The Old Courthouse (REDUX)

Somewhere out on the edge of the Western Desert,

so Rumour has it, the Old Court House

still stands as a Monument

to Jurisprudence of long-ago Days.


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 foyer,

but someone had done a crude sketch in charcoal

on the back of a charge sheet,

and pinned it to the cafeteria 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 imposing Gravitas

of the 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

which inexplicably adorns

the Courtyard fountain, frankly 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 not quite as satisfactory 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.

On the other hand, Believers (and there are many) 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,

it comes swooping down the Highway like

a post-apocalyptic, Mad-Max Juggernaut,

 smiting 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 my children, 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 itself was still largely unformed,

a vast, 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,

as pale reflections 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.

Indeed, were one to be unkind, one might even use words like: antiquated, or even barbaric.

It is certainly true that most Modernist Attempts at Reform

in the last 90 years have failed dismally

to penetrate to the Old Courthouse’s 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 Kafka-esque 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 embarrassed 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

can be ignored by the Big City Dailies, they are still dispensing

what passes for Justice in those Parts.

Still, in some ways the Old Courthouse is a veritable model of a certain, curious kind of efficiency,

not seen since the dental extractions 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 System of Punishment was developed based on a sliding scale of colour gradations. Called the Colour Code

it applied a simple Inverse Relationship with Algorithmic precision: Statistics told them the darker the skin colour, the greater the likelihood of guilt. Therefore, the Legal Sages reasoned; the darker the skin, the greater should be the penalty.

Some have called this pro-active System “cruel and stupid” but ironically, a spell in the Western Desert jail could actually do wonders for raising a man’s Standing in Society, for the Jailhouse Pallor thus acquired raised their social standing several notches. Some aspiring natives even took to having their children arrested deliberately to improve their chances at social mobility in Life, but such parents were in the main regarded as being “pushy”.

Of course a spell in the cells was popular with the natives for other reasons as well. 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 is the homeless Vagrant been given shelter by the welcoming arms of the Old Court House’s Watch-House Crew.

Ah! Who needs the modern Welfare State when such a Venerable and Compassionate Institution as the old Court House still exists?


And somewhere out on the edge of the Western Desert

the Old Courthouse still stands, whilst all 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 statistical anomaly that pops up now and then.

Writes Poems & Stuff.



~ by reverendhellfire on November 19, 2017.

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