Our court appearance seemed like an all-day affair. Just as we had arrived, Lola took me into her office and tried to pep-talk my unpeppy mind. I was terrified. Meanwhile, my parents were both ordered to take a psychoanalytical test, where they both passed with lying colors…I mean flying colors. This was in Jays plan, and he, and his carefully molded accomplice, aced it. My mother, to no one’s surprise, stood by her man’s word. More about this test later on in the story.
The courtroom must have used an acre of trees to garnish its walls, benches, and judges throne. It smelled lemony-fresh with wood cleaner. Otherwise, it was a large, official-looking room. An enormous Mississippi State Seal was the centerpiece of the room. There were several cases before ours, in fact, ours was the last case the judge heard. I sat with my parents and watched my mother’s frazzled nerves in action. She held a paper towel and wrung it through, and around her fingers so many times that it disintegrated into small balls of cotton that fell to the floor.
After hearing numerous cases of crimes committed by delinquents, it was our turn to face the judge. Two tables were set up. One table for the accused, in this case it was I who was the accused; Lola represented me, and the defenders; my parents and their lawyer.
Each of us were called to the stand to tell our side of the story. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have lied my ass off in certain circumstances, but in this most important of all the circumstances my life had seen at that time, it was pertinent that I told every last drop of the absolute truth…as hard as it was, I did just that. “You gotta do what you gotta do, and you gotta do it good, gurl!” I told of all of the torment, the abuse, the cruelty that my father had put me and my family through.
As I spoke, I glanced at Jay and saw the familiar laser beam eyes that burned my soul, I was sure I could tell what he was thinking, and it wasn’t pleasant. I avoided looking at my mother, it was just too painful. I quickly looked to Lola, where her soft smile, and approving nod of her head kept my lips moving to the tune of the truth. It was she who had my best interest as her priority, and no one else.
My father was called to the stand. He pulled off the concerned, loving father role as good as Harrison Ford pulled off his role as Dr. Henry Walton “Indiana” Jones, Jr. It was sickening, but the judge listened carefully. Jay put all of the blame on his criminal son, who had no respect for anyone in authority. He made me look like the bad apple that he so desperately wanted to make into apple sauce.. Numerous runaways, of which he left out the reason why I ran away…of course. Stealing. He brought up every delinquent-sounding action I had ever done. “We just don’t see why he behaves this way,” he said. ”We give him everything he needs to survive in this world.” He was a pro on the stand. My stomach turned.
What a crock of shit, but it seemed as though the judge was buying it. I mean, I guess I can’t blame him. There he would sit, day after day, listening to story after story of kids gone wrong, kids from a good family who just refused to submit to the lawful ways of society. But my story was so different. The judge did not know this. All he had to go by was the hours’ worth of testimony from a scared teenager and his halo-donning father. Oh yeah, the testimony of his mother, too.
It is still difficult, after all of these years, to close my eyes and think back on this occasion. I can remember, clear as day, as my mother was called to the stand. I had a glimmer of hope that she would break the silence and come to my rescue. Shortly, I would realize that the glimmer came from a piece of broken mirror, swept into an unassuming skeleton-filled closet.
“Mrs. Pruett, please raise you right hand to acknowledge your testimony before this court is true,” the judge asked.
My mother, without even looking at me did as she was instructed.
“Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God?”
“I do, your honor.”
I sank into my chair as my mother lied, under oath, to protect Jay and to make me look like it was I who was the culprit responsible for making our fucked up family fucked up. Lola rubbed my knee. I wasn’t that surprised to hear her lie, but to actually hear it come out of her mouth hurt me more than I had expected. As God as her witness! It was an unimaginable feeling of defeat and betrayal.
As she spoke, I thought of the olive oil and speaking in tongues, I thought of the countless Sunday morning church services we attended, I thought of her praying…the prayer I was taught as a child….”Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord, my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord, my soul to take.”…I thought of the Lord’s Prayer: “Our Father which art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day, our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not to temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.” The power, as it was, was Jay, not some Divine Being, looking down on a mess of a situation. Jay was the evil, and he tempted her into submission. A living, breathing, vile, devil, capable of dismissing a person’s faith to suit their own demented soul and its prime directive- To rule.
I held the hurt of my mother’s denial in my heart for many years, even though I understood why she did it. The hurt would follow me throughout my twenties, thirties, and a few of my forties, and would set the stage to all that made me an insatiable party boy.
The court session went on.