Jack and Melissa spent the next several years in the crooked house just living normal lives. They now had two children and were very content. After years of abuse about his physical appearance and his name, Jack was happy that he was being treated with respect and was being left alone. Now, though, he faced a new problem.
Crime was down and court cases were few. Big time criminals as well as the street variety were wary of going to court. They liked Jack but they suspected that when he looked at them in his crooked way he knew whether they were guilty or not. Because they felt guilty many of them volunteered to make restitution to their victims and to society. At the same time it became too difficult to commit crimes and then help out in the community. It was much easier to leave the county than to face the crooked lawyer.
Because he was so successful Jack felt guilty for having idle time. Wasting taxpayers’ money went against his grain. Jack liked hard work, research, excitement, and the thrill of convincing others of the truth. Besides that, he was continually proving to himself that he was more than a crooked man. He was ready for an opportunity to step out, to be bold and to prove himself to the world.
One afternoon a long black sedan drove up the crooked road and parked in Jack’s driveway. No one got out. No one opened a door or window. The crooked dog growled but just watched.
Melissa wondered about the strange car and called Jack. He rushed home and stopped a few yards away from the car. Jack was cautious at first. He didn’t recognize the car or the license plate. Finally he walked crookedly around the black car and stood on the porch next to the dog.
The car doors opened and three men got out. Two of them leaned against the car and scanned the area while a third man walked slowly towards Jack.
“Mr. Crooked?” he asked while extending his huge hand.
Jack didn’t correct the large man. He just smiled crookedly and stuck out his hand. “Call me Jack.”
The man looked Jack over. “We’ve been hearing good things about you and we want you to run for office.”
“I’ve been thinking about that, too,” Jack responded. “Perhaps I could run for the County Board of Supervisors or maybe try to be a state assemblyman.”
A deep chuckle bubbled up from the big man. “No, sir. We have bigger plans for you. Oh yes, indeed. We want you to run for President!”
It would have been rude to laugh, but that idea was ridiculous. He was a small-town lawyer with some success. How could a crooked lawyer compete with the urbane experienced gentlemen who had spent years before cameras while gaining their respective offices?
The big man cleared his throat. “I’ve done some checking up on you. You’re inexperienced and new to the political world. You don’t have a sordid past or problems that could be potentially explosive. You’re crooked, but you would be the most honest politician around.”
Jack protested, “I haven’t been studying the issues. I haven’t decided which ones I’m for and which ones I’m against.”
“Don’t worry about that. None of the politicians think for themselves. We lay out the plans and tell them what they’re for and what they’re against. Speech writers watch the polls and try to catch the waves of concern and ride the tides of sentiment. A few votes here or there make all the difference. It’s an exciting game. The candidates have to be smooth talkers and look good.”
“Look,” said Jack. “It’s obvious that I’m crooked. I don’t look good in public. I don’t think I can follow orders either if I believe they’re wrong. I will give my honest opinion every time. I refuse to be bullied.”
The big man grinned. “Yes, we know all that. We don’t expect a crooked lawyer to win. We want you to stir up the issues so our guy looks good. In other words, you’d be a distraction and a decoy. In the meantime we’ll finance your campaign through the primaries.”
Jack thought about the offer for a few seconds. “I’ll do it. There are several issues I want to bring up. I think the American public is smarter than you think.”
The big man shook Jack’s hand. “We’ll be back. Next time we’ll have your campaign staff with us.”
Jack watched as the car sped down the narrow crooked road, the tires kicking up dust and gravel as the car touched the shoulder. When it was out of sight Jack continued to stare. “What have I gotten myself into?” he said quietly.
Melissa noticed his preoccupied look as he entered the kitchen. “Why are you scowling, Jack My Love? You’re always smiling. What’s wrong?”
“I think I’ve done something stupid. I’m running for President!”
The birth was normal but somehow the baby was strangely misshapen. One leg was shorter than the other and he twisted a bit to one side. “He’s a crooked little fellow,” the doctor muttered.
“Oh, no, he’s beautiful,” his mother insisted. “I’m so proud of him!” And to prove how much she loved her baby she gave him a strange name, as mothers sometimes do.
His mom was insistent and the name stayed. Of course, in his early years Jack’s full name was rarely used. Only when his mother was mad did she call him Jack My love Bartholomew and then there were other names liberally sprinkled in.
When he entered school the situation changed. The kids taunted him because of his crooked way of smiling and the way he walked. His name became a special target and he learned to endure the bullies and their little slaves. Jack always thought of the helpers as slaves because they were afraid to challenge any decision made. Suggestions from bullies were commands to be carried out.
“Jack My love”, do this. “Jack My love”, do that. Jack grew tired of hearing his name in jest and sometimes he ignored the tease or refused to answer anything other than Jack.
