Dream of: 17 April 1996 "Garden Strings"

As I groggily awoke from my sleep, I slowly realized I was lying on a bed in the audience section of a courtroom. Carolina, fully dressed, was sitting near me on one of the benches. Trying to recall where I was, I slowly began to piece together my whereabouts. I remembered that Carolina and I had taken a trip to another state – the state of Washington came to mind – and that instead of finding a hotel, we had somehow ended up in this courtroom, where I had fallen asleep in the bed.

I would have liked to have slept more, but I now saw that quite a few people were in the courtroom. A man was even sitting in the witness seat at the front of the courtroom. A second man was sitting in the seat which would have appeared to have been meant for the judge – but the second man didn't seem to be a judge. As a colloquy commenced between the two men, I listened, trying to understand what was going on.

Gradually, I realized the man in the witness seat had been charged with a crime. However, he wasn't yet on trial and the second man, indeed, wasn't a judge. Instead, the man in the witness chair was simply being advised of his right to have an attorney, and apparently the second man was going to appoint an attorney to represent the man in the witness chair.

I thought to myself that I wouldn't mind representing the man in the witness chair. Since I was an attorney and since I was already here anyway, I might as well pick up a few extra dollars by doing a quick job as a court-appointed attorney. But I thought the chances of my being appointed were slim to nil. Surely many other attorneys were in the room who would be willing to take the case and who would be chosen before me. Besides, since I wasn't actually licensed to practice law in this state; I wasn't even sure I actually could take the case.

Thus it came as quite a surprise when the second man began reading names from a list of attorneys, and when no one responded to any of the first few names he read off, he finally called out my name. I stood up from my bed, fully alert, dressed and ready to go. The only drawback was my long hair which was hanging down in my eyes; my long hair puzzled me, because I thought I had just had a hair cut the day before. But I didn't let the hair distract me long, and I focused on the matter at hand.

I first inquired about the charge against my client. Someone on the other side of the room – apparently a clerk – responded that the man had entered a store and bought a large package of items – so large that it seemed the package even had automobile parts in it, such as tires. The problem had developed when the package was discovered to contain more parts than it should. The man was alleged to have placed the extra parts in the package, and then not to have paid for them.

I immediately saw that it was a good case – a winnable case. I shouted out that it would have to be proved that my client was the person who had put the extra items in the package. The mere fact that the extra items were in the package when my client bought the package wouldn't be enough evidence for a conviction – the prosecution would have to prove that my client put the items in the package; and I doubted that the prosecution had the evidence to prove that.

I also instantaneously grasped something else: it would be necessary to have a jury trial. I must advise my client that he must not have a trial before the judge alone, but must request to be tried before a jury. At the same time I recalled that I had once represented a man who had been charged with a somewhat similar crime, and that I had tried the case in front of a jury. In that case the man had been charged with switching the price tags on an item which he had bought in a store, replacing the tag which was actually on the item with a tag with a lower price. I had won the case with a not-guilty verdict. And I knew I had won because I had taken the case to a jury.

However, I also now realized something else: if the case went to a jury, I would probably be unable to represent the man because several months would pass before the case would go to trial, and Carolina and I were planning to leave the following day. I looked at the second man who had assigned me to the case and I announced that we would want a jury trial, but that if I were going to try the case it would have to be today.

I turned to my client: a thin black-haired man (probably in his mid 30s). I began talking to him, advising him how to proceed. At the moment I only wanted to make one thing clear to him: he should ask for a jury trial. I told him he should not have a trial before the judge alone, and I explained to him that if he went to trial before a jury, six people would be judging him, and he would only have to convince one of the six that he wasn't guilty. If he went before a judge, the judge alone would decide. I added that even if all six members of the jury found him guilty, the judge could still find him innocent; so in effect, by choosing a jury, he received the benefit of the jury and still had a chance to win with the judge.

I also advised my client that he should not accept any plea bargains of the prosecution. I figured the prosecution would probably make an offer of probation if my client would plead guilty. I anticipated my client would be tempted to accept the plea bargain and go on probation; plea bargaining was a tactic frequently used by the prosecution to secure a conviction in a weak case. But I told my client that accepting the plea bargain would be a mistake.

I advised him of course that there was a down-side to all this – that he could lose the case and go to a jail for up to a year. But I was uncertain I was correct in this assessment, because I was unsure of the class of the crime. A "class A" misdemeanor carried a sentence of up to a year in jail, and a "class B" misdemeanor carried a sentence of up to six months. I turned to the second man and asked him what class this was. He replied that it was a "class B" misdemeanor. That was good news – the maximum penalty would only be six months and not a year in jail.

***

Carolina and I were walking down the city streets of the city, which to me somewhat resembled Seattle, which she and I had visited once several years before. As we walked, I suddenly noticed something lying on the sidewalk in front of me, and I stopped to pick it up. I was amazed: lying there were two beautiful earrings. Each contained a large, shiny black stone which appeared to be set in silver.

