The Hearing of Rufus Ridiculous
by John J. McNally
“Your Honor, we are here today to determine the mental competency of the defendant, Mr. Ridiculous. My client, William Smith, is his brother, and seeks to get legal control of Mr. Ridiculous’ affairs.”
The judge glanced over to the defendant sitting, without counsel, on the defendant’s bench. The man certainly looked his name. He wore a pastel blue shirt with an oversized red bow tie, and a bright yellow blazer. Judge Harold Bartholomew frowned; he was not going to set off this loose cannon in his court without someone to leash him, or lash him down if necessary.
“Mr. Ridiculous, please rise.” The judge was tired from too much whiskey the night before, and that blazer wasn’t helping his hangover.
“Call me Rufus, Your Honor.” The man stood, revealing pants that matched his shirt exactly, and a belt that matched his tie.
“Sir,” the judge patted himself for sidestepping the issue. “Where is your counsel?”
“At home, Your Honor. They don’t like to travel much, especially in the rain.”
The judge tried not to grab his head. Fortunately he would be able to get this over with quickly.
“Just exactly who is your counsel, sir?”
“Why, Mr. Feebles, of course. Prescott C. Feebles – the finest feline felony you ever met! Here’s a picture.”
This drew a chuckle from the room, including the judge, though he tried not to show it, therefore further encouraging the man.
“This case will be held over until county psychologists can assess Mr. Ridiculous, until such time he will be placed into a state facility for observation. Is this acceptable to you, counsel? The judge looked directly at Mr. Sirrus, the counsel for Mr. Smith.
“Yes, Your Honor.”
“Excuse me, Your Honor, but you forgot to ask me.” Mr. Ridiculous had maintained a simplistic grin on his face throughout the proceedings, it didn’t waver now.
“Mr. Ridiculous, it is my opinion that you are not currently competent to defend yourself. I am putting it into the record that you are to be represented with a public defender next time you appear in this court room.”
“Well, I certainly respect your opinion, after all, you’re a very snappy dresser, but I have not yet ascertained what my place is here, and I’m not sure that you can make that decision for me. How do I know that this will not interfere with my work?”
“Will counsel please approach the bench.” The thought that this man even held some sort of job seemed unlikely to the judge, however there were always programs.
“Is Mr. Ridiculous employed?”
“We don’t know, Your Honor. Because of a prior restraining order, my client is not allowed on the defendant’s premises. Because of the defendant’s obvious mental imbalance, we are in the process of having that order removed.”
The judge sighed deeply; this was getting worse and worse. “Counsel, I’m finding myself getting more than a little confused here. I would like to see a copy of that restraining order, please.”
Mr. Sirrus went to his desk and pulled some papers out of his briefcase, and brought them to the bench.
The judge glanced quickly at the papers before him, it seemed that Mr.Ridiculous had filed a report with the police for an assault by his brother several years ago. Since that was a different branch of the courts, however, it didn’t prevent Mr. Smith from taking legal action now, nor could the defendant use it as part of his defense.
Judge Bartholomew decided to bite the bullet and call Mr. Ridiculous forward.
“Now sir, I’d like to ask you a few questions.”
“Yes, Your Honor.” Mr. Ridiculous beamed.
“You mentioned that you are employed. Who do you work for?”
“Oh, lots of people. I don’t know them all by name. Lots of kids too, I love kids. They’re the only ones who make sense.”
Stifling an inward groan, the judge plowed on. “Do you get paid for this work?”
“Of course! Sometimes I get hugs and kisses too, that’s the best part!”
“Mr. Ridiculous,” the judge winced inwardly as he said the name. The remains of his hangover dug in deep, causing pain to shoot through his temples. “Is there anyone who helps you with your money, someone who manages it for you?”
“Oh yes, Your Honor, that would be Mr. Piddleman, he’s real good with money.”
“Excuse me, Your Honor.” Mr. Smith stood up. “For the record sir, Mr. Piddleman is the name of Robert’s teddy bear.”
Unfazed by the interruption, Mr. Ridiculous turned to his brother like a correcting parent. “It’s Rufus, dear. I had it legally changed – remember?”
“Order!” the judge rapped his gavel once. “Mr. Ridiculous, I’m sorry for any inconvenience that this may cause you, but I’m holding to my original assessment. Furthermore, since there is obviously a history of disagreement between you and your brother, after you have been examined we will hold a formal hearing. Adjourned!”
The bailiff came to lead Mr. Ridiculous away. “This wasn’t in the script,” said Mr. Ridiculous, he looked down at his shirt as he was led away. “Oh, I see! Sure I can do that! But will you help me with the tough ones?”
