THE OLD COURTHOUSE

“place your hand on this bible and repeat after me..”

 

The Old Courthouse.

 

Out on the edge of the Western Desert,

the Old Court House stands.

 Though somewhat decrepit, the Courthouse still possesses

the rudiments of a functioning legal system.

True, there is no longer a Statue of Justice standing in the courtroom,

but someone had done a rough sketch in charcoal,

and pinned it to the wall with a thumbtack.

The building occupied by the Court

is in fact a former gold-rush Casino & Bordello,

which was occupied as “temporary accommodation”

after the original courthouse was taken by a tornado

97 years ago.

These loúche origins perhaps account for the building’s facade

tending more to a sort of baroque frivolity,

rather than the stern gravitas of classically styled architecture,

which one expects from a court building.

Some of the ornamental cupids, for example, are really too well endowed

for a court of law, and the statue of Venus

in the courtyard fountain verges on the lascivious.

Still, the court goes about its business with all the solemnity due its venerable traditions.

A skeleton crew of lawyers,

covered in cobwebs and dust,

still hang about the corridors soliciting clients.

Dressed in the Trade’s traditional livery of stilettos, fishnet stockings

and crudely daubed makeup,

the lawyers offer prospective clients a good time,

or for those on legal aid,

a bad time.

 

Because of the depredations of Accident & Antiquity

there are few official records relating to the Old Courthouse

and this, combined with its admittedly somewhat vague location,

has led some to declare that the Courthouse is merely a Mirage,

a trick of the Desert light.

 

Others have ascribed to the Old Court House Miraculous Powers:

the Ability to travel through Space & Time,

to manifest suddenly in different places.

Appearing out of Nowhere to administer Justice,

swooping down like a flock of Apache helicopters,

to smite wrong-doers and fine-dodgers alike.

 

To fresh-faced young lawyers working

in the Great Legal Complexes far-away in the Sophisticated South,

the Old Court House has all the status of an Urban Myth.

But it exists, oh yes, it exists.

 

In reality the Courthouse is hard to find

merely because all road signs throughout the Western Desert

have been blasted to pieces by shotgun pellets.

Why the locals do this has never been ascertained.

Some say it’s a device designed to confuse any invading armies.

Others suggest alcohol, boredom and a certain amount of inbreeding.

The truth probably lies somewhere in-between.

 

Senior legal figures will, if pressed, admit the existence

and legitimacy of the Old Courthouse, embarrassedly dismissing it as an anachronistic relic from earlier frontier days.

Indeed, the Old Courthouse was created in a dim primeval age,

when the Justice System was still unformed,

a swirling amorphous molten mass,

whose seething undercurrents

would occasionally fling off a satellite

into the furthest reaches of the system,

there to orbit the perimeters and administer justice,

a pale reflection of that fiery Central Furnace.

 

Though all Law Courts are based on Ancient Traditions, the traditions of the Old Court House are perhaps more ancient than most. One might say perhaps antiquated, or even barbaric, were one to be unkind.

It is certainly true that Modernist Attempts at Reform have failed dismally to penetrate to the Old Courthouses jurisdiction.

Directives from the Centre in fact seem to undergo a form of Chinese Whispers

during their journey through the Western Desert, and an apparently innocent, politically correct, minor amendment to procedure can mutate into the most exquisite and arcane form of torture under the Administration of the old Court House. In one shocking example, guidelines governing the maximum number of times a Taser could be used during an arrest (4 times) were interpreted as establishing a mandatory minimum

(4 times) to be applied on all occasions.

Best say nothing at all, the Modernisers decided in the end, rather than to be found in some way complicit in the rustic barbarities of the old Court House.

And so, in the best Kafkaesque fashion, the Court has been allowed to go its own way over the years.

As compensation for allowing the old Courthouse to survive

thru a process of reluctant neglect,

the Legal System had at least somewhere to send

its more embarrassing members who refused to be retired.

Many an eccentric, curmudgeonly crank of a Judge has been sent packing to work the Western Desert Circuit in their dotage. Out there somewhere, where their outrageous sentences and bizarre personal behaviour will be ignored by the Big City Dailies.

Still, in some ways the Courthouse is a model of efficiency, not seen since the dental extraction’s at Buchenwald.

By way of example: It was noticed by the keen-sighted Judiciary that in percentage terms, a higher proportion of crime was committed by the dusky hued indigenous populace of the Western Desert. Clearly an appropriate response was called for.

Accordingly, a scale of punishment was developed along a sliding scale of colour graduations. A simple inverse relationship applied: The darker the skin, the greater the penalty. Similarly, the darker the skin colour, the greater the likelihood of guilt

Ironically,a spell in the Western Desert jail could do wonders in raising a man’s position in Society, for the jailhouse pallor thus acquired raised their social standing several notches. Some aspiring natives even took to being arrested deliberately to improve their chances at social mobility, but such types were in the main regarded as being “pushy”.

A spell in the cells was popular with the natives for other reasons also. Cool, out of the sun, and with three meals a day, the jail cells also had the benefit of having a shorter waiting list than the Housing Commission. Yes, many’s the homeless man been given shelter by the welcoming arms of the Old Court House’s lock-up.

Ah! Who needs the Welfare State when such an Institution as the old Court House exists?

 

Out on the edge of the Western Desert the Old Courthouse still stands, whilst around

the decay of that Colossal wreck, boundless and bare,

the lone and level sands stretch far away.

 

Look on its works ye Mighty, and despair!

 

***

***

The Reverend Hellfire is a practising Performance Poet and an ordained minister of the Church of the Universe AND the Church of Spiritual Humanists.

On day this religious angle is going to pay off.

***

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~ by reverendhellfire on September 11, 2011.

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