dontravis.com blog post #315
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Another piece of flash fiction this week.
THAT ONE’S TROUBLE
“Seth Fortner,” the bailiff intoned in a bored monotone.
A slender youth rose from the cluster of prisoners awaiting arraignment in Henry Salman Zamora’s Metro courtroom and shuffled forward uncertainly.
“That one’s trouble,” predicted the public defender next to me.
"How so?" I asked.
Another lawyer scoffed. “The kid can’t be old enough for Metro.”
As if Hizzoner were privy to the conversation, Zamora peered over his glasses. “What is this, Mr. Prosecutor? This young man belongs in Children’s Court.”
The assistant DA promptly handed over some papers. “The prisoner turned eighteen two months ago, sir.”
As a probation and parole officer for the City of Albuquerque, I had a privileged seat with a clear view of Seth Fortner in profile. I understood the confusion. The kid’s face was smooth, unmarked, and untroubled by a beard. He didn’t even look old enough to have suffered through acne. Tanned, resilient skin stretched tight with the freshness of youth. High cheekbones balanced his features perfectly. Smoky eyes that could have been drawn by a caricaturist—brooding, and vulnerable—glanced nervously around the small courtroom. Brown hair with blond highlights, wavy in front, smooth at the back, couldn’t have been improved by a visit to a two hundred-dollar stylist.
But the kid’s frame reinforced the prosecutor’s claim. Although lanky, his torso was defined by broad shoulders and flaring ribs seldom observed on minors. Even in baggy jailhouse blues, the kid made me think of the guy back in school we called “High-Pockets.”
Outwardly cool, the boy’s fear was apparent to anyone who looked carefully. Probably his first bust. Soliciting, the docket read. Young Seth had propositioned an equally baby-faced undercover cop.
Things went about as expected. The kid’s public-pad mouthpiece pled him out, anticipating a simple fine. For a while, it looked as if Zamora might upset the applecart because Seth Bayless had no family or permanent address in the area. His problem became mine as soon as the jurist’s eyes lit on me.
“I see Paul Govan in the courtroom,”
announced gravely. I rose grudgingly. “Mr. Govan, are you willing to take this
young man under your wing and find him a spot in a halfway house?” Zamora
“Uh, my boss usually makes the assignments, your honor.”
“My word carries no weight with you fellows down in Probation and Parole?” Danger lurked in that question.
“Of course, sir. I’m certain it will be all right for me to accept the assignment.”
Yeah, right. My boss would tear me a new one… but he wouldn’t take the kid off my shoulders. What was it the PD lawyer had said? “That one’s trouble.”
It took three hours out of my busy day to locate a halfway house with room for Fortner, and another hour to get all of the paperwork done. Finally, I sat across my desk from the probationer, intending to intimidate him with a dead-level stare. I was immediately flummoxed. Some mortals are blest with either a fine profile or good frontal features; few have both. Seth Fortner was one of the few. His eyebrows; dark and pencil thin, dipped slightly before arching gracefully over his eyes. This guy was a looker, front, side, and back! If I was an Adonis like this kid, I’d probably be out shagging my ass, too, but I’d sell it to the ladies.
“Okay, Fortner, you understand what happened, right? Judge Zamora gave you a six-month suspended sentence with supervision. A few ground rules. No drinking of alcoholic beverages and no drugs of any kind. You’ll be subjected to random testing for the six months your ass is mine. Got that?”
The solemn, respectful youth nodded. “Yes, sir.”
“And stay away from the rabbit run.”
“The place you were busted. That area out on East Central where the gays gather to sell their goods. Got it?”
A nod this time.
I ran down the rest of the list and told him to report tomorrow afternoon to get with the program. I hesitated before going personal. “You seem like a decent kid. Why were you out peddling your butt to a bunch of fairies?”
“They like me. And they aren’t always queer.”
My beetle brows climbed, although I don’t know why. After ten years in this business, there should be no more surprises.
“Even that cop had me do him before he busted me.”
The old eyebrows really reached for the hairline. “Come on, he—”
An elaborate shrug. “He said you wouldn’t believe me. But he did. And he didn’t pay me, either,” he added bitterly.
“I wouldn’t make accusations like that, if I were you,”
“Not an accusation. Just the way it was.”
“Well, you stay out of trouble. Understand? You need a ride to the halfway house?”
“I can probably hitch one.”
“No way,” I came back at him.
He grinned, that wide, mobile mouth curling devilishly at either end and altering his face dramatically. He looked like a heart-wrenching male ingénue. “What’s the matter, you afraid I’ll hit on someone?” he asked.
“Whatever. I’ll give you a ride. You’re not about to proposition me.” Jeez, that sounded like a challenge.
His sudden calculating look let me know he’d taken it that way and sent a shiver up my spine. He was up for the game.
Well, what’s the outcome of this story. Was the kid’s will stronger than the probation officer’s? You can fashion your own ending and have fun doing it.
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