A Crooked Man


A photograph of author Jack London on his ranc...

Image via Wikipedia

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.

Jack My love Bartholomew” the nurse wrote on the chart.  “Are you sure you want to give this boy a strange name like that? He’s going to have a hard enough time in the world.”

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.)

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