The Smell of Bees Wax
The scent of bees wax, stale sweat, old perfume, cheap pine disinfectant, all mixed in with that underlying smell of fear. Exhaling my breath slowly the air set my teeth vibrating or was that my nerves setting them to that fine tremble. Adjusted my clothes, I carefully pluck a single strand of feline hair from my arm. I didn’t have a cat or a dog and it wasn’t from any blonde female, mores the pity. The snort of laughter expelled any air left in my lungs and settled my nerves to a far more steady rhythm than of late.
The corridor I waited in was lit by a single dim and dingy light bulb way above and behind me. It swayed in the draft from some crevice or badly fitted warped window of this ancient government building. A rectangle of light shone bright against the dark oak door before me. I coughed to clear my throat and was blinded for an instant, as the oversized wooden door was pulled open from the other side.
Thankfully I stood back far enough so I had time to blink away the brightness. As my eyes adjust to the morning light flooding the room before me, I could at least get a hazy view of the immediate area inside. This is where experience helps, it wouldn’t look good for me to fall into the room, not a great entrance. My eyes adjusted, and I marched into the room knowing it would be full of people watching expectant of dignity. I stood before my assigned chair, chin up, shoulders back, stomach pulled in, even though my midriff was hidden beneath the ample gown.
A voice resonated around the quiet room, “All Rise.”
Chairs scraped the floor some legs screeched rather irritatingly against the highly polished floor. Coughs shuffles, mutters, and the rustle of clothing, as that voice called the room to attention. Then after a few moments of complete silence, and without command. The noise of people seating themselves with all the fidgeting as they try to get settled as comfortably as court room seating allows.
At the tables in front of me reams of papers are shuffled and reorganised, pens and other items fiddled with absent-mindedly as they gather their thoughts. The prosecutor and defence lawyer in their long black gowns and tightly curled wigs. One had the dingy silver greying colour that showed it's many years of use. The other was a brilliant clean white obviously a new purchase. Both lawyers looked totally different in facial features. So much so, one was a bearded male. The other a rather dainty female but both had that same look in there eyes. That deep look of having seen and heard way to much of the dark side of life.
Did I have that same look in my eyes I pondered, as the court usher stood and in that totally bored monotone way he read out the charges. I didn’t look at the person behind the protective glass but scanned quickly over at the two security guards that stood to attention on either side of him. Deep blue suits with silver braid and insignia. Their peeked caps slashed low to shadow their eyes and cover any emotion. The metal and glass prison style cell looked so out of place within this large old over ornate room.
All one wall was given over to extremely tall windows from high vaulted ceiling to floor there edges all intricately carved wooden scrolls and columns. Thin wooden beams criss crossed to divide the glass into small panes. I knew from experience the view from these windows showed a vista across a grassed park area and the river, but this view was barred by pale blinds letting light in while blocking the view from both sides.
This dimmed light fell across the backs of the 12 good men and true of the jury. Well 7 men and 5 woman of various ages. Most watched the usher with interest absorbing all his spoken words intently. The rest looked around the room as I did. Their interest would wane as the days progressed and court session continued. It would be up to the two gowned figures to drag them back occasionally from boredom to at least get the gist of the sometimes tedious and long winded examinations and continual questioning.
My eyes roamed on further around the room passed the oak carved panelling on the walls. Taking in the cube of the witness stand. The top rail had two slightly worn groves in it from worried hands massaging its wooden tactile polished surface .
Eyes paused on the court ushers bold crown and slick grey hair as he stood directly in front of me. He had attempted to do a comb over but as his head bowed down over the papers in his hand, this comb over strands had flopped loose. The floppy tendrils of hair now waggled back and forwards like a scraggly squirrel's tail joyfully waving to all in attendance in this courtroom.
My eyes dropped from the bobbing tail to the highly polished desk where both my hands rested. Without realising what I was doing my right fingers had been scratching in a nervous twitchy way on the polished surface. All the wood in this court room was excessively polished to a high sheen, and my nails had scraped of a thin film under each fingernail. That clammy lump would stay there until I could break the court and wash my hands. And every thing I drunk or ate would taste of it. I better not pick my nose or I would be stuck with that smell of bees wax for days.
The prosecutors cough caught my attention “My Lord” he questioned to me enquiringly.
I raised my hand to straighten the curly white wig that had a tendency to slip to the right on warm days. I tugged at the lapel of my judges robe and nodded to the black gowned bearded lawyer to begin.
As the proceedings began, I had to fight the urge to scratch my nose, thinking of my nasal passages had incurred the wrathful vengeance of internal itching. Oh damn, I really wanted to raise my hand and have a good root to quell that itchiness. Physically placing one hand over the other to quell this scratching desire I forced my rambling brain to concentrate on the matters at hand before me.
I did well, giving myself a virtual pat on the back for listening intently to the prosecutions tedious waffle for at least twenty minutes before I felt my mind slipping away again. The public viewing seats contained the normal ensemble of relatives and friends. Women dressed in their Sunday best and men in their suits and ties even thought they are clearly not used to wearing them. The younger youths obviously are so much better suited to wearing ripped jeans and hoodies, with a wire running from their ear to an ipod or cell phone. It must be killing them not to have fingers fluttering over the keypads texting.
