Family History

Submitted into Contest #238 in response to: Write a story including the line “I can’t say it.”... view prompt



   "All Rise!" called the bailiff. "The Fulton County court is now in session, Judge Jeffrey Cross now presiding."

     "Be seated. What have you got, District Attorney?"

     "Hit and run, your honor, with manslaughter."

     "Let me see." The bailiff took the papers from the District Attorney and brought them to the judge. He scanned the charges, and cocked an eyebrow. Before him, a small blue-haired lady leaned on her cane. She was dressed in a cheap dress and plastic earrings. "Miss Babcock, where is your attorney?"

     "I've done nothing wrong, your honor," the old woman sniffed.

     "It says here you struck a kid with your motor vehicle and drove off. The boy died a few hours later."

     "He came out of that Y place, down on Market Street."

     "So the charges state. Do you understand what this is about, Miss Babcock?"

     "I hit a kid. But he came out from between...."

     "It wasn't the hitting, Miss Babcock. It was the driving away."

     "I panicked. So you should....I can't say it."

     "Madam," he began, pulling off his glasses. "You're not taking this very ...."

     "He was one of them Miller boys, anyway. My father called them the Mayfield..."

     "Madam, who he was isn't the point."

     "...Millers." She scowled in disapproval. "You ought to arrest them, them no good, thieving...."

     "Madam!" The judge heaved a sigh. Of course he knew the Millers. They had been to his court many times, often with excuses, usually drunk and belligerent. Mrs. Miller, the exhausted family matriarch, only got a respite from the Miller men when the judge committed them to jail. If he remembered correctly, there were at least a couple of the worse ones behind bars at this time.     Miss Babcock announced, "My Father said you couldn't trust a Miller as far as you could...."

     "Miss Babcock! Please! Show some respect!"

     "Mayfield is full of them! And they're all a bunch of...."

     "Miss Babcock! I'll thank you to...." The judge could admit to himself that, even though the tiny hamlet of Mayfield had a pretty name, it was chock full of rusted trailers, broken cars, and the odd shot-up mailbox.      

     "They eat road kill, you know."

     He grimaced, remembering the stench and dirty nails of Josiah Miller as he scrawled his signature on the application to get on the road kill list offered by the state, which he, as judge, had to approve. Frankly, he was surprised they went to all the trouble of applying for it legally. He said, "Yes, as a matter of fact, I do. They're a very poor...."

     "It's disgusting."

     "It's good meat. It's not like the animals are rotten."

     "My Father always said they was drunks and ignorant...."

     "Miss Babcock! Please!"


     "You...." The judge stopped himself, and heaved a heavy sigh. "The point of your being here is to make a plea, guilty or not guilty."

     "Depends, at least according to my father. Did you know my father, young feller?"

     "Yes, ma'am," replied the judge. "I believe they went to school together."

     "Yes, yes. Well." She nodded, relaxing a little. "Well, anyways, where did that kid come from, huh? He's probably from one of them whoring...."

     "The point being, Miss Babcock?" the judge quickly interrupted.

     "The point being...." her pride slumped. "I don't know." She asked,"Why am I here?"

     "To make a plea," the judge coaxed.

     "What on earth for? The kid came out from between...."

     "Yes, yes. The police report cites two witnesses. The boy emerged from between two parked cars."

     "Yes! So, then, I didn't see him."

     "You drove off," read the judge from the paper on his desk.


     "You hit the boy, and then you drove away."

     Miss Babcock pushed her glasses up her nose and stared at the judge. She wasn't quite sure why she was in this room, with all these people staring at her. She was getting tired, and she wanted to go to the diner with her friend Gladys as soon as she was done here. She might have one of them toasted cheese sandwiches today. This whole thing was getting boring. "So?"

     "So, you drove away."

     No response. For a moment, the judge wasn't sure he was reaching Miss Babcock. She seemed to be swaying as she stood before him, clutching her cane.

     "That's leaving the scene, Miss Babcock," he reiterated.

     "Whatever," she said. Her voice grew faint.

     "Miss Babcock, are you all right?"

     "He came right out."

     "Yes. This was corroborated."

     "I'm ...I'm not going to jail for some Miller."

     "And yet," observed the judge.

     "I'm a Babcock. And don't you forget it!" she stabbed towards him with her cane.

     "And. Yet," the judge said.

     "I remember when you were born, how proud you father was. And your mother, they were such a nice couple. Very clean."

     Miss Babcock, I would strongly suggest that you...."

     "You were such a little fella! Your face all scrunched up, and, my! Could you cry! What a set of lungs on you! Your daddy was so proud of you!"

     "Madam," the judge nudged.

     "I don't want to go to jail," Miss Babcock whispered.

     The judge shook his head. "Jail may not be the...."

     "No Babcock has ever gone to jail."

     "Miss Babcock."

     "I'm too old," she sniffed. She stared up at him, leaning heavily on her cane, peering through coke-bottle lenses. A tear coarsed down her cheek.

     The judged stared down at her. God, she was getting so old, he thought. He remembered climbing up her apple tree, and Miss Babcock slapping his legs with her broom, yelling at him to "come down at once!" She also footed the ladder for him when he patched her roof one spring after a tornado nearly clipped the old Babcock homestead. Countless times, he had cut her lawn and shoveled her sidewalk. The Babcocks were known to be tightfisted, but she was the nicest of them all. In lieu of cash money for doing her chores, she plied him with cold milk and extra chocolate chip cookies. Absently, he rubbed his swollen belly. Miss Babcock's presence in his courtroom appalled him. He never thought he would have to be in this position.

     "Yes, Miss Babcock," he agreed, gently. "You are, indeed, no spring chicken."

     "I don't want to go to jail," she murmured.

     "Miss Babcock...."




     He studied her for a moment, thinking. "The boy, uh, died..." he said. her.

February 19, 2024 17:56

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Julie Grenness
16:35 Feb 29, 2024

So well written. A dilemma, presented in an interesting tale. The characters are vividly presented, their dialogue credible. The small town blues are well depicted. Overall, this story worked well for this reader. I anticipate reading more such writing.


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Karen Hope
23:27 Feb 28, 2024

What a touching story. I'm glad he didn't tell her the boy died - although she may find out eventually. You did a great job using dialogue to tell the story.


Susan Lamphier
15:03 Mar 25, 2024

Thank you so much! I'm glad you enjoyed it!


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