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She Hates Numbers

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Pretzels & Chocolate, a poem

jim-valvis

PRETZELS & CHOCOLATE

(rented room, cigarettes)

I am eating pretzels
and they are hard
but splinter into salty crumbs

with the merest bite
they only satisfy
part of my tongue

(rented room, cigarettes)

so I pick up the chocolate
greedy for it to melt
against my palate

sucking the firm square
feeling it mold to me
the way I imagine

my body molds to yours

(rented room, cigarettes)

retaining the character of sweetness
to complement the salt
to balance my mouth

I am eating chocolate
thinking of us
together

(rented room, cigarettes)

illustration mockingbird mimus polyglottos

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president barack obama is being quoted out of context by the radical fringe right, and I’M SICK & FUCKING TIRED OF THIS SHIT

illustration president obama

the full text of president obama’s speech in which he advocates FOR democracy, not AGAINST it. a paragraph is being circulated, ENTIRELY OUT OF CONTEXT, to defame him. I WON’T STAND FOR THIS SHIT.

“And it was here in Europe, through centuries of struggle, through war and enlightenment, repression and revolution, that a particular set of ideals began to emerge, the belief that through conscience and free will, each of us has the right to live as we choose, the belief that power is derived from the consent of the governed and that laws and institutions should be established to protect that understanding.

And those ideas eventually inspired a band of colonialists across an ocean, and they wrote them into the founding documents that still guide America today, including the simple truth that all men, and women, are created equal.

But those ideals have also been tested, here in Europe and around the world. Those ideals have often been threatened by an older, more traditional view of power. This alternative vision argues that ordinary men and women are too small-minded to govern their own affairs, that order and progress can only come when individuals surrender their rights to an all-powerful sovereign. Often this alternative vision roots itself in the notion that by virtue of race or faith or ethnicity, some are inherently superior to others and that individual identity must be defined by us versus them, or that national greatness must flow not by what people stand for, but what they are against.

In so many ways, the history of Europe in the 20th century represented the ongoing clash of these two sets of ideas, both within nations and among nations. The advance of industry and technology outpaced our ability to resolve our differences peacefully. And even — even among the most civilized of societies on the surface, we saw a descent into barbarism.”

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Heavenly Dances, Heavenly Intimacies, a short story

illustration heavenly dances heavenly intimacies

Heavenly Dances, Heavenly Intimacies, a short story

“Isn’t there any heaven where old beautiful dances, old beautiful intimacies prolong themselves?”

Ford Madox Ford, The Good Soldier

How can I be “dead” to any of the men I once loved?  They are not “dead” to me.  Not even H.  How can I be “dead” to H.?  They — even H. — are each as alive as when I was with them; as alive as the first time they touched me, whether tentatively or with confidence; whether softly or roughly; whether with passion or mere lust.  It is shocking and appalling how H. lurched so radically to the right after 9/11.  He began that journey to the Tea-Party-Mad-Hatter-Neocon-Bill-Buckley-Wall-Street-Apologist-Fringe-Brainless-Faux-News-Right when Ronald Reagan was shot; I was with him the very night it happened.  We had a short affair, right then, because we started thinking the end of the world had arrived and we decided, like the crazy college students we were, to get married to celebrate our courage in the face of chaos!  I realized very early on (but still way too late!) I was embarrassed to be seen in public with him.  Did you ever start seeing, and marry someone whom you later realized you were embarrassed to be seen with?  Perhaps the person in question was “dorky,” “geeky,” dressed “badly,” or had questionable “taste.”  H. readily admits he was a “dork” in high school.  He was on the debate team; need I say more?  When you can’t bear to be seen in your lover’s/spouse’s/significant other’s/partner’s company, things usually don’t work out.

