Emend by Eclipse
Copyright© 2020 by Lazlo Zalezac
August 25, 1975
Benny sat up in his bed and then turned so that his legs hung off the side. It was Monday and it was going to be a very busy day. It was the kind of day that was the most difficult for him. He was going to have to be around a lot of people, and they were going to be asking questions. He could handle any question they could put to him, but they weren’t going to give him time to think about the most accurate answer. He was always ill at ease in those situations.
He pulled off his pajama top and neatly folded it before placing it on the bed. He went over to the closet and pulled out one of his plain white shirts that he wore to school. He put it on, and was surprised to find that it was a little tight. He buttoned it while fidgeting in the hope that the shirt would settle somehow and fit right.
He removed his pajama bottom and folded it neatly. He placed it on the bed next to the top. He walked over to his chest of drawers and removed a pair of his underwear. He put it on. He returned to the closet and searched through the clothes hanging in it. He located the suit and removed the suit pants. He tried to put it on, but it was very small. He couldn’t close the button. He tried sucking in his stomach, but that didn’t help.
He removed the pants and dug around in the closet for his nicest pair of school pants. He put it on. It was very tight and the pants were short. He sucked in his stomach and fastened the button. With a bit of effort he pulled up the zipper.
He went back to the chest of drawers and took out a pair of socks. He sat down on the bed to put on the socks. There was a loud ripping sound. He reached under his butt and felt around. The pants had split right down the back seam - from crotch to belt.
He removed the pants and set them aside. He went back to the closet and pulled another pair of pants. They were even tighter. He pulled another pair of pants. They fit, but were almost as tight as the pants that had just split.
He went back to the bed and sat down. He put on one of the socks. When he shifted, he heard a little popping sound. He reached under his butt. The bottom of his pants had torn about an inch along the seam. He put on the other sock.
He returned to the closet. He was out of dress pants. All he had to wear were jeans. He grabbed a sweater and wrapped it around his waist to hide the rip. He tied the arms of the sweater at his belly button.
He put on the suit coat. It was small. The arms were too short, it was tight around the shoulders, and it bunched out. He slipped on his dress shoes. They seemed to fit okay. He walked out of his room towards the breakfast table.
“What are you wearing?”
“I’m wearing my suit coat and best pair of pants.”
“Why are you wearing a sweater around your waist?”
“To hide the rip in my pants.”
“You’re not leaving the house wearing that.”
“I have to go to court today. Cathy said I have to wear a suit.”
He sat down at the table. There was a loud rip from his pants.
“You are not leaving the house dressed like that.”
“I have to be at the courthouse at ten.”
“Go to a store and buy a sport coat, a pair of dress pants, and a shirt that fits. The stores open at nine, and it’ll only take you a couple of minutes to find something that will fit.
“Change into your jeans and tee shirt before you go.”
Benny wondered why he was getting so many odd looks on his way through the courthouse. He ignored everyone and concentrated on finding the room where Cathy’s hearing was supposed to take place. It was just a few minutes before 10:00 and he was starting to get desperate.
At 72, Gladys giggled like a little girl when Benny entered the room. She didn’t know if she was more surprised by the fact that she giggled, or by Benny’s outfit. The bailiff let loose one of those strangled snorting laughs that sounded remarkably like an elephant trumpeting. Others in the room just burst out laughing.
Cathy could see how upset he was getting and patted the seat next to her. “Sit down next to me.”
“Yes, Judge Lane?”
“I know you are a good boy and very smart. You and I have talked many times in the past. I also know that you are very respectful of authority. Thus, I hope that there’s a very good reason why you are wearing an orange Tuxedo in my court room. Would you please enlighten me?”
“It’s like this ... I went to put on my suit this morning and it didn’t fit. The pants wouldn’t close and the suit coat wouldn’t button. The sleeves were too short. I thought I was going to be sick. Cathy had insisted that I wear a suit, but that wasn’t going to happen. I tried putting on my best school clothes from last year. The seam in the back of the pants ripped.
“I tried to put things together, but my mother wouldn’t let me out of the house dressed like that.”
Judge Lane held up a hand. He looked at Benny and asked, “Out of curiosity. How were you dressed that your mother wouldn’t let you out of the house?”
“Well, I was wearing a pair of dress pants that had split in the back, but I had wrapped a sweater around my waist to cover it up. I was wearing the suit coat.”
“The suit coat that was too small?”
“You were wearing a sweater around your waist in August in Oklahoma?”
“Your mother has very good sense in not letting you out of the house like that.”
“Thank you. I’ll tell her you said that.”
“So how did we get from that to an orange Tuxedo?”
“She told me to put on my blue jeans and tee shirt. That I should stop at suit store and buy one on the way here. So that’s what I tried to do.
“You might find this surprising, but I’ve never really thought about where you buy a suit. I drove around for almost an hour. The only place I could find was the place that sold tuxedos. I figured a tuxedo is a kind of suit. So I bought one.”
“Did you pick out the orange one?”