In high school he began getting recognition in sports as an excellent runner. As a running back in football his slants and cutbacks were different. His crooked way of running gave him unusual opportunities. In cross country and track he became known for his “crooked” miles.
His opponents and some of his teammates asked the coaches to “Make him run right”. He ran at angles but within bounds. Although his coaches listened to complaints they saw how his awkward style led to wins. It was not in their best interests to change him. Therefore the coaches left him alone.
In addition to his talents in sports his writing skills were superior. Because he had spent hours brooding about the taunts and teasing, he kept a journal. At first his teachers tried to change his penmanship because it was so horribly crooked and even left handed students refused to accept him.
As a consequence of his crooked writing his papers were hard to read and were often marked down drastically. Eventually his teachers adapted and began discovering his raw talent. His poems and short stories were wonderful though decidedly crooked. They, not Jack, petitioned the school board for a laptop Jack could carry with him.
Jack’s romantic life was simply nonexistent. Girls remarked that Jack walked funny and when he smiled, his smile was crooked. They would say, “You’re a good friend but………….. and Jack would listen to a range of excuses but never got a date.
After college he thought about becoming a politician but since he was already “the crooked man” he thought that might be a bad idea. He became a lawyer instead.
Jack’s success as a county prosecutor brought publicity about his relentless pursuit of those on the wrong side of the law. His fame spread and he obtained a certain measure of respect but people still made references to his odd name and his peculiar way of walking.
Jack bought an old house on the outskirts of town. It needed renovation and repairs and he went right to work restoring the old mansion. Once it had been a beautiful landmark in town but a series of mobsters had lived there briefly and left it in disrepair. Townsfolk said it was filled with bullet holes and weird stories. Jack was the only one brave enough to buy it and move in.
It was located, oddly enough, on South Crooked Way and situated on the side of a small hill. Everyone who saw it claimed it leaned to one side. For that and other reasons they referred to it as “the crooked house”.
During this time Jack acquired a few animals, hereafter referred to as one crooked dog and one crooked cat. Field mice in the vicinity were decimated by the crooked cat, although there were rumors about town that a couple of malformed mice were ignored by the cat. The crooked dog looked ferocious and strangers did not venture down his road without making a hasty departure.
Jack was lonely, especially at night when the crickets started chirping and the moon rose up full of bright promise. He tried internet dating sites but he could not keep a normal schedule. His “ewomen” gradually drifted away into cyberspace.
During a Purple Passion Poetry posting contest Jack decided to compete and see if his writing talent would give him a chance at winning. He had forgotten one aspect of the contest. The top five writers were required to make a public appearance and read a few poems in front of a live audience.
One of the judges took him aside and asked, “Jack, could you please wear a specially built shoe so you look normal? Oh, and would you please take the time to work on that crooked smile?”
He won the contest which upset most of the long time gentry. While onstage at the awards presentation Jack enraged them more by removing his uncomfortable shoe and smiling at the audience.
The next day newspaper banners read, “Crooked Man Wins Contest!” When some people objected to a crooked man winning, one of the judges was quoted as saying, “I had no choice. It was crooked all the way!”
Jack was not at all pleased with the publicity and the way the public treated him. In spite of the publicity he was offered a partnership with a local law firm that wanted a crooked lawyer. When he accepted their offer he received a large increase of pay, his income doubling immediately.
His crooked smile was front page news in the local paper and one of the top ten internet stories. “Crooked Lawyer Leaves Public Practice to Defend Crooks.”
“Why don’t you sue those insensitive clods on the newspaper?” his partners asked. “They’ve gone way too far. If you won’t do it for yourself, then sue for the sake of all those kids who have to face bullies. Then donate the money to charity.”
His partners were urging him to sue but that wasn’t Jack’s style. They became more insistent, telling Jack he had to be ruthless if he continued with their firm. He resigned and opened an office on the main street of town. The sign above it read simply “THE CROOKED LAWYER”. Rather than fight with those who were ridiculing him, he took the insult as a badge of honor.
The building was nondescript and there were no flashy directions to his office. People would say, “It’s located on the third floor somewhere. You’ll know it when you see it.” Sure enough when visitors made it to the third floor they saw hand painted signs with arrows pointing the way. One sign said, “Love instead of sue.” Another was more dramatic. “Love first, shoot last.”
Across the country the name caught fire. People laughed but when they needed legal help they remembered his sign. Jack’s reputation and his tenacity brought in more clients. It seemed almost everyone wanted the most hardworking, most honest crooked lawyer in the business.
Mob bosses, ministers, thieves, rich men, and poor men wanted Jack to represent them. In his normal crooked way Jack would put up a brilliant defense as he paced back and forth, similar to the slants of his football glory days. The jury was always mesmerized and his victories continued to mount. For Jack it wasn’t all about the money. He wanted to believe in his clients and get them respect.