Still, I put in ten dutiful years, trying to make amends for my mistake in marrying H.  The second he started making the big bucks, he dumped me.  He left me for my best friend!  I guess I deserved it, not taking control of my own life & filing for divorce two weeks after we married.  And I guess I deserved how my ex-best-friend S. ruined me, as she subsequently did.  She was in charge of the whole group we had socialized with:  dictating how everyone in our “circle” should think, speak, act, or react.  H. was dead wrong about most everything, but, to his credit, he was dead right about her.  At the time I thought him merely woman-hating, but I see now, even though he did hate women, there was something more than simply being a “woman” he hated about her.  He was covering up the fact he loved her by pretending to hate her.  Now, I have no desire to see her, not ever again.  She is definitely “dead” to me.  Yes, I understand intellectually, a living death (call it shunning) can happen to anyone.

The upshot of all this boring history?  I’ve been waiting for something a long time.  I can’t blame anyone but myself for my unhappiness, not anymore.  There is something dispirited inside me, something empty, drained, and beaten — something sick, something tired, something that has surrendered.  I gave up, when?  When my first ex-husband arbitrarily said no to children, breaking his solemn vow.  When I realized I couldn’t find happiness outside myself — not with an old love, not with a new love, not with any of my subsequent husbands, my friends, my eventual children, or my family.  Yes, to casual acquaintances and virtual strangers I am “happy, happier than I’ve ever been.”  And it’s true!  I’ve never been this happy, this contented, in my life.  Yes, there are still problems.  My oldest son is still half the world away, fighting an endless war on behalf of my “country.”  My youngest son still has an ignorant, racist, rabidly conservative father.  I am getting old.  My face is melting.  My neck is turning into a wattle.  I am drooping.

Still, I cannot imagine any of them, the men I have loved or made love to, being dead to me the way my former best friend, S., is dead to me.  Yet that is how they must feel about me, the way I feel about her.  Wanting her removed from my memories.  Wanting never to have met her.  Not missing anything about her.  She wants to see me, I heard from a mutual friend I still speak to.  I don’t want to see her, or even see the mutual friend.  I don’t even want to get as close as that!  Because of reasons.  Top secret, NSA, DOD, CIA, FBI, SEC, IRS, FDLE, GPD, ACSO reasons!  No further comment!

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Disgusting “Dynasty Trust”

Dynasty trust

DISGUSTING!!!!!  Why do people think this way?  I condemn this trust to HELL!!!  In a handbasket!!!

“The Dynasty Trust is an excellent tax planning vehicle as it permanently removes significant assets and the future appreciation on those assets from the transfer tax system. If no one “owns” these assets in the future, they will not be part of anyone’s taxable estate. In addition, the Dynasty Trust is an excellent asset protection vehicle. With no owner’s of the assets, creditors cannot make successful claims against the assets in these trusts, allowing them to be preserved, even against liability claims against the trust’s beneficiaries.

The trust is initially created for “primary beneficiaries” who are the Grantor’s children. They are given a limited power of appointment over the trust property in favor of their descendants. If this power is not exercised, the trust property passes to the descendants of the Grantor’s children, and so on. The trustee has discretion to pay a beneficiary income and principal from the trust, but is under no obligation to distribute any property at any time.

The trust is sensitive to the possible generation-skipping tax issues that can arise in this type of trust. (Section 3.1B). The trustee is given broad investment discretion. (Sections 3.1A and 3.3)

Since the trust is intended to last a very long time, the initial trustee is not likely to outlive the trust. Circumstances unforeseen at the inception of the trust may very well occur. For these reasons, the trust (section 4.5) appoints a “trust protector” – a person or institution to serve as the trust’s “watchdog” over what may need to be changed, amended, removed, etc. as time goes on.

Article 10 is also worth noting. The Grantor should consider how he/she may want to define such basic terms as “spouse” and “child”, given the potential long-term of the trust and evolving issues of social change, genetic engineering, etc. One can consider a “traditional” definition here, or allowance of either present or possible future definitions to be included in the trust.

 

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from my folder: defense lawyer’s greed: my lawyer made me do it, by steven lubet

Image

MY LAWYER MADE ME DO IT

Steven Lubet

05‑01‑2003

Sooner or later, nearly every lawyer has to confront some variant on the dilemma of zealous representation. How do we justify representing clients whose goals are morally questionable or even flatly offensive? The standard answer is that lawyers serve society by facilitating client autonomy, allowing individuals and corporations to make informed decisions about their legal rights. As Samuel Johnson explained nearly 250 years ago, “A lawyer is to do for his client all that his client might fairly do for himself.” Thus, corporate counsel (following each new accounting fraud) and public defenders (in almost every case) deliver the same ready reply to a relentlessly familiar question: How can you defend those people? Well, it isn’t always easy, but we are just doing our job.

