Sunday, April 22, 2012


Dateline March 30, 2012


Of course the parole commission ruled against me. Let me tell you how it really was — a panel of three gray foxes, two females and a male — looking down their long noses at me, the fluffy white rabbit, sitting before them, guarded by two coyote clerks. An aged Rottweiler sitting beside me rifles through his documents spread out on the table — my defender and attorney, W. J. — battered and scarred from many battles, but still possessing his sharp teeth and sinewy muscles, the only force keeping me from being eaten alive by these predators.

In the row behind W.J., the Rottweiler, sits another fluffy white bunny, a female, Lizzie, my mate. With curled lip, she directs a low hiss of contempt at the three foxes staring at me. She has been here before and holds no false hope of witnessing any display of justice.

A scholarly brown female owl, the court reporter, sets up her equipment to one side, her feathers poised to document every word.

In struts two angry wolves, one a limping old lobo with a mangy pelt, wicked eyes tearing and sagging from too much drink and late night moon howling, but still threatening and in the position of pack leader, followed close behind by his former mate, a younger, snarling female, with bleached blonde fur, fangs glinting in the conference room lights. Her bushy ears twitch this way and that as she glares at the hostile crowd of bunnies, hens, an occasional rooster, sheep and goats, and a few tasty squirrels, all here to ask for mercy for their loved ones caught in the tiny cages out back.

The two wolves throw down their bulging briefcases on the opposition table, low grumbling growls burbling from their throats at W.J., whose hackles immediately raise in response. The Rottweiler bares his teeth at the wolves, snarling and growling at the two shocked predators, then bounds across the room after them, barking ferociously.

The wolves, Markie and Pammy, scramble around the table, freaked out at this old guard dog’s sudden attack, surprised by the daring and aggression of the only Alpha male in the room. W.J. dashes past Pammy, ignoring her, zeroing in on Markie cowering behind her. With one powerful move, W.J. knocks the old wolf on his backside and grips his exposed throat with fangs that mean business. Markie whimpers and pees on himself, cringing in submission. Two coyotes rush to the wolf’s aid, but W.J.’s growls warn them off.

The gray fox in charge bangs her gavel, calling for order. W.J. releases the mangy throat, barks several times for good measure, and whirls around, facing toward his chair and me, his client, who is putting up a good front while actually trembling beneath my fur.

The audience cheers. Rabbits and bunnies whistle, hens cackle, roosters crow, sheep and goats bleat, while several squirrels chee-chee-chee.

“Order!” shouts the gray fox, banging her gavel.

The Rottweiler stops at the wolves’ table, sniffs, cocks hios leg and pees on the table support, marking it as his territory. The female wolf, Pammy, in heat, emboldened and aroused by the war dog’s dominance display, patters after him, long snout extended forward, and sniffs his butt. W.J. turns on her, growls, snaps, and she retreats with tail between her legs, properly chastened.

W.J. begins with a spirited presentation that outlines all that I have accomplished in prison, and rebuts the wolves’ previous allegations that I am a threat to them, outlining my peaceful, nonviolent nature, as a follower of personages such as Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, and Bill Cosby. Mild applause and a few cheers erupt spontaneously from the audience. W.J. bows, then takes his seat beside me.

The grizzled old male wolf opens his briefcase and digs in it. Several Milk Bones fall onto the floor, but are quickly snapped up by Pammy and the two coyotes. He retrieves a pint bottle that is half-filled with brown liquid, takes a long swallow, and sighs, smiling.

“Cough syrup,” he says with a straight face, putting the bottle back into the briefcase. The crowd boos and hisses. Markie growls at them, pink tongue licking his yellowed, broken fangs at the sight of a particularly delectable lamb, which squeezes closer to her mother. He turns back to the three-fox panel, clears his throat, and points his paw at me. My eyes widen in alarm. I am ready to race out of there, into the crowd. W.J. pats my shoulder, comforting me.

“Mister and Missus commissioners, look at that rabbit,” Markie snarls. “Don’t be fooled by his calm demeanor.”

Calm demeanor? I am scared to death!

“Look at those long ears, those buck teeth, those sharp little claws on his feet. He is a dangerous beast!”

Boos and hisses buzz from the crowd. The old wolf snaps his jaws at them, fangs menacing. Everyone draws back in fear.

“That rabbit threatened me! If you dare let him go free, he will track me down and kill me, and I have proof.”

