’s Sorry from YouTube. The project was on language and the concept just worked. They agreed that the dancing would be a great way to finish off. Creativity points and maybe some cool points, too. Somehow, though, everything went south.

Emily started by saying that she didn’t think they should spend so much time with a dance video. It made them seem less serious. Zoe felt stung. She was working on their choreography. It was actually her major contribution. She made different signs for them to hold and swap as they were dancing. Using the classroom speakers and a YouTube video was uncharted for the students. She had to get Ms. Waldorf’s permission. Zoe explained how they were integrating a pop video into their research. She was pretty proud of her negotiating.

Before Zoe could respond, Emma piped in her agreement. She said it in a thoughtful way, like, “I hear what you’re saying, Emily. That makes sense.” But she said it as soon as Emily finished her sentence. As if they had discussed it before. Zoe felt a bitter taste in her mouth. She took a big breath through her nose. She blinked her eyes quickly to quell the rising salt water. She exhaled and then took another deep breath.

Emma’s left eye narrowed just a bit and the one side of her mouth turned down. She was thinking for real this time. “But maybe we can keep it and just only do it for half of the time.” It was Emily’s turn to stiffen a little.

“If you don’t want to do it, that’s fine,” Zoe said with a bit more force on the fine than she was intending.

“No, no, no. I’m okay with Emma’s idea. Let’s just cut the dancing short.”

There was a bit of shortness in Emily’s response. All three girls were feeling edgy. Zoe quickly packed her notebook and markers in her backpack. She put her half-eaten Lara Bar that fell out of it’s wrapper in there, too. She didn’t care that it would be gross. She was ready to go. She needed to go.

“Okay. I just remembered I needed to see Mr. Ripley. See you guys tomorrow.” She stood up and shook her stuff to the bottom of her bag, awkwardly zipping it as she walked away. She hoped that they didn’t see the back of her hand run across her eyes. Her last few steps out the door were a sprint.

She was quiet at dinner. She couldn’t stop replaying the conspiracy in her head. Why were they ganging up on her? They had been working on this plan for weeks and this was the first she heard about “too much music.” When she thought the words “too much music” she thought them in a sarcastic baby voice.

And this was after she cleared it with the teacher. After she made the signs. After she figured out how they would use them to “convey their educational messages in an authentic fashion to their peers.” Those words got her the approval. A flare of pride pushed away her gloom.

Were Emily and Emma mad at her? Did she do something to make them mad? Why were they rejecting her? She started to feel a tennis ball sized mass in the middle of her chest rise to the back of her throat. She swallowed it back down before it reached her eyes. Mom started to ask her something but her brother and his friend came home and the dog went off.

Zoe put her plate and silverware in the dishwasher and decided to call it a night. She walked upstairs. She stared at the foam from the toothpaste leaking from the edges of her mouth. Like a sad clown face. She felt a little sorry for the girl in the mirror. She downed a glass of water and watched a little water drip down her chin. It spotted her t-shirt. She pulled on her favorite nightshirt and curled in bed with an unopened book. She gazed absently at the ceiling, her hand resting on the cover of her book, her mind spinning through the end of the school day and cycling through emotions of confusion, anger, sadness and doubt.

Now she had to go back to school and she didn’t know if her friends were her friends. She made herself stop. Mom pulled in front of the school. If Zoe looked at her, she would have seen her mother’s head tilted to one side, studying her daughter with pronounced lines on her forehead. But Zoe had the car door slammed behind her–not slammed hard but with a little extra force–before her mother could finish her assessment.

Crap. It was lunchtime. Everyone would be in the cafeteria. She didn’t want to go in there, but after she checked in with the school secretary, she had no where else to go. She grabbed a tray and kept her head down as she approached the food kiosk.

She put her tray down on a table and felt someone sticking an earphone in her ear. She heard the tinny sound of a song. Emily was attached to the end of the white wire and held the other bud next to her own ear. She looked at Zoe all wild-eyed and crooned, “Is it too late now to say sorry?” Emma was horse stomping her right foot in rhythm to the song. She finished with her best Michael Jackson flourish, which meant she lost her balance. While she did stagger, she stayed standing. The three of them doubled over. Zoe’s snort was followed by another round of shrieks.

Those two Ems knew her well. And, they were exactly right about cutting some of the music at the end. In fact, all was right.

Something Fishy

Sign for Grand Jury Room.

Twenty-one of twenty-three grand jurors were present. The jury room had two rows of chairs stacked theatre-style in a windowless room. The “stage” was below. There was a chair for a witness and a desk and chair for the court stenographer in the bottom of the bowl. Two juror chairs were empty. Someone was late and someone had a dental appointment.