Lawyers have come to expect skepticism, if not outright scorn, when representing, say, polluters or criminals. But until recently, it was a safe bet that no one had to be embarrassed about a client like the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston. In recent months, however, the litigation over clergy abuse has become so acrimonious that many parishioners are openly questioning the basic decency of the church’s legal strategy, going so far as to accuse the defense of inflicting new trauma on the abuse victims. Representatives of the archdiocese responded by blaming it all on their counsel ‑‑ “Our lawyers made us do it” ‑‑ as though the church has no control over the tactics employed in its name.

 More than 500 civil cases have been filed against the Boston archdiocese, alleging sexual abuse by priests and a decades‑long cover‑up by the local hierarchy. Last December, amid charges of stonewalling and complicity, Cardinal Bernard Law was forced to resign, replaced temporarily by an apostolic administrator, Bishop Richard Lennon. From the beginning, Bishop Lennon promised a new tone of reconciliation and healing. He announced his intention to settle the outstanding litigation, and promised to make therapy available to every victim who comes forward.

In the meantime, however, the church continued to mount a forceful defense in court, engaging in a level of trench warfare that would make Johnnie Cochran proud. For example, defense lawyers filed a breathtaking motion to dismiss all 500 cases on First Amendment grounds, arguing that the civil authorities could not interfere with the “bishop‑priest relationship.” It was claimed that the constant reassignment of known child molesters was beyond the reach of the law, because the supervision of priests was exclusively an ecclesiastical matter.

Predictably, the motion was denied, but not before Bishop Lennon explained that his attorneys had insisted on the hardball tactic because “failure to do this could very well result in the insurance companies walking away from us, saying that we have not exercised all of our avenues of defense.”

It was barely noticed at the time, but Bishop Lennon had actually adopted the classic lawyer’s excuse. Absolving himself of any moral responsibility for the maneuver ‑‑ much less the cost and anxiety it imposed on the injured plaintiffs ‑‑ he invoked the nature of the legal process as justification for an outrageous ploy. Attorneys routinely seek to escape the consequences of their actions by deferring to their clients’ instructions, but this was an entirely new twist on an old theme. The apostolic administrator washed his hands of his own decision, blaming the insurers and lawyers instead.

It gets much worse.

In January 2003 the church’s defense team began serving deposition subpoenas on plaintiffs’ psychotherapists, including some who had actually been hired by the archdiocese itself to provide treatment to abuse survivors. From a legal perspective, of course, this was not particularly out of the ordinary. The psychotherapist privilege is waived when a plaintiff claims damages for emotional trauma.

From a moral perspective, however, it was a disaster. The church had encouraged victims to come forward and had even set up a special Office of Healing and Assistance to facilitate therapy, as part of Bishop Lennon’s announced preference for settlement over litigation. Then the archdiocese turned around and insisted on invading the patient‑therapist relationship in a way that many victims regarded as jeopardizing their recovery.

The reaction was furious. A coalition of psychologists and victims’ rights activists denounced the depositions as “revictimization” and “reabuse” of patients who were “already broken members” of the church’s flock. Without disputing the church’s legal right to take the depositions, the group complained that the tactic was inconsistent with Lennon’s professed commitment to justice and healing. The victims’ therapy, they said, would be “permanently harmed by the intrusion of the legal system.”

One prominent psychotherapist, who had previously been invited to address the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, put it even more bluntly: “I think that this is very despicable and deceitful. To say [that] ‘the church loves you’ and ‘we want to help you’ and then to invade your treatment is really just wrong. It may be legally okay, but it’s wrong.”

In response, an archdiocesan spokeswoman declared that the depositions were lawful and necessary: “If the victims choose to sue … we feel that we’re obligated to defend ourselves.”

