“I was looking for inspiration,” Leticia said. She shrugged only her right shoulder, since her left hand was handcuffed to the table.
The cop leaning across the table squinted at her, and sighed. “Oh God,” he said, “another one with the Writer’s Defense.”
What? said his partner.
“They say they were under a deadline and stuck for something to say, and their frustration grew so great they had to go commit a crime. It’s like temporary insanity.”
He placed a hand on his chest and began talking like Rod Serling on the old Twilight Zone intros. “It releases their ‘creative energies.’ They can’t help themselves, overwhelmed by the relentless need to create, driven by their implacable muse. They suffer under the huge burden of their calling, the crushing pain of creation, the ignorance of the masses, the artist’s loneliness” — he switched back to his normal voice — “all that artsy crap.”
Leticia nodded, deeply and slowly.
“Then they get in court. Their lawyers always put them on the stand.” He looked at Leticia, who sat up, turned her head slightly and lifted her chin, in a heroic pose. “They go on and on about the artist’s suffering but then,” he said, “and here’s the genius part. They just start bawling. Buckets. Even the guys.”
Leticia looked like she had a migraine.
His partner asked her if she was feeling sick.
“She’s trying to look like a tortured artist,” the cop said. He’d been at this a long time. Leticia wasn’t the first writer he’d caught with twinkies and slurpees hidden in the rafters.
He wondered, as he always did, why didn’t they hit book stores. He’d asked a writer once. “Bookstores,” the guy had said, in a church voice, “are sacred. I couldn’t violate a shrine.” He hated that guy.
His partner asked if the newspaper guys used the same defense.
“No,” said the cop. “They call it research and try to claim their First Amendment rights to knock off 7/11s. Or liquor stores. Liquor stores is more their style. A journalist,” he added, brightening, “is someone who, when he has time to write, writes worse.”
Where’d you hear that, his partner asked, to cover up for not getting the joke.
“A writer,” said the cop. “They think a lot of themselves. They’re not reporters who can only deal with facts. They’re artists struggling with Truth. No one suffers for their art like the writer.” He looked at Leticia, who nodded deeply and slowly.
His partner asked what the newspaper guys say.
“Who’s buying the next round,” he said. “I like journalists,” he added.
Leticia started looking up at a point high on the wall with her eyes wide and her mouth slightly open and began to open her arms as if she wanted to embrace the universe.
His partner asked what she’s doing.
“Now,” said the cop, “she’s trying to look enraptured, caught up in a truth beyond us mere mortals, a truth so great it transcends morality . . . .” His sighed again. “And she can rob 7/11s.”
Nietzsche, his partner said.
The cop looked at his partner like a man counting the days to retirement, as he was. His partner said he watched philosophy videos on Youtube, and he thought Nietzsche said some good things.
Leticia looked miffed. The cop squinted at her and then at his partner.
“You think you’re an ubermensch, don’t you?” he said. “You’re not. An ubermensch would pass the lieutenant’s exam.”
His partner said Nietzsche didn’t become Nietzsche in a day and asked if the Writer’s Defense worked.
They turned to Leticia, who still looked miffed. She knew her Nietzsche. “I’m a Catholic,” she said. “I’m praying. To God.” She paused. “And the Blessed Mother,” she added, in the voice of a child threatening an annoying sibling with, “Just wait till mom gets home.”
The cop was a lapsed Presbyterian and not worried, though of course he should have been.
“Oh yeah, it works,” said the cop. “If you get a judge who thinks he’s a writer and ‘understands’ what they were going through, and how hard it is to be a writer, and how little the world appreciates the artistic struggle, oh yeah, they f’g walk.”
A guy from the DA’s office walked in. Leticia returned to looking like she had a migraine. He looked at Leticia, who dramatically threw her arm across her eyes. “Writer’s defense?” he asked the cop.
“Geez. Let her go. She’ll be a nightmare on the stand.”
The cop sighed. He’d seen this coming. “So what do we do now?”
“Arrest a journalist.”
The cop glared at Leticia and turned to his partner. “That,” he said decisively, “is why we need stupid judges.”
David Mills is editor of Hour of Our Death and is finishing a book for Sophia Press titled When Catholics Die.
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