[Flash Fiction Challenge 25]
Tick-friggin’-tock. Sheila Vanderline looked at her watch, brushed back her bangs, and heaved an exaggerated sigh. What was taking so long? The other jurors talked about the weather, politely. Sheila couldn’t talk about the weather, could only think of her cat trapped inside the airless, walled rooms that now, no doubt, smelled to high heaven of cat pee. Stuck on a sequestered jury for a celebrity trial the past two weeks, she couldn’t let Prof. Wascal outside at lunch or even at night.
Prof. Wascal was neutered but neurotic, spraying every vertical surface in her small apartment since they moved in two months ago. He lifted his tail, wiggled like he was on tiptoes, and squirt! Prof. Wascal marked territory like a store clerk tagged merchandise. Although a neighbor promised to put down food and fresh water daily, Sheila shuddered to think of her cat, unsupervised with a dozen tauntingly empty walls.
Today, the jury awaited the judge’s sentencing for the wife-beating husband who was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon. The deadly weapon was his fist, argued persuasively as such by the prosecutor, who referred to the defendant as “this professional boxer.”
Mind you, Sheila was thrilled to be accepted onto the jury, this being a high-profile case and Sheila being a high-profile wannabe something. It was just so darn inconvenient right now, with Prof. Wascal spraying the carpet, the walls, and her shoes. If it were at all possible, she fantasized while biting her nails, it would be right that the wife-beating husband be required to clean up Prof. Wascal’s mess as part of his sentence. Yes, as a kind of public service duty thing.
The judge arrived; the room fell silent. The defendant rose. Sheila glared at the man. She just couldn’t remain aloof and dignified. There were so many things wrong about him: he was twitchy and argumentative, unkempt generally but especially today in his prison outfit, prone to outbursts that caused the trial to last longer than the expected week (hence, cat pee), and pale and mean as an iceberg.
“I sentence you to 30 days,” the judge said.
A hush again fell over the room, followed by astonished gasps. Clearly, wife-beating husband was due more than 30 days in jail. Sheila looked over at the wife and saw her pained eyes, eliciting a pang of empathy Sheila didn’t know she had. She bolted up from her seat and said, “No, sir! No, sir, that’s not right!”
“I will hold you in contempt, young lady,” the judge snapped.
“He should at least have to clean up the cat pee in my apartment,” Sheila said, glumly, sitting down.
The judge ordered Sheila to serve 24 hours in contempt and to pay a $500 fee. Being a celebrity trial, the offers came forward for exclusive stories worth far more than that. She and Prof. Wascal made the cover of People, a copy of which Prof. Wascal promptly and justly sprayed.
Author’s Note: This piece–written in a record time of 2 hours(!), my first written as part of the Flash Fiction Challenge at Thain in Vain‘s blog, was inspired by the prescribed prompt (a jury member awaits sentencing of the convicted person) and my cat Kobe, who has decided that every piece of furniture, clothing, wall, or fellow cat (yes, he sprayed his brother) is open season for cat piss. Thanks, Kobe. You’re a dick.
Flash Fiction Challenge #25 at Thain in Vain
Prompt: Your protagonist is a member of the jury about to hear the sentencing of the criminal you just convicted.
Word Count: 494