TRIBUNAL PROCEEDING TRANSCRIPT
SUB LEGIBUS ORDINIS SACROSANCTI IMMORTALIUM
PROVISIONAL PROOF TEXT
IN THE CASE OF:
ŌRDŌ SACROSANCTUS VERSUS THE NAMELESS DAUGHTER OF MUŠMAḪḪU THE SEVEN-HEADED SERPENT, SHE WHO IS KNOWN TO THE MORTALS AS EUNICE
LORD JUSTICE MEPHISTO, PRESIDING
LORD JUSTICE DRACHENMILCH, LORD JUSTICE BA’AL-HA-KHUMUS, AND
LORDLADY JUSTICE XYXXYZ
MR. AZAXAZALIA, ESQ., PROSECUTOR
MS. “EUNICE”, DEFENDANT
A RECORD OF EUNICE‘S TESTIMONY
TRANSCRIBED BY GEORGE SMITH, HUMAN, JUNIOR APPRENTICE CLERK
COURTROOM 31B, NO OTHERS IN ATTENDANCE
EUNICE, DEFENDANT: My lady. My lords.
I have been called upon by this most ancient, most esteemed, most noble tribunal to give a reckoning of my behavior. You have already heard the prosecutor’s speech, and now it is time for me to defend myself. And defend myself I shall, with pleasure. To be frank, the story – the entire story, without the prosecutor’s dishonest gaps and distortions – speaks for itself. So, rather than try to wrangle a creative interpretation of some of the more arcane and ancient laws of our Ōrdō, as many before you have done, including this sly prosecutor, I will simply tell the whole truth of what happened, and you shall see that, far from being criminal, it upholds – nay, epitomizes – all of our finest traditions.
Let me set the scene for you.
LET THE RECORD STATE THAT AT THIS POINT THE DEFENDANT BEGINS TO SPEAK IN A LOUD, INTENTIONALLY MUFFLED VOICE –GEORGE, CLERK
This is a reminder that all F trains are running on the D line and all D trains are running on the F line from Broadway Lafayette throughout Brooklyn. This is, to repeat, an F train running on the D line from Broadway Lafayette throughout Brooklyn. Thank you for riding MTA New –
LORD JUSTICE BA’AL-HA-KHUMUS: The defendant is reminded to stick to the facts, the legal facts. This is a tribunal, and we are interested in the facts and the law, not your acting or story-telling skills.
EUNICE, DEFENDANT: Of course, my lord. I’m sorry.
LET THE RECORD STATE THAT THE DEFENDANT DOES NOT SEEM AT ALL SORRY. –GEORGE, CLERK
Kevin had no excuse. This is not my opinion, but a legal fact. He wasn’t late for work – he wasn’t even going to work. He wasn’t even late for brunch: that wasn’t for another two hours, and Peter, the friend he was meeting up with, was always late. Even if he just completely went to the wrong place, and had to walk across Brooklyn, he still would have had time to go home – he had spent the night with a girl he was seeing – to not just go home, but also to shower and change, and still make it to brunch on time.
The walk might’ve even done him some good, not in terms of exercise – exercise he got plenty of, efficiently and perfunctorily, at his office gym – but in terms of fresh air and a change of pace and scenery. Maybe he would’ve been able to relax and enjoy life some, to slow down and calm down. Maybe, just maybe, he would even have been able to avoid his fate.
But in spite of these low stakes, when he heard this announcement, when he was reminded of this deeply absurd but ultimately trivial inconvenience, he treated it like an emergency. Carelessly, recklessly, he leapt up from his seat, too quickly to pay attention to where he was going, but somehow still slowly enough that his Apple AirPods™ (Pro, 3rd generation) were at no risk of falling out of his ears.
Have I been unfair towards Kevin? I concede, I really do, that it is not a sin – not a sin per se – to be anxious and rushed. And sometimes I do question how harshly I judged him for the expensive headphones. I knew he could well afford them – I knew everything about him just by looking at him, and when you reach my age you know far more than most people even think possible. And besides, everyone has the right to listen to music, the right to ignore strangers on the train who are trying to talk to you, even innocent, completely harmless old women who are really just trying to explain to you that the lid on your Starbucks coffee cup is slightly askew, that – drip, drip, drip – you’re leaking all over the (admittedly already quite unsanitary) subway seat.
But given what happened next, I think you’ll forgive me all this judgmentalism. I certainly do not regret any of it.
LET THE RECORD STATE THAT AT THIS POINT THE DEFENDANT BEGINS TO VIOLENTLY WAG HER FINGER, AND HER VOICE BECOMES SOMEWHAT CREAKY –GEORGE, CLERK
I regret many things in life. I do rue and lament many of the paths I’ve walked – and many more that I walked right past. Anyone as old as myself who claims to have no regrets is fooling themselves or lying, probably both.