The arresting policeman now enters the witness stand. I bet he starts with. I was proceeding … why do they always proceed and never walk, march, run, or tiptoe, they're always proceeding. This officer has eaten far to many doughnuts and puddings, I bet he waddled and didn’t proceed at all. I hid the grunt of a laugh behind the sounds of faked coughing as I cover my smile with a hand. Instantly the strong aroma of bees wax assailed my senses. Oh great now that’s all I will smell for hours and worse still a waxy coating had slimmed a small trail across my top lip and it clung there stubbornly.
The little old lady had tiptoed into court applicably her shiny black court shoes tip tapped across the floor. Hanging her umbrella on the rail of the witness box then placing her large handbag on her lap where she clutched it with her pristine white gloves. Her pill box hat tilted at a cocky angle on blue rinsed hair. Bright blue eyes peered out from behind gold framed glasses perched on the end of her nose. She has got to be an ex-school teacher and my thoughts were confirmed by the prosecutors questioning.
Several times I had to interrupt this sweet old lady to stop her telling the court about her friends varicose vein operation, and her niece Chelsea whom from what this disapproving lady said was a bit of a trollop. Glancing furtively at my watch, still an hour before I could reasonably call an adjournment for lunch. My stomach rumbled its agreement that it was time. The next witness up was a very old scholarly professor who’s sing song voice was a rather high pitched nasal whine. I blocked out all the waffle I could while I fixed my face with that interested expression that all judges were expected to wear. I remember practising it for hours in front of a mirror until I got it right.
I must have let a slight smile slip for the prosecutor stuttered for a second until I could resettle my face. My mind flitted around after that, but every other thought seemed to end up back on lunch. In the courts cafeteria they cooked a real mean steak and kidney pudding, covered in lashings of gravy. My wife’s voice hammered through these thoughts whenever I did think lovingly of the prospect of lunch. Her finger would be stabbing into his meaty pie, as she emphasized each healthy warning, clogged, poke, arteries, poke, heart attack, poke.
The meaty pie was a finger prodded mush by the time she finished her medical lecture, killing the delicious lunch vision, well almost. What a dragon she could be, but I still love her after all these years. Mainly because they hardly saw each other. She, had her charities, drama club and W.I and he had peaceful evenings to unwind.
Professor squeak was now throwing around percentages and figures on DNA probabilities. Why cant they just say, “The blood shows he did or didn’t do it.” and move on. Who really in a court understood this DNA stuff anyway. Get on with it I am hungry. Finally questions ceased and Dr Blood was allowed to stand down. Coughing to get the courts attention I finally declared a short adjournment for lunch. Standing the bailiff thunders out, all stand and I was out of that chair and through the door before everyone else in the court room had a chance to stand.
Out of spite to my lovely dragon I got extra helpings of gravy on my steak pie and a very stodgy banoffee pie and custard. Knowing I would regret it later when it settled like a lead weight on my bowel it just didn't seem to matter as much as spite. The worst part is that it wouldn't be just me that would regret it the atmosphere would become a little thicker in that court room. Maybe it would at least cover that dreaded smell of bees wax.
The private dining room was filling up as his fellow judges paused their cases and hurried like him to relax and eat. Freed from the restraints of gowns and wigs they looked nothing like high court judges more like a bevy of bankers or maybe that should be a bankruptcy of bankers he chuckled into his cake and custard. As he scraped at the last remnants of custard hiding in the bottom of the bowl he fathomed a question what do you call a group of judges. A conviction of judges, courting of judges or maybe a gavel of judges.
The quips rolled through my mind as I swirled the gown about my body. Wiggling the wig to settle it down as the first gurgles of distress issued from a rather bloated belly. Oh dear, wife’s warnings stabbed through his duodenum, warnings about rich food and need for light rabbit meal. Consequences be damned, I am feeling them now so its to late all I can do is listen to the told you so's. One hand on wig, other hand clutching the gown up around the midriff I charge to the rest rooms. Slamming the toilet door hard to the laughter from fellow judges at his predicament.
No reason was given to the court as the usher stands with the same impersonal bored tone as he always has, he announced an adjournment until the following day.
Mabel the Mop she was called, with flowered apron dusters tucked into every pocket and headscarf tied up in that 1940's way. Her age could be guessed at anywhere from 60 years to 90 years of age all wrinkles covered with far to much make up and pink rinsed hair peeking out from under her flowered scarf. Mabel pushed her cleaning cart from court room to court room. Always leaving each room in a pristine condition.
This room was the last one of her shift, she always paid special attention to court number one. It was Judge West's court. Windy Westerly they called him behind his back. She didn’t know why and disapproved of the name calling. He was such a lovely man. Years ago he had smiled so nicely at her, complimenting on her efficiency, even mentioned how highly polished all the wood was. Since then Mabel the Mop had made the special effort with his room and desk. Mabel smiled to herself as she pried open the lid of bees wax.
By Tracey Owen & R.B.Rueby
copyright Oct 2011