Short vignette from Anthony Ward

Jury Service

            Rodney read the letter over and over. Though the letter remained resilient. No matter how many times he read it, the meaning stayed the same. He had been summoned for Jury Service.

            He had dreaded doing Jury Service on account of his inability to moor his thoughts. He knew they would drift from him as they always did. He just couldn’t help it. His indecisiveness played upon his mind. He struggled to decide what to do with himself let alone somebody else’s fate.

            The week that followed was as harrowing as he’d expected it to be. Rodney found himself sat bolt upright in court aiming to listen to both sides of the story. It wasn’t at all like the movies, but he found himself watching the proceedings as if it were. He never could guess the perpetrator. He’d always get it wrong. Even when he was watching if for a second time.

            At times, his mind ran away with the evidence. Placing him at the scene of the crime. Throwing accusations at the accused as if they were complimentary peanuts for him to help himself.

            The man was on trial for the murder of a woman named Anne Barlow. Her asphyxiated body had been discovered under the third arch of the nearby aqueduct by a seven-year-old brother and sister out for a picnic with their parents.

            The accused, Richard Templeton, worked in the same office as Anne. He was a quiet, introverted man. But he was committed to his job. Always punctual. Never missed a day of work. Kept himself to himself. Some of the witnesses who’d been called up said that he’d been obsessed with Anne. But they also confessed to not knowing anything about him. The more Rodney heard about the man, the more he identified with him. The more he heard the evidence against him, the more he identified him to the crime.

            Rodney sat perplexed at the table listening to the other jurors. Nodding at one opinion, then at the other. He felt imprisoned. His eyes kept wandering to the window, leaping outside to freedom, where he saw lawyers wigs dripping ink upon the grazed verges. The humidity of the summer caused the room to contract. The sweat congealed within him.

              “So, what do you think Rodney?” asked Lena looking hard at him.

            Because they were all weary due to their confinement, the words felt more restricted, making it all the more difficult to determine. Rodney cleared the congestion from his throat. “I agree with Frank.” he replied, unsure if he agreed with what he’d just said himself.

            As the days became a week, he knew he didn’t agree with Frank anymore.

            In the end he really couldn’t make up his mind, but he knew he had to say something, and following the majority numbed his responsibility.

            After his decision had been released, Rodney felt free. But as the judge delivered the verdict, he became more and more incarcerated by an abiding sense of guilt.

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