More boos and hisses come from the crowd. Markie bends down and drags out a previously unnoticed box from beneath the table. He unlatches the lid, reaches in, and pulls out a huge snake, a python, beady yellow eyes leering, black tongue flicking in and out from the slit of a mouth. The python uncoils onto the table, spreads its length over the files and papers, and raises its head two feet into the air. The crowd gasps in shock and fear. Several squirrels scramble for the exit and are gone. The snake hisses, menacing the entire room. The female wolf yelps, leaping backward several feet before regaining control. Markie sniffs the vile reptile, then begins.

“This is my witness, Greg the Snake. He may look mean, but that’s because of the deprived life he’s lived. He’s really a sweetheart, a pussycat. He will do anything I say, won’t you, Greg?”

The python attempts a smile, failing miserably. His snaky eyes zero in on a brown rabbit in the first row. He licks the air with his tongue. The brown rabbit bolts from the room. The crowd boos.

Markie continues. “Two years ago, my witness, Greg the snake, shared a cage with that — that — monster, that white bunny rabbit.”

He points at me. I cringe.

“Do not be fooled by his cute little fur coat or those big eyes, that twitching pink nose, or the cottontail, ladies and gentleman. Beneath that meek exterior lurks a vicious killer, a ruthless murderer.”

Pammy nods at the gray fox with the gavel. She returns the nod, some silent communication agreed upon.

“Why the entire time poor little Greg here was in that cage with that — that — assassin — he feared for his life.” The wolf’s eyes dart around the room, judging the effect, then looks quickly toward the ceiling, perhaps anticipating lightning striking him dead. Nothing happens, so he continues. “That monster, Charlie Cottontail — don’t be fooled by him. He is a master manipulator. Thirty-two years ago, when I was a young wolf prosecutor in Tampa, after several fine, upstanding citizens and I sent his rabbit ass to prison for life, he sent me a Christmas card threatening my life. It said, ‘Merry Christmas from Raiford, wish you were here.’

“Why, I was so frightened by that insidious rabbit’s threats that I began drinking myself senseless every night. Ask Pammy here. She was just a baby cub at the time, but she will verify everything I say. It was the first and only Christmas card I ever got, and it had to come from that diabolical rabbit, Charlie Cottontail.”

Markie looks at Pammy. She nods affirmatively. Of course it must be true. They are both elected political wolves. They would never lie or even consider stretching the truth for their ambitions.

Markie picks up where he left off. “I had to seek psychiatric help, ladies and gentleman. Can you imagine how I felt? My first Christmas card! In my wolfpack we didn’t know about Christmas or Santa Claus, or any of that Jesus legend stuff. I never got anything but a bone to chew on when I was small.”

Markie whimpers. The three gray foxes dab their eyes with hankies. Pammy peeks around the audience to gauge the reaction. The audience is rolling its collective eyes. A poodle sticks its paw in its mouth in a gagging gesture. The snake rolls belly up in surrender.

“I couldn’t sleep, I was so worried,” he says. “I couldn’t eat, not even a juicy lamb.” The crowd cringes . A red hen cackles. The foxes and coyotes nod their heads in commiseration. Pammy licks her rear end.

All my fur fell out! I got the mange — can you imagine? Me! The mange! I came down with worms! The vet tried everything. I paced my lair, night after night, sick with fear, worried that — that — that — monster was coming after me. I could hear his little bunny feet hippity hopping outside my door.” He pauses for a deep breath.

“It broke up my marriage. I couldn’t perform in the bedroom, if you know what I mean, and she left me for a Great Dane!” Markie glances at W.J., the Rottweiler, whose tongue lolls as he pants and smiles at Markie’s phony revelations.

“I quit the state attorney’s office and became a mafia lawyer. I got off drug dealers, prostitutes, child molesters, rapists, even serial killers. I chased ambulances! I admit it. I picked up stray, mangy mongrels and spent the nights with them, I so feared being alone. I even flirted with suicide, ladies and gentleman. I would get drunk, then run out into traffic on Interstate 4, risking death. I almost became roadkill, all because of that nasty rabbit!”

