The jurors were ushered into an empty courtroom, and except for a woman hidden by a computer in the corner, were left to wait.
Obediently, they waited, reading, chatting with strangers, drinking bad coffee or lukewarm tea taken from a tray on a table. The court officials said there would be a trial but Sukey was beginning to wonder. The empty minutes and then hours ticked by under the muted glare of fluorescent lights.
The glare and absence of meaning began to play tricks in Sukey’s imagination. Was this a psychological maze? Some bizarre experiment? An insidious recreation of a reality entertainment like The Truman Show.
Maybe she (and all these apparent innocents) had actually been summoned into a surreal purgatory – one of those clever little puzzles that paired individuals with a waiting room of others whose grating nastiness would punish her for her sins for all eternity. Or at least until each had achieved wisdom and growth… maybe even some goodness.
But wrack her brains as she could, Sukey couldn’t remember any smoldering crime in her past. True, she’d lied about taking out the garbage the night before so that her husband wouldn’t freak out. She’d skimped a little on Jack’s dog food so that she could put off a trip to the store (but she’d supplemented with two slices of bologna that her husband was going to put in a sandwich – very bad cholesterol choice.)
So maybe, despite circumstantial evidence, she was simply in the grips of a bureaucracy. “The wheels of justice grind slow, but they grind exceedingly fine…”
Well, Sukey thought, we’re certainly being ground.
Driven by screaming boredom, surreptitiously she looked around at her fellow sufferers. Despite the assurance of random choice, the majority of the summoned were women – middle-aged women. It looked like whatever poor sod would be judged, it was going to be jury by coffee klatch.
Domestic violence would be an interesting case to consider. Property crimes without bodily threat would get short shrift. Any crime against a minor would clearly bring a death penalty. Corporate crime or lawsuits would be a toss up based on personal experience, Sukey decided.
The women were all chatting now, forming the bonds that women form everywhere – the biological imperative that kept fragile lives safe from starvation and sabertooth tigers. The men had pulled out laptops and manuals – their equivalent of keeping the spears sharp. The tech companies would remain supported; children were discussed and subtly bragged about.
Sukey sat back, not wanting to engage now that she’d managed to more or less peg everyone. Knowing that her cursory look was really flawed, she wondered if she should look for secrets, for the ones who didn’t belong.
This was a representation of community? Two Asian men, both under 40; No other minorities or racially ambiguous souls, 26 women, 7 men, 16 mops of seriously grey hair; not a piercing or tat to be seen.
The woman sitting two seats over is reading The Crucible. Is this prep?
And Sukey began to wonder, confined in this closed room, with a non-representative selection of the community, was there truly a trial going to happen? A fair trial. A trial that had not been forecast by 1984, Brave New World, The Crucible, or The Collected Works of the Trump Tweets.
Nothing happens, but the minutes keep ticking away…