Flash: Why Women Don’t Like Slapstick

From the Internet Hive Mind: Hostile Architecture Bench (https://theludlowgroup.com/2018/03/01/the-discussion-on-hostile-architecture-a-public-service-or-infringement-on-human-rights/)

“Okay, I give up. Why the bear?”

Lizzy turned her head to the side to look at Robert as they walked through the city park. “It’s been two months. That meme is over. Kicked the bucket and put a fork in it done.”

“But would you choose the bear?” he pressed.

Before answering, Lizzy glanced to her other side where Payton strolled next to them, verifying he was restraining his acreage-eating pace down to what normal mortals could keep up with. He gave her a small smile and a shrug of his oversized company logo’ed t-shirt. She rolled her eyes at him, then turned back to Robert. “If we do the original supposition where I am walking in the woods and a random bear or a random man crosses the path in front of me, which I would rather encounter? Then bear.”

“But why?” the whine, like Lizzy had purposely tried to hurt his feeling when he was the one to bring up the question made Lizzy wince.

“Because I am in the woods, duh.” Lizzy decided to play if for laughs with some underlying truth, otherwise the luncheon walks would get tough and the group dynamics in the work space would get awkward. “I am in the woods, the bear lives there. I’m cruising through his living room. Basically if I don’t bother him by changing the channel on his TV, he is going to leave me alone. Or her, I shouldn’t misgender the hypothetical bear.”

“Ha, ha.” Robert responded, taking a deeper breath. While he and Lizzy were of age, he had been a coach potato more aggressively before Manyard Associates got through their mutually thick heads to participate in the Heathy Living Initiative at the start of spring. Payton joined them when got hired last month, not wanting to sit at his desk alone in their portion of the cubicle farm. “Why not a man?”

“Por dios,” Lizzy shook her head. Robert always made thing difficult, his privileged white CIS    male ass just couldn’t learn to be P.C. without a clue-by-four hitting him across the head. “Because the man doesn’t belong in the woods. If he is there…” She paused searching for a delicate way to put it without arguing for the rest of the walk as they swung around the far lamp post and started back to their office building.

Payton’s deep voice said to her right, “He followed her.”

That is a man that gets it.

“But what if he didn’t. Follow her.” Robert panted lightly beside them. “He was just. There. You know.”

“If a man is around a woman, she can’t just think that they are just there. Not like the bear. Even when they are, because, you don’t know.” A couple instances where things changed on a dime flashed through Lizzy’s head. Her voice deepened and softened with a mixture of sadness and fear. “You never know.”

“It’s not. All men.”

“But it is all women.” Payton’s response carried a rhythm and melodic touch quoting a song.

Lizzy would need to ask him for the artist later. (Morgan St. Jean, “Not all men,” and the song made her cry. And get angry. She wanted to put it on repeat, and also never hear it again. But that was a couple days later.)

“Sure.” Robert sank onto the bench in front of the glass doors. The one with the swooped seats and the arm rest in the middle to prevent homeless from the park from sleeping in front of the skyscraper at night. He pulled back his sleeve to check his watch. “Twenty minutes. We are getting. Better.”

“Time to add another lap. Maybe head down to the amphitheater” Payton smirked at the two elders. “We got thirty minutes to play with, and the down and up the hill will be great cardio.”

“Not today Satan.” Lizzy shook her head. “Give us a moment.”

Leaning his head back on the bench, Robert looked up at Lizzy through squinted eyes. “Are men really that bad?”

Is this a conversation she wanted to have? Robert constantly pushed and prodded. If it wasn’t her being female in a male-dominated industry, then it was her Latino roots, or her Catholic upbringing, or her immigrant grandparents on her father’s side. Sometimes he listened. The clue-by-fours did get through … rarely, but sometimes.

Fine. They hadn’t had a good fight in a while. With Payton there, maybe it won’t get that bad.

Not like the time she reamed Robert’s ass during the COVID when he complained about food not getting harvested so he couldn’t get his favorite fresh fruits and vegetables. If you don’t allow immigrants across the border, which during COVID they absolutely didn’t and shouldn’t, then natives needed to take up the slack and, shocker, they didn’t. It wasn’t the complaints about food that set her off after being locked in her apartment alone for two months, but the grumbles about how COVID wasn’t even a thing if it wasn’t for immigrants and then started on his patented grievances about not enough jobs for normal hard-working men. She had felt the sting personally about the hard-working men, because it implied women as well as immigrants were stealing jobs. Something he had been needling her about since they had been teamed together in 2018.