As I picked up the earrings, I also noticed lying next to them a gold chain, which I also plucked up. Meanwhile another man had stopped, and at the same time he and I both saw some sort of medallion lying on the ground. Just as he was about to pick it up, I grabbed it and muttered that it was mine. He looked offended, but seeing little that he could do, he straightened back up and moved on.

Carolina and I also continued on, and after a few more steps I saw some other items lying on the ground. Among them I noticed two large silver coins – one about the size of a silver dollar, the other about half that size. I snatched them up and put them in my pocket. Only after I had the coins securely in my possession did I realize that along with some other items, the coins had apparently been laid out on the sidewalk as part of a display. Although the pieces of jewelry I had earlier found had clearly been lost, the coins hadn't; I should probably put the coins back. But at the same time I hesitated to do so, because I didn't think anyone had seen me take the coins; if anyone were stupid enough to leave the coins lying out on the sidewalk, they deserved to lose them.

***

I was driving a car, perhaps a convertible, still with Carolina, on our trip in the other state. Now we were out in the fresh-smelling country, and I could see high mountains towering in the distance. We were no longer alone, but now had a car full of people, all of whom seemed to be my relatives. I distinctly had the impression that my old gray-haired great-aunt Dorothy was in the car with us.

Moving along briskly, enjoying the feel of the countryside, free of care, I suddenly put on the brake and came to a stop. I had suddenly realized we were no longer on the road, but that somehow I had driven out into a open field. I looked back behind the car, surprised that I could have made such a mistake. I could clearly see the tracks of the car through the grass of the field, and I tried to discern where we had entered the field and where the road was. But the road apparently was quite a ways back, and I couldn't make it out.

***

I was standing a couple hundred meters away from the car, which I could see sitting down in the middle of the field. In my hand hung a red plastic gas can. I had reached some buildings, one of which was little more than an unpainted clapboard shack. A man was standing in front of the door of the shack. He was thin, had long scraggly black hair and was probably in his mid 30s. He seemed to be wearing a pair of dirty bib overalls, and was carrying a fifth or quart bottle of alcohol in his hand hanging down by his side, probably whiskey.

I felt uncomfortable, as if I were trespassing, and I quickly mumbled off something about my car being broken-down in the field. He didn't seem helpful, but he didn't seem threatening either; I moved on.

***

I had left the man and the shack, but then had returned. Only this time, I had entered a house which was next to the shack. The house appeared to have once been a large mansion, something in the style of one that might have stood on a pre-bellum southern plantation. But now the grand old furniture appeared to be broken and useless, and the house itself, standing with the doors open, was in terrible disorder and disrepair. I thought I knew why: I figured that the slouch I had seen standing in front of the shack had inherited this house and this land. His parents and ancestors had worked hard to build the house and farm the land. But now, this fellow, seeing no need to work, had let everything go – and this was the result. That seemed typical to me of people who inherited money and who didn't have to work.

As I walked on through the house, still carrying my plastic gas can, still looking for something, but not really concentrating on finding anything, I stumbled on something rather peculiar: in one of the rooms I found three or four large birds with blue fluorescent feathers which resembled peacocks, but the birds weren't exactly peacocks. I now recalled that when I had first seen the man in front of the shack I had also noticed the birds there. The difference now was that all the birds were lying around on the floor – dead. Or at least they were almost dead. A couple still seemed to have some life because their eye lids opened and shut a couple times. I concluded that the man from the shack raised the birds for some reason, and then he slaughtered them. He apparently had been at work slaughtering this bunch just before I had stumbled into the house.

Continuing on to the next room, I discovered two more peacock-like birds, only these were still alive and well. I had the distinct impression that these two birds were aware that the other birds had just been killed, and that these two had just escaped being killed. However I also felt that they sensed that their time would come, too.

Walking on, I discovered still more birds. Only these birds looked more like large parrots. There were only two or three of them. They were mostly white in color, with some other colors blended in. They weren't exactly parrots, but a parrot was the closest thing I could think of to compare them to. Their presence here puzzled me.

Finally I walked back out of the house, and immediately found that I had stumbled onto a small plot – perhaps two meters by three meters – of freshly tilled dark ground. Seeing strands of string stretched lengthwise across the plot, marking off the rows, I quickly deduced that I was standing in someone's small garden, and I tried to watch my step as I moved out of it.

Once out of the patch, I saw the gardener himself standing next to the plot. He was a young fellow, probably in his early twenties. He was thin and wearing a white tee shirt. I immediately surmised who he was – the younger brother of the man at the shack. In fact a little story began in my mind of how the two brothers had inherited the farm. The older brother had been in charge and had let the farm go to pot. Now the younger brother, coming into his own right, was making this first small attempt to again recapture the farm with this meager plot of tilled garden. His small labors struck me as admirable, and I apologized to him for having tread on the garden.

I then turned to leave, wondering to myself what was the purpose of the string which was stretched in rows over the garden. The string must be there to somehow help the plants grow, but I didn't know exactly how.

As I headed back toward the car, I passed by some wildflowers, and I thought to myself how the simple act of walking through this field, glimpsing the house and the way those people lived, had been the best part of my trip. It seemed that rather than being in the car or in the city, getting out and walking in the country like this was the way to really feel things.

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