Maintaining that the archdiocese still supported therapy for survivors, she insisted that the support stood “separate and distinct from the litigation process.” And lest there be any mistake, another church official remarked, “It’s a very tragic set of circumstances, but when you get to the litigation stage, there are certain things lawyers insist on doing to protect their clients.”

Thus, the Boston archdiocese inverted the very premise of the attorney‑client relationship, relying on the purported demands of counsel to justify its own moral blundering. Lawyers naturally recommend strategies that enhance the likelihood of success in litigation. To those who see themselves as legal technicians, the human toll is irrelevant so long as the tactic is lawful. The autonomous client is entitled to zealous representation, and the attorney is helpless to refuse.

But that same stricture never applies to the clients themselves. There is no conception of litigation in which a client can decline to be an independent moral actor. In fact, the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct specifically call upon lawyers to “defer to the client” in regard to other “persons who might be adversely affected” by litigation. While any good lawyer would urge the archdiocese to authorize the depositions of victims’ therapists, no lawyer could compel it. That is why we call it “advice of counsel.”

The basic purpose of taking a therapist’s deposition, after all, is to undermine the plaintiff’s monetary claim for emotional distress. A good transcript ‑‑ filled with artfully extracted admissions and potential impeachment ‑‑ becomes a useful weapon in negotiation or at trial. An early deposition in the midst of settlement talks is an unmistakably aggressive move, especially in the case of a vulnerable plaintiff who has suffered clergy abuse. (In several hundred cases, all discovery has been stayed for 90 days pursuant to a “stand‑down” order intended to facilitate settlement; in other cases, however, the contentious litigation continues unabated, as the archdiocese recently moved for the entry of a gag order against a lead attorney for plaintiffs.)

The leaders of the Boston archdiocese may opt for compromise and settlement, or they may choose to litigate to the bitter end. As an outsider, I would defend their legal right to make either choice. But no client has the moral right to raise the flag of reconciliation while instructing counsel to scorch the earth.

Steven Lubet is a professor of law at Northwestern University. His most recent book is “Nothing but the Truth: Why Trial Lawyers Don’t, Can’t and Shouldn’t Have to Tell the Whole Truth.” E‑mail: slubet@law.northwestern.edu.

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Our Villain, a short story

illustration our villain

Our Villain

Back when these events transpired, we consisted of three lawyers representing two plaintiffs against one defendant.  We were, then as now, made up of two males and a female, the female of medium height, one male taller than average, one male shorter.  Both the male lawyers were older than the female lawyer by in one case, seven, and in the other case, ten years.  Only one of us, however, had blue eyes.  And only one of us was in love with the other two simultaneously, to her great consternation and guilt, as all three of us were married, but none to the other.  Hence, once possible source of difficulty for her.

The case was ponderous and slow-moving though not terribly complicated, legally speaking.  The theory of liability was straightforward; even a child could comprehend it, and in actuality two children already had.  No, in our case it was not the law that was causing our increasingly troubling reliance on several rounds of stiff drinks in the early evening and several rounds of antacids later on.  It was rather, the facts.  In the end, had any one of us been asked if we felt we had done the right thing, the answer would have been not yes, but a glare of outrage that the question had even been asked, and perhaps a violent cuff or two to the side of the questioner’s head.  On our way this morning to the small, cold and windowless room we now sat in, we had driven together, singing long-memorized childhood standards to relieve the tension we all felt.  We had, by way of example, upon arrival at the designated meeting place, arm in arm, skipped across the underground parking lot while whistling “We’re Off to See the Wizard.”

