As you likely know if you watch a lot of Judge Judy or are a criminal, the unmistakable wood-on-wood clap that accompanies the pounding of a gavel is most often created with the intention of quieting a large crowd of unruly people, most often in a courtroom, as was the case today. Typically, it is successful. This was not the case today, despite the fact that the gentleman swinging the gavel was doing it quite ferociously.
Things often got unruly shortly before opening arguments kicked off, but the perfect storm of a long weekend and two imfamously firebrand opponents set to make their cases had brought some clamor to the lightly adored courtroom perched some 46 billion lightyears above Earth.
It was instead the clap of thunder, ushered into the room accompanied by a flash of bright light, that calmed the crowd down and allowed everyone to settle back into their seats once the ringing in their ears had worn off a bit.
“Thank you, Zeus,” the judge — whose credentials were closer to that of an arbiter– said, sending an acknowledging nod his way. His view from the bench slowly became unencumbered as the various gods, goddesses, and celestial figures clamored back to their seats, some shuffling to the left, some to the right.
“Now, this debate should be a simple one,” he said looking over his glasses, his view still somehow slightly obstructed by his long, angular nose. “We’ve set aside six minutes for oral arguments here — we have quite the list of prayers to get through today, so that should be ample for a simple softball game, for Christ’s sake.”
“Ah, so it’ll be Julia and the Junebugs that’ll win the championship,” Jesus Christ said, rising from his seat at his bench. “No surprises here, I mean I DID die on a cross for this kind of stuff. So we thinking 10-0 shutout here, or what?”
“No Mr. Christ, that was just a turn of phrase,” said the judge, exasperation crawling across his face. “Just an exclamation. I wasn’t awarding you the win and I’m certain you knew that, we all know this isn’t your first rodeo.”
“Truthfully, it’s not about the win for me,” Jesus said, interjecting quickly while bringing both hands to his chest — the wounds in his palms aligning to allow for a view of the stained white frock he wore underneath. “Truly, it is about a win for Julie and the Junebugs.” He blinked and batted his eyes while nodding to the crowd, turning to look each and every one in the eyes as he dropped his hands to his side. The blood stains on his frock were apparent, spare for a small circle in the center. He had indeed rodeo’d quite a few times in his past.
The crowd, made up of a collection of gods and goddesses as well as two gaseous bodies and a goose that had been worshiped for a brief period in Egypt, began to nod and murmur in agreement. Even they were not immune to Jesus Christ’s cliche pleas to their humanity.
By this point, Zeus certainly was. A courtoom record of 281,104,889 wins against 211,904,110 losses dating back circa 900 BCE put Zeus near the top of the standings in the wins column, which for a time gave him solace. It served as an indicator of how long he had been around, the longevity and consistency in the courtroom indicative of a God amongst, well, Gods. Though over the years the paltry winning percentage stuck in the fifties that looked him square in the eye every time he received his post-debate paperwork was a constant reminder of just how long he had been around. Comparatively, even at just over 2,000 years old, Jesus was the new kid on the block — the slick, fast-talking young God with shoulder-length hair and handmade sandals — the envy of God and Goddess, as well as the aforementioned goose. He was quick on his feet in spite of his footwear and his record showed for it. He had ascended the ranks quickly and mostly stumble-free, ankles fully intact. Thanks to a series of stories both well-recorded and vague enough to be universally-applicable, and a set of rules quite literally carved into stone, Jesus typically entered the courtroom confidently and planned to leave it that very same way.
Slowly, Zeus rose to his feet. Proceedings hadn’t officially begun, but if Jesus wasn’t going to wait his turn neither was he.
“Julie?” rang out his voice, mirroring the confidence of his opponent but a number of octaves deeper and with the slight disdain that can only come with some 500 million-odd similar experiences. A hush washed over the crowd as they turned to look towards the towering Zeus, now standing with palms planted on the bench opposite Jesus. His voice boomed in the small room; even at his advanced age he found it easy to command attention with little more than a simple shout or an occasional clap of thunder.
“It’s interesting that you say that, Mr. Christ. Did you say ‘Julie’ just now,” he continued, his eyes now locked on his opponent as he cocked his head a bit. “Because just before that, the girl — the adorable, sweet nine-year-old girl — who came to you in her time of need to ask you one simple thing,” he let out, his voice rising now as he continued without breaking. “…just to win the softball championship for her and the Junebugs. Well, her name was Julia.”
The crowd let out a gasp and ripped their heads back to Christ, who began shuffling through papers on his desk. Zeus, adorned in his trademark white robe and full, curly white beard sat back down at his bench and crossed his arms. A look of smug satisfaction washed over his face.
