Lost in Defenestration

by B. Craig Grafton


Judge Hauptman was here to decide whether or not to extend the temporary restraining order in the matter of State vs Somebody. The judge couldn’t pronounce the Defendant’s last name. To her it was unpronounceable and even unspellable in English. So Judge Hauptman, being a practical person, chose to address the defendant simply as Ahmed, his first name, which of course was much easier to pronounce. The same held true for Amina his wife, the complainant. The defendant’s attorney was William, Americanized from Wilhelm, Schlick. And the State was represented by Ms Elwinne Fenster. Both of those names the Judge had no trouble at all spelling or pronouncing.

Judge Hauptman sat up high on her elevated bench looking down upon the attorneys and their clients below her. There they all sat, each at their own table, in a respectful silent manner, just the way she liked it. She then glared down at both attorneys and gave them her trademark scowl warning them that she wasn’t going to put up with any nonsense from anyone here today. Then she began.

“I have been informed by the bailiff that the complainant now wishes to withdraw her complaint. Is that correct Ms Fenster?” asked the judge.

“Yes Your Honor. She wishes to withdraw her complaint.”

“And the reason?”

Ms Fenster rose from her chair so to emphasize what she was about to say.

“She dearly loves her husband and doesn’t want him kept away from his family this holiday season. She wants him home with herself and their child. After all it is Christmas Your Honor.”

How many times had she heard that one before. The man beats the woman to a pulp but she still loves him. Forgives him. Wants him back. And as to the Christmas card, well it always got played this time of year.

Judge Hauptman stared at the complainant who sat there and fidgeted, trying to make herself comfortable, best she could that is, her crutches propped against the table, her right leg in a heavy looking cast and splints on some of her fingers. Judge Hauptman closed her eyes and shook her old gray head side to side in disbelief.

“What say you Mr. Shlick?”

Attorney Schick knew enough to keep it simple. Never volunteer anything more than necessary.

“That’s fine with us Your Honor.”

Judge Hauptman looked at Amina, obviously in discomfort,  picked up the file again and re-read the doctor’s report for the umpteenth time. She didn’t know if she could go along with all this.

“It says here in the doctor’s report that her right leg is broken in two places and she has broken bones in her hands plus multiple bruises Mr. Schlick. All of which is quite obvious to this court. I don’t suppose she did that to herself did she?”

“It was all a misunderstanding Your Honor.”


“ Misunderstanding. She didn’t make the baklava the traditional way like his mother did in the old country. He might have overreacted a bit Judge.” That was an understatement and a mistake to say the least as to both statements and Attorney Schlick knew it, the second it left his mouth. The judge jumped all over him.

“Over reacted a bit! I’d say he overreacted a bit all right counselor! Threw her out of a second story window! That’s way overreacting in my book and everyone else’s book too. You sure you want to withdraw the petition Ms. Fenster?”

“If I could speak to my client a minute your Honor.”

“Go ahead counselor. We have the translator here if you need him.”

The translator was there because English was a second language for Amina and Ahmed. Both of them had learned some English and could get by with some broken English but they still had trouble understanding some times. Didn’t pick up on all the nuances of the English language. And sometimes they pretended to understand when in fact they didn’t. So rather than be embarrassed and have to ask the speaker to repeat himself, they just kept quiet.

Ms Fenster, Amina, and the translator huddled. After a few minutes the huddle broke and Ms Fenster spoke.

“Your Honor my client really does want her husband home. Little Ahmed their son is just beside himself and can’t understand why his daddy isn’t there. My client keeps on making excuses to him but the boy still cries himself to sleep every night. Amina truly loves her husband and forgives him and in her condition she really could use his help around the house now.”

How pathetically ironic that is thought Judge Hauptman.

“What say you Mr. Schlick?”

Attorney Schlick had to refrain himself from saying “I couldn’t have said it better myself Your Honor,”  But instead he came up with the usual, “I believe that the best interests of the family are paramount here Your Honor. It’s in the best interests of the child and all concerned that my client be home with his family this holiday season.” He always played the family card whenever possible.

Just then Ahmed grabbed the translator by the arm, spun him around and had a somewhat loud and heated conversation with him.

“Mr. Translator what was that all about?” asked Judge Hauptman when they were finished talking.

“Your Honor,”  he replied. “Ahmed does not understand why he is here. He says that in his country a husband can remove a wife from the home if she does not obey him and do as she is told. His wife did not use his mother’s recipe when making the baklava. She defied him and tried some other recipe. In his country he would not be brought before any court for this.”

“Well you tell Ahmed that he’s obviously not in his country anymore and that this is his country now and in this country the law does not permit a husband to throw his wife out a second story window if he she doesn’t obey him. He’s lucky he didn’t kill her and that he’s not facing a homicide charge instead of a request for a restraining order against him.”

The translator took Ahmed aside and repeated in just a few words what the judge had said.

