I’m a naturally impatient person, and I hate being late (especially for a friend), so a queue of traffic on a cold, rainy morning was particularly unwelcome. It turned out to be one of those shopping delivery vans, half on the pavement and half in the road, so that the rush hour traffic was forced to practice politeness and good manners by taking turns every few cars to let the opposing queue of traffic pass.
Needless to say, there were some jerks for whom ‘politeness’ and ‘good manners’ were alien concepts.
I tagged myself onto the end of six cars which had already broken through (other groups of cars had consisted of three or four, but if the driver ahead of me was being a pushy asshat, well, so was I being). For good measure, I stuck my middle finger up at the delivery boy, still sat in his seat, ignoring the melee, and called him a [no, I really can’t say that here] as I scudded past, my nose aimed firmly for the courthouse.
The rest of the streets were mercifully clear (save for a few idiots on bicycles, pottering along in the middle of the road, and one of those mobility scooter things, which should NEVER EVER be allowed off the pavement – the driver of which, jumped satisfactorily as I stridently blared my horn at him on my way past) and I rolled through the impressive wrought-iron gates to find a parking space, just as the clock turned half-an-hour-later-than-I-should’ve-been.
I slammed into a parking space, and legged it across the car park, then ran back having forgotten to lock the car. Hair a mess, once-neat outfit now looking distinctly worse for wear, I jogged towards the entrance, trying very hard to look like a busy professional rather than someone who was about to be in the dock.
Doing that FastImportant power-walk through the corridors, smelling polish, paper and lies, I found the courtroom numbered on the letter I held clutched in my hand. I paused outside the wooden doors, used my sleeve to wipe the sheen from my forehead, knocked and went in.
I turned around to check the room number again, and as I did, saw her sat on a wooden bench opposite the courtroom, swinging her heels and looking at me ruefully.
I hang my head and shuffle over, the picture of contrition.
She crosses her arms and pointedly turns her head away from me, sticking her chin in the air.
I kneel before her, taking her hand and kissing it.
“I’m so, so, so, so, so sorry! There was traffic and a delivery van and a little old man on a scooter and…”
Her chin juts further into the air and she turns her body the furthest away from me she possibly can without breaking in half.
Damn. I know what this means.
I prostrate myself fully on the floor, smart clothes in the courthouse dust and hug her feet, kissing the toes of her shoes until she relents, baffs me around the back of the head and giggles that I’m totally crazy. I nip her on the ankle, making her shriek, then clamber up onto the bench beside her.
“What happened then?” I ask
It had been Christmas Eve when I’d received a frantic phonecall from her, in hysterics, shouting something about a nightmare and a car and ruined. I let her babble for a few minutes before cutting her short, telling her that I couldn’t decipher a word, and that wine, and I, would be there shortly.
When I arrived, I saw what looked like the problem – the storms of the previous night had wreaked havoc across the city, and here, in the closeted little car park, she’d left her car in precisely the wrong place. The single, solitary tree had been felled by the almighty winds. Right on top of her Toyota.
The resulting bureaucracy (mixed with clipboard nazis who were bitter about working over Christmas, and the bottle and a half of wine we imbibed shortly after the tears stopped) had been a nightmare, and in the end, solicitors had been called to determine who would take financial responsibility and a court date set.
A court date I had missed!
“I’m not sure, darling” she tells me, her voice cautious “I *think* I won…!”
“Go on,” I urge her “give me the blow-by-blow account.”
“Well. We were there, and They had about sixteen bajlillion solicitors and all of them looked mean, like hungry wolves, and there was just me and Lacey at our table, with our small bundle of papers in our hands and truth in our hearts…”
I roll my eyes
“…then the judge entered, and we all had to stand in utmost deferential total complete respect, so I gave him a quick bow and namaste, to get Good on my side, then They started. They were so nasty, darling! They forced me into the witness stand and made me read out highlighted sections of my insurance policy which said that I wasn’t protected against an Act of God. And they thought they’d won…”
I widen my eyes, encouraging her story
“…but they hadn’t because as soon as they were finished, Lacey got up and asked the judge, oh-so-sweetly-and-politely whether she might submit a pertinent science-based publication as a rebuttal to the clause. She pulled out a copy of Dawkins’ The God Delusion and told the judge that since even eminent scientists are unable to prove that God exists, His acts have no place in policy.”
