At the moment I am also working my way through Neil Gaiman’s Masterclass and reading Chuck Palahniuk’s new book “Consider This: Moments in My Writing Life After Which Everything Was Different”. I’m trying to apply the advice in both of these things to the writing exercises I’ve been doing. Once classes start again in a few days I am hoping I can continue to do a couple of these exercises a week because I am finding them quite enjoyable.
Today’s writing exercise came from Neil’s Masterclass.
“Choose a fold tale or fairy tale that you know well. Select one of the characters from the story for the following exercise and write a few pages about them using one of the following prompts:”
The prompt I chose was “Have your character explain their actions to a jury.” Without further ado, A Scene from the Jury Trial of the Big Bad Wolf.
It was now The Big Bad Wolf’s turn to take the witness stand. His eyes were wide, his fur stood straight up. He let out a muffled growl.
The bailiff, who decided he really should have gone to college, approached carrying a book. “Place you hand…your paw on the Bible…”
The wolf looked at him, confused. “What is a Bible?”
The bailiff should not have been surprised, but he was. A wolf, let alone a talking wolf, standing trial was highly irregular. He did not have time to explain. “Never mind. Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?”
“Very well then.” The bailiff took the book and walked back to his post.
The judge looked at the wolf, the three little pigs who sat in front of the audience with their lawyer, and the animal control officer who had been called in, just in case. “The prosecution may begin.”
The lawyer, a small balding man resembling the pigs, stood up and approached the judge. He spoke in a monotone, “Thank you, Your Honour, for agreeing to hear this case.” He turned to all those present and stood the same way he did in school when he had to speak in front of the class. “I will prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Mister Wolf did, in fact, try to eat my clients and is guilty of destruction of property, breaking and entering, and attempted murder.”
The judge could feel a headache coming on. “Very well. Proceed.”
The lawyer walked over to the wolf, watching him carefully. “Mister Wolf, do you recognize my clients?”
The Big Bad Wolf looked to the pigs and started salivating. “I do.”
“How did you meet them?”
The wolf looked at the pigs a moment longer, licked the spit off his mouth and answered, “I didn’t meet them, per se. I was in the woods doing wolf things when I just happened to come across their houses. I was hungry and thought I would be neighborly and introduce myself and see if I was offered a snack.”
“I see.” The lawyer said, not quite believing him. “Which of my clients homes did you approach?”
The wolf thought about it a moment. “I think it was the one in the red hat. They look the same so it’s hard to tell.”
“Go on. Tell the jury what you did next,” the lawyer encouraged.
“Well, I went up to his house…”
The lawyer cut him off. “Please describe the house.”
“It was poorly designed. Who has ever heard of building a house of out straw?” The wolf answered.
“So, you approached this house made out of straw?”
“Yes, yes I did. I knocked on the door and all the lights that were on went off.” The wolf explained.
“Why do you suppose that happened?” The lawyer asked.
“I don’t know.” The wolf said cautiously. He knew if the trial went wrong, he would be turned over to the animal control officer and the worst would probably happen. An injection of phenobarbital large enough to shut down his heart and lungs and it would be all over.
“When no one answered, did you threaten to destroy the house?” The lawyer questioned further.
“It was an empty threat, really. We all make them…” The wolf tried to explain.
“But you did destroy the house.” It was more of a statement than part of the line of questioning.
“It was an accident. The house wasn’t all that study, being made of straw and all. It collapsed when I sneezed. I have allergies.” The wolf responded.
The spectators whispered among themselves debating if a straw house could really fall under a sneeze.
“That must have been one powerful sneeze.” The lawyer commented. The wolf shrugged. He continued. “What happened after the house fell?”
‘Your client, the pig, screamed and ran off to a nearby house.” The wolf leaned back in his chair growing bored with the questioning. If he had just eaten the pigs, there would be no trial. There would be no witnesses to testify and he could be doing something fun, like harassing that girl who always cut through the woods taking baked good to her grandmother.
“Did you chase my client?” The lawyer asked.
“Where did you go?”
The lawyer nodded in acknowledgement. “The next night you attempted to approach my client again, this time at his brother’s house.”
‘I didn’t realize they were brothers.” The wolf said. “That explains why they look the same. I just thought it was a pig thing.”