He had cut her off mid-rant on their video call. He didn’t talk to her for over a week, wouldn’t even answer her texts on the project until she got their boss involved. A supervisor who made her apologize. Not him. But that is the way of the world. Right or wrong (and she would admit at least to herself, she had gone too far on that one), women just have to apologize if work would continue.

But afterwards, Robert did ask what had made her so “prickly”. At least, he hadn’t blamed it on “that time of month.” She had decided to focus on her not feeling like he not valued her as a co-worker since he constantly implied that women shouldn’t be working but stay at home where they belong, taking care of families. A therapy issue for him she figured was leftover from his divorce. And miracles of miracles, he had listened. Or at least changed his behavior. Not another snipe about women choosing careers over or along-side families.

And a slow roll back of his stance on immigration.

Maybe another lesson would take. She glanced at her watch. Five minutes before they needed to head indoors. How do to this quickly?

“It’s not that men are that bad, not all men.” Lizzy gave Robert a smile. “It’s just women are that fragile compared to men, and men forget that.”

“How so?” Robert tilted his head, and even Payton looked interested.

“Okay, you are about a standard-sized man, and I am a standard-sized female. I’m five four, and you are?”


She nodded. “Six-inch difference, standard. I’m one sixty-one.” They had weigh-in regularly as part of the Healthy Living, so the three of them had a solid handle of the others weights.

“Down two pounds. Good going!” Payton congratulated her.

“One ninety.” Robert rounded down, like normal.

“Thirty pound difference, still normal. Now I want you to picture yourself as a female with a man proportionally bigger than you. That would be about seven inches and thirty-five pounds heavier. I got more fat than you, nearly 10%, so picture—”

“Ha, still a chunky monkey.”

“Dude.” Payton leaned forward and slapped Robert’s arm.

“I’m a female, we got extra fat for boobs and ass and thigh. Deal. I have to.” Lizzy glared until Robert leaned back, muttering sorry. “Anyway, figure the male has less fat but more muscle. So over six foot—”

“Basically me,” Payton said. “I’m six five, two fifteen. I still go to the gym for weight-lifting, keeping the BMI down.” He lifted his t-shirt and rubbed the hair over his slightly sculpted six-pack.

“Excellent. Now Robert, stand up.”

“Okay,” the dark-haired man stood.

“Payton, I want you to stand as close to him as we normally get in the elevator.”

Payton took a step forward and Robert immediately took a small step back.

“No, no, Robert, don’t step back. If you take a step back, you might upset the man. This is a random guy. You don’t know how he will react. Stand your ground, but keep your eyes on his chest, don’t meet his eyes.” Lizzy glanced at the distance between the two men. “Payton, get as close to Robert as you see most average sized guys get with women at a bar.”

“Oh, kay.” Payton close the distance until a hand’s width was between them.

“Robert, how do you feel?”


“Safe? Secure? It’s only another human being. Just a man. Remember you are a woman in this scenario. And it’s not all men. He could be safe or he could be a ramdo. Is there just a little unease in your stomach?”

Robert raised his head. His eyes clearly darted over Payton’s broad chest and shoulders, finally landing on the face half a foot above his own. “Um, he is a bit intimidating.” Robert took two steps back. “But then he is unnaturally big.”

“Nope, he is the average size proportionally of man to woman. He is as big to you as you are to me.” Lizzy narrowed her eyes. “Now close the distance again Payton. Robert, the next question is what do you think would happen if he bumped you, if he shoved you?”

“I would fall down.”

“That was quick.” Lizzy shook her head. “No question at all about what would happen. I bet you would likely even bruise. And he might not have meant anything about it, he was just walking down the hall knowing people will get out of his way because he is bigger than the men and women around him. He might not even have noticed you go down. Now imagine if he was drunk or angry? Could he break something? Maybe an arm?”

“Oh, hell yes.”

“One final roleplay training before we go in. Payton,” Lizzy waited until the twenty-three-year-old moved his baby browns from looking down at Robert to her black eyes, “I want you to lean in and say with meaning ‘Alice, pow, right in the kisser.’”