But concerning Kevin I regret absolutely nothing.
Because if you are as careless, as reckless, and as rushed as Kevin – and again, with no urgency or occasion to justify it – and if you pay no attention to your surroundings, not even to rudimentary courtesy, not to mention basic safety, and you cause a poor old woman, who was at the time using her cane to ever so slowly hoist herself out of her seat, to not only fall face-first to the floor but to then find herself drenched and soaked in your still quite hot coffee, well, the least you could do – the very least – would be to resign yourself to a slightly more inconvenient trip, to accept a slightly more complicated day, and check (for more than a split second) whether she’s OK – maybe even help her back up onto her feet.
But nothing like that from Kevin. Just a split second’s glance, just enough that anyone could see that he knew what he had done, and no more. A glimpse, and then out the door he went. Other passengers helped me to my feet and offered me a handkerchief (from the older Italian gentleman from the Bronx in a suit) and napkins (from the young generically-white lesbian transplant from Minnesota) to clean myself. They did this out of common courtesy. They did this, for me, even though I was old and strange, even though they had all just heard me scream, like a crazy person, from the bottom of my gut through the top of my lungs, “MAY YOU NEVER DRINK COFFEE AGAIN! MAY IT NEVER EVEN TOUCH YOUR LIPS! MAY IT ENTICE AND ALSO STYMIE YOU!”
LET THE RECORD STATE THAT THE CAPITAL LETTERS ABOVE INDICATE THAT THE DEFENDANT IS THROWING HER HEAD BACK, CLOSING HER EYES, AND SCREAMING IN THE WITNESS STAND. THE SOUND EMERGING FROM HER INHUMANLY DISTENDED MOUTH IS THAT OF TEN WOMEN SCREAMING THE SAME WORDS SLIGHTLY OUT OF SYNC WITH EACH OTHER. THE SOUND IS ECHOING BEYOND WHAT MAKES SENSE FOR THE ACOUSTICS OF THIS ROOM. THE STONE WALLS ARE SHAKING. AND YET, THE JUSTICES ARE SITTING CALMLY, AS IF THIS WERE A COMPLETELY NORMAL OCCURRENCE. –GEORGE, CLERK
And to be clear, Kevin knew that what he did was wrong. He even was able to hear the screams of the curse, and thought it was fair – fair at least that the old woman was angry, angry enough that he could hear her, that is my, malediction through the closed train doors and over the sound of the departing train. He even felt some measure of repentance – or at least a mental act somewhat cognate to repentance, a Kevin version of it, if you will. The actual words from his mouth were, to be exact, “fucking trains,” but behind those words, there was an inkling of a glimmer of a feeling of a spark of responsibility.
But more than guilt, more than any moral regret, Kevin regretted that he had no coffee left. He threw the now-empty paper cup in an already overflowing trash bin on the platform, and pretended not to notice as it bounced out and fell to the floor. On the next train not only did he not get a seat, but he had nothing to even sip on.
There was a coffee shop near Kevin’s stop. It was a small, independent place, with black walls and mismatched wooden tables, with knick-knacks for sale and a disproportionate number of vegan options on the menu. Kevin didn’t like the vibe; he preferred the standardization of Starbucks like the one he’d gone to earlier that morning. It was two blocks out of the way, but the extra time would be more than made up for by getting someone else to make coffee rather than grind them and prepare them at home – which always took way longer than he thought it would.
As he approached it, there was something off about it. He didn’t fully process it at first, but the relative dimness of the storefront, and the general lack of energy, dampened his mood before he solidified and verbalized his thoughts, and then had them finally consolidated and confirmed when he arrived at the door.
It was closed. On a Sunday, somehow. A sign out front said that there was some sort of an important family matter, and gave no further detail. Kevin sighed, feeling disappointment combine with his pre-existing grogginess and need for caffeine – and the connected need for the taste of coffee and the feel of a drink in his hand.
No matter, there was still a Starbucks. After another block or three of groggy, belabored, un-New Yorker-like slogging, he found it. The line was a little long, but the end was in sight.
But the line didn’t move. And then, it didn’t move. And then, it still didn’t move. The baristas poked at a touch screen and occasionally muttered something about patience or just needing another minute, until finally one of them (his name tag announcing him as Jason) decided to simply call it, and told everyone in the line that their POS system was broken. There was no alternative, so perhaps they should just disperse. And so, coffeeless, Kevin finally went home.