The judge cleared his throat issuing a warning to the wolf to stop talking. It would be easy to rationalize that Mister Wolf was being racist against pigs and hold him in contempt of court. All that would accomplish is delaying rest of the trial. Binge watching Antique Roadshow would have to wait. He addressed the lawyer, “Please continue.”
“Yes, Your Honour.” The lawyer gave the wolf his full attention again. “In your own words, tell the jury what happened the next night.”
The wolf flashed the lawyer a quick smile. “Once again, I was out doing wolf things…”
He was cut off again. How did anything ever get settled in court if lawyers kept interrupting? “What exactly are ‘wolf things’?”
“You know, chasing rabbits. Chasing my tail. Howling at the moon. Thinking about how privileged werewolves are. Wolf things.”
“Okay then.” The lawyer didn’t know what he was expecting for an answer, but he had to ask. “Continue.”
“As I was saying, I was out doing wolf things when I came across the house of your other client. It was almost as shabby as his brothers and made of sticks. He really should have hired a beaver contractor for the work. I was still interested in being neighborly and knocked on the door.”
“Mister Wolf, you do realize that usually when someone screams and runs away from you that means they want you to leave them alone, right? To continue to approach them is harassment. In this case it might be stalking as well.”
“Objection!” The defense attorney stood up.
The judge hit his little hammer on the desk, missing the wooden plate. “Overruled!”
A smug smile formed on the face of the prosecuting attorney. He continued with his questioning. “Did anyone answer the door?”
“No. Once again the lights went off.”
“And once again, you threatened to destroy the house?” The lawyer asked.
“No. Maybe. It depends on how you look at it. I thought it was funny anyone thought that a house made of sticks would offer any kind of protection. I made the comment that I could blow the house down if I really wanted to.” The wolf shifted in his chair. It was uncomfortable. A fancy courthouse could at least provide comfortable chairs.
“And did you want to?”
“After I thought about it a minute I kind of wanted to see if could really be done.” The wolf answered.
“Did you attempt it?” The lawyer asked.
“Did you succeed?”
“So, you admit to destruction of property in this case.” It wasn’t a question. It was a statement for the jury explaining that The Big Bad Wolf admitted wrongdoing. “What happened next?”
The wolf sighed. Things were not looking good, “They ran off screaming.”
“According to my clients, on the third night you once again tried to gain entrance to one of their houses. Once again, explain to the jury in your own words what happened.” The lawyer said.
There was no way he could spin this to make it sound like an accident. “Once again, as I do every night, I was off in the forest doing wolf things and I got to thinking about these pigs. I really wanted to know why they didn’t want to be friends. It’s hard being a wolf, you know. There are so many stereotypes against us. We’re mean. We steal chickens. We are cold blooded killers. It’s really quite annoying. Anyway, I decided to pay the pigs one last visit and try and find out why they wouldn’t give me a chance.”
“And how did that go?” The lawyer asked.
“Not good. Before I continue, I would like to commend your last client on his house building skills. Obviously, he’s the smart one of the lot, building a sturdy house of out bricks.”
“A house you attempted to break into by climbing down the chimney.” The lawyer countered.
“Only after they wouldn’t answer the door. I tried being polite and it got me nowhere. I was desperate! I wanted answers!” The wolf did his best to control himself while the annoyance of that even payed another visit.
The lawyer had a never-ending list of questions. “And you thought breaking into the house was the way to get those answers?”
The wolf shrugged. “It seemed like a good idea at the time.”
The lawyer addressed the room. “I posit that Mister Wolf is not telling the entire truth and that on both the first and second nights he was indeed hungry and approached my clients house with the intent of eating him. With two potential meals getting away from him, Mister Wolf returned on the third night hoping to take revenge on my clients for not only humiliating him, but for causing him to miss two meals.”
It was now the wolf’s turn to interrupt. “Like I said, there are a lot of stereotypes against wolves.”
The prosecuting attorney forgot the rest of his closing statement. It happened more often than he was willing to admit to. Maybe it was time to retire. “The prosecution rests.”
The judge let out a sigh of relief. “We will now recess for the jury to deliberate on the charges brought against Mister Wolf of destruction of property, breaking and entering, and attempted murder. This time the gavel hit the wooden plate.