“Ahmed now understands what he did Your Honor. That he can’t throw his wife out a second story window like that and he will not do it again. Your Honor he just wants to be home with his boy.”

Not with his wife thought Judge Hauptman, just with his boy. Doesn’t call him his son. Calls him boy as if he were an object, a possession, like his wife.

Judge Hauptman looked again at Amina. Her colorful dress, babushka, rosy cheeks and short round stature gave her that warm earthy peasant look. Yet her face remained so sad, so forlorn, her big brown eyes begging the judge to grant her request.

Judge Hauptman too was a wife, a mother and thus sympathized somewhat with Amina. That Amina could use the help around the house in light of her injuries went without saying. Maybe letting Ahmed come home was a way for them to patch up their differences and get things back to normal. It was definitely best for Little Ahmed. Maybe Ahmed does deserve another chance. After all if Amina is willing to give him one, why shouldn’t she give him one. And she felt sorry for them both because they were refugees who had been granted asylum here in America because they were on the wrong end of a gun in their country. And now in this county they were minority persons, like herself. Oh well it is Christmas she thought and sooner or later the Christmas season would be part of their lives here, and especially so for Little Ahmed. So because of all these sympathies and against her better judgment Judge Hauptman gave her okay.

“Okay Mr. Translator tell them both this. I’m dismissing the petition for the restraining order. Ahmed can rejoin his family but if he ever throws his wife out a second story window again and appears before me, he won’t be facing a restraining order, he’ll be looking at jail time. Tell him that and make it very very clear to him what he can’t do in this country.”

“Yes Your Honor.” The translator again said just a few words to Ahmed and then told the judge that Ahmed understood even though Ahmed had said nothing in response to what the translator had just said. Judge Hauptman noticed this.

So then she asked the two of them, without benefit of the translator this time, if they understood. They both looked at the translator who nodded his head yes and then they both answered “yes.” Then she asked if they needed any clarification or if they had any questions. Both answered  “no.” Again after taking their cue from the translator. The judge took note of this also.

Attorney Schlick and his client were the first ones out of the courtroom. Attorney Schlick always made a point of being the first out the courtroom when he got a favorable result just in case the judge changed his or her mind or something else came up that was overlooked. The others soon followed.

So this time Amina made the baklava for the holiday season the same way as Ahmed’s mother did and they even put a tree and exchanged presents, all for the sake of Little Ahmed. They were back on the track to happiness.

Until January third that is when they were all back on track in court again on a second restraining order request.

“The parties have been sworn. Call your first witness Ms. Fenster,” instructed Judge Hauptman.

“Thank you Your Honor. The state calls Amina,” and here Ms Fenster butchered the pronunciation of Amina’s last name and then began her examination.

“Amina please tell us what happened on New Year’s Eve three days ago.”

The translator repeated the question to Amina. She answered and the translator relayed what she had just said.

She said, “They went to a new year’s eve party at the neighbor’s across the street. She told her husband not to drink the punch as she was told by someone there that there was alcohol in it and as you know their religion prohibits the drinking of alcohol. But Ahmed said that when he asked the host, Mr. Svenson, if there was alcohol in the punch  Mr. Svenson told him, ’Oh no there wouldn’t be any alcohol in it, no not on New Year’s Eve.’  Ahmed didn’t know that Mr. Svenson was joking and believed him and got drunk. Then at midnight everyone started kissing everyone. They were told that this was traditional and customary here in America and it was okay for them to do this. But her husband must not have understood and when Mr. Svenson kissed his wife, he got mad and drug her back home, broken leg and all.” The translator stopped.

“Then what happened?” inquired Ms.Fenster.

The translator did his job again and repeated the question to Amina and then repeated her response.  “At home he got even madder and violent with me and threw me out the kitchen window.”

“What’s this with the windows again Mr. Schlick,” interrupted the judge. “Didn’t your client understand from last time, no more throwing people out of windows.”

Attorney Schlick shrugged his shoulders.

“You know Ms. Fenster?”

Same response.

“I know Your Honor,” volunteered the translator taking responsibility.

“Well, what is it then? huffed Judge Hauptman.

“Your Honor Ahmed understood from last time that you didn’t want him throwing his wife out a second story window. That it was too dangerous. So he thought it was okay to throw her out a first story window. You only said second story windows weren’t okay.”

The attorneys stifled their laughs, almost that is.

Judge Hauptman lowered her head, closed her eyes and again shook her head side to side.

“Here’s what I’m going to do,” she said as she raised her head. “First, Mr. Translator, you’re fired. Second I’m continuing this matter until we get a new translator. Until then the defendant is to remain in custody. I don’t want anything else to get lost in translation.”

She paused and then added,  “Or in defenestration for that matter either. Like someone losing their life.”


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One Response to “Lost in Defenestration”

  1. Defenestrationism.net » Blog Archive » Announcing the 2017 !Short Story Contest! Finalists Says:

    […] –“Lost in Defenestration”, B. Craig Graftonb […]

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