“Our Father. Who art in heaven. Hallowed be thy name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done. On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day, our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil, Amen.”
“Mr. Brooks!” Master yelled right after we recited the Lord’s prayer as school began Monday morning. Two men from the church were seated in the room. “It has come to my attention, Mr. Brooks, that certain students in this classroom on Saturday defiled the Lord’s sacred altar at the Church while supposedly getting ready to practice their altar boy routines in preparation for Sunday masses upcoming. It has come to my attention Mr. Brooks that certain individuals were playing tag in the church and committed a most grievous outrage to the sanctity of that house of God by even playing tag on the altar and even jumping over the altar rail. And Mr. Brooks, it has come to my attention that one or more of these bad apples who parade their alleged goodness in sacred robes each and every Sunday before the congregation even jumped over the altar rail while another boy or boys was or were trying to catch him or them.
And Mr. Brooks, the devil definitely showed himself in one of these boys in the most horrific of ways and Mr. Brooks I will make it my personal mission to find out conclusively, Mr. Brooks, the exact identity of that malevolent boy who, disregarding and in fact having total contempt for our most sacred ceremonies and sacred articles, he being an altar boy on the surface but a friend of the devil beneath, I will see to it, Mr. Brooks, that this boy’s identity and bad acts are made perfectly visible to all and that he will be righteously punished if found guilty by our court today.
The Trial Begins
“So today’s lesson class is so important that we are going to skip spelling, skip mathematics, skip science, skip religion even, but we will have our civics lesson today, we will see how the courts of our great land work and we’ll see it up close because we are conducting a criminal trial here today to get the bottom of this outrage.
“Mr. Philips, the church custodian, has generously volunteered to perform the duty of defense lawyer for the accused. I will be the prosecutor so that things can move as expeditiously as possible and we waste no time. Mr. Wormwood, who performs the Sunday collections for the Church, and who has generously given of his time as well, will perform the honorable function of judge of our little court. The witnesses will be announced in good time.
“Now Mr. Brooks, I would ask that you take the witness stand which is the chair right next to my bench where the judge is now seated. Mr. Wormwood, the court is now yours.”
“Thank you Mr. Whittemore. As you know ladies and gentleman I am the man responsible for taking up the collections at Sunday masses. But what we are doing here today has nothing to do with that. You need to be completely silent, there is no talking, no laughing, no snickering and no cheering, nothing. Understand?”
“Yes Mr. Wormwood,” the class said in singsong unison.
“Well then first thing you do is call me Your Honor, understand.”
“Yes Your Honor.”
“Okay good, then the first thing we do is, is …uh, what did you say we do first Mr. Whittemore sir?”
“The prosecution, Your Honor.”
“The prosecution sir?” said the judge.
“The witnesses! The prosecution witnesses! Good God!” said Whittemore.
“Oh yes, thank you Mr. Whittemore.”
“So the first witness is uh…the first witness…um”
“Mr. Brooks is the first witness Your Honor,” said Whittemore.
“Mr. Brooks, yes, please Mr. Brooks, take the witness stand.”
“Me? What did I do? What did I do?”
“Just sit there and answer the questions,” Whittemore said.
“Sir,” said the judge reading from notes, “Do you promise to tell the whole truth in this matter so help you God?”
“What matter?” said Brooksy. “I didn’t do nothing.”
“Don’t worry about what matter you knumbskull!” said master.
“Just say yes.” The class snickered.
“Shut your faces!” said Whittemore. The judge looked at master but master just shook his head.
“Sir I’m going to ask you a few questions about what took place at the church on Saturday, understand?”
“Sir I don’t know nothing at all except that I didn’t see anyone outside the school house the other day when you asked me to spy on ‘em.”
“Mr. Brooks,” said master in as low a voice as he could, “we’re talking about Saturday at the church, not Friday at the school.” Brooks looked over at Jack who shook his head slowly and smiled.
“Sir I don’t know nothing about Saturday neither.”
“But you were at the church because others saw you and you are an altar boy are you not?”
“So you were at the church?”
“Sir? I said I was an altar boy.”
“But you were at the church?”
“Saturday! Saturday! We’re talking only about Saturday! No other time, is that clear Mr. Brooks?”
“Sir, yes sir.”
“And why do you keep looking over at Mr. Stone?”
“Sir, I don’t know.”
“What did you see happen on Saturday at the church, Mr. Brooks?”
“Sir, I saw the minister and the boys and the man who plays the organ.”
“Did you see the boys playing on the altar?”
“I didn’t see anything,” Brooks said.
“You were there! How could you not see anything? Are you blind?”
“Sometimes I can’t see when I have a bad headache, sir, and that day I had a big headache so I couldn’t see much and I was a’sittin in a bench with my head down sir.”
“So you saw nothing is that your testimony?”
“Tetimuny?” said Brooksy.
“Testimony. Your word.”
“My word? What word?” said Brooksy. “I didn’t see anythin'”
“Is that what you saw, nothing?” said the exasperated master.
“Is that what you are so non-sensically trying to tell this court and these good boys and girls sir?”
“Yes sir, I didn’t see nothing just like outside on Friday I didn’t see nothing only on Friday it was cuz I got a bad stomach ache from eating grass a dog peed on…” The whole class roared with laughter.
“Shut your faces you snipes!” screamed master and the class went dead silent.
“I have no more questions of this nincompoop!” said master.
“Yes sir, kindly step to your seat sir,” the judge told Brooksy.
“Your Honor, my next witness is one of the Sliney twins, both of whom saw the exact same thing at the church on Saturday-they are Johnny Sliney and Randy Sliney-you can’t really tell them apart unless you hear them speak for some time,” Whittemore explained to the judge. “So maybe we should have’em testify, Your Honor, at the same time because their stories are exactly alike anyway.”
“Yes good idea,” said the judge.