As We Speak the Truth.
“Raise your right hand and repeat after me.”
“I, Wilfred McNab do solemnly affirm that the evidence to be given by me shall be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”
Wilfred looked nervously around the courtroom. He’d been in jail several times in his life and the prospect of returning was not one he relished.
His big dilemma about taking the required oath was whether to tell the truth, or slightly bend the edges in order to shape an outcome that hopefully would keep him out of prison.
He blinked several times, adjusted his glasses and met the gaze of his partner in crime, Myrtle Dubois. She smiled serenely, the effect immediately calming Wilfred’s fears, bringing his world into a balanced centre.
He stoically repeated the oath, his eyes never leaving Myrtle’s face.
The crown prosecutor began building his case. He methodically laid out the charges and began a grilling, which though casual in appearance was a carefully constructed framework designed to snare and trap Wilfred into a guilty charge.
Wilfred sensed the danger and did his best to foil the hunter in front of him.
He quietly answered the questions being asked and only occasionally glanced towards Myrtle for assurance.
Things had begun rather innocently with a plan.
Viewed through the eyes of many, especially those steely orbs of Lady Justice, it was a bad plan.
Myrtle and Wilfred however failed to consider the full extent of what they were contemplating, especially the possible consequences.
The pair lived within a marginalized reality that respected little of conventional systems of law and order. Basic survival was the main drive and rules that bound many, failed to deter them from the scheme they began to devise.
It was Myrtle who first broached her partner.
“Wilfred, we need food.”
“I know Myrtle.” Wilfred sighed. He dug into worn jeans, pulled out a thin wallet and realized that he had just enough currency to cover a limited number of choices.
Cigarettes? With their treaty card they could squeeze out maybe two packs, three if they turned a bit of change on the street.
They actually had a fairly good routine going at their favourite LCB.
Wilfred would play his fiddle while Myrtle, wearing her favourite ribbon skirt, primly danced to the fiddle’s call.
She would smile beguilingly at passersby.
One might imagine her toothless grin would scare people off.
That gaping dark hole seemed instead to prod the occasional person out of a numb zone of indifference. Some deep well of forgotten guilt edged its way to consciousness. Gratitude for a mouthful of pristine white enamel came with a cost.
Many passing by had a vague awareness that a company dental plan absorbed most of the exorbitant fees of their oral upkeep. They managed to avoid the reality that this was a luxury denied to the less fortunate in life.
“Those lucky bastards live off the government.”
“My hard earned tax dollar supports these sponges.”
“Why don’t they get a real job?”
These attitudes conveniently overrode any compassion with the ignorant assumption that ‘those sponges’, got way more than their fair share of the pot.
Myrtle and Wilfred played the odds.
They knew they could count on those rare souls burdened with an awareness of their entitlement. This knowledge inevitably overrode a more measured sense of caution.
These benefactors knew full well that their contribution to the pot of change at Wilfred’s feet was not going to any dentist.
For the most part they were inured to the various and sundry stable of performers, begging for their ‘hard earned’ money.
These reluctant caretakers, upright members of a reputable community, managed to overcome their repugnance and stopped to politely watch the entertainment.
They understood that the “Need food for our children”, “Homeless,need shelter”, “Trying to get to …” signs were nothing but a ruse.
The clever signs served to further poke away at their conscience and induced some sense of obligation to compensate for all they had.
Some simply sighed, aware that the scene before them would be best forgotten if they pulled out a few loonies, tossed them into the pot and walked away quickly.
Wilfred and Myrtle actually did need food.
They lived somewhat frugally and yet often found themselves short at the end of the month. They were grateful for a small pension that guaranteed them a roof over their heads, enough food to stave off starvation and a little extra to supplement the needs of less fortunate relatives.
They understood that their vices, cigarettes and alcohol were a problem
Fortunately, they had a plan and more importantly, a good friend who was ‘white’ and looked like an upright member of acceptable society.
Sandy had been brought up in a foster homes that endeavoured to instill values that might better guide the destiny of her life. Her birth home had held little promise of that opportunity and it was hoped that her removal at a young age would assist in a more productive outcome.
This was not to happen and when she aged out, starting life on her own, barely managed to stay off the streets.
She began associating with questionable companions and quickly became familiar with the many ways to relieve others of the burden of their earthly possessions.
Sandy was a most proficient con artist and an accomplished thief.
Over the years, she honed her skills and was able to make a rather comfortable living from the profits of selling her ill gotten goods.
Her friendship with Wilfred and Myrtle had begun early in their lives. They’d all lived in the same foster home at one time and had formed a bond which had stood the test of time.
