Ten Tales … Dieci racconti … Decem Fabulum.
English, Italian, Latin … in whatever language, stories have come down to us as a delightful medium to offset worry or boredom … In the time of The Plague in Italy, Giovanni Boccaccio wrote of the stories told by just such a group as they while away the hours in isolation from the Black Plague.
In keeping with this tradition, we offer you likewise some stories here. These stories may or may not have appeared on this site before, but it could be from a long time ago and many may not have read them. Let us now go to story number seven:
A Mother’s Right
I see her even now so clearly … like a child sees his mother … like a son sees his mother for what was honoured what was loved and what was wanted … what was wanted and also what was lost … What tragedy is a mother? … Can the loyalty of a legion of national heroes match her dedication and honour? … What an investment is her love of her offspring, to give so much of her heart so that in the end she can only watch as they leave her and leave her care … she must watch as they leave her care … she cannot hold them to herself any longer … then they are gone .. and she grows old.
My younger brother had an accident while riding his motorcycle, the damage to his leg was quite severe and left him with steel pins and plaster cast for around eleven months. I had just returned from working in the north of Australia and the cold weather was not conducive to a good mood.
Winter … The carriage of the morning 8.28. train to the city was cold and draughty. Rain streaked on the panes of glass, angled and beaded by the wind. I sat chilled, committed to endure the ritual of confronting the almighty twin towers of LAW and ORDER … but rather, not exactly me, but my mother. I was brought along for moral support. We were going to the small-claims court to contest a hearing that went against my brother in the cause of the accident … My brother lost that case and had resigned himself to the result, but our mother was adamant that “justice and a fair decision” was our right.
I had already leaned in my young life that which a more trusting older generation did not seem to be able to grasp: You cannot for the love of Mary expect a fair shake from the tombs ( those dusty-musty tombs) without pouring everything paid for and promised into that gaping maw of “legal representation.” It ‘d be cheaper to run a Rolls Royce.
A child over the road from the station. On her way to school no doubt. Yellow raincoat with bag clumsily slung over shoulder skipping carefree in the drizzle … (O′ … child run past my window…wide … something-something-with every stride … O′). The image started a rhyme growing in my head …
“Hmm, Yes mum.”
“Did you see that young girl over the road there? Ah, the young, they don’t seem to feel the cold like we do.”
“Hmm … ( … youthful life in every … nuh … doesn’t work)”
“How many witnesses did you get hold of?”
“Well … the legal aid people said to bring along as many as possible, it looks good in the magistrate’s eyes,” Mother replied.
“Yes, but how many did you get?”
“Only Mrs. Rowe … Mrs. Morris wouldn’t come … I can’t blame her .. she’s expecting, she’s nervous.”
“Hmm. Do you hold much hope?” I asked.
“I’ve just got to try … I … I can’t let that Wishart chap have clear run of it … It grates on my … my nerves. To see poor John … a year in plaster … an all that University study down the drain .. an’ that smarmy lawyer at the first hearing … I just have to fight it a bit … I’m his mother an’ I won’t see him hurt without sticking up for him a bit … it’s … it’s my right.”
“John saw fit to give it best … ” I pondered.
“Well he shouldn’t have. He should be here now instead of me … But, well, at least I have his signature for me to represent him today.” And she clasped her handbag tight in her lap.
“I don’t know, that legal aid crew … I don’t know.” I said doubtfully.
“Well … I can only go by what they advise … an’ if they won’t come in with us, then I have to go alone and this time I have Mrs Rowe!”
“Well she wasn’t there at the first hearing so she will be new evidence … and she says she saw the whole thing … the whole accident … right there outside her window … it’s a wonder that other legal fellah John hired didn’t bring her along to the first case.”
“Good of her to come,” I mused.
“Oh, I said I’d pay her for the half day she missed at her shop.”
“But her husband runs the shop doesn’t he?”
“Yes I know but … well, have to give her something … I …”
(“ … a child run past my window wide … Less a child with every stride … er … nah!)
Central Station roared with life. So many people, so many people. I like crowds, but I don’t like to think myself part of the crowd. But I guess I am. To those other people I’m just, well … one of those others … (Doctor, my eyes … can you see … can you feel … the child runs … ).
“What did you say?”
“The bus, here, we’ll take the bus.” Mother paid the driver … “The law courts, thanks.”
Those little sayings on the back of the tickets … what does this one … ”There is no rainbow at the end of pot.” … Oh I don’t … no rainbow at the end … silly thing, can’t believe it … Two punters were having it out over the races.
”I don’t want to see your tips … like yesterday at Randwick … knew it would win, just knew it … But nooo, you said it wouldn’t an’ just what ‘appens … It’s the last time I listen.”
“I know, I know, you just can’t win. So, who can?” the other answered ..
The cold sterile buildings of the law courts. So neutral in design, so impartial in colour, so sparsely furnished, as though it was a crime itself to give the place any character at all. Here we met with Mrs Rowe. She suited the surroundings.
“Hello, so good of you to come.” My mother greeted her.
“Well, we’ll see Mrs Clarke,” she returned.