Payton repeated it.

“No, say it like you mean it.” Lizzy waved her fist and made a mean expression.

Payton did it with feeling.

Robert took a big step back.

“And that, boys and girls, is why women hate slapstick.” Lizzy gestured toward the glass doors where the lunch exodus was reversing. “Shall we?”

“What do you mean?” Robert came around to her left side while Payton closed on her right, protecting her unconsciously just like they did when they were at the park. If someone jogged past in the other direction, she would drop behind Robert and Payton would take the rear since he had the easiest time catching up. “How did that explain why women hate slapstick?”

“How did you feel the second time Payton quoted Ralph from the Honeymooners?”

Robert pressed his lips into a firm line and glanced away.

“What’s the Honeymooners?” Payton asked.

“I’ll send you a link.” Lizzy looked up at the kid co-worker while they waited for the elevator. “Black-and-white slapstick television.”

“Where a guy threaten to hit a girl?”

“A guy threatened to hit his wife, regularly.”


“For fun, for laughs.”

The elevator door opened and they entered, Ralph hit the tenth-floor button, two other people entered with them choosing floors six and nineteen.

Lizzy continued, “Obviously, he loved his wife and would never hit her. She would laugh and tease him back. Women back then would never have been hit.” Lizzy’s lips twisted delivering the sarcasm font in her talking.

“Oh my god.” Payton eyes rounded in disbelief.

“What show was that?” the female waiting for the nineteenth floor asked while they waited for sixth floor to get off and the doors to close again.

“Honeymooners.” Lizzy answered.

The other woman nodded, “Tracks.”

The three co-workers and the extra person stayed quiet until the elevator opened on the tenth floor to let them off. They each tapped their badges at the front door of their company, unlocking the door and putting them on the clock.

“Not all slapstick is like that,” Robert said as they walked the maze to their joint four-desk cubicle. They mostly used the fourth desk for conferencing in the West Coast team.

“It is all like that on some level.” Lizzy retorted, slipping into her chair. “Look, I get it, slapstick is funny for guys because punches and shoves when you are all the same size and have muscle mass doesn’t hurt that much. But women are always around guys significantly bigger. Half the people women are around could hurt them by accident with a shove, so girls don’t joke around physically. We learn our lessons as teenagers when guys start shoving each other, if we get shoved, we get hurt. So no jokes of punching each other.” She clicked through her screens seeing what emails, voice mails, and instant messages had come in during their lunch hour. “It gets ingrained, playacting hurting other people isn’t funny because it always hurts when you are smaller.”

“Always taking the extreme.” Robert filled his cup with hot water to start his afternoon tea and dropped in the tea bag saved from the morning.

“You forget too soon.” Lizzy swiveled back to Robert. “All the guys around me are the size and strength of Payton to you. How funny would you find men his size fighting?”

“Like WWE?” Payton asked, “We don’t watch that for laughs.”

“Exactly. Slapstick comedy is usually performed by slim men, average-sized or non-muscular men. Short men might be on the receiving end. It always punches to the side or down, never up to someone stronger or bigger. What is there funny about that? Isn’t that one of the rules of comedy, good comedy, always punch up?”

“I … hmmm.” Robert pressed out the water from his tea bag before tossing it out. “I need to think on that.”

(2,367 words; first published June 2, 2024 (written 5/7/2024))

Flash: The Air is Ash and Rivers Burn (R is for River)

Photo 104611575 | River Fire © Tedy11 | Dreamstime.com (paid for image)

“What took you so long to get here?” Jamis asked as I quickly and silently entered through the side door of the warehouse.

After pulling down my ash mask, I bared my teeth at him in frustration. “Why do you think? The river is on fire again and the Atkoony is closed until they have a chance to check out the cement. They don’t want another failure like the Memorial.” I started unloaded my haul, brick after brick of happy dust in solid form.

“How the fuck do rivers even catch fire? It’s fucking water.” My buyer lifts each brick with a gloved hand but doesn’t run his normal tests. We are both running late. He is always late and I had to walk nearly three miles out of my way to find a bridge open.

Jamis knows me and knows I would have run all the tests before I delivered. Unless one of my manufacturers buried something deep in a brick, everything is good. “Industry got to dump stuff somewhere. Air and water takes the crap away.”