Wilfred and Myrtle were sometimes a little shocked at the deviousness of Sandy’s schemes. They were astonished that she had managed to escape the long arm of the law and were quite baffled as to how she had achieved this skill. It was not exactly a talent they possessed. They had each been strongly influenced by Kookums who had raised them til death had placed the two children into the care of the social services system. It was in this environment that their traditional values began to falter and eventually, they simply accepted that Sandy had a real good thing going.
So, they were having tea with Sandy and casually mentioned their problem.
Sandy smiled, forefinger to nose, thumb to chin and said, “Hmmm, I may have a plan. to solve that.”
Wilfred only cringed a little. His youthful ‘plans’ had earned him a place in a gang and that experience had not turned out well. He’d spent several years in jail for crimes mostly related to violence and was determined not to make that mistake ever again.
Myrtle however, knew the potential of a good shill and was not above capitalizing on Sandy’s ability to pass as a normal, middle class, white woman.
The next day found them at a well known high end department store.
They were careful to enter separately and though they perused the same areas, made sure that no one would guess they had connection.
Sandy, dressed to the nines and disguised as a wealthy suburbanite, carefully filled her cart with expensive electronics and pricey gadgets which would bring a good price on the street.
In the clothing department, she selected top of the line leather jackets, fancy high heels and an assortment of classy costume jewellery. Myrtle nodded as Sandy’s hands passed over various articles, indicating an especially good catch.
Next came the difficult part of the scheme.
The three friends would head to the main floor, select a checkout till close to an exit which afforded a quick getaway.
Sandy had borrowed a friend's van. The handicap placard allowed her to park in a spot designated to assist those unfortunates. This spot further facilitated a quick escape.
Sandy parked her cart by the door, pretending to look for a magazine on a rack facing the exit.
Myrtle and Wilfred proceeded through the checkout. Wilfred tried to look as guilty as possible, fumbling in his pocket for change to pay for some small items they had chosen. Myrtle glanced around furtively, pretending to watch for suspicious security.
Their act was successful. The clerk punched in their purchase and with disdain queried, “Is that everything? Do you have anything else?”
Wilfred pulled out a dirty handkerchief, wiped sweat from his brow and mumbled, “No, that is all.”
As they proceeded to leave the store, the clerk had already pressed the buzzer that alerted security.
Within minutes, two burly security guards appeared and told Wilfred he was going to have to wait for the police to arrive before leaving.
Myrtle went into high theatrics, yelling, “What? What are you assholes trying to do to us? This is racism, you’re targeting us ‘cause we’re Indians.” “Get your hands off my man or I’ll beat the shit out of you.”
Wilfred joined the act. “You people are crazy, I’ve stolen nothing, everything in this bag is paid for.”
By this time the police had arrived and a rather large audience of bored shoppers was watching the live drama unfold before their eyes.
Wilfred went to reach into his pocket, pretending to hesitate as though looking for a weapon.
All hell broke loose.
The police pulled their guns out, Myrtle started screaming and Wilfred dropped to the floor pretending to have a seizure of some sort.
The surrounding audience began to panic, people saw the guns and were terrified of being caught in the crossfire of a shoot out.
Shoppers turned and began running away as fast as possible. Those who could, darted out the exit doorway and along with them, pushing her stolen booty, went Sandy.
The police, the store security, all the gathered clerks, never even noticed her departure with several thousand dollars worth of merchandise.
Sandy made her way to the parked car and quickly began dumping her haul into the opened hatchback. No one even noticed her as she slammed the door closed, got into the vehicle and calmly drove off.
It was only after Wilfred and Myrtle had been released and time had passed for the store to do an inventory that estimated the damage of the threesome’s shopping spree, that more serious justice was sought.
The police arrived at the McNab residence, read Wilfred his rights and hauled him off to the city jail.
The next morning found him in front of a judge, the courtroom clerk read him his rights and invoked his oath to tell the truth.
Wilfred felt trapped.
He knew there was no way he or Myrtle could be connected to the theft in question and yet he was torn.
His Kookum’s spirit sat on one shoulder, gently nudging him, “Son, tell the truth, tell them what your plan was.”
Myrtle’s steely gaze from the courtroom spectators warned him, “Don’t you DARE!”
Wilfred took several minutes to debate his choices.
He made an invisible sign of the cross, placed his third finger over his index finger and firmly stated, “I stole nothing from the store that day.”
The frustrated prosecutor decided to give up and not waste any more money on this useless game of revenge and retribution.
Wilfred and Myrtle left the courthouse, took the bus across town and met Sandy in a divvy bar.
The three chortled as they counted out the dividends from the fenced items and made the three way split.
The money greatly relieved Wilfred’s sense of guilt and what little remained was washed away by the straight whiskey in his glass.
My question for you dear reader is this...
“Would you have dared to tell the truth?”