I’m unable to restrain a giggle. Lacey’s turned out to be a damn good solicitor, and all the better for knowing her before she took to law school (mate’s rates are not to be sneezed at).
“They were stumped for a few moments, and talked and growled amongst themselves in a way that only sixteen bajillion wolf-like solicitors could, then one of them prowled back towards the witness box, and I don’t mind telling you, I was quaking in my Choos – he looked SO mean. He pulled out his iPad and requested that he submit new evidence – a recently published journal article…but get this – by a druid!”
“A druid?” I echo, gobsmacked “Why on earth did they want to go bringing a druid into things?”
Her voice hushes, and her eyes sparkle “Well, darling, apparently druids believe that there is no God and there is no Not-God, and they attribute everything formerly labelled an ‘Act of God’ to ‘Mother Nature’, and the slimy-schemey-wolfman was trying to suggest that Acts of Mother Nature should also be covered and inherent within the title of ‘Act of God’, and as Dawkins never refuted druids, they should win!”
I slam my hand down onto the wooden bench, the slap echoing throughout the corridor and making several nearby business-suited execs roll their eyes and tut in disapproval. I stick my tongue out at them before turning back to her “What next then?”
She giggles musically “By that time, Lacey was all puffed-up with magic and ready to go. She came back into the game with sparkles and some ancient Greek something which described Mother Nature as the outworkings of the gods, to which They rejoindered with the idea that if we were back to gods, then perhaps Thor was responsible for having a tantrum and flattening my car with his hammer, then putting a tree there to make it look like he wasn’t responsible, in which case we were back to Acts of god, and I still wasn’t covered.”
I cluck my tongue and motion for her to continue.
“Lacey waltzed up to the judge’s podium at that point, and put on her best ever ‘little-girl-in-front-of-the-wolves’ smile (you know the one) and asked him sweetly if he really thought that this Marvel-ous tale of Athenian proportions was really going to fly in a court trying to decide whether or not a poor, struggling damsel (that’s me) was going to be left high and dry, without her only source of transport, her gateway to participation in our country’s economy and as such, a fundament to the state of her financial and psychological wellbeing.
My goodness, it was positively delicious, and the judge burst into this delightfully twinkly kindly-grandpa-like laugh, and adjourned us all. So I came out here to wait for you and make you feel utterly wretched for not being here in my hour of need.”
“Well you certainly did that!” I counter, smiling and punching her lightly in the shoulder.
“Now we go for coffee, and await the tippy-tappy sound of Lacey’s footsteps flying across the floor to tell us the good news that we’ve WON, and that I can get those nasty wolves to pay for a new car for me.”
We sit in relative silence in the coffee shop, sipping and watching our thoughts evaporate with the steam.
Eventually a squeal is heard from far off, getting louder and accompanied by the sound of tippy-tappy footsteps as Lacey bursts in and flings herself at us both, barely giving us time to abandon cup before we catch her.
“Who’s buying me a drink then?” she demands, glowing
I volunteer, and stand in the queue, fidgetting, watching as she tries to get Lacey to spill the beans, but to no avail. As soon as the double-tall, no-fat, mochalatte (with a giant triple-choc cupcake) is ready, I whizz back to the table to hear the pronouncement.
“They’ll pay. You get your car. Which is great, yeah, but there’s a snag”
We stop, mid-cheer, our celebrations caught in our throats – “The hell do you mean there’s a snag?!?!??!” we yell in tandem.
“You have to pay court costs.” Lacey delivers this with an inscrutable look.
Our faces fall as we imagine the huge expense incurred by fighting this thing – probably far, far more than even a brand-new car would be worth. She sinks her head into her hands, slumping against the table, all the joy sucked out of her by the news.
“How will I ever afford that, darling?” she asks Lacey weakly.
Lacey cracks a grin and hands over a piece of paper “Your bill for court costs, Milady.”
She opens it, hands trembling, and pulls out the statement within, eyes narrowed, shielding herself from its justice.
Then rockets into the air, her face alight with wonder, and the air around her filling with the loudest, most incredulously joyful string of swear words I’ve heard her utter in a long time.