“Here, we’ll sit here, Oh, this is my son, Daniel.” We were introduced.
The seats offered little comfort. I was crowded to the end when another couple entered the waiting room. Gradually more people filled the room till there was standing room only. We all sat there in silence, trying, I thought, to sus out what each other person was doing there. I had to rush off for a “nervous”.
“Excuse me, I have to go to the loo … ” I even felt guilty for that. The rest seemed to frown on me as I edged out the door … Air, open air … ahh!
While I was in a cubicle, a man came through the outside door. He sounded angry with another person there.
“Listen here, I don’t give a tuppenny damn what his excuses are, I need that machine this weekend without fail.” The urinal flushed and a tap sprayed into a basin while the other answered.
“But sir, you must understand the difficulty he has in getting parts … Here is a little list he wrote of the pieces … ”
“Give us that list.” The paper was snatched, a door of a cubicle flung open and the toilet flushed. “There, that’s what I think of your “little list” … This weekend, that’s all.”
The outside door slammed. I thought they were both gone. I went to wash my hands and there was still one of them there. He glared at me when I appeared, one of those cold looks you get from an official who has some sort of authority deciding to deal with you in some way.
“Good morning,” I said.
“Mornin’.” The other man curtly replied and walked out, it was the angry one.
(… child run past my window wide, Less a child with every stride … happy now in innocent age … goorr).
A motley crew it was there in the court room. A furtive bunch of clients with a shifty lot of solicitors. “Pearson please, of Pearson versus National … ” The clerk of the court called. “Pearson plea … ”
“Oh yes, Frank. Here, it’s been deferred. They couldn’t arrange a witness.” And on and on, until:
“All rise please, his honour John Mathews residing.” It was the man shouting in the toilet. I almost chuckled out loud. The cases were got through speedily, but with little result. It always seemed they were deferred to a later date because of some obscure reason. One time a young man in a crushed and creased blue, pinned striped suit rushed in with a sheaf of papers addressed the magistrate for no more than a few seconds then dragged a sheepish looking client outside for a quick consultation. He never returned. No-one seemed to miss him. The court steamed on like a cargo of pilgrims to the promised land. Till finally: “Wishart verses Clarke,” was called.
“Give ’em a run mum,” I encouraged.
Wishart was there with his lawyer.
“Your honour. We wish to present no new evidence at this appeal, but will rely on the judgement bought down at the preliminary hearing. Thank you.” The lawyer spoke then sat back down.
“Well, Mrs Clarke … You are the defendant’s mother it says here.” The magistrate read from his notes.
“Yes your honour, my son, John, is away working up the Riverland at the … ” my mother explained.
“Yes yes … But you see, he is eighteen years of age, and so you cannot represent him here. You were explained that … before.”
‘Yes I know your honour but this time I have a little note he signed allowing me … ”
“Regardless of your … little note, Mrs Clarke, I cannot let you represent your son.”
“But the Legal aid people said … ” Mother tried to speak … The magistrate raised his voice in anger …
“I don’t give a tupp … well I’m afraid they led you astray … what makes you think you have the right to come here as a legal authority?” the magistrate tried to belittle mother.
“I have a mother’s right to defend my child!” My mother stood her ground and quickly but sternly replied … I could hear several soft gasps from people behind me …
This simple logic pulled the magistrate up and he seemed to give some thought to the reason. He then replied in a more conciliatory and polite manner.
“A mother’s authority, I’ll grant, has a reach so far, but THAT doesn’t extend into the law courts … yet … ”
“More’s the pity” my mother mumbled quietly … The magistrate paused and raised one eyebrow as if to chastise her .. but then thought better of it … for every man knows: A mother’s temper ought not be tested.
“ … But this thing has dragged on long enough,” he continued … ” a decision must be reached on this case.” The magistrate rustled amongst some notes on the bench. ”It’s best, I think, to defer this till we have an assessment of damages. If that’s agreeable to both parties? … Very well, case deferred for cost assessment and a hearing set on completion thereof.”
And that was it. No witnesses called, no discussion entered into, no completion.
“Short and sweet eh?” I sighed when we were outside.
“Damn and blast … What a waste of time … what’s the use of those … ” My mother was piqued at the result.
“Mrs Clarke.” It was Mrs Rowe. ”I really must be off, if I only knew it was going to be this useless … You said you would reimburse me the half day … ” We stood on the pavement at the corner of City Square.
“Oh yes Mrs Rowe, I’m dreadfully sorry … Here” and she handed Mrs Rowe a fifty dollar note.
“But Mrs Clarke, I thought we agreed on eighty dollars.” Mrs Rowe complained.
“What: Oh no Mrs Rowe it was fifty,” and they stood there, both frowning till Mrs Rowe shrugged her shoulders and walked away.
“A disappointing day all round eh?” I was trying to ease the feeling.
“A useless day would be more correct … Strange that It seemed so clear and simple last night in bed … ” She sighed.
That rhyme started up again in my head … I was getting sick of it … (”A child run past my window wide, Less a … ) ahh forget it, don’t corrupt the memory … Leave the child run …
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