Thus fortified by silly notions of camaraderie and invincibility, we sat across from the villain, whom we only in public termed “the defendant.”  We were there on that heartbreakingly beautiful late spring morning — the kind of morning when even had we been working on a less distasteful set of facts, we would rather have been anywhere else — to ask him questions about what he’d done to two little girls, our clients, aged 9 and 12 when he started, aged 11 and 14 now.  The natural beauty outside — redbuds and Japanese magnolias, falling camellias — was to us that morning like a knife in the chest.  We had just the night before come back from a visit to the girls’ current home, a grim apartment in Little Havana, furnished with a couch and chairs upholstered in bright gold plastic, molded to resemble brocade and velvet.  The girls’ mother sat out in the kitchen while we talked to them, then the girls went to the bedroom they shared with their mother while we talked to her.  Our talk was intended to help them feel that what they were going through now, the legal system, was not as bad as what the villain had taken them through.  But the villain’s lawyers, also three in number, were trying to convince both girls and their mother that what the villain had taken them through was, in fact, the best of all possible worlds, and that the uncertain future they now faced was simply a result of their own stupidity and greed.

After the psychic shoring-up session at our clients’ sad, ill-lit lodgings, we had departed hastily for the bar at our hotel.  One of us, as it turned out, was unable to handle her drink as well as the other two — though all three of us drank more than the AMA preaches, though not, perhaps, more than the AMA actually practices when faced with the sort of evening we had just experienced and were trying to bury in the way a dog buries a nasty, rotting piece of meat that said dog knows will be needed the following day for its very sustenance.  Indeed, one of us was so incompetent at the art of self-medication by drinking she made inappropriate remarks to the other two of us, remarks involving her shameful, growing adulterous sentiments toward the other two, and though the eyes of the second two softened and grew misty and mutually receptive to the first’s silly, childish emotional exuberance — and one laid a tender hand on her wrist while the other stroked her cheek — they nonetheless raised to her as gently as they could the issue of how negatively our spouses might react to such sentiments, fully realized in all their permutations.  Besides, the possible effects on our case loomed, immeasurable and frightening.

From the beginning we’d agreed that if we’d been casting directors for a Hollywood movie, we couldn’t have found a better physical type to play our villain.  He was tall, well over 6 feet, and hulking, with a belly that strained the buttons on his shirt and spilled over the waist of his trousers.  His skin was pale and so were his eyes, a faint blue behind thick lenses.  Even his hair helped us — thinning, the color of burnt toast, combed greasily back off his forehead and swirled neatly behind his ears, but curled up in the back as if it couldn’t bear to be a part of him and would have jumped off at the first chance.

He’d met the girls’ mother when she was on the verge of becoming homeless.  He discovered later, to his satisfaction, that she was always perched on that edge, that he could forever hold her in his hand as long as that hand was gentle and lined with cash.  He moved them into his fine house, a low-slung, four-bedroom ranch in the suburbs of Miami.  His family home was far, far north, and he’d long ago fled the harsh winters for our near-tropical climate.  The brief, almost nonexistent winters we enjoyed led to the closets of young girls such as he favored being full of short-shorts and tank tops, and in, say, February, when his mother and his brother and sister (his father was dead) shivered inside their wools and furs, and drove haltingly along just-plowed, still-icy roads, he could climb into his Corvette convertible, top down, his thin, lank hair fluttering gaily as he drove, usually humming, to find his favorite sights at any city park.  For free.  He could look as long as he liked, newspaper over his lap, and no one had any idea what he was really thinking.

As lawyers, we thought we were familiar with how most people, even people not as far off the beaten path of normal human desire as our villain, are nonetheless filled with bizarre, inappropriate, even disgusting impulses.  We believed we understood how everyone is, underneath the legally complex bounds of civilized adulthood, in many respects still the naked, screaming, bloody baby ejected suddenly and not altogether politely from mama’s throbbing womb.  As lawyers, we possessed staid, naïve notions that because we had already experienced myriad cool, appraising looks in boardrooms and courtrooms, (in combination with startling internal questions of our own, seemingly unrelated, sudden pulsing engorgement), nothing could truly touch us, make us feel, by mere legal contact, soiled.  How wrong we were.

The day he met our girls and their mother, he’d spent the afternoon pursuing one of his favorite hobbies.  Top down, cruising in his car, trolling for the bright yellow buses that never failed to stir his loins.  He’d follow behind one, fly unzipped, smiling at the young faces gesturing frantically to him behind the glass windows marked “Emergency Exit.”  The kids loved his car.  He loved the kids, and that was what nobody else seemed to understand.  He loved them more than anything.  Their clear eyes and bright, uncomplicated peals of laughter were what drew him to wake up each morning, were what made life not a chore but a gift from God.

