THE SNOW STORM
By Bob Liter
That summer people in Fork still were talking about the February snow storm. Thirty inches of the stuff dumped on the town in half a day.
All who could get away attended the July 15 hearing in the bare room with the fold down chairs in the county courthouse at Jayson.
Judge Homer Hopp, waving a large gavel above his bald head, shushed everyone and said, "This is not a circus. If you people don’t quite down I’ll clear the room."
A court bailiff, wearing multicolored suspenders to hold up too large pants, swore in Buford Dewitt as he sat in the witness chair beside the judge. Dewitt’s fat legs didn’t reach the floor and his face was redder than usual.
The judge said, "Now I understand, Mister, er, Dewitt, that you’ve filed these assault charges.
"Dewitt Buford. That is correct, your honor."
Dewitt looked at his wife, Hester, who sat in the front row. When people behind her complained, Hester removed her wide-brimmed hat with the bunch of fake grapes attached.
"Tell me why you filed these charges," the judge said.
Dewitt hemmed a little, hawed a little, and, after getting a stern look from Hester, said, "Well, your honor, he knocked me down. When I tried to get up he knocked me down again. Then he knocked my wife down. Into the snow drift."
The judge shuffled some papers and said, "Mister, what is it, Best, yes Mister Best, what about that?"
Dan Best was sworn in after Dewitt left the witness chair.
"I didn’t knock him or Hester down. I shoved ‘em. They just fell into the snow drift. I shoved Dewitt back down when he tried to get up because I was tired of him taking swings at me. Hester socked me with her purse."
"How tall are you, Mister Best?" the judge asked.
"About six foot two," Dan said.
"How tall is Mister Dewitt?"
"Well," the judge said, "I can see he’s not much more than five feet. As I understand it, this happened in Mister DeWitt’s driveway. Is that correct?"
"Yes," Dan said.
"What were you doing there?"
"I was plowing snow onto the entrance of his drive."
"Why were you doing that, Mister Best."
Dan faced the judge. He ran a big hand through his short-cropped hair.
"It’s a long story," Dan said.
The judge stood and faced Dan.
"I don’t care, I want to know the reason why you were blocking Mister DeWitt’s drive."
"He’s one of our councilmen."
"Fork has councilmen?"
Dan sat down. The judge sat down.
"We elected ‘em several years ago. Ollie’s the mayor, Dewitt Buford is the street commissioner, and Gregory Lancaster collects the garbage."
"Yes, yes, go on."
Dan fidgeted in the witness chair.
"Well, you see, we had this snow storm last February. Big one. Buford rents John Turner’s tractor, the one with the plow attachment, and plows our streets. That’s his job. Gets paid fifty dollars when he has to plow. First time he ever had to work for it."
The judge stood up, shook his left leg, sat down again, and said, "Get to the point."
"Buford plows his own street, College Street, first," Dan said.
"College Street? I didn’t know you had a college in Fork," the judge said.
"We don’t. That’s just the street’s name."
"Buford plowed his own street first, comes back and clears the plowed snow from his driveway entrance and then goes about the rest of the town plowing the streets and blocking everyone else’s driveway."
Dewitt stood beside Hester and said, "I can explain that, your honor."
"Explain it," the judge said.
"There’s no way I could have gotten all the streets plowed if I stopped to clear every driveway. I cleared mine because Hester, well she said I had to because of the historical club meeting."
"And because of this you, Mister Best, plowed what was it, four feet of snow back into Mister DeWitt’s drive. Is that correct?"
"Correct, your honor," Dewitt said.
"I was asking Mister Best."
"Correct, your honor," Dan said, mimicking Dewitt.
The judge turned to the bailiff and said, "We have several more cases scheduled this morning, don’t we?"
"Yes, judge, we do."
"It’s cases like this that have overloaded my court, kept me from playing golf for a week. Case dismissed. Now, all you Forkers go home and be nice to each other."
Bob Liter is a retired journalist. Renaissance E Books has published seven of his novels. He may be contacted at his web site, http://www.mtco.com/~bobliter; Contact Bob.