The bailiff just shook his head in wonderment. Despite the outlandish clothes and strange behavior, he rather liked this guy, so he decided to be easy when he cuffed him.
* * *
“Hello Rufus. I’d like to ask you a few questions. ” The man was Dr. Ettas, a clinical psychologist.
“Sure, Doc! They have some really great stuff here, but the food is awful! Why won’t they let me cook my own food?”
Dr. Ettas smiled, “Well they can’t risk any of the patients getting hurt in the kitchen. Now Rufus, do you know what year this is?”
“By which calendar?” asked Rufus. “I can give it to you in western, Hebrew, Egyptian, or Incan.”
“Um, western would be fine.” Dr. Ettas wondered if Rufus was a pathological liar, or an idiot savant.
“The year is 1998, the date is March 30th, and the time according to your watch is 11:35, which I’ll assume is based on Eastern Standard Time. If I was home I could give you the local mean time as well.”
Dr. Ettas studied Rufus’ smiling face and made a note on his pad. He was betting on some kind of savant at this point.
“Rufus, do you know how to read?” Dr. Ettas was fairly sure that Rufus did read at some level, but this was a standard competency question.
“Yes sir, in six languages, including Latin and Tolkien’s Elvish script.”
“Oh really? And how did you learn that?”
“The elves taught me, of course. Tolkien misinterpreted a lot of it, but the basics were there to get started. The elves taught me the rest themselves.”
“So you don’t believe that Tolkien’s works were fiction?”
“To be more precise, Doc, there’s no such thing as fiction. Everything is real.”
“Hmm,” the doctor marked his pad again. “Do you realize that most people don’t believe the same way as you?”
“I’d think that was obvious!” Rufus almost sounded indignant. “Look at the sad colorless way in which everyone dresses. There is no joy among them. Where is your joy, Doc? Your clothes are as gray as your hair. Like some battleship that learned to walk on land. Be honest – I’m the funniest thing that’s happened to you all day.”
“Why do you think everyone is less happy than you – simply by the way they choose to dress?” Dr. Ettas was beginning to have a new respect for this man. Perhaps he was not so insane as eccentric.
“It’s not just the clothes, though it’s an obvious place to begin. Your desk for example. On it is a picture of your wife and family. The picture is old, stale. You haven’t replaced it because they’ve become stale in your head. The paper cup of coffee next to them is mostly full. You buy it out of habit, fearing that you’ll want it when it’s not around, so it sits and grows stale. Then there’s the dust on your window sill and the faded look of these cushions. You’re a nice guy, Doc, but I gotta tell ya, you’ve gone stale. If I had my clothes I’d give you my belt, it would liven you up a lot.”
“Well, those are interesting observations, but we are here to talk about you.” Avoidance was a typical patient tactic. Dr. Ettas was no longer impressed. “Why do you think you are here today?”
“Well, it wasn’t for the lunch, that’s for sure! Actually I’m here to talk to you, to let you know that things don’t have to be stale just because time passes. Buy new clothes.”
“Uh huh. Now, do you remember telling the judge about your cat?”
“Oh yes, I don’t think he liked me very much.”
“I’m sure the judge liked you just fine. I think he’s just concerned for your safety – we all are. Now, you told the judge that your lawyer was also your cat, do you remember that?”
“Of course. He’s Mr. Feebles, I’d show you his picture but it’s with my clothes. How come these pajamas don’t have any pockets, they’re not very useful without them.”
“Now, how can Mr. Feebles be both your cat and your lawyer?”
“Practice, lots of practice, and an occasional can of tuna fish!” Mr. Ridiculous chortled.
“Rufus, it’s impossible for a cat to be a lawyer, he’s an animal.”
“My, your world is narrow! Of course he’s an animal, with the exception of your plant over there, we’re all animals.”
“But he’s got to be human to be a lawyer, don’t you think so.”
“You’d think so wouldn’t you,” smiled Rufus. “I don’t question how he does it, after all he’s a very good lawyer.”
* * *
“Good morning Mr. Ridiculous, my name is Mr. Danneum and I’ll be representing you in court. Do you know what that means?” Mark Danneum studied his client with the same degree of disinterest that had ruled his professional life for the last ten years.
“But Mr. Feebles is my lawyer.” explained Rufus.
Fortunately, the psychologist had noted this in his report so Mark was ready for it.. “Yes, but he’s not here, and the hearing is tomorrow. I’m here to represent your best interests, to make sure we figure out what is best for you, okay?”
