"Hey, Tommy, It's dad"
"Good to hear you son. How is school?"
"It's OK; I got a good grade in math. Mrs. Lovegood gave me a star for it"
"That's great, Tommy. I'm proud of you"
"Who is that, honey? Is it grandma? Give me the phone. Hello?"
"Oh, it's you" said Rebecca with a disappointed voice, "Listen, I'm taking the kids to school now. I'll see you in court".
"Wait, I want to talk to…" he started but before he could finish, the line went dead.
Bill put the receiver back in its place. His ex-wife has just hung up on him. They got divorced two months ago and now they are fighting for custody over the kids since Rebecca won't settle; she wants full custody.
The trial is due at noon and Bill is very nervous. He has prepared himself for this day. It's the only thing that has been on his mind lately, his only chance to convince the system that he can be a better parent to his kids than his ex-wife. Unfortunately for him, his past still haunts him. Surely Rebecca will bring up his drinking problem, even though he went to rehab and hasn't been off the wagon in the past nine months. He has changed; he's a better man now, a better father.
It is now mid-winter and heavy snow is covering Bill's car, an old brown Toyota. He has had it for six years. It's not very fancy, but he loves it all the same. He used to take the bus before he had it, so he has no complaints.
It must have been already past 11 when he finally finished removing the snow from the windshield. Traffic usually flows smoothly during this time of the day but, as Bill learned the minute he turned on the radio, there has been an accident just a few blocks before the courthouse.
He craned his neck towards the driver's window in order to see past the car in front of him and discovered that all of the vehicles were moving to the left lane in the distance; an ambulance was blocking the other two.
"Oh great," Bill said to himself "Now how am I going to get there in time? I should have left the house earlier."
He took out his phone and called his lawyer.
"Hey Paul, it's me, Bill. Listen, I'm stuck in traffic and I might be a few minutes late. I know, I know, but what can I do? Being stuck in traffic is a real bummer. Alright, see you there."
Paul and Bill have known each other since high school. After graduation, they went their separate ways; Paul went to law school and Bill started working in construction. Only recently they've started hanging out again, and it became more frequent after Bill's divorce, when Paul offered to give legal aid, and finally, be his lawyer.
As the traffic slowly crawled on, Bill checked his watch regularly, all the while tapping his fingers on the steering wheel nervously. Luckily, he was already on the left lane, which was the only one that wasn't blocked, but the blockage still seemed too far away. Bill did a quick calculation, hesitated a few seconds, and then made a decision: He took a sharp turn to the left, then right, pressed his foot on the gas and he was moving fast on the shoulder. From the corner of his eye he could see resentful expressions on faces of car drivers as he was passing through.
When he was 40 feet from the ambulance, he realized he would have to get back on the lane, since a safety barrier was now replacing the shoulder. He slowed down and started turning the wheel gently to the right. He took the time to examine the scene. Behind the ambulance, he could see a small car lying on its side. The driver, a teenager it seemed, was on his back just three feet away from the car, both hands on his chest. He was conscious and was replying to questions of the paramedics around him. It seemed like he was going to be OK.
Then there was a sudden honk and Bill hit the brakes instantly. He looked to the right and noticed the driver of a black Mercedes making gestures that clearly meant "What are you doing?"
The driver was probably in his 60's. He was bald, chubby, had a large moustache and was sitting low in his seat. Bill opened the passenger's window and shouted "Sorry, I'm in a real hurry."
The driver shouted back "Everybody is in a hurry, you have no excuse to do this". He had an irritating raspy voice. Bill ignored his comment and moved forward a bit, the nose of his car already crossing the yellow line and getting back onto the lane.
"Punk!" yelled the Mercedes driver and moved forward himself too, "get back and let me through". They were now nose to nose competing over the right to pass through the narrow lane between the safety barrier and the ambulance.
"What's the rush, grandpa? Are you worried you're gonna miss the Bridge game at the nursing home?" Bill said. The driver scowled at that remark.
Bill knew the Mercedes driver wouldn't risk banging his car so he pushed on.
"Do you have any idea who I am?" shouted the driver.
"I couldn't care less" replied Bill while turning the wheel left and aligning within the lane. And as he turned up the speed he could hear the Mercedes driver shout "I got your license plate number; you won't get away with this! I'll have your driving license taken away". Bill put his left hand outside the window and made a rude gesture.
After another 10 minutes, he finally arrived at the courthouse.
"Bill, there you are, come here" said Paul.
"I'm not too late, am I?" asked Bill while looking around. His ex-wife was on the other side of the room. She looked surprisingly pretty today. Her attorney was sitting close to her, too close, in Bill's opinion, and was holding her hand for reassurance. Some might think he was hitting on her. This somewhat aggravated Bill.
"No" replied Paul, "the judge hasn't arrived yet, you're in luck. Listen, I've taken on this attorney a couple of times, I'm used to his methods. And the way I see it, both you and your ex-wife have a 50% chance here, so it all comes down to whom the judge likes more".
"All rise" said the court clerk and everybody stood up, Bill did as well. "Court is now in session, presiding judge Lance Moore".
"Here he comes" whispered Paul, "Try to be the most pleasant person you can be, we'll introduce the facts and it will be alright".
Bill couldn't quite see the judge as he entered the room since he was very short.
"Did you remember to turn off your phone?" Paul asked Bill.
"No, I forgot" said Bill and hastened to turn it off under the table.
"Good afternoon everyone, sorry I'm late" said a raspy voice and Bill raised his head alarmingly. The judge scoured the crowd briefly, his eyes lay fixed on Bill for 2-3 seconds. Bill could swear he saw a smirk under that large moustache as the judge said "That Bridge game took longer than I thought".
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