At the Bench

By Jim Hatherly


A widow keeps coming back before the judge until he very reluctantly gives her the justice she seeks.


Luke 18: 1-8


Judge Gavel
Widow Persistent


Bailiff: All rise. Court is now in session. Judge Herbert Gavel now presiding.

(Gavel enters from side, sits at desk)

You may sit now, ladies and gentlemen. Your honor, the court requests your hearing of the complaint brought by Ms. Justina Persistent against her neighbor, Mr. Douglas Fester.

Judge: Not again! This is the third time this woman has come to my court. Why can't she just leave me alone. Every time she comes, it is with some trivial little complaint.

Bailiff: This is a lower court, your honor. All the complaints we get here are insignificant.

Judge: You don't have to tell me. Which reminds me, bailiff, did you ever send that letter I forged to the Legal Department in Rome? The one I signed with Judge Judy's name? The one that recommended me to serve a higher court?

Bailiff: I did, your honor. But they sent it back. Address unknown. I'm afraid you'll have to serve a while here yet, sir.

Judge: O, I wish I could get out of here. A man with my ambitions, with my connections, why if I could get into the (steeling his voice, with authority) Corridors of Power. That's where I belong. I know a good deal when I see one. A little payoff here. A little blind-eye there. (he takes a drink from his flask) Alright. Bring in the widow.

Bailiff: Thank you, your honor. (Court official escorts the woman in)

Judge: So here you are again. Once more into the breach, is it?

Widow: Yes, your honor. I am here again.

Judge: And what are you here for?

Widow: I am here because the last two times I was here you never gave me any justice.

Judge: My, my, my. Isn't that too bad? You should have reported me to the Legal Department in Rome.

Widow: I did. The letter came back. Address unknown.

Judge: (sighs) I guess I'm stuck with you, then.

Widow: No, Judge Gavel. I am stuck with you. You are a terrible judge. Your reputation for corruption is all over the place. You have no wisdom. You don't know the law. And what you do know you never apply. And, I'm told, you drink on the job. Shame on you. May God have mercy on your soul.

Judge: I hope God will have more mercy than you do on my poor soul, Ms. Persistence. Now what is it? Let's get this over with. It's not about the cats again, is it?

Widow: No. It's not about the cats. Although now that you mention it, it should be. That was the first time I came to see you. I'm so glad you remembered.

Judge: And I'm sorry I reminded you.

Widow: You should be sorry for how you handled it in the first place, you ninny.

Judge: Contempt of court, Ms. Persistence.

Widow: Contempt of complainants, Mr. Bench.

Judge: You never let up, do you?

Widow: Not as far as justice is concerned, your honor. My neighbor's cats are still at it. Every night they sneak out and fill up my flower beds with their - how can I put it nicely?

Judge: Their leavings?

Widow: Yes. Their leavings. You told me to just talk with my neighbor and we could sort it out between us.

Judge: And did you? And did it work?

Widow: I did. And it didn't. Same problem as always.

Judge: So what else? Don't tell me the second problem is still there. The one with the trees?

Widow: Are you kidding? My neighbor's trees are growing so big the roots are lifting up the foundation of my house. And the branches are half way across my yard.

Judge: Don't you like the shade?

Widow: Grrr. Judge, look. I am a poor widow. My house looks like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. I can't grow my own food. I can't plant my vegetables any more. There's not enough sunshine. And the cats have destroyed whatever garden I have left.

Judge: Anything else? Don't tell me there's more.

Widow: His son plays his music all night. His room is upstairs across the yard from mine. There he is, just as I'm trying to sleep, strumming away on his lute. And then his friends come over and they bring their instruments, too. And it's not just those nice ballads the minstrels play. It's this Klesmer music they learned from the Jews. All bouncy wedding music.

Judge: Maybe you should just let the trees grow bigger. They could shelter you from the noise.

Widow: Judge, that is not at all funny. And listen, I have a good mind to see your superior, if you don't give me justice. And if that doesn't work, I will ask God to send a fungus on your ancestors. Or whatever it was God used to do in the good old days.

Judge: It was a plague of toads, my dear. Not fungus on the ancestors. As to visiting my superior, well, save your breath. He is my brother in law and I have counter-signed his mortgage. As for God, frankly I don't care. I don't think God exists.

Widow: Shame on you. A sacrilege. Well, if you don't think God exists, then let me tell you that I do. Big time, mister. And I am going to keep coming back to this court every day until I get my justice.

Judge: Are you upset, Ms. Persistence?

Widow: Upset? Mister Judge. Mister Gavel. Your honor. Your quasi-holiness. All I want is justice. I am a poor, uneducated widow. I have little to live on. I am a faithful attender in the temple. I pay my taxes, though God only knows why. I vote for the Romans at every election. I bake for the bazaars, give alms to the poor. I do everything right. I am a good woman. If I had all your bribery money, I would sell my house and move to a nice suburb in Jericho. If I was malicious, I would kill my neighbors cats. But I am not rich. And I am not mean. All I want is some peace in my own backyard.

Judge: And you think I will give it to you?

Widow: I think you could give it to me, if you wanted to. Do you?

Judge: Not really. But honestly, I think I should. Madam, you are wearing me out. Alright. Bailiff, come here. Take down these orders.

Bailiff: But she hasn't bribed you, your honor. Are you alright?

Judge: Weary. And don't you tell any of my colleagues about this, or I'll have your head. OK. Here goes. As for the cats, bailiff, I instruct you to go to see Judge Thompson. She has this thing about cats. And she will give you a trap for Mr. Fester's feline. As for the trees, I instruct you to instruct the Department of Public Growing Things to take them down, and to excavate the foundations of this woman's house, taking out all the roots and filling in the space with sand. Send the bill to Mr. Fester. If he objects, tell him his taxes will double next year. And as for our young aspiring musician, you are to instruct the YMHA to open their gymnasium after hours for his group to practice in. I love Klesmer music. There, Ms. Persistence, are you satisfied?

Widow: O your honor. That is wonderful. My prayers are answered. God bless you, your honor. God bless you.

Judge: Court dismissed. I need a drink. (reaches for his bottle, then pauses, motions widow to the bench) Before you go, Ms. Persistence. I want to ask you something. That matter about God. Why did you say that? You know I don't believe in God.

Widow: But God believes in you, your honor. God sees into your soul. I know there is a lot there that shouldn't be there. And if I know it, then you can bet God does, too. Don't be worried, though. Sometimes God works like that. Not to be disrespectful, but if God can work through you to answer my prayers, and to bring some justice into this world, then God can do anything. I think even with all your bluster and the bribery, you are a good man, sir. I think God could use you - even more than just today. And so I mean it. I pray it. God bless you.

Judge: Thank you, Ms. Persistence. I will think about this. Who knows? I might even pray about it. Good-bye, Ms Persistence. God bless you, too.


Copyright Jim Hatherly, all rights reserved.
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