“Sure, but what’s in it for you?” Rufus smiled at Mark like they were old friends.
“This is my job. I get paid to help people like you.”
“Hmm, then it stands to reason that you don’t work very much, since there’s no one else like me. Good choice for a job man!”
Mark couldn’t tell if this man was kidding him or not. He smiled blandly and continued on. “Is there someone else, besides your brother that is, someone whom you would like to have take care of you?”
“I don’t need to be taken care of sir, as it is I’m carrying an awful burden for the lot of you, just by agreeing to be here.”
“That may be so Mr. Ridiculous, but the psychologist’s report says that you are delusional; quite frankly I don’t see anyway in which we can argue against that.”
“Mr. Feebles will know. He’s a great lawyer.”
“Is there anyway you can contact him?” Mark Danneum was rapidly losing his patience. He wondered why he should even care about keeping this man out of his brother’s hands. Perhaps it was the feel of that man that Mark didn’t like. There was more going on there than the concerned brother facade.
“Oh, he knows I’m here, but he hates the rain, so he hasn’t come for me yet. He’ll be here tomorrow.”
“Well if he does show up, I’ll gladly turn over the defense to him.” sighed Mark.
“Until then I’ll try and track down any other family members, maybe there’s someone else who can help take care of you. Otherwise, I strongly advise that we plead “no contest” and allow the court to give only restricted privileges to your brother.”
“That will not be acceptable. Besides what fun would that be? You’ve got to be having fun, Mr. Danneum. It’s the only true motivating force in the universe.”
* * *
The next morning was the hearing – it was 9:00 a.m. and the sun was beaming in through the windows of the counsel chambers. In an effort to make his client presentable, Mark Danneum had brought an old gray sport jacket, and a paisley tie for him to wear. Mr. Ridiculous, of course, flatly refused. He would wear his clothes only. In the middle of the debate, a roundish man in his forties walked into the room, smiling. The man wore a brown suit, completely out of fashion and totally inappropriate for the courtroom. To make matters worse, he wore the tiniest of red bow ties, making him look almost as silly as Mr. Ridiculous.
“Mr. Feebles at last!” Rufus jumped up and hugged the man. “This has been fun but I miss our morning breakfasts with Mr. Piddleman.”
“I know Rufus, that’s why he is here too. He’ll be up in a second. Mr. Feebles voice was smooth and coolly professional.
“You’re the famous Mr. Feebles that Mr. Ridiculous has spoken so highly of. I hesitate to ask this sir, but are you really a lawyer?” Mark Daneum had seen some interesting characters in the law profession. But all had been carefully tailored to win juries. But this wasn’t a jury trial, it was a hearing. And Judge Bartholomew wasn’t known for his good humor.
Mr. Feebles laughed, a deep throaty kind of laugh. “Would you like to see my diploma sir? Columbia University Class of 1977. He shook Mark’s hand with vigor. At that moment, a very large figure filled the doorway.
“Ahh, Piddleman, so good of you to join us.” Mr. Feebles said.
Rufus jumped up and hugged the man while Mark studied him. He was at least six foot four, and probably weighed around 300 pounds. He wore tiny horn rimmed glasses, blue jeans, a bright green polo shirt, and a pastel blue vest. Mark could only assume that they shopped in the same stores.
“Well, I guess you won’t be needing me anymore. I’ll just be on my way,” said Mark as he reached for his briefcase.
“No! No sir, please!” said Rufus urgently. “You’re the whole reason we’re here!”
“I’m afraid that I don’t understand.”
“That’s part of your problem, sir, you are afraid not to understand! When you look at life closely, nothing ever makes any sense. Remember that.” Rufus managed to somehow sound joyful and serious at the same time.
“Gentlemen, I believe we are due in court,” advised Mr. Feebles.
As the group entered the courtroom, they drew stares and chuckles from the onlookers. This was by far one of the most colorful and interesting sights this courtroom had ever seen. By far though, the worst reaction came from Rufus’ brother.
“You!” he exclaimed, pointing at Mr. Feebles. “Who the hell are you that you represent my brother, then just disappear into the night! What sort of sick agenda do you have going – ” His words were cut off by Mr. Sirrus’ hand literally covering his mouth.
William Smith glared across the room at the spectacle that was his brother, and his companions. His brother had always been somewhat quirky, but untill 3 years ago, William had always been able to cover for him.
Three years ago, Robert Smith legally changed his name to Rufus Ridiculous, and summarily quit the respectable corporate job which William had provided for him. Rufus had also been seen talking to himself quite frequently, frankly he had become a personal and professional embarrasment to the family.
