A SOUP OF ONE'S PEERS
by Clarence Brown
American Reporter Correspondent
SEATTLE, Wash. -– By the time you read this, I could be sequestered with my fellow jurors in some seedy Seattle hostelry, forbidden by court order to talk to journalists, to fellow jurors, or even to my colleague Dr. Soup.
How about writing a column, your honor?
Write your epitaph first!
So I am relying upon your discretion, to say nothing of the fact that there are only about two dozen of you, all of the highest quality of faithfulness, even though your taste in ... but I digress.
Dr. Soup–not everyone knows this–was in the last year of Harvard Law when he dropped out (his phrase) to switch over to Harvard Med, from which he eventually left with the degree of GR, never before awarded and now retired. Not every medic wishes to have the initials for Good Riddance on his shingle.
But his romance with jurisprudence is far from over. It is in fact the reason why he is still in practice as a sawbones: only the craziest patient would try suing him for malpractice. Dr. Soup is well known in all the courts where such cases are heard.
There was the woman who tried to sue him for delivering sextuplets when she expected only a single child. Dr. Soup's defense was that she'd clapped her hand over his mouth when he'd begun to explain, saying, "Don't tell me about sex...that's how it all began!"
But I was after telling you about my jury duty. Dr. Soup said that he would represent me, but that I would have to cooperate.
In what way? I naturally asked.
We are going to plead mens insana in corpore insano. That sounds classical, I said, but it happens to be the very opposite of my actual condition: a sound mind in a sound body.
Exasperated, Dr. Soup said, "For once, Brown, try to think along with me. You live where?"
"Seattle," I ventured.
"On what body of water?"
"The Puget Sound."
"Where everyone has a sound mind in a sound body! We need a plea that distinguishes you from the multitude. Now shut up and let me defend you..."
Will this involve my acting a little crazy?
Will that be a problem for you? Soup asked.
Dr. Soup, I said, in the tone of voice that one uses when one has tired of nonsense, suppose they ask not about me, but about you. Let us for the moment suppose that they want to know something about your origins. What will you say?
What should I say?
That I imagined you. That for starters. That you are entirely made of words. That all your vaunted knowledge of Chambersburg and the other parts of Trenton, New Jersey, to say nothing of Princeton University, especially East Pyne Building, where you have not set foot these six years and more, is a weak solution of my own memory, now fading fast, and that, furthermore, the rapid approach of the end of this column will mean the end of you until I need you again...if I ever get off this jury duty gig.
I knew you could be cruel, said Soup, but not this cruel. Just wait until I tell Melchior how you have treated me.
Melchior was also my idea, I said, mercilessly. But go ahead, his whole function is to pretend to be your man.
Be well, Brown. Good luck as a juror. When next you see me, I will have a grown a beard in a spider hole, complete with lice.
Also imaginary, I waved. Clarence Brown is a cartoonist, writer, and Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature at Princeton University.