“No. I tried a whole bunch of black ones on, but none of them fit. We tried the blues. None of them fit. This was the first one that fit. I was in hurry, so I bought it and came here.” Benny paused for a moment and then said, “This is not what I would wear, but this is an important day for Cathy. As her boyfriend I need to be here for her. It’s what a boyfriend is supposed to do. I got the best suit I could find and got here to support her.”
Judge Lane said, “When you came in I said that I hoped you had a good explanation. I’m pleased that you do.
“Cathy Peterson, I’m impressed that you didn’t laugh at him. Instead you patted the seat and told him to sit beside you. That’s what a very considerate and loving girlfriend should do and you did it. Benny is lucky to have found you.
“For those of you who laughed, I’d like to give you something to think about. Maybe in the future you might be able to control your reaction until you know all of the facts.
“I am a Marine. I served in the Korean Conflict. We were taught to overcome adversity and to accomplish the mission. I think any Marine hearing Benny’s story would pat him on the back and say, ‘Good job, Son.’ So let me say it. Good job, Son.”
“Thank you, Sir.”
“Now have a seat.”
While Benny sat down next to Cathy, Judge Lane straightened a stack of papers on his desk. He said, “We are present today to hear the petition for emancipation of Catherine Peterson. Would the next friend for Catherine Peterson please state her case?”
Next friend is odd sounding term, but it has a legal definition. It denotes the individual who represents a person, on behalf of that person, when he or she does not have the legal standing to represent themselves. As minor, Cathy did not have legal standing to petition on her own, so she required a next friend to do it for her. Mr. Weeks, a lawyer, was petitioning on her behalf.
After Mr. Weeks read the petition, the judge asked, “Are her parents present?”
“No, Your Honor.”
“Were they informed we were having the hearing today?”
“Yes, Your Honor.”
“Do you have explanation as to why they are not here?”
Mr. Weeks nodded his head and looked off to the side.
“It’s not very nice.”
“Let’s hear it, anyway.”
“Her mother said that this was just another attempt by her miserable excuse for a daughter to embarrass her parents in front strangers, and that they weren’t going to play that game. She hoped that Catherine would burn in hell for all of eternity.”
A look of extreme anger crossed Judge Lane’s face.”One of the first things that we are to establish in a petition of this nature is what is in the best interest of the child. Based on everything I’ve heard, I would say that separating the child from her parents in this case serves the greater good.”
He took a moment to get control of his anger. “Does the petitioner have a place to live?”
“Yes. She’s living with Gladys Parker.”
“Is Gladys Parker present?”
Moving with the awkward deliberation of the aged, Gladys rose slowly. Cathy stood to help Gladys stand by giving her a hand. The elderly woman answered, “I’m here, Your Honor.”
“There’s no need for you to stand. Please have a seat.”
“How long has been she living with you?”
“It’s been about two months.”
“How is it working out?”
“I just love having her around the house. She’s such a sweet girl.”
“Thank you,” she said.
“Mr. Weeks, can the petitioner support herself?”
“Yes. She has a job with Two Guys Working.”
“That’s your company, isn’t it, Benny?”
“What does she do there?”
“She’s our office manager and bookkeeper. She is boss of a landscaping crew, a cleaning crew, and a curb painting crew.”
“How much does she earn?”
“Four thousand dollars a year. I know it’s not much, but it’s a lot for someone who is working part time.”
“You and Tim aren’t paying her that much money just to help her out, are you?”
“No, sir. She’s helping to generate about a fifth of the gross brought into Two Guys Working.”
“What kind of gross are we talking about?”
Cathy answered, “The gross is a little over eighty-three thousand, so far this calendar year.”
“I’m impressed. How much do you expect to gross during the rest of this year?”
“Around another twenty thousand. Most of our income is in the summer when we can mow lawns and paint curbs. Towards the end of September, that revenue will start to drop significantly.”
“How many people do you have working at your company? It sounds like you have more than two.”
“At the current time, we’re fluctuating at around thirty-three people. In the winter, that will drop considerably.”
“Are all of these people teenagers?”
“Yes, Your Honor.”
“How much do you pay them?”
“Three dollars an hour.”
“Minimum wage is two-ten.”
“We know. The people working for us are driving. Most of them are making a car payment, paying insurance, and buying gasoline. They want a little money to pay for dates. We feel that the extra makes a big difference in how our people view the job.”
“I had no idea that Two Guys Working was that big.”
“We’re still trying to find ways to grow.”
“Impressive. Mr. Weeks what arrangements are being made with respect to her schooling?”
“She’s currently an honor student. She’s enrolled for the upcoming school year and is anticipating admission to the work/study program as soon as someone can sign the papers on her behalf, or her emancipation. This will allow her to work and to continue her education. It’s my understanding from the principal of her school that she’s currently in running for Salutatorian of her class.”
“Thank you, Mr. Weeks.”
Judge Lane looked around the room. “Is there anyone present who has any concerns about the emancipation of Catherine Peterson?”