William had approached his brother at home, informing him that his behavior was unacceptable and would not be tolerated. In some childish act of defiance, Rufus had arranged some sort of trick, one that infuriated Will beyond the point of reason. Rufus had some how managed to put a recording of their dead father’s voice inside his stuffed teddy bear. William slashed open the bear, and accidently cut Rufus’ hand in the process. Then within seconds, that strange fat man in the brown suit had appeared, bringing two police officers with him.
Judge Bartholomew had made a promise to himself not to drink the night before this hearing, then he broke it and drank twice as much to punish himself. Before he stepped out of his chambers, he downed four aspirin. He heard the commotion outside and silently vowed to throw whoever was responsible in jail for contempt. Fortunately for Mr. Smith, things were settled as the judge stepped outside.
As they rose before the judge, he looked at the cartoonish group in the defendant’s box. The public defender looked as if he were trying to crawl away and hide. “Will counsel please approach the bench,” he said grimly. His eyes began to water as Mr. Feebles walked up next to Mr. Daneum.
“Mr. Sirrus, I recognize. Who may I ask are you two gentlemen.”
“Mark Danneum PD, Your Honor, we’ve met once before.”
“Prescott C. Feebles, Your Honor, attorney for Mr. Ridiculous.”
“I thought you were a cat.” The judge glanced toward Mr. Ridiculous, wondering if this whole thing were some elaborate April Fool’s joke.
Mr. Feebles just smiled, “You would be surprised how often I hear that.”
“Is it your intention, sir, to work with the public defender?” Judge Bartholomew wanted to make it clear that the taxpayers weren’t picking up the tab for this one.
“Yes, sir. We consider Mr. Danneum’s presence invaluable.”
“Then are you prepared to cover the cost of his fee? The state will not pay for his presence here.”
“We are prepared to assume full responsibility, Your Honor.”
The judge agreed, wondering what the hell he would be getting into.
“Mr. Sirrus, are you ready?”
“Yes, Your Honor.” Mr. Sirrus was dressed in a slate gray suit, his sky blue tie just peaking through the vest. His thinning hair was also gray, with small streaks of color running through it like forgotten children. On some men this would have looked distinguished, but on Mr. Sirrus it just looked sad.
“Your Honor. My client, Mr. William Smith, is the brother of the defendant. It is his belief, which has now been corroborated by the state appointed psychiatrist, that Mr. Rufus Ridiculous, formerly known as Robert Smith, is not mentally competent to handle his own affairs.”
“Mr. Feebles, how does your client respond to this charge?”
“Your Honor, my client maintains that these allegations are totally false. His brother is interested solely in taking control of my client’s rather substantial estate.”
“That’s a lie, Your Honor!” Mr. Smith jumped up from his seat. “He’s barely got a pot to piss in! I don’t even know how he’s making ends meet!”
“Order!” Judge Bartholomew slammed his gavel, then immediately regretted it.
“The next outburst will result in a night in jail, is that clear, sir?”
“Yes, Your Honor. I’m sorry.” Mr. Smith sat down again, looking very meek.
“Your Honor,” said Mr. Sirrus. “I would like to call Mr. Ridiculous to the stand.”
Mr. Ridiculous bounded to his feet and practically ran to the witness box. It was only then that Judge Bartholomew noticed that his shoes were red too.
“Mr. Ridiculous, how are you feeling this morning?” asked Mr. Sirrus.
“I’m feeling great. My two best friends are with me, the earth is revolving steadily, and you almost, not quite, but almost, have changed your plans to give up on life.”
“Your Honor, may I request that the last remark be stricken from the record?” Mr. Sirrus looked as if someone had stepped on his foot.
“Agreed. Clerk, pleased delete Mr. Ridiculous’ last remark from the record.”
“Thank you, Your Honor. Now, to continue: Do you know why your are here today sir?”
“Depending on the perspective, there are many reasons why I am here, would you like the answer from the scientific perspective, beginning from the big bang?”
In other circumstances, Mr Sirrus would have been more than happy to let Mr. Ridiculous rant, fully damning himself in the process; however, Judge Bartholemew wasn’t known for his paitence.
“Perhaps I should re-phrase the question. Mr. Ridiculous, can you explain to me the purpose of this hearing?” This question showed concern for Mr. Ridiculous’ mental well being, while remaining completely harmless if answered correctly.
“Oh sure! That’s easy.” Mr. Ridiculous smiled to everyone in the room. “The purpose of this hearing is an attempt of my brother William to gain control over my life.”