“Woah woah woah, can we calm it down a little here,” he said to the silent courtroom. “Zeus, with all due respect, you’re reaching a bit here, don’t you think champ? Julie? Julia? I get millions of prayers each day and I have quite a few names to consider here. I mean, one letter is going to invalidate the fact that I got her prayer mid-afternoon while Victoria didn’t bother sending you diddly until after 8 pm?”
“Mr. Christ,” Zeus said, his patience running thin and his head slowly shaking while remaining seated behind his bench. “You’re very well aware that timing isn’t everything here, it’s just as much the quality of the prayers, as well as a number of other factors that are at play here.”
Now this was hardly Zeus’s place to say, though that wasn’t known to stop the hulking, bearded figure from doing as he pleased more often than not. Despite laying claim to thunder, the entirety of the sky, and a small portion of western Ohio, Zeus’s authority was found wanting in the courtroom. He knew this, of course, being a veteran of the courts, as did his opponent and the man on the bench — the eyes cast by the judge in his direction indicated as much.
“Now that’s hardly your place to say, Zeus,” said the judge, snapping him out of his brief daydream. “That being said, he is right, there is more to this than just the timing of it Mr. Christ. We have to introduce and consider factors including the quality.”
Zeus sat back at the bench and looked through his papers — on quality he was confident he had an edge, but due to God-patient privilege, he hadn’t yet heard Julia’s prayer. Victoria’s was good, as most of his remaining followers’ typically were. A devout group they were, that was for sure, and Victoria was the youngest he had seen. Numbers had, predictably, dwindled since his hayday in 1000 BC. Worshippers found their way to him less, opting instead for the flashier, younger Gods like the one sitting opposite him at this very moment. But Victoria was different — she was a firm beliver despite her age; it brought an element of pride to the case, for Zeus. It was his future, the future of his people, that felt like it was hanging by the thread of his arguments. In this case, it just happened to be manifesting itself as a softball game between teams of 9 and 10 year olds, he supposed.
“Now we all know,” came Jesus’s voice as he turned to face the crowd, “that I’m the most popular God around right now. I’m getting requests left and right — email, phone, text, one guy faxed it and I didn’t see it until like two months later, but what I’m saying is, I’ve got a lot on my plate. I can’t vet every prayer for quality — I can admit that. I’m man enough to admit that.” The crowd was now growing audibly tense, a buzzing sound coming from most with an occasional honk or explosion peppering the scene.
“Did I forget about that choking social worker in Utah the other day, yes. But,” he continued. “But, that very same day did my cousin Gary win like $800 on the Jet’s game, also yes. My point is, I get a lot of prayers sent my way, and sometimes I miss a few. But this one, this one, I could feel. I could feel how badly Julia wants this.”
Zeus was about ready to wrap this up.
“Did she want it so badly that she prayed during social studies?” asked Zeus, interrupting what likely would have been a long and winding tirade from Christ. The energy in the crowd continued to grow, the buzz turning to shouts, the honking more aggressive as the Goose, hungry for tension rather than bread, could feel something happening. “You make all this fuss about her beating Victoria to the prayer by a few hours and well, what’s Julia supposed to be doing at 1:43 pm when she’s praying? Sitting in social studies learning about the Rwandan genocide.”
Gaseous bodies collided. Honks turned to bites as the courtroom exploded with opinions, firing in one direction or the other. What should have been a simple debate had blossomed into a war between Gods Old and New, between sandals and slightly different, less cool sandals. Thunder was out, repressing minority groups was in, and the balance of the courts felt like it hung in the balance based on this single case.
Julia Jankowski, age nine and three-quarters, stood in the middle of the small island of dirt in a sea of poorly mowed grass infield. She adjusted the ball in her hand while she prodded at a patch of crabgrass – one of many that littered the pitcher’s mound – with her plastic cleats. She looked up in time to see the next batter approach the plate riding a wave of cheers of support from her family and teammates in the bleachers. The lightning bolt on the girl’s jersey shined for a moment as the light caught it before she turned back to flash a nervous smile to her teammates.
“Go get em Victoria,” they shouted to the small statured, curly blonde haired girl who seemed to be struggling under the weight of the bat she was carrying to the plate. She stepped into the batters box and looked up to meet her opponent on the mound. There were runners on second and third, and two outs. The pitcher, who had just seemed more preoccupied with the tufts of grass around the mound, stepped onto the rubber and closed her eyes briefly.
Julia Jankowski, pitcher for the Junebugs opened her eyes and began her windup.