Nedwick Thistlepock, junior "seed and feed" reporter for the West Wallingford Herald-Tribune—a rather lofty name for a rather shabby little upstart newspaper that was always and forever being overshadowed by its major competitor, the East Wallingford Chronicle—craned his neck to see through the forest of much taller figures surrounding him. His diminutive stature did not stand him in good stead in circumstances such as these, where large numbers of people were congregated to witness a much-talked-about event. He was much better suited to dealing with plants and livestock, and even then he was occasionally overshadowed by a particularly healthy crop.
The judge tapped his gavel on the bench. "Please be seated," he said. Nedwick heaved a sigh of relief. He was still at a disadvantage even when seated, but at least the degree of disparity was lessened when the bodies surrounding him were folded in the middle.
Nedwick poised his pencil over his yellow steno pad and perked up his ears. He had no idea what was about to happen, but he felt in his stubby bones that it was going to be good.
"We will now hear opening arguments," the judge said. He turned to the table on the right-hand side of the courtroom. "Is the prosecution ready?"
A tall man with salt-and-pepper hair and dark-rimmed glasses stood. "Yes, Your Honor. Errol Rathbone Faltar-Ego, Esquire, representing the plaintiff."
"Very well, Mister Faltar-Ego. Please proceed."
"Thank you, Your Honor."
Nedwick scribbled a brief description of the prosecuting attorney as he moved out from behind the table and approached the jury box.
"Ladies and gentlemen of the jury," Faltar-Ego began. "It is my intent to prove to you, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that the defendant—" He whirled dramatically and pointed to the left-hand table. "—Mister Edgar Loosive, did, on numerous occasions, willfully and without remorse, inflict injurious harm upon my client—" He turned gracefully and indicated the pathetic wretch sitting at his own table "—Joe."
"Mister Faltar-Ego," the judge interrupted, "does your client possess a surname?"
Faltar-Ego turned to glance at his sniveling, sweaty little mouse-dropping of a client and then returned his attention to the bench.
"Not to my knowledge, Your Honor," he replied.
Nedwick was rather pleased with himself. He thought the "mouse-dropping" comment was rather clever and vowed to use it again sometime. His little bubble of pride was burst rather rapidly, however, when he glanced up from his paper and was just able to make out through the forest of bodies that Faltar-Ego's client was looking back at him and giving him the stink-eye.
It was almost like he knew what Nedwick had written.
"Is there some other way, then," the judge was asking, "of further identifying your client for the records? I don't think 'Joe' will suffice for our purposes here."
Faltar-Ego put a hand to his chin and thought a moment. Finally, he took a step towards the bench.
"I think, Your Honor, that we may identify him as "Joe of 'Davy and Joe'".
The judged nodded thoughtfully for a moment. "All right. That will do." He glanced at the prosecution table. "Now, Mister Faltar-Ego, if you could only get your client to actually pay attention to the proceedings..."
The 'Joe' person finally turned his gaze from Nedwick and returned his attention to the front of the room, but not before narrowing his eyes further and scowling. Nedwick pulled out his handkerchief and mopped his moist brow, letting out a relieved breath as the scrutiny was withdrawn.
"Now, ladies and gentlemen," Faltar-Ego was saying, "I would like to read to you a list of the many and varied injuries perpetrated by Mister Loosive and his accomplices upon my client during the many long and torturous chapters of the 'Davy and Joe' story..."
Forgetting for the moment the evil eye to which he had just been subjected, Nedwick perked up his ears again and poised his pencil over his pad.
This was going to be good.