“You do understand that your brother is only concerned for your well being?”
“No sir, I do not. My brother no longer feels love, he hasn’t for a long time. He never recovered from the shock of our father’s death many years ago. He felt betrayed, angered, and he’s made a concerted effort to tighten his grip on everything he holds dear since then. You can’t love someone by strangling them dear brother, or attacking them with a knife.”
Mr. Sirrus looked quickly to his client to see that he didn’t lose his cool. “Your Honor, I move that everything after the words ‘no sir I do not.’ be stricken from the record.”
“Motion denied.” The judge’s red rimmed eyes stared down at Mr. Sirrus. “The defendant is allowed to express his opinion of his brother’s motivations, however the last sentence in which he addressed his brother directly, will be stricken.”
“Yes your honor.” Mr. Sirrus was blown back a bit by the judges rebuke. However, he still had sufficent power to strike.
“Mr. Ridiculous, when you were here last time, you claimed that your lawyer was a cat. Do you recall this?”
“Yes, sir. And I maintain that he is indeed a cat. Not your ordinary cat, I’ll agree, but a cat nonetheless.” Mr. Ridiculous looked across the room, his smile easily deflected his brother’s acid gaze.
“Tell me, Mr. Ridiculous, when you look at Mr. Feebles sitting across the room, does he look like a cat?”
“No, but that’s the best part! Unless you’re really observant, you’d never know!” He laughed.
“I see,” said Mr. Sirrus satisfied that he made his point. “What kind of work do you do, Mr. Ridiculous?
“It depends on the circumstances. Today I’m working as a defendant, tomorrow I might be entertaining children. There’s really no reason to anything, it’s just the way we misinterpret the events of our lives.” Mr. Ridiculous smiled at the judge.
“But you don’t actually get paid for this work, do you, Mr. Ridiculous?”
“I will accept pay as it comes to me, but it is not my motivation. I go where I can do the most good, and have the most fun. That’s my quest!”
“So then, sir, how do you pay your bills?” Mr. Sirrus asked. Behind him, Mr. Smith smirked.
“I let Mr. Piddleman handle that. He’s much better at that kind of thing.”
“Mr. Ridiculous, isn’t it true that Mr. Piddleman is a teddy bear?” This drew a chuckle from the spectators in the aisles.
“Yes, sir, he is.”
“Yet you maintain that Mr. Piddleman is in charge of all your financial affairs.”
“Your Honor, we rest our case.”
The judge looked at the three smiling men, still wondering if there was some April Fool’s surprise waiting in the wings. “Mr. Feebles, do you wish to question your client?”
“Yes, Your Honor.” He glided smoothly across the floor, his brown shoes making almost no noise on the cold gray tiles. “Rufus, is Mr. Piddleman in this room?”
“Of course, he’s right there.” Rufus pointed out Mr. Piddleman, who was waiting patiently.
Mr. Smith and Mr.Sirrus were speaking in hushed whispers. Finally Mr. Sirrus stood. “We object, Your Honor. We suspect duplicity on the part of the defense.”
Mr. Smith glared at Mr. Feebles. Where had his brother found this lunatic? And how had he managed to outmaneuver his lawyers, his very expensive Harvard graduate lawyers.
“Mr. Feebles, please approach the bench.” the judge looked down at him through bushy eyebrows. “Are you prepared to have this Mr. Piddleman testify?”
“Yes, Your Honor. I will do so now if you like. However, I would like to reserve the right to recall Rufus to the stand.”
“Mr. Sirrus, do you have any objection?”
“No, Your Honor.” Mr. Sirrus looked extremely happy. If he could prove this Piddleman to be a fraud, both he and Feebles would be charged for perjury, and Feebles would be permanently disbarred. What a victory!
Rufus stepped down and Mr. Piddleman stepped up to the box. It looked like a child’s high chair in comparison to his great bulk, but he seemed comfortable enough.
“Mr. Piddleman, it seems there is some question as to your credentials. Do you have any identification to show the court?” Mr. Feebles smiled warmly toward his old friend. Behind him, Mr. Sirrus was smiling too. With one master stroke he would win this case for his client.
“Of course.” answered Mr. Piddleman. “Here is my driver’s license, a Visa card, and my library card. If further proof is required, I could have someone fax me a copy of my passport.”
“That will be fine,” said Judge Bartholomew. “I suppose that Mr. Sirrus will want a recess while we verify the authenticity of these documents.”
“Uh, yes, that’s correct, Your Honor.” Mr. Sirrus’ face clouded over. The judge had quite obviously stolen his thunder.