Because of this honest crooked lawyer many of his crooked clients decided to go straight. They continued to prosper in spite of being honest in their dealings. More importantly, they vowed to remember all that Jack had done for them.
Next door to his office was a quaint coffee shop. Jack enjoyed reading the newspaper and checking the internet over a cup of coffee. There Jack met Melissa, a waitress, who did interest him. As she poured him a coffee each day she talked about her world and wanted to know about his. She never mentioned Jack’s crooked smile. She just seemed happier when he smiled at her. She knew he had an odd way of walking but that didn’t really matter. She saw him go out of his way to say kind words to people and to pet dogs and cats.
The world came alive to Melissa when Jack was there. “Jack My love” took on new meaning after she said, “I love your name.” He excited her and made her feel comfortable at the same time. He, in turn, began sharing his childhood and found she had a genuine interest in this life. Their friendship blossomed. Shortly thereafter they married and lived together in the big crooked house.
It wasn’t long before Jack’s name was bandied about in political circles. “He was okay as a crooked lawyer,” one woman said. “I think he would make an excellent crooked politician.”
(But that’s another story.)
- Of Real-Life Crooks and Villains (opinionhub.wordpress.com)
- Crooked I – Monsters In My Head feat. Slaughterhouse (akahiphop.com)
- W.H. Auden: “You shall love your crooked neighbour/ With your crooked heart.’” (lifeondoverbeach.wordpress.com)
- How to Balance a Crooked Nose Without Anesthesia (bellasugar.com)
- I Am Not a Crook (ellen.warnerbros.com)
Jack of the Lanterns
It was a day like the others,
But the sea was at rest,
The crew was getting restless,
Including Lady Pen in the nest,
It seemed days since we had rum,
“Captain Jack,” said I so bold,
“I can almost hear a distant drum,
Someplace where there’s lots of gold,”
“Aye,” he muttered, “we need to find,
Something to do to distract their minds,”
“Captain, if I may humbly suggest,
Bring Lady Pen down from the nest,
I heard her talking to one of the crew,
She had some ideas on what to do,”
Now Jack don’t take to ideas quick,
But he knew Pen’s ideas would be slick,
He grabbed one of the men by the arm,
“Tell Pen to see me, but no need for alarm,”
She looked a bit worried, timid she be,
As she climbed down she glared at me,
“Did this tar say something, he’s worthless you see,”
She smiled provocatively at Jack, and batted her eyes,
“I’m ready for duty, you can count on me,”
“Lady Pen, I need some ideas to stir up this crew,
I need them fast, I feel trouble starting to brew,”
“Captain,” she said with a twinkle in her eye,
“I’ve been thinking while up in the sky,
If our flag was different than any other ship,
You’d become famous, Edward Teach would flip,”
And I have ideas about decorating and such,
The world would love us and it wouldn’t cost much,”
“Ah, Lady Pen,” said Jack with a twinkle in his eye,
“You’ve turned out to be a special kind of guy,”
With scissors and thread she started the flag,
With bits of clothing, curtains, and rags,
She’d requested some gourds when we found land,
Gave no explanation that the Captain could understand,
She toiled without stopping until she was done,
“Captain,” she said, “Now, let’s have some fun,”
The Jolly Roger came down, a pumpkin flag was raised,
The crew was perplexed and partially dazed,
The gourds were carved with precision and care,
All had smiles, but an evil stare,
“These gourds will be lanterns to guide us at night,
And the evil faces will give others a fright,”
Candles were lit and placed in each gourd,
“I’ll reward you handsomely,” said Jack, “you have my word,”
The ships demeanor changed, it was eerily strange,
Ships surrendered before we got into range,
As we boarded ships that we found,
Jack would call out, “Put your arms down,”
“Give us your gold and something to eat,
And no tricks we’ll play as we take our treats,”
It wasn’t long before the word spread,
That a great pirate ship was one to dread,
It was filled with spirits with evil grins,
It never loses and always wins,
Captain Kidd, Teach, and others heard of its fame,
And Pen was selected to give it a permanent name,
“Jack’s lanterns, to her just made sense,
And jack o’lanterns have been called that hence,
Even now should you on the open sea be cast,
And a pumpkin flag is flying near the mast,
Look closely at the Lady dressed prim and neat,
Her eyes will be glowing as you close in to greet,
And beside her will be a captain, Jack be his name,
Take them seriously when they say, “Trick or Treat!”
Many a ship has been plundered out at sea,
I wouldn’t want that to happen to you or me,
When jack o’lanterns be smiling with an evil grin,
Be aware of the danger you could be in,
Should you be courteous especially to Pen,
Their hospitality is fabulous for all their friends.