“Hardly. What is this, like the fourth time this year?” He starts packing the bricks into his bags to take to the distributor, Mad Jones. We are both cogs in his machine. Jamis holds up one brick, studying the crafter mark in the solitary electric light left on for whoever would be opening the warehouse later this morning. “I thought we dumped Spectre.”

“He OD’ed, it’s his daughter now and she doesn’t use.”

“Hmm. Half price for that one.”

“Already done. She knows we are taking a risk, but she will need to upgrade the equipment so if this one is good…” I raise an eyebrow.

“Do you even trust her equipment?”

“Barky recently needed to relocate.” My bags empty, I stick one inside the other and tuck them under my coat. “She used the parts of his equipment for the bits where her old man skimped too long until he got a new place. He watched her and approved.”

“Should have led with that.” He grunted, tucking the questionable brick on top. “Still only worth half-price.”

“Don’t be cheap.”

“What are we, CEOs? We pay our people.”

I rock foot to foot. “Speaking of…”

“Here.” He hands me something the size of a brick, but the weight is completely different.

I don’t bother counting it here. Morning shift will be hitting the docks soon. A lot of ships have taken to having steel keels to get through the fires, so the present burn won’t hold back much of the commerce. I will count it at home before distributing it out to my makers. Need to pay them proper and then get the new equipment for those who need it. Happy dust needs serious safety measures to keep from becoming airborne during the crafting. I don’t need any more addicts in the supply line. The CEOs may like poisoning their people, but we don’t. There ain’t many people with the skill to make dust.

“Independence week is next month, holidays usually see an uptick.” The mob thug lifts his bags and heads to his car to take the stash to the packagers.

“Two more bricks?” I ask, frowning, running through the list of people who aren’t already at capacity. I had been lucky that Spectre’s daughter had wanted to take over. Two over my normal supply in a month may be doable.


I narrow my eyes backing toward my door. “I’ll see what I can do.”

Jamis isn’t usually unreasonable. Which means something is happening upstairs, something I rather not know about but I am going to need to know about if I am going to keep my people alive.

“You do that,” he says getting in his car.

Outside the morning tide had moved the burning slick further inland. I might be able to get across the Burgundy Walk if I rush it. The metal frame didn’t seem impacted by the fires so far. Rain though had been eating at it.

Well, it’s not like anything can fix problems like air you can’t breathe and water that burns. That is stuff only the big people can fix and they aren’t going to. It’s just a fact of life in the big city. And to take everyone’s mind off of it, people need happy dust. To ignore air that is ash, rain that eats metal, and water that burns.

(words 738; first published 4/30/2024)

Flash: O is for Options

Photo by Wesley Tingey on Unsplash

“So what was your final grade on your project, Monica?” Lindsey asked as the three female seniors made their way into Argumentative Law for the Thursday afternoon session. With the winter holidays and end of the semester only a week out, the group had been pushing hard to get all their projects done. They sat in the second row on the opposite side of the lecture hall from where John and Breanna’s ex Matthew talked with Larry.

“Ninety-two.” Monica ducked her head.

Breanna gave her a hug before they sat. “That is amazing. Great job.”

“I couldn’t have done it without you. Thank you so much for proofreading my work.”

“Any time girlfriend.” Lindsey tucked her bag under the chair. She had learned freshman year how much Dr. Hawkins hated notetaking without purpose. Breanna used her computer like an extra brain, and Monica took notes like she was in a family therapy session rarely filling up a paragraph let alone a page, but Lindsey’s method of verbatim in-the-ears-and-out-the fingers actually was hurting her. Dr. Hawkins had been right about that, though she would never tell the aggressive beach ball he taught her anything good. Toughest teacher she had ever had, but little of it palatable.

Jervin entered and made a beeline for their side of the room while Jacob nodded their way before joining the white boys. Jervin, between his immigrant parents and dark skin didn’t meet team-John sensibilities. Jacob lived in the same county as both John and Lindsey where more than one street was named after the Stroups; Jacob wanted to be a state attorney, and eventually a judge, and needed introductions in the government offices which John’s family and family firm could provide. Lindsey didn’t blame him for brown-nosing. She just hoped he didn’t crawl so far up their butts he lost his way.

