April Green was terribly disappointed to learn that life wasn’t always fair. She had done everything absolutely right—perfectly correct, in fact—and here she was standing in front of a judge who was sitting up high on his mahogany perch, peering down at her while she clutched her purse to her chest.
She was in court today because she had not paid a couple of parking tickets. Why such a big fuss? When the policeman pulled her over it was because she did not have current registration tags on her license plate. She had smiled and told him that they were in her glove box and she had just forgotten to put them on. Then she opened her glove box, and out spilled dozens of ignored or forgotten parking tickets onto the passenger side floor. April was surprised and laughed. “Why look at that,” she had said as her giggles became louder. The policeman did not share her sense of humor. It seems than in the sea of tickets were a few moving violations sandwiched in between the parking tickets, and that had led to her arrest. There were six moving violations to be exact, but April recalled few of them. Safe in the glove box of her car and out of sight, April never thought about the tickets until today.
As the judge admonished her for being irresponsible and reckless, April’s eyes wandered to the wall behind him. On the Seal of the State emblem hanging behind the judge’s perch (was it hanging or was it glued, she wondered) she thought she saw a fly. It was moving toward her and appeared to have a message for her. She could not hear what the judge said, but her eyes darted back to his when he told her she would have to pay the tickets. “Do you understand?” he was saying, “Do you understand?” April nodded her head politely though she could not help but smirk. It wasn’t an intentional smirk, just something she did when she was not quite sure of her self. “I do,” she said and then she stifled a laugh. She was standing in front of a judge, all by herself and saying, “I do.”
“Where’s the groom,” she grinned.
“What,” asked the judge, frowning. “What did you say?”
“Nothing,” smiled April, “just where is the groom?”
Evidently the judge was not amused. “I do not want to see you back here, Ms. Green. “Do you understand?” And again April tried to swallow a laugh. She nodded her head, repeating the words “I do.” Quickly she looked at her feet while her shoulders shook ever so slightly. Why is it that when you try not to laugh it makes you laugh more, she wondered.
It wasn’t just that the ignored and un-paid tickets got her arrested; it was that the first ticket seemed so terribly wrong. She had only run into the shop for a moment to look at the small cat in the window and that had led to a conversation with the shop owner who told her about the cat and how it curled up in the window each day and greeted customers. April had spent an hour or so talking to the cat, while the shop owner kept asking her if she needed to get to work. Didn’t she have someplace she had to be, she asked April? “Isn’t that your car, dear “ the shop keeper had said, and April ran out of the store having not finished her conversation with the shop owner or the cat–that was when she got the first parking ticket.
It didn’t seem fair that her back was turned and she was admiring and cooing over the cat and truly understood what the cat was telling her. It wasn’t right. She ripped the parking ticket from the windshield wiper that held it in place and put it straight away into the glove box, slamming it as she did.
She couldn’t remember how the other parking tickets, let alone the moving violations came about. It was just so hard to find parking places and it was so unfair that you had to pay for them when you were contributing to the community by shopping and establishing relationships with people and animals there. She had established a relationship with the woman who owned the cat in the window. She had established a relationship with the cat. Isn’t that what was important about community, she wondered. How could a judge accuse her of being reckless or irresponsible? She thought about telling him of the cat; thought that it might make a difference if he knew, but the judge seemed cranky, so she kept the story, her “reason” to herself.
April Green stopped at a little window inside the courthouse where they tallied up her tickets and her moving violations and she wrote a check. It was a large check. It was a check that she hoped would not hit the bank before she could ask her mother or her brother to please cover it. It was a check that she should really not have to write, she thought. Yes, life was unfair, and she signed the check sliding it across the counter to the clerk.
Driving back through the canyon she laughed to herself about standing in front of the judge and saying “I do.” Her shoulders began to shake, a little at first and then harder and suddenly she found herself pulled over by the side of the road and heaving great sobs. When the policeman stopped his car behind her with the red lights flashing, she cried even harder. She rolled down her window and handed him a tissue. She could not find her license and each time the policeman asked for license and registration, she handed him a tissue. She could not form the words to tell him why she was crying. In fact she wasn’t sure herself.
Today April Green lives in a small room of a large building, set back among a group of pine and birch. It’s quiet there. The state has taken away her driver’s license. She attends a beading class on Mondays and a weaving class on Thursdays. When she is not doing those things, she sits on a bench on a hill at the top of the garden where she can see the traffic going by and counts the cars wondering how many tickets, how many unclaimed stories, live in the glove box of each passing vehicle.