Are they gorgeous? Are they delicious?
Guilty as charged!
Were they somewhat mishandled during their upbringing? Um, yes, the judge has decided. “What we have here,” he said today in an opinion being released right here and now, “is a woefully ignorant gardener.”
The jurist kind of went on and on from there, detailing just how woeful and how ignorant, but I’ll spare you the gory details. He did not accept the gardener’s excuse that there were “too many seedlings.”
The defendant told how it all began. “I spent 97¢ on the smallest container Murphy’s sells. I’ve never even eaten a leek before, Your Honor. But people say they’re good so I bought some.”
“What happened next?” the judge inquired.
“Well, the little plastic marker didn’t really give much information, so I looked up how to grow leeks on the internet,” the defendant claimed.
“Oh,” harumphed the judge. “You looked it up on the intranet.”
“But the information there wasn’t that helpful either. It was all about starting them from seeds, but I was trying to transplant them as seedlings.”
In a harbinger of the final decision, the judge declared, “This is what you get when you try to look things up on the intranet.”
“When I went to plant them, there were dozens of these little bitty seedlings,” the defendant testified. “Hundreds maybe.”
The judge looked down at him over half-moon glasses. “Hundreds. For 97¢.”
“At Murphy’s,” the defendant nodded.
“Retail malpractice,” the judge wrote in a note to himself. Then he added a question mark, since no foundation had been laid for this conclusion. “What exactly did you do?”
“Well, I separated them into 9 or 10 little bunches. I only had so much space in my garden, Your Honor, and this is the first year I’ve had a proper vegetable garden. I mean, with planks and everything.”
“I see. Could we pick up the pace now? Only the information that’s relevant to this case.”
“Sure. I planted them in bunches.”
“Did you get that?” the judge asked the court reporter. “He planted them in bunches.”
She nodded, an experienced hand in the courtroom. The judge returned to the witness. “Then what happened?”
“Well, judge, they kind of took off. They started growing, and where I’d thought before that after a few weeks I should thin them a little maybe, I never got around to it. But I kept them weeded.”
“Gardener malpractice,” the judge wrote, and this time he left off the question mark. “So, did you set out to abuse these poor seedlings deliberately? Or is this more a case of neglect of a dependent?”
The defense attorney finally spoke up, “Objection, Judge. These things were like vegetables the day he got them.”
The defendant answered, “Actually, Your Lordship, I had a theory I was testing. A scientific experiment, you might say. After all, these seedlings were my own personal property.”
Ooh, a clever defendant invoked his Constitutional right to dispose of his property however he saw fit. If the judge wasn’t careful, soon Tea Partiers, Libertarians and Mad Hatters would be wanting his scalp. “What experiment?”
“I believed, and wanted to test the thesis, that even a person inexperienced with leeks, but who was otherwise somewhat knowledgable in the garden, could figure out how to grow them next year, by monitoring how they acted this year.”
“And what did you learn, young man?” the judge scowled.
“Well, they really should be planted more thinly, in rows, in a trench. But even when you handle them like I did, you get some nice ones. And they taste good.”
The defense lawyer approached the bench. “Exhibit A, judge.” She handed him some specimens.
“They look like fancy onions,” the judge frowned. He’d never eaten one either; no one in Kentland has. They’re a foreign food, from Europe or somewhere.
“Pretty tops, don’t you think?” the defendant asked. “Especially when they’re trimmed.”
“Silence in the court,” the judge ordered. He picked up a leek and smelled it; vaguely oniony. “What were the results of your experiment?”
“I first tried picking one in July,” the defendant testified. “It wasn’t much bigger than a scallion, not at all like the leeks one finds on the internet.”
“Ah,” the judge muttered, “again with the intranet.”
“So I let them grow awhile longer,” the defendant stated. “By August they were getting to be a decent size, about three-quarters of an inch in diameter. In September, though, they really start coming on.”
“Can you cook with them?”
The defense lawyer motioned to an assistant, who disappeared momentarily outside the courtroom, then carried in a foil-covered baking dish.
“What have we here?” the judge inquired, suddenly interested. The clock on the wall said it was getting toward lunchtime.
“Exhibit B,” said the lawyer. She personally placed the glass loaf pan on the bench and removed the foil. Steam rose.
The judge sniffed, “Baked beans?”
“Yes, Your Worship,” the defendant replied. “Made them myself this morning.”
The attorney handed the judge a spoon. The judge looked at his reflection in it, then wiped it off on his robe and dug into the beans.
He ate a bite, savoring, or maybe judging.
“Mustard,” he said finally; “a bit of Worcestershire, I think.”
“Oh yes,” the defendant agreed, “a tablespoon each.”
“Brown sugar, judge,” the defense lawyer asserted, glancing at her notes.
“I love brown sugar,” the judge said. “A bit of vinegar, perhaps? For a little sweet-and-sour action?”
The defendant nodded eagerly, “Just a teaspoon, Your Excellency. I measured carefully, too.”
The judge ate another bite, tasting, pondering. After a third spoonful he said, “Aha!”
“What’s that?” the attorney asked worriedly.
“You left something out,” the judge thundered at the defendant. “No hot sauce!”
The defendant collapsed momentarily in the witness box. He didn’t want to make any incriminating statements in open court, but yes, he had indeed forgotten the hot sauce. Besides, his recipe only called for a quarter-teaspoon.
He asked, “What about the leeks, Your Honor?”
“No objection,” the jurist pronounced. “The leeks are fine.”
“Judge, the defense moves for an acquittal on all charges,” the attorney said confidently.
The judge moved the whole pan of baked beans in front of himself and began eating. “Denied,” he said. “This defendant’s guilty as hell.”
“Of what?” the attorney asked.
“Mistreating leeks. And a second count of neglecting them. Claims he weeded but forgot to thin.” The judge banged his gavel. “Guilty!” he shouted. “Now let me think of a suitable punishment.”
He wiped his lips with the hem of his robe and asked the defendant, “What else can you make?”
“I was thinking of potato-leek soup, Your Worshipfulness,” the defendant said sorrowfully.
“You’re hereby sentenced to make a big pot of potato-leek soup. On my desk one week from now – at lunchtime. Court adjourned!” Bang bang bang.
Then the judge made off with the baked beans. Before the defense attorney could say anything, the judge told her, “Evidence.”
The attorney then wanted $500 from the defendant. “I thought you took my case on contingency,” the miscreant exclaimed.
“That was assuming I got the baked beans,” she answered.
But the defendant was quick; “Trade you for your own batch of potato-leek soup.”
“Deal!” she cried. Everyone went home happy, and the defendant made plans to sell his own leeks next year at Murphy’s – for 97¢ a half-dozen, planted carefully in trenches and rows.++