“This court will recess for lunch and resume again at 2:00 p.m.” Judge Bartholomew remembered to bang the gavel softly this time, and also remembered the fifth of scotch that was waiting by his lunch.
As the two parties filed out of the courtroom, Mr. Smith, who had chosen to wear a nearly black suit because it made him look thinner and more distinguished, snarled at Mr. Feebles. “We’ve got you this time, you smug bastard! Mr. Piddleman is the name of my brother’s teddy bear from when we were kids. I don’t know who this guy is, but he’s going down with you.”
Mr. Feebles just smiled. He was much too wise to respond to his opponent’s consternation. Mr. Sirrus was trying vainly to guide Mr. Smith in the other direction.
“Well, since we’re out in the city today, my friends, I suggest we have lunch at McDonalds,” said Rufus. Mr. Feebles and Mr. Piddleman both agreed heartily.
“Well guys, I’m afraid I’ll have to skip. I have to watch what I eat.” Mark found himself regretting not having lunch with these three men, but keeping to a proper diet was important to him.
“It always comes back to fear with you, doesn’t it, Mark?” Rufus looked at him kindly. “Would it help if I promised that nothing bad will happen if you eat in McDonalds today? Otherwise we could go wherever you want.”
Mark was truly flustered. He was afraid, but of what? It’s not like going off his diet once in a while was a problem, not even for the worst of all possible evils, fast food. He was actually two pounds under optimal weight when he woke up this morning, so he supposed he could risk it.
“Um, no, that’s okay, Rufus. McDonalds will be fine.” Mark consoled himself as they walked that McDonalds did serve salads, but he knew he wouldn’t order one.
After a brief debate with the counter person over why Happy Meals weren’t made for adults as well, with the wise advice that every meal should be encouraged to be as happy as possible, the four men settled into a booth and began eating.
“So what’s the deal with you and your brother anyway? Why is he so determined to get control of your affairs?” Mark asked while biting into his Quarter Pounder.
Rufus, who had a face full of Big Mac, just kind of waved it off.. Mr. Piddleman looked over at Mark.
“The man is nuts, a total control freak. He stabbed me in a fit of anger many years ago, I still have the scar.”
“Geez. I guess there’s no accounting for genetics,” said Mark, though in the back of his mind he worried that there was, and that Rufus might some how be capable of violence himself.
“So tell me about your family, Mark. I noticed a picture of your wife on the desk.” Rufus managed to ask this while acting out a mock duel with two french fries.
“Oh yeah, Carol, she’s the greatest, she loves me so much.”
“Ahh, but do you love her?”
“Of course I love her!” Mark didn’t like the direction this conversation was going. He was used to keeping the spotlight on his clients.
“But, do you love her as much as she loves you?” Rufus had finished playing with his french fries, and was now folding a paper napkin.
“Uh, yeah. I guess.” Mark faltered. He tried to recall the techniques he had learned for controlling conversations, but he went blank. Thank god this wasn’t in court, he thought.
“Poodle turds!” exclaimed Rufus, which even made Mr. Feebles and Mr. Piddleman look up. “You love her, you love her dearly and you know it. But you won’t let yourself love her with the same sort of abandon that she gives you. It’s that fear thing again. You’re afraid to really commit because you feel like you’ve got the edge here. You, sir, are safe. You can see how much she loves you, and you love her back just enough to keep her happy, but always hold back just a little, just so you can be sure you’re in control.”
“It’s the same reason you two stopped seeing your friends,” he continued
“You’ve got this fear inside you that says that if you are alone with another woman, you might get tempted into having sex with her. Well, I’ve got a message for you, Marky, straight from the big Cahuna in the sky, and yes, I do mean Jim Henson! The truth is that you love your wife too much to ever cheat on her, so let go of your fears and live a little!”
Rufus didn’t even look at Mark, he had finished making paper airplanes out of the napkin and looked down at his shirt pocket. “How’d I do?” he asked.
“Dad says that I did good, message delivered, we can go now.” Rufus smiled at a very dazed looking Mark.
“Um, how do you know all of this?” Mark knew he’d probably regret this question.
“It’s in your bearing, Marky, your handshake, your eyes when you talk to people. If you want to experience the magic of life, you have to let go of those barricades that surround you. And you do want to see the magic don’t you?”
Mark felt as if he was being sold something, part of him wanted to squirm away.
“There is no magic, Rufus. I gave up in believing in magic a long time ago.”