The day we sat across from the villain, what appeared to offend him most was the nervous gaze of the court reporter.  Maybe dressing the way he always did, in an open-throated shirt, his neck, wrists and fingers hung with heavy, 18-carat gold ornaments, had been a mistake in judgment.  He met our eyes shyly — trying to use his best manners.  Had he used that shy, hesitant gaze the first time he approached our girls?  Had he, by reason of blushes and stutters, brought out their still-developing maternal instincts?  Had they seen him as nothing more than a big, rubbery doll of a man?  Had he clasped his wrists the way he hung on to himself now?  For dear life?  What part of his life was dearest at this moment?

We, in our turn, met his eyes with blankness, hiding our feelings, our ultimate goal — we wanted to inspire in him only trust.  We were, for the next few hours, dedicated to convincing him we had no malice toward him, no, simply the same heartfelt weight of concern for his girls — our girls now — that he’d always maintained.  We differed only in how we wished him to express his deepest feelings toward his beloveds.  We simply wanted to redirect his fingers from the clasp of his own member to the clasp of an ink pen.  All he had to do, to satisfy us, was sign a check representing a sum equivalent to all he now possessed.  It was no more or less than the great love he’d always felt for them, for all of them, all the dear children who’d brought such golden light into his otherwise empty days.  He was worth millions.

Our girls had been shocked when he first made his desires known to them.  Shocked not in the sense one is shocked by a car accident, but shocked in the way one is shocked the first time it is made plain that one will be required to someday provide food, clothing and shelter for oneself.  His desires for them quickly brought material comfort to their mother and to them.  At first, the knowledge of their importance to him brought them a sort of heady pride, a child’s pride at having found in the soil a shiny gold coin.  For a while, there was no great weariness at his requests.  For a while, our girls still felt it was worthwhile to each day shower, brush their teeth, and comb their hair.  It was, at its best, a game, a stage play, a dream.  They would feel something click over in their heads, and suddenly the hands on their bodies would be outside the real.  What happened against the skin of their bodies in the villain’s king-sized bed atop his black sheets happened in another country; a parallel universe.

We knew their seduction had been a gradual procession from blushes, hesitations and startlement to coy fumblings undertaken first under cover of a cheerily false, overgrown childish abandon, then beneath a camouflage of compliments and toys, shopping expeditions to the nearest air-conditioned mall wherein nothing was refused, nothing.  If our villain refused them nothing, how weakened became their own ability to refuse!  He had become quite skilled at fulfilling the ache that seemed to start in his toes and rise up to his scalp.  His entire body loved those girls — his kisses covered them like a fine mist of semi-tropical rain.

When the teachers at school sent home notes advising the girls’ mother to assist in ensuring their personal hygiene, how delighted he was to purchase fine soaps and bathing salts, sponges and silken wash mitts.  Neither he nor their mother, busy in front of her TV, saw the circles under the girls’ eyes, the listlessness which every day crept deeper into their skins, as symptomatic of anything other than transient sleep deprivation or chronic growing pains.  The girls were, despite the recent flimsiness of their appetites, growing like kudzu vines after a good hard rain.  All was well in the quiet house.

The villain and our girls’ mother were, as a result, quite alarmed when the child welfare worker showed up one afternoon unannounced. Our villain was napping in his dark, cool cave of a bedroom, covered only from the knees down by the sheet which yet retained a certain pleasant odor and stiffness from the previous night’s adventure.  Mother was engrossed in a particularly compelling news broadcast of the Pope’s South American tour when the doorbell rang.  She was stout and somewhat put out at having to leave her seat as she huffed her way to the door.  Those Jehovah’s Witnesses could be such an annoyance.