Stomping in the room at a fast walk, Dr. Hawkins pulled the door shut behind him, slamming it against the frame. After stuffing his briefcase into the lectern, he counted heads, looked at the clock above the door, and then turned back to the class. “Goard?”

“Here sir,” came a croak as Seth entered the room, his face under a mask. “Sorry I’m late sir, but I—”

“Judges don’t care why you are late and neither do I. Your attendance won’t count today, but participation will. Sit in the back.” The professor frowned as the student struggled for breath while climbing the stairs. “You don’t have Covid, do you?”

Seth turned to the front when he reached the fourth row. “No sir, just flu, like the rest of Stroup dormitory. Someone brought it back from the Thanksgiving holidays. I just tested at the clinic, sir. Clean for Covid, positive for flu.” He collapsed in a chair. “Thank god for the free clinic on campus. Why it isn’t a national thing I have no idea.”

The professor pinched his nose. “I guess that will be today’s topic, why can’t we have national health care? Anyone?”

Breanna answered immediately, “Separation of federal and state powers. Only certain powers were granted by the states to the federal government when they created the Republic, all other powers are retained by the states. Health care didn’t exist two hundred fifty years ago, so it wasn’t considered. Doctors are a local thing.”

“Yet medicine isn’t.” Monica pointed out. “The federal government, through the Food and Drug Administration regulates drugs. Why can’t that be expanded to regulating doctors and hospitals and insurance companies?”

“It would be beneficial to have a nation-wide regulation of health care.” Larry shook his head. “My family has moved a lot and changing our insurance each state is a nightmare even with help from the companies contracting my father. One insurance for all would help with the mobile population.”

“But the companies, neither insurance or the corporations in general will ever agree to that, or their bought and paid-for mouth-pieces in Congress. By keeping the insurance with the job, people are afraid to leave work, held hostage by their health.” Lindsay crossed her arms as she leaned against the wall to face the rest of the group.

“Ms. Mills-Jumper, while I appreciate you are more interested in politics than the law, please stay on topic. What is the legal restriction and how can you address it for your clients in court.”

“State powers keep federal overstep in check.” John inserted. “Health care belongs at the state level. And no state will have a state-wide health insurance since that will mean deadbeats will move to their state to take advantage of it. I look forward to the continuing de-regulation of healthcare getting rid the burden unproductive people put on the rest of us through Medicaid and social security.”

“Are you trolling me? Do you even process what your family feeds you or do you just swallow it whole?” Lindsey stood waving her hands. “About one in eight people are disabled in some way. By seventy-five, half are disabled. One-third will be long-term disabled at some point in their lifetime, and most temporarily disabled. Anyone and everyone is just one accident, one disease—”

Seth sneezed loudly and pulled out a tissue to wipe his nose under his mask. “Sorry.”

“No prob, thanks for the example. See, anyone, even us healthy college kids. To remove—”

The professor clapped. “Again, Ms. Mills-Jumper, stick to legal talk. Same as you Mr. Stroup.”

“Ugh. Yeah, sorry Dr. Hawkins. Could we claim protecting citizenship for health reasons, like keeping lawns shorts to prevent fires and rodents?”

“We do it for some disease like pneumonia and measles. I guess we could expand it.” Monica said from where she sat.

“Complete overreach of power. It’s bad enough schools required unneeded vaccines.” John turned in his chair to face the women and persons of color side of the room.

“You say that without visiting the graveyards where gravesites are mostly three feet long.” Jervin’s face paled in memory. “While in Italy, wow, there are a lot of them. Vaccines are important to society – polio, small pox, measles, mumps.”

“Protecting children as members of society.” Monica tied the conversation back to the legal aspects before the professor started marking the entire class down. A ninety two could end up in B territory if attendance and participation went negative.

“Vaccines requirements are still passed at a state level, aren’t they?” Breanna asked, not bothering the click at her keyboard.

Larry confirmed. “Yes, one state switch meant another round of shots for me and my sisters because we didn’t meet what that school system required.”

“And, like John said, no state is going to do a state-wide health insurance unless all the states do it. They don’t want to go bankrupt.” Breanna tapped at her computer. “Maybe … a time limit before health insurance kicks in, but the kids not getting access immediately…”

“Why not an amendment?” Matthew asked.

