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How was I going to get out of this crazy predicament: having to face a rudimentary, hanging judge for littering in this small city of 30,000 folks, whose majority of forefathers came from the wild, yet mellow, moon-shining hills of East Tennessee?

"But, Your Honor, I'm an innocent victim of unusual circumstance," would be my opening line. Not really able to afford a decent lawyer (is there such a thing?) from living like a Spartan on a piddly salary from a small-market radio station—albeit, the FM channel was revered for being the "Progressively Better, Super-Powerhouse of the Mid-South," with 100,000 screaming watts in glorious, high-fidelity stereo: "WZAP-FM (not the real call letters), your rock-and-roll survivalists!"—I had better make my forthcoming, elaborate oration be elegant, succinct, unquestionably logical and totally dumbfounding to escape from the hard-hitting gavel of Judge Roy Bean (not his real name).

The tough part was putting together an iron-clad defense to prove my total innocence in such a way as not to implicate my buddy Curt in the process, while proving my non-participation in a criminal act without lying. My usually caring and crafty housemates weren't very sympathetic or helpful this time. "This is all your fault, Mike Slickster," is what I was told. "If you had put the garbage out to the curb last Thursday, this would never have happened."

The two weeks ahead of my court date flew by like a lightning bolt. Funny how times fly faster when you're a chronic worrywart, trying to envision every different barrage of intense questioning by your soon-to-be, insidious prosecutors, whose sole intentions were to prove the hapless defendant was one degree lower than that of a snakes belly and an incredulous varmint who illicitly threw out his trash into Tommy's overfilled parking-lot dumpster, ultimately littering the premises from a split-open Hefty Bag upon its falling to the ground, spewing out all the debris. An exorbitant fine would bankrupt me for the while I struggled to catch up. Surviving month-to-month was an unfortunate price to pay for being a big fish in a small pond.

On the Friday night before my 10 A.M. Monday morning appearance in front of the executioner was a perfect opportunity for my endearing roommates to launch a massive farewell party in my honor: an entire weekend-long bender with lots of insane merriment and tear-jerking sentimentality, as if I was going to be locked up for a very long time. My mirthful second family was most reassuring, saying they would visit me regularly from time to time in the county jail; and they'd make certain in my absence, the garbage would be put to the curb promptly and on time for when it was my turn to do so. The weekend binge had accumulated an exceptional quantity of party refuse once again, filling both bays of the adjoining garage like a little over two weeks prior. I thanked my lucky stars the ensuing week was not my responsibility for trash detail; although the minute chance of my landing in the clink and doing it there lay heavy still in the back of my aching, hungover head.

Waking up nervously with the sun on that eventful day in anticipation of the sordid court session to take place later that morning, I took a long, luxurious, hot shower, just in case it was to be my last, private, non-paranoid experience, making sure I didn't drop that elusive bar of soap. Kat cooked me a fine breakfast: my requisite two cups of coffee, ham, grits, scrambled eggs, sausage with cat-head biscuits and sawmill gravy, my favorites. She joked about how they probably didn't serve the latter two items in the hoosegow, so I better enjoy them as if this meal was my last. My household was filled with a bunch of comediennes. Putting on my only suit—a touch-tattered, black and double-breasted variety, so I could use it anytime for funerals or black-tie events, even with a pair of jeans—and a clean white shirt with my black pinstripe tie, I combed my hair behind my ears afterward, splashed on some cheap, pungently odoriferous cologne, something named after the martial arts (no need to shave, I had a beard), spit-polished my brown wing-tipped shoes, put on my derby, hopped into old Gilbert and headed downtown to face my impending, ultimate destiny.

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To be continued ...,

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