The novelty and the importance–the grand part–of serving on the grand jury had long since passed for most of the jurors. They’d grown tired of the legion jump outs by police who would testify that they found a small plastic bag filled with a green herb-like substance that later tested positive for weed. Actually they always said marijuana.

They were weary of the multitudes of weapons charges. Each case included charges for carrying the gun (pistol in law enforcement vernacular) without a license and possesion of unlicensed ammunition, too. The jury knew the charge by it’s acronym, CPWL. The charge was read then repeated by the officer on the stand and then read again. If there were two weapons, the second weapon charge was read, repeated and read again, too. And, of course, the ammo charge. It was curious, and then annoying, that the same person was charged for unlicensed ammo on a per gun basis.

This particular jury, Panel 3, spent many hours having testimony “read into” them. This entailed a lawyer reading transcripts from interrogations in front of a prior jury that did not sit long enough to indict. These cases were murders and more complex investigations. Panel 3 did not end up voting on most of them, either. Toward the end of the Panel’s internment, the Assistant US Attorneys–that’s what they call the prosecuting attorneys in D.C.–would use them to get testimony on the record. And this evidence would become a new transcript that would be read to a future jury. Seems like the jury never got the entire story. Just a cog in the wheels of justice.

The Assistant U.S. Attorneys initially intimidated the jury. Ten days into their service, however, Panel 3 realized their powers. They were no longer cowed by the process. They learned that as soon as the foreman closed the door, nobody from the outside could open it. They were a secret citizens panel, and they might be talking jury stuff. Or they might just need to take a break from the never-ending repetition of drug and gun cases. Yes, once again, there was enough evidence to indict. It’s a low bar. Yes, already. And again.

Or they kept the court officials out because they needed a respite from that extra arrogant attorney that pretty much everyone wanted to punch in the neck. He was lucky they closed the door. They might have been lucky, too, since there were many people who worked for the court, who protected the staff and who carried pistols with permission and legal ammo. The court guards might not defend that extra arrogant attorney, though. He was just that vilely arrogant.

On this day a man was called in by the bailiff. The man was very tall and skinny. He was likely in his early sixties and wore a straw hat with a bright sash above the brim. This was only two days after jury duty had been canceled because of a foot of snow. It must have been his good hat.

The man was extremely agitated. He definitely objected to being there. He looked at the people in the juror chairs and he was angry. He was angry before he sat down, and he was angry as he was sworn in.

He abruptly pulled his arm away from an imaginary hand on his elbow. He glared at the officer of the court who restrained him with a raised brow. He reluctantly agreed that he would tell the truth and said he understood that he was under oath and the penalties for being untruthful.

“I don’t even know why“–he hissed the why–“you all bring me all in here,” came from beneath his chin. He wanted to say it much louder but his better angels were in control.

The jurors knew that this wasn’t about him. A Grand Jury rarely hears from the accused. They knew that he was a witness. He was to give his sworn testimony for the record. This man was a piece in someone else’s puzzle. A puzzle he wanted no part of.

He crossed his long legs and his alligator pressed shoe bounced up and down. He was wearing a tropical shirt, too.

The lawyer asked him about a certain day and what he was doing. He explained that he was just a common guy, trying to make a few bucks. But that wasn’t the question.

It turned out that the man was providing rides for hire in his neighborhood. This was fifteen years before Uber.

He had a big boat of a white Cadillac that he used to squire people on their errands. On the day in question, he was taking a customer to go and get some scrimps.

“Some what?” said the lawyer.

“Some SCRIMPS!” the man shout-snarled. “And why you come and have to bother me about it? I’m just going to get me some scrimps down at the waterfront and someone going with me.”

The case was about the someone with him. And the police arrested him for driving an illegal cab so that he’d talk. But he was just mad.

“I don’t care that you come and get me. Why don’t you just leave it between you and me?” he complained.

“Was that your car?”

“No. You know it won’t my car. I done gave you the registration. But why you gotta go and tell her? Now she won’t let me drive no more.”

“Who’s car were you driving?”

“It’s my wife’s car. But you didn’t need tell her. Now I got her on me and she hid her key. And I’m just going to get some scrimps. It ain’t necessary for her to be called. We coulda just talked about this like some men.”

He really didn’t know much of anything about his partner in scrimps. But he was outraged at the setup and the domestic discord all drummed up, “over nothin.”

He unfolded his long legs, readjusted his straw fedora and walked out. The attorney and bailiff followed him. The foreman almost ran to the door to close it. And Panel 3–made up of an almost perfect D.C. cross section of race, education, income and age–broke into belly laughs, and guffaws, and giggles, and snickers, and shouts, and questions about winter fashion, and yearnings to meet his wife, and chants of scrimps.

All immediately agreed that they would order scrimps for lunch on Friday. It was a unanimous vote. This Panel was a team.