By D.C. Lozar and Ellen Kristoff
Every eye in the courtroom turned as the Wolf, dressed in a navy-blue Bailiff’s uniform, padded down the aisle.
“This session is called to order. All rise,” growled the Wolf. “The honorable Brothers Grimm presiding.”
Two Siamese cats dressed in flowing judge’s robes entered the court from their chambers. Their wet amber eyes scanned the fairy tale characters on the jury. The three little Pigs cowered, little Red Riding Hood stuck out her tongue, and Hansel and Gretel stopped throwing spitballs at the back of the old Witch’s head. There was a hushed silence as the two cats took their positions behind the bench.
“Please take your seats,” yapped the Wolf. The gilded buttons on his double-breasted vest shown with authority. “Case number: 317 – Mr. James A. Troll vs. The Gruff Family. Defense’s side was heard before recess. The prosecution may begin.”
Humpty Dumpty rolled out of his chair, adjusted his necktie, and pushed his client’s wheelchair to the witness stand. “If it pleases the court, I call Mr. Troll.”
Mr. Troll reeked of expired aftershave and cabbage. A filthy neck brace held his chin steady while a leg cast poked out from under his tattered overalls. His large brown eyes scanned the court and found the immaculately dressed Billy Goats sitting in the defense box. The sparse steely whiskers on his cheeks quivered.
“As a victim of workplace violence and inadequate health care myself,” began Humpty Dumpty. He dabbed at the perspiration on his brow, highlighting the poorly mended cracks in his shell. “I know far too well how slander and misinformation by the media can rob a victim of their just say in the public eye. Thus, we are asking the court for damages amounting to thirty-five gold shillings to cover the hospital bills, lost wages, and emotional distress incurred by my client.”
Pinocchio worked jerkily with a coal pencil to sketch the jury’s expressions of awe. The damages requested were twice what any reasonable jury had ever awarded.
Whispering, the three Billy Goats leaned into a huddle. The youngest chewed nervously on the edge of their table.
“Mr. Troll,” continued Humpty Dumpty. “Please tell the court what happened on June twelfth?”
Mr. Troll grimaced as he straightened in his rickety wheelchair. His voice was unruffled and polished “Certainly, Mr. Dumpty.”
Mrs. Spider’s forelegs fluttered over the court’s stenograph, recording every word.
“I was called to repair a particular bridge on the lower east side. My employer, Tinker, Inc., had informed my office that there was a dangerously loose floorboard that, if not timely repaired, could lead to public harm. Grabbing hammer and nails, I rushed to the location. Climbing under the bridge, I quickly discovered that three of the structure’s wooden slats had indeed come a part. The most efficient way to repair said damage was through the use of glue and nails. I was in a cramped position and so was unaware when I spilled some of my quick drying glue onto the nails as I prepared to do my work. It is my habit to place nails in my mouth for easy access and, in so doing, I subsequently sealed part of my mouth together.”
“That was when the first of those three hooligans came strutting up to the bridge.” Mr. Troll pointed forcefully with a sausage-sized finger at the Three Billy Goats. “I yelled that the bridge was unsafe and not to cross. But the first one ignored me and strutted on by as I held up the floorboards with my arthritic shoulders. I’ll admit my words may have come out a bit garbled due to the glue on my lips, but I’m sure I said I wanted to complete repairs.”
Humpty Dumpty took out a scroll and scanned it quickly. “The Billy Goats contended earlier that you said you would eat the youngest one’s hairs.”
Offended, Mr. Troll looked to the judges. “My point exactly. They’re twisting my words, making me look bad. Why would I eat just his hairs? That’s ridiculous.”
The Grimm Brothers nodded sagely, conceding the point.
“Well, no sooner did the first one cross, then did his larger brother appear. Again, I yelled a warning to stay off the bridge as it might collapse.”
“Here, the defendants claim you said that you would eat him in a snap,” read Humpty Dumpty.
“Ludicrous.” Mr. Troll spread his burly arms and rolled his eyes. “This time, I practically broke my back trying to hold up the slats as the middle thug tramped over my head. He even had the audacity to warn me that his older heftier brother was on the way.”
Gasps of compassion issued from the spellbound jury.
“Knowing that yet another careless pedestrian was about to cross, I shimmied out from under the bridge and positioned myself in front of it. My intention was to prevent a catastrophe.” Mr. Troll shifted awkwardly in his chair. “I am by no means a hero, but I felt I had a responsibility to warn the fellow.”
“Quite right,” agreed Humpty Dumpty. “We should all be so lucky to have someone warn us of unseen dangers.”
“The final Billy Goat was quite large,” continued Mr. Troll, “but he looked mature enough to understand the situation. I put out my hand, smiled as best I could, and said I’m pleased to meet you.”
“He said, ‘I’m going to eat you!’” bayed the largest Billy Goat.
“Order!” The Grim Brothers’ gavels slammed into the desk.
“Do you see his temper?” asked Mr. Troll. “He rushed me, horns down, and head-butted me into a nearby tree. I woke several hours later with the injuries you can all plainly see. My wounds left me unemployed and indigent. Evicted from my apartment, I now live under the same fateful bridge that I tried to repair.”
“Thank you, Mr. Troll,” purred one of the Brothers Grimm. “Does the defense have anything to add in cross-examination?”
Snow White, dressed in a snappy business suit, strode forward. Her eyes blazed with righteousness. “Yes, your Honors. Just one single request.”
Reaching into her silk pocket, she pulled out a small sharp nail and placed it on the banister in front of Mr. Troll. “I would like Mr. Troll to pick this nail up for the court.”
Mr. Troll’s face fell, and a layer of perspiration emerged on his craggy brow. He looked sheepishly to his council for help.
Humpty Dumpty having complete faith in his client’s innocence waited coolly for Mr. Troll to comply.
Fumbling with his freakishly large hands and sharp claws, Mr. Troll struggled to grasp the tiny nail. It skipped and skittered away from him with each attempt.
The jury gasped with horror. They had almost fallen for Mr. Troll’s story.
“I contend that Mr. Troll has never repaired a bridge in his life,” said Snow White primly. “As he cannot pick up a single nail, I demand that his unfounded claims be dismissed. I also propose that the court imprison Mr. Troll for making false accusations against three of our town’s most upstanding citizens.”
“Agreed,” snarled the first of the Brothers Grimm.
“Case dismissed,” hissed the second of the Brothers Grimm. “Security, please take Mr. Troll into custody.”
With tears of happiness streaming down their snowy beards, the three Billy Goats hugged each other and Snow White.
Mr. Troll bounded out of his wheelchair and made a mad dash for the door. Prince Charming, his sword already drawn, caught the fugitive easily and dragged him from the room.
Humpty Dumpty shook his head in bewildered regret at having lost yet another case while Hansel and Gretel resumed throwing spitballs at the back of the Witch’s head.
The Wolf drew a creased sheet of paper from his breast pocket and read. “Next on the docket: Case Number: 318 – Ms. Tabatha Goldilocks vs. The Bear Family.”