Life's Surreal Vignettes
I got tossed in jail once for beating a man who was beating a horse. Even worse, I was in a foreign country and the man wasn't. He was in his country. It never goes well in those sort of situations.
They put me in a small holding cell with several other criminals. It was filthy. No toilet, no water, lots of body odor, dubious stains on the concrete floor. I took a seat on a rusted steel cot. One of my fellow criminals asked why I had been arrested.
"Ceea ce a fost crima ta?"
I told them. They looked at one another in confusion.
"Calul a fost valoroase? Un cal de curse?"
"No. It was just an old farm horse."
This seemed to strike a chord. I was offered a cigarette. We discussed God, politics and women for the next few hours. Typical topics of conversation for dangerous men. Eventually a guard came to our cell and escorted me down a long hallway and through a pair of battered wooden doors into a tiny courtroom.
I sat on a low bench against the back wall waiting for my name to be called. The air smelled of bleach. An old ceiling fan creaked overhead. The walls were covered in a dark red wallpaper that had seen better days and was peeling in spots. Armed guards stood scowling down on either side of me. The infamous American beater of farmers. I considered winking at one, thought better of it. dresses for second weddings
A bailiff spoke my name. I stood and walked with the guards to a small podium a few feet from the local magistrate who sat behind a rickety old wooden desk. She looked to be in her sixties, a plump grandmotherly type with white hair, trifocals and ill-fitting dentures. She wore a high-collared black dress with white ruffles around the neck. She looked up from some papers and frowned.
"You are Mr. Randy Clark?"
"Did you attack this man?"
She pointed to the farmer who sat off to one side on another bench. He was scowling at me too and looked a little worse for wear. His lower lip was split and a bright purple bruise ran across his forehead.
"Yes, that's him."
"Why did you attack him?"
"He was beating an old horse hitched to a cart with a cane."
"You struck him with your fists?"
"No, ma'am. With his cane."
The magistrate leaned back in her chair.
"You took it from him?"
"Beat him with it?"
"Yes, ma'am. But only his face."
"Why only his face?"
"He was beating the horse's face."
She leaned forward, turned to the farmer.
"You were beating a horse in the face with your cane?"
The farmer stiffened. "It is my horse. I own it."
"I didn't ask who owned the horse. I asked who was beating it. Was it you?"
The magistrate was scowling at the farmer now. A flicker of doubt crossed his weathered face. He shuffled his feet.
"It wouldn't obey."
The magistrate raised her voice. "I will only ask you once more. Were you beating a horse in the face with your cane?"
The farmer dropped his head. "Yes."
Her Honor turned back to me.
"Mr. Clark. I fine you 800 lei for public disturbance. I also fine you another 800 lei to be payable to the man you assaulted. You have the funds?"
"Yes, ma'am." I pulled out my wallet, began counting bills. I handed the bailiff $410 USD who in turn placed it on the magistrate's desk.
The magistrate counted the money, handed $205 to the bailiff and instructed him to give it to the farmer. The farmer took the bills with wide-eyed amazement. It was a windfall for him.
"As for you." the magistrate glared at the farmer. "I fine you 800 lei for animal cruelty. I also order you to surrender your horse to the local authorities where it will be placed in protective custody. Do you understand?"
The farmer dropped his gaze back to the floor, nodded his head. He returned the $205 to the bailiff who gave it back to the magistrate.
"Mr. Clark. You are banned from entering Romania for a period of twelve months from today's date. You will be escorted to the airport by officers. If you return to this country before the ban expires you will be sentenced to one year imprisonment. Do you understand?"
"The officers will escort you." She flashed a smile,
The guards and I turned towards the exit. I glanced at the farmer. He mouthed a silent curse at me. I blew him a kiss.