The social worker stood on the doorstep in the bright afternoon sunlight, mopping her forehead with her bare hand, and then drying her hand on the side of her slacks.  As soon as the girls’ mother answered the door, the social worker felt something hard to describe, something which she would, with great reluctance when pressed later by the district attorney, label nausea.  She felt nausea as she stood looking at the girls’ overweight, unkempt mother, but she could not be sure if it was due to the heat, the greasy chicken sandwich she’d wolfed on her way to this visit, or the physical presence of the mother herself, a short, stocky, large-breasted, flat-footed creature with no discernible joie de vivre.

Now, in our tiny deposition room, our villain began to perspire as we questioned him.  He remained of good cheer, evidenced by an easy, toothy smile and an absence of muscle tremors.  We asked many things which in ordinary onlookers might have produced discomfort.  We asked hundreds of detailed questions involving the breasts, buttocks, mouths, hands and genitals of both the villain and our girls.  Every possible mathematical combination of the body parts mentioned had to be imagined, catalogued, and inquired into.

But our villain’s lawyers, though he had already been criminally prosecuted and sentenced under a plea-bargain, instructed him after the very first question to invoke his rights against self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment, using those simple, nearly poetic words we had studied in school and grown to love — but would never love again — hiding behind those words as behind a hideous, absolute shield.  His lawyers stared at the table, unable to meet our eyes.  Surely their job was worse than ours, at that moment.  Because the villain wanted so badly to tell us, he wanted to explain that he had never, ever done anything to harm those beautiful children.  He only wanted to tell us how much he had, and would always, love them.  His body trembled as his lawyers touched his arms to keep him in his seat.  Our bodies trembled as we continued our litany of questions, preserving for the record his only defense.

We couldn’t, as we had imagined, pierce the villain upon our lance of questions like knights on chargers, and thus protect our girls from exposure to cross-examinations by his white-glove law firm’s most skillful roster of evil, carrion-eating dragons.  We could not keep him — by virtue of the Constitution — from further harming the children we sought only to recompense for the harm he’d already inflicted.  We might now be forced, if he would not voluntarily settle the case, to put his victims upon the witness stand only to be reminded in excruciating detail once more of the very things we wanted them most to forget.  What we didn’t know, at that moment, was he would the following week agree to settle the case, not, unfortunately, for every cent he possessed, but for enough of his funds to cut short his career as lethal sugar-daddy.  What we heard, we heard only from our girls.  In private.

Please, he had said, the first time, when he made “love” to them both within a half-hour.  Please.  His words flayed the girls open like a rawhide bullwhip across their chests.  I need to, he had said, curled up on the bed next to them like a baby.  His hands reached, grasped, fumbled, and then grasped again.  He unbuttoned their shirts, unzipped their pants.  The sensation was at once terrifying, sickening and pleasurable.  Our girls turned their eyes away, looking out the windows, down the hall.  Their dread and revulsion butted up against his sickness, his addiction.  He left the door open, the curtains flung wide.  It was a beautiful spring day outdoors that day — full-blown white camellias fell off their perches with heavy, helpless plops at short intervals just on the other side of the window-screen next to the bed.  The flowers had to bloom, had to engorge each formerly folded petal, to force themselves open toward the light, the slow-moving caressing wind.  The girls tried to see him as a bee forcing its way into a closed flower, a male bee burdened by his own desire, his own weakness, and his own ignorance.

After the villain’s deposition was over that day, he somehow made it to the door before any of us did.  He stood in the doorway waiting, his hand out, as if a greeter in a department store.  His palm was soft-looking, glistening with perspiration and as we glanced at it we saw not a hand, but a weapon carrying the stain of everything we already knew he’d done with it.  Ladies first, the villain said with a smile.  Then, while that unfortunate member of our trio shook hands with the villain, the other two slipped by him with relief and gratitude toward the first.  His flesh turned out to be hotly moist, unpleasantly springy, and what we found out later, as the three of us walked arm in arm to the bar on the corner — the two who hadn’t shaken the villain’s hand supporting the weight of the one in the middle who had — it seemed his touch (no matter how much scrubbing with soap and water so hot it seared the flesh had taken place immediately afterward in the washroom of the courthouse) his touch had made all of us feel irrevocably soiled.  Like we’d shaken hands with the Devil.

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