Of course, as any coffee addict would do in such a situation, which is to say any office worker in the entire five boroughs, he went to make himself coffee as soon as he got home. Unlike many office workers, he defined “as soon as” a little over-strictly – he did this even before feeding his rightfully and righteously angry, hungry cat, who had done nothing to deserve this neglect besides being nice to Kevin in the pet shelter.
But I regress! My lords – and lady – none of you are as old as I am, so you perhaps have not yet gained as rigorous a Sight as I have. I can see what happened next as though I was actually there – and of course, in a sense, I was there, through the words of my curse. It brings a smile to my lips even now to remember, not only seeing but even hearing, Kevin rushedly shoveling the beans into his coffee grinder, extra ones clattering on the floor and bouncing in all directions through his kitchen, Mittens the cat running after them, thinking they were perhaps a form of long-awaited food, and finally, once it was vaguely close to full, him pushing the button and hearing, rather than the normal churning noise, a mere, half-hearted “whirr-click.”
Not at all the correct sound, you could tell from his face. Undeterred, he pressed the button on the grinder again. “Whirr-click, whirr-click-SNAP!”
LET THE RECORD STATE THAT AT THE WORD “SNAP” THE WITNESS STAND AND THE DEFENDANT ARE LITERALLY STRUCK BY LIGHTNING. HOW CAN THIS HAPPEN INDOORS? HOW DID IT NOT CATCH FIRE? HOW DO THE JUSTICES REMAIN SO IMPASSIVE, EVEN BORED-LOOKING? I AM NOT PAID ENOUGH FOR THIS. –GEORGE, CLERK
The plastic casing of the grinder cracked, then broke. Streams of beans flew to the ground. Mittens hissed and zoomed away into the bedroom closet.
Kevin slowly slid down to the floor, and put his face in his hands. The sound of his curse was echoing in his ears. He wasn’t a superstitious man. To the contrary, he had registered himself on the website of an atheistic, anti-supernaturalist movement called “Brights” and therefore listed “Bright” under his “Religious Views” on Facebook. He was utterly committed to the Rationalist cause. He even dabbled in Effective Altruism; the way to truly make the world a better place and help humanity, he thought, was to ensure AI alignment. In any case, this is all to say, he didn’t believe in anything as irrational and superstitious as curses, and he certainly wasn’t about to start now.
After all, and I think this is quite essential to take note of, everything that had happened is the sort of thing that just happens sometimes. Family businesses have family emergencies sometimes. Tills break down sometimes, POS systems even more often than sometimes. And even the particular way that that coffee grinder broke, believe it or not, had happened to a full 1.3% of purchasers, particularly those who, like Kevin, weren’t good about cleaning it properly. Things do break sometimes.
And by the way, my esteemed lady and lords, I invite you to investigate if you don’t believe me. I have nothing to hide.
And yet, Kevin cried, feeling himself slip in his faith in no faith, his face twitching in the manner that in my several centuries of life has always indicated dogmatic struggle and religious doubt. Sure, things go wrong sometimes, he thought, but a person with money in a first world city and time to spare will eventually be able to purchase coffee, whatever weird old ladies on the train might say.
Ultimately, a gear clicked into place, and he returned to some semblance of spiritual stasis. This must be some sort of statistical effect, he concluded. Most days, after all, don’t have coincidences, but coincidences do happen sometimes. Sometimes, even coincidences involving very odd words from very odd old ladies. And perhaps something about his behavior is being influenced by her, subconsciously making him go places where the coffee is not available … but then again, how does that make sense?
In any case, he would proceed according to his beliefs. He believed thus: Coffee can be bought, and curses weren’t real, old ladies or no old ladies. Maybe not at any individual place, but in New York City, with enough money and time, a man can eventually drink coffee. To solidify these beliefs further in his mind, he nodded furiously, as if agreeing with himself. Then, he got out his phone, and calmly – he certainly kept on telling himself he was calm – ordered a new coffee grinder for delivery off of Amazon.
Kevin then splashed some water on his face, grabbed his bag, and walked out the door. It is unclear whether he heard, as he was leaving, the muted resumption of meowing from Mittens, who, of course, remained unfed.
I will now jump ahead to the actual brunch with Kevin’s friend Peter, the incident that the prosecutor focused on. I will skip over the incident of the Starbucks barista being fired for not only breaking the till but leading the customers on with the promise of coffee – my supplementary submission shows clearly that she was about to be fired for other reasons, nevertheless. I will also skip over the package thief who would later be struck by a car crossing the street after stealing the replacement coffee grinder from Kevin’s stoop. He was going to steal packages anyway, my curse merely redirected him to Kevin’s house. His death was in any case a result of his own decision to jaywalk, and his reincarnation as a raccoon as punishment for package thievery seems to me completely justified. In any case, the prosecutor failed to articulate a valid legal claim for those incidents, and as I said, I will skip past them, and let my lady and lords of the tribunal read about them in my brief.