.”Fortunately for you, the magic never stopped believing in you. Open your eyes today and look around you, you’ll be astonished at what you see.”
“It’s time for us to go back,” Mr. Feebles announced.
* * *
Once back in the courtroom it was quickly established that Mr. Piddleman was who he claimed to be. The judge had the accusation of duplicity stricken from the record, and the proceeding continued.
“Mr. Piddleman. May I ask how you are associated with Mr. Ridiculous?”
“Aside from being long time friends, I serve as Mr. Ridiculous’ accountant and financial manager.”
“So you have in-depth knowledge of Mr. Ridiculous’ finances?” Mr. Feebles stepped lightly toward the prosecution, catching Mr. Smith’s hateful gaze.
“Yes, sir. Mr. Ridiculous always consults me before any major purchase. I also pay the bills, and manage his bank accounts.”
“It was stated earlier that Mr. Ridiculous ‘barely has a pot to piss in.’ Would you say that this is an accurate summation of his financial condition?”
“No, sir, it is not. While it is true that Mr. Ridiculous does not own any chamber pots that I am aware of, he has suitable funds to buy such an item if he wished.”
This drew a laugh from the courtroom. Judge Bartholomew glared at the large figure sitting on the witness box. “Sir, please refrain from snide remarks, and jokes while in my court.”
“Yes, Your Honor.” Mr. Piddleman seemed genuinely confused by the judge’s admonishing.
“Can you tell me roughly, how much Mr. Ridiculous has in his account right now?” Mr. Feebles looked a little nervous at the judge’s ire.
“Approximately ten million dollars in cash and equities. The entirety of the estate would take me longer to calculate.”
This bit of information even caused the judge to gasp. He called for order, and looked once again at the figure of Mr. Piddleman.
“Can you provide proof of this fortune, sir?”
“Yes, Your Honor. I brought the latest series of account statements with me. They’re in my briefcase on the desk.”
“Bailiff, please bring Mr. Piddleman his briefcase.”
After producing the documents, the judge studied them, then motioned for Mr. Sirrus to approach the bench.
“Sir, was your client aware of his brother’s financial condition?”
“No, Your Honor, he was not. As I stated earlier, my client has had no direct contact with his brother because of the restraining order.”
Mr. Piddleman looked as if he was going to say something, but Mr. Feebles hushed him quickly.
“I have no further questions for Mr. Piddleman, Your Honor, would my esteemed colleague care to question him?”
“Yes, thank you.” Mr. Sirrus straightened his tie as he rose, somehow managing to let less blue show through.
“Sir, might I ask you how Mr. Ridiculous came to earn this rather considerable bit of money?” Mr. Sirrus was hoping to find some weakness which would still win this case for his client.
“A large portion of the money came from the state, after Mr. Ridiculous won the lottery several years ago.”
Victory! thought Mr. Sirrus, a crackpot like Mr. Ridiculous no doubt spent the stuff freely. Proof of incompetent money handling would win this case for sure.
“How much money did Mr. Ridiculous originally win?”
“Twenty million dollars,” answered Mr. Piddleman. Mr. Sirrus bit his tongue to avoid showing any outward emotion.
“However, after the initial taxes, he was left with a little under nine million.” The disappointment was obvious on Mr. Sirrus face. “No further questions, Your Honor.”
“Mr. Piddleman you may step down from the bench.”
“Your Honor,” said Mr. Feebles rising, ” I would like to recall Mr. Ridiculous to the stand.”
“I’m not sure that is necessary, Mr. Feebles. I’m tempted to dismiss this case right now.” It was obvious to the judge that this man wasn’t suffering, besides he still had half a bottle of scotch left.
A panicked look from Mr. Smith brought action from Mr. Sirrus. “Objection your honor. We have written testimony here that Mr. Ridiculous is delusional, and cannot distinguish fantasy from reality. We have seen nothing from the defense to refute that.”
“Your Honor,” said Mr. Feebles calmly. “If my client returns to the stand, I’m sure we can satisfy the court to his sanity.”
“By all means, continue,” agreed the judge.
“Watch this!” whispered Rufus to Mark, as he rolled forward tumbling over the desk to his feet.
What Mark was watching though was something completely different. Standing on the floor where Mr. Feebles had been only moments ago, was a black and brown cat. Mark turned his head to talk to Mr. Piddleman. “Did you-!” But stopped cold when he saw an overstuffed three-foot teddy bear sitting in the chair.
Mark looked toward Judge Bartholomew, who looked as dour as ever, then over toward the witness box. Rufus had just settled in, and to his relief, Mr. Feebles was there again, about to begin his questions.
