"What the people of this community need," she says, "is for someone to be held accountable." She looks at me. "To take responsibility for their actions."
I can feel hundreds of old people eyes zero in. The entire Elk's Lodge want to see me fry, turning the county courthouse into a nursing home wing.
I lean back in the witness stand to ponder her request while she's staring at me with those big brown doe eyes. Not bad for a city attorney, even though she's wearing dumbed-down earth tones instead of some hot Ally McBeal getup.
I did it, which is what they all want to hear. Plus, it has the added benefit of being true.
After all, no one made me break into the Elk's Lodge, no one forced me to bust down the door and eat all the chicken stored in the back. And while it was it was bad form to gather the Lodge hats in a pile and soak them with urine, it was even more regrettable, and in poorer taste, to do it twice.
Honestly, since I'd been drinking all night, a case could be made against the makers of Jim Beam. But why was I drinking at all? I think it's clear there was some failure of morals, which seems to indicate I'm really a victim of a substandard upbringing.
Somewhere along the line, my parents neglected to instill the necessary moral fiber. They're Democrats, too, so family values must have gone out the window from the beginning. Sure, they may have attended church and abstained from drinking or smoking themselves, but they owned the White Album and my dad had long hair in the Sixties.
Still, is all the blame on my parents?
Think about it, as a developing child I was exposed to Friday the 13th, parts 1-whatever, Eighties music (including, but not limited to, The Thompson Twins, Rick Springfield, and the rollicking riffs of Poison's C.C. DeVille), spandex, and rat tails. As a maturing young adult, I had to process reality television (spawned by the devil's own Real World), Prince becoming an unpronounceable symbol, and an unfortunate viewing of Madonna's book where she banged Dennis Rodman and Vanilla Ice.
I think I've been too hard on my folks.
Society's to blame, no doubt about it.
That's kind of a tough entity to pin down, though, society. There's no name to attach, no face to associate. Is it the movie industry, for bringing us Ben Affleck in Gigli? The music industry for unleashing Jacko and Britney? Maybe television for the whale piss known as American Idol.
Of course. I've been so blind. It's the government who's ultimately in charge. They make the rules, enforce what they want, so they're the ones who should be accountable.
And if you're looking for a name, it's really quite simple - George W. Bush. That's your man. Leader of the Free World. He's supposed to be running the show, so if the show's messed up, he's the pygmy-minded scapegoat. The stopping of the buck. The cahuna of origin.
Actually, that's just the proverbial iceberg tip. The series of events that disrupted society, put Junior's finger on the big red button, has been a boulder gaining momentum for centuries.
I've got to say, it comes as a relief to point the finger at history. From Einstein to the Crusades, Genghis Khan to the Pharaohs, the entire span of human existence culminated in the unfortunate incident inside the Lodge.
Me, my parents, W, all of us are exonerated.
There is still, however, the question of accountability. Because I've really determined who isn't at fault, and as Anti-McBeal so succinctly noted, what the town needs is closure.
So let's follow this thread to its logical ending. Let's retrace our footsteps to our earliest history, past the Sphinx, Stonehenge, Parthenon, and the little stone Gaea's from Mesopotamia.
Here's where we are, but here's not where we should be.
I shouldn't be sitting on this hard plastic seat in front of a hot librarian-type lawyer and a hundred or so pissed off geriatrics. I shouldn't be wearing slacks and a jacket and a poorly tied tie. I should be running naked through the jungle with emus and aardvarks.
It all comes down to one shiny apple. And a snake. Hell, since it's time to own up, it's really Eve's fault. I mean, Adam goes to work, comes home, finds himself tossed out of Eden?
Alright already, I know that's not exactly how it went down. He got kicked out for lying to the landlord. The bigger question is where was he while the serpent was making his move? Peeling oranges for primates? If I was with Eve, I don't think I'd let her out of my sight. Have you seen the pictures? Smoking.
My god, it just trumpeted from the heavens like Handel's Messiah. Hallelujah. I was about to say something about Eve and God's excellent image, when it hit me.
Adam and Eve were created by an all-powerful, all-knowing God. Yahweh. The burning bush. Sounds like he/she/it screwed up the recipe.
And if Adam and Eve are let off the hook, then so are my parents and the prez, and I get to walk, no matter how many tins of chicken I ate.
"Well?" asks McBeal, and I feel the scurry of eyes on my shoulders.
I reach for the mic and enunciate clearly. "It's God's fault," I say, and lean back with my hands on my head.
Jared Ward's work has been accepted at West Branch, Evansville Review, New Delta Review, The Dos Passos Review, Zone 3, and others. He began the University of Arkansas MFA Creative Writing program this fall.