My lady and lords, as we all know, Kevin did eventually meet his friend Peter for brunch, albeit half an hour late. Even Peter, who was never on time for anything, was already seated when Kevin arrived, at a small table on the restaurant’s cozy rear patio, already sipping his bloody maria, Peter’s new favorite drink, with tequila instead of vodka. And there beside the novel brunch cocktail, in a small mug, not yet touched, there sat hot, steaming, freshly poured black coffee.
Kevin was halfway through greeting Peter, “Hey, good to s–,” when he saw the coffee. Kevin wasn’t a very emotional man, and he certainly wasn’t easily moved, so he wasn’t all that familiar with the feeling he felt upon seeing it. His limbs tingled and he involuntarily sharply gasped for air, and his shoulders and then his legs shook in an all-body shudder. Peter was looking at his phone and didn’t notice.
Kevin stood there speechless for a few seconds as Peter continued to fiddle with something on his phone. “Hey, yeah, good to see you too, man,” he said, somewhat perfunctorily. “Sorry, just give me one –”
“Can I have a sip of your coffee?” Kevin interrupted. The words rushed out of Kevin’s mouth before any filter could catch them or any social grace (of which Kevin somehow had some amount of) could interfere. A young woman from the next table looked up in surprise at Kevin’s abruptness, and then quickly looked away again, pointedly not eavesdropping.
Peter finally looked up from his phone, opened his mouth to talk, thought better, and closed it again. A second later, he found his words. “Um, sorry, I’m still being COVID conscious. You know, the waiter will be right back and then I’m sure you can order your own.”
“Ah,” said Kevin, simply, slightly embarrassed but not so slightly disappointed in his friend’s dire, even soulless lack of charity in this troubling time.
Peter looked up at Kevin and decided everything was normal after all. “Rough day?” he asked.
“You can say that again,” said Kevin. “Two coffee shops were closed.”
Peter smiled. “Well, I’m sure the waiter will be back soon. I do need to sneak off to the restroom for a moment, though.” Peter stood up and walked away from the table, calling back “But no stealing! Just wait for the waiter.”
Kevin sat patiently for a minute before everything happened. And I would like to just take this opportunity to point out that really, Kevin is to blame here. Not only was he doing something morally impermissible, in stealing his friend’s coffee and spreading his spit and germs, but he was showing a shocking lack of patience – the waiter was even then walking towards the table, ready to take this late-comer’s drink order. That, and, Kevin had to know by now, even if he wouldn’t admit it, that the more drastically he tried to fight the curse, the more drastic the consequences would also be – and Kevin was responsible, and is responsible, for all of them.
But mortals never learn anything, my lady and lords. And we can’t take responsibility for their mistakes. For my curse to work, this action could not go unresponded to. And so, as the coffee moved towards his lips, and his heart rose in his chest as he smelled the familiar smell, a fire alarm went off: “Whoo-OOP! Whoo-OOP!”
LET THE RECORD STATE THAT AT THIS POINT THE ENTIRE COURTROOM BEGINS TO GLOW AS THE SHRILL SOUND OF A FIRE ALARM FILLED IT. –GEORGE, CLERK
Kevin’s hand twitched and the coffee flowed back to the bottom of the cup. Should he evacuate? Did it make sense to go into the building, where there might be a fire, rather than just wait out on the patio? While he was considering this, however, the young woman who was not eavesdropping on Kevin rushed past him, fleeing towards the fire, knocking the cup out of Kevin’s hand and shattering it against the ground.
Not one to resist peer pressure, Kevin also ran into the building, which was actually burning, and where the grease fire soon gave all of our mortal characters severe burns. This sent Kevin to the hospital, where he finally learned wisdom, and since has only ordered tea. Perhaps all the mortals involved will learn some manners from this incident.
I do not enjoy mortals, my lady and lords, nor do I sympathize with them. That, however, does not make me a criminal. The curse was, according to our customs, reasonable and proportionate. It was only Kevin’s willful defiance of it that resulted in this mayhem, and therefore, he was the assailant as well as a victim.
My lady and lords, I rest my case.
AT THIS POINT THE DEFENDANT VANISHES. THE JUSTICES DO NOT SEEM SURPRISED OR DISTURBED. HOW COULD I HAVE SO VASTLY MISUNDERSTOOD THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THIS JOB? –GEORGE, CLERK
LADY JUSTICE XYXXYZ: Thank you. We will now take a brief recess.
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