“Now Rufus, I would like you to tell us why you decided to change your name from Robert Smith several years ago. After all, Robert Smith is a perfectly normal name.”
“Yes, sir, it is, and that was exactly the problem with it, because there is no one in this society that is perfectly normal. Yet it’s something so many strive so hard for. We smash and squish our heart’s desires into uncomfortably acceptable metal boxes, rather than following them in their noble intent. I realized quite sometime ago that outside of strictly biological terms, life is quite ridiculous, with mine perhaps being the least ridiculous of all.”
“You claim that you are the least ridiculous, yet you appear in these outlandish clothes, and have been seen talking to your shirt pocket on occasion.”
“I am the least ridiculous, because I accept my own ridiculousness whole heartedly. Our clothes reflect the colors of our hearts. And as you well know, and my brother as well, I do not speak to my shirt pocket, but indeed the ghost of my father, who resides inside that pocket.”
“Mr. Ridiculous, please address your comments to the court only,” the judge just shook his head.
“Your witness counselor,” Mr. Feebles glided back to his chair. Looking at Mark’s face he whispered, “You saw, didn’t you?”
Mr. Sirrus couldn’t believe his good fortune. He would be able to snatch this case back from the jaws of defeat, and it had been handed right to him by that absurd little man.
“Mr. Ridiculous, you claim that you can speak to the dead?”
“No, Mr. Sirrus, I never made that claim.” Rufus looked genuinely puzzled.
Deep inside, Mr. Sirrus could feel the pressure building, as one jolt of lightning would strike the fatal blow.
“May I remind you, Mr. Ridiculous, you just said under oath that you speak to the ghost of your dead father.”
“No sir, I’m afraid you misunderstood my meaning.” Rufus spoke to Mr. Sirrus like a patient kindergarten teacher. “In order for me to speak to the dead, I would have to be able to communicate with the dead body that once contained my father. I speak to his ghost which is quite alive.”
“And living in your pocket.” Mr. Sirrus made no attempt to hide his sarcasm.
“Yes sir, though I hear by your tone of voice that you are unwilling to entertain such a prospect. A pity, for someone as lonely as you should be open to new friends.”
“And sir, do you still insist that Mr. Feebles,” he paused to gesture toward Mr. Feebles, “and your accountant, Mr. Piddleman,” which he followed once more with a gesture, “are a cat and a toy bear.”
“A teddy bear to be precise, sir.” Rufus corrected.
“But you do make this claim, that these two gentlemen are indeed your cat and teddy bear. You do not have a cat and teddy bear waiting at home who merely share the same names as these gentlemen.”
“Oh no, if I had another cat and teddy bear at home, I’d have to buy more furniture. Mr. Feebles is indeed a cat, though I’ll admit he’s a very talented cat, and Mr. Piddleman is a teddy bear.”
“How can you claim this when I see two human beings sitting there?” The lightning had struck home. Mr. Sirrus was doing his victory dance now.
“It is your rather narrow view which presents the image of two human beings. In accepting the truths of life that there are no reasons, no logic, and above all no overriding mutual perception to our reality, I began to see things more clearly. You might start by removing your glasses, sir, they narrow your focus horribly.”
“Enough!” said the judge, rapping his gavel for attention. “I have seen enough here to indicate that Mr. Ridiculous has a rather unique life philosophy, but does not appear mentally impaired in any way. Case dismissed.” His beloved scotch had been waiting far too long, he could hear it calling from his chambers.
Mr. Sirrus lowered his head. How could he have lost it? It was right there! He had demonstrated that this man clearly had lost his grip on reality. He paused only briefly to pet the cat that was rubbing against his leg, then gathered his briefcase and apologized to his client.
Mark Daneum found himself in the middle of several group hugs and hearty handshakes. At one point Rufus stared directly into his eyes and just said “Ahh good.” Eventually they all filed outside.
As they said goodbye and piled into a cab, Mark waved. He tried not to be surprised when instead of three large figures, he saw only Rufus, with a furry ball on his lap, and a stuffed bear sitting next to him.
He walked over to the nearest pay phone and immediately ordered a dozen roses for his wife. He knew that deep in his heart of hearts he loved her dearly, and it was time he made sure that she knew it too.
(c)2000, John J. McNally. All Rights Reserved. Do not copy or distribute without the author’s permission.
About the author: John J. McNally enjoys writing from the perspective that everything is possible, and very likely to happen. He owns the Mind Altering Fiction website and is co-owner of the Conscious Creation website with his partner Kristen.