Foaming at the mouth, eyes blazing, Markie points his paw at me. The three gray foxes are glaring at me, as are all the predators in the room. I’m a goner. I’m even considering I should stand up and shout, “KILL ME!” but I can’t think of any reason I should die for Markie’s sins. Two sheep and a goat slink out the back door. The crowd is noticeably smaller. My friend, Dennis, a friendly St. Bernard, has been snapping photos, documenting the event. As he takes a nice shot of Pammy sniffing herself while Markie foams at the mouth, the head gray fox orders him to cease photography. Two coyote clerks hurry over to confiscate Dennis’ camera. He growls, baring his teeth. They stop in their tracks. He starts to go after them, but my priest, Father Robert, a graying English Mastiff, restrains him. Reluctantly, Dennis lets the coyotes live.

“It took me years of therapy to get back to my career of putting dangerous creatures like that white rabbit over there on Death Row, where they belong, Markie says. He takes a breath. Pammy nuzzles his neck in encouragement. He licks her in return.

“Ladies and gentleman, I am scared to death of Charlie Cottontail.”

A loud clatter interrupts Markie’s indictment. The court reporter falls out of her chair, knocking over her steno machine, shocked by the incredulity of what she is hearing. Embarrassed, she straightens the machine and resumes typing the testimony. She looks upward at the ceiling, perhaps worried that the roof will cave in. It holds.

“Greg, the snake, will swear to you that when he was in the cage with that mad rabbit there, that he swore he was going to get me when he got out. He wants to set up sniper’s nests in trees in my neighborhood and shoot me,” Markie says. “I know you’re thinking that rabbits can’t climb trees, but this is no ordinary rabbit. This is a cagey creature so deadly that he scares wolves, ladies and gentleman. That rabbit, Charlie Cottontail, scared this big snake almost to death!”

The diminished crowd hisses and boos Markie’s tall tale. The weasely wolf takes another swig of his “cough syrup,” coughs a few times, composes himself and continues.

“Now, that old — that old — mutt — over there —”

W.J.’s hackles stand straight up on his neck and back. He growls and begins to move toward Markie and Pammy. Markie backs up, tail between his legs, front paws held out in supplication. W.J. returns to his table. The audience cheers.

“As — as I was saying,” Markie says. “My esteemed colleague, W.J., will tell you that my pet snake here has a bad record, he’s a career criminal, a liar, a cheat, a professional snitch for hire, a fraud, and he’s just trying to get released from prison for his own crimes, that he’s a lowlife piece of crap, and you can’t believe a word he says.” Markie takes a breath. The snake hangs its head in shame. Markie lovingly rubs its neck with his furry paw. “That is all true. It is in the record. I cannot deny it, but I tell you today that the snake you see here before you is a changed snake. I trust him, and you should trust him.”

The snake lowers its head to the table, uncoils, and lies still. The crowd boos. The python raises its head toward the audience, its yellow eyes flashing hatred. Its tongue flicks out, but Markie motions for him to remain calm.

“The experience of being caged with that psychopathic rabbit over there, hearing the vile atrocities he has planned for poor little Pammy and me — ladies and gentleman — it changed his life!”

Hoots, whistles, cackles, and boos fill the room in derision. The wolves and snake are pummeled with acorns, tomatoes, and radishes raining down on them from the audience. A duck flies around the room and splats a stinking mess on Markie’s head. The gray fox bangs her gavel for order. Pammy cleans Markie’s fur with a hanky. He reaches into the box, retrieves a piece of white cloth, and attaches it to the snake’s neck.

“I present to you today, Reverend Greg the Snake.”

The snake rises up from the table, a white clerical collar fastened around his neck. The crowd collectively gasps at the blasphemy.

“I assure you that Reverend Greg would put his hand on a stack of Bibles — if he had a hand, and if we had a stack of Bibles.” He looks around the room. “I don’t believe there are any Bibles in this room, or in this building, for that matter,” Markie says. “But don’t take just Reverend Greg’s word for it. Take mine! You can believe me. I would never tell a lie. I am an elected politician…”

You know what happened. The three gray foxes weighed all the damning evidence against me, ignored everything said on my behalf, made a fair decision that I was a risk, that the wolves and the snake were honest, decent citizens, and that the audience was fair game. Fortunately the visitors and loved ones got off the premises before the wolves, foxes, coyotes and snake could make a meal of any of them.

As for me, W.J., my defender, the tough Rottweiler, ably held them off until I was safely back in my cage, where I remain, until next time.

And that’s how they conduct beastly parole hearings in Florida.


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