Her name was called, finally, so he stood. He shuffled his way through the swinging gate, lowered his chin and peered up at the judge with youthful confidence. A manila folder still clutched awkwardly under his left arm, it was here he held his reservation.
The courtroom was quiet. All eyes rest on a stringy 12-year-old boy standing alone on the defendant’s podium. As he fumbled with his limbs, the breath of all 12 jurors stopped almost at once, leaving space for the young man’s beating heart.
With the room at equilibrium, now for the first time, the judge looked down.
“Who are you son?” he asked.
“My mom is…” revealing her name once more to the court. He spoke in a full voice that bounced off the wall behind the judge’s stand and down from the ceiling. It seemed to grow as it reached us. Not because of its power but because of its precision. Like the flight of an arrow, he seemed an experienced archer. No one expected that voice.
There was a strangeness about the boy that suggested a secret. The kind whispered among sisters but never aloud. He wore his best jumpsuit, the snap-away kind NBA starters tear away just before tip-off, but the bench players grow accustomed to leaving on. It was all a few inches too short, leaving his high-tops the focal point of his lanky frame.
The judge, sizing the situation like the king’s tailor, with care and pageantry spoke again, “Is your mother here with you, son?”
“No, sir,” said the king.
Again, there was a careful pause.
“Son, I appreciate you being here. Really, I do. But without the named plaintiff and defendant being present, we can have no trial.”
He waited for approval from the king.
“Is that something you understand son?”
“Yes, sir,” said the king.
When the king had left the court, all his subjects could breathe again. For the reverence worthy of the young king subsumed us all.
Reporting for jury duty found 12 of us listening to intimate, yet very public moments in the lives of our neighbors. Watching trial after trial of Dallas County eviction cases, handled skillfully by a benevolent judge, this one was the shortest, but the hardest to watch.
Who was this young king that came forth with such bravery? In so few words, he told a gripping tale. A mother laid out on a smoke-stained couch, too defeated by addiction to face the world. Taking the bus alone at the age of 12, to save his kingdom. The brave king wearing his crown before the rule of law, prepared with his manila folder to slay dragons.
This goes out to all the young kings who fight for honor. That even in the face of insurmountable dishonor at home, they face the world for those who lack the courage. You, my young king, have inspired this court. Should we ever know your name, we will join your ranks to help you build a better kingdom.