“A what now?” John turned his head to guy sitting beside him, looking thoroughly betrayed.

“Sure, if the individual states don’t want to do it on their own, all they got to do is sign over the power to the federal, but that would take an amendment.” Jervin snapped his fingers. “I like that.”

“We could add body autonomy as part of the package.” Lindsey’s face lit up. “Citizenship, because of the ability to cross borders, protection of the nation, especially as diseases don’t recognize borders, blah blah. Health of the individual. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – good health is needed for happiness.”

“That is from the Declaration of Independent and has nothing to do with actual law.”  John pointed out.

Jacob shook his head. “Yeah, but it’s about the vibe of the law. The purpose of rights. It could work.”

“A health care amendment.” Lindsey looked around the room, making eye contact with the professor. “We could write one.”

“Sounds like an interesting project for next semester if people are interested.” Dr. Hawkins lips turned up on one side, the closest they ever had seen him to smiling. “Not a class, but maybe a club?”

“Our senior year, while trying to land internships?” John shook his head. “No thanks. I don’t need to tilt at windmills.”

“I’ll help.” Seth rasped from where he had been banished.

Several heads swiveled to look up at the Intellectual Property expert whose mother had been a singer for a major band until she quit to have children.

“What? I’m not just a pretty face.”

Lindsey cackled and few others snickered. Seth was a very pretty face when it wasn’t dripping all over the place, as well as a great body on a sports scholarship for golf of all things, the combination which got him the lead for most of the university plays since sophomore year, and a beautiful singing voice giving him several solos in the school choir, while being smart enough to hold his own, mostly, in the pre-law courses. But with all his other commitments, he did the least work possible for his actual academic career.

“I’ll take lead.” Monica offered. “It is important for families.”

“Well, Dr. Hawkins, we might just do this.” Jacob waved at the lot of them. “Give us the weekend to a proposal together?”

The professor clapped his hands. “Done. We only have two meetings left and this course does not have a final. The final two classes will be tied to reviewing the possibility of creating an amendment to present to the state assembly when they are in session in January. If you do not want to participate, you do not have to attend next week’s classes unless you still owe me your senior project, which I believe is just Mr. Goard.”

Seth slipped a little down in his seat. “Yeah, I think so. The play is this weekend. I’ll get it done by Wednesday.”

“You have until Friday, but if you want to know your grade before you leave school, I will need it by Wednesday.”

“I know.” Seth coughed in his mask.

“Very good. The only thing left I have tonight is internships which have come in. Mr. Stroup, Mr. Moore, I believe you already worked those out with Dr. Leverett. You may leave.” The two smirked at each other before leaving. Officially everyone on the prelaw track needed to spend a day shadowing a lawyer over the two-week winter break, in preparation for a possible summer internship. Those two were just going to hang out at their family firms.

After they left, Dr. Hawkins pulled out his briefcase and walked around the table in front of the lectern. He pulled out a file from inside. “I have ten possible internships. Whichever ones you don’t want will go to a few of the juniors. Ms. Hargate and Mr. Northern benefited from them last year. First one I think is a good fit for Ms. Crawford, that is if you have decided not to repeat the internship you had last summer with Mr. Moore’s family?”

“Oh god no, they treated me like a slave. I get most internships are unpaid, but there is no need to be rude about it.” The normally pretty researcher lips were pulled back in a snarl.

Dr. Hawkins set the folder aside on his briefcase a moment. “Look, the world isn’t a nice place, and lawyers are some of the most opportunist, ungrateful people you will ever meet. But that doesn’t mean that you should take it laying down. Push back. All of you have some solid potential, even you Mr. Goard. Stand your ground. Demand that they treat you well. Give us a full report when you get back. If they are unsuited as mentors, the university wants to know. We will not send them our students again.”

“Now Ms. Crawford, I have a grant organization looking for a researcher. The organizer is a lawyer with licensing in all three states of the tri-state area. It is located in Riverside. They pulled in a grant to cover an apartment and food for the summer, as well as gas for you to get there and back for the winter interview. The organizer will put you up in a hotel overnight at her expense. No actual pay—”

Breanna jumped out of her seat to grab the sheet. “I’ll take it.” Returning to her seat, the other women looked over her shoulder seeing the name of the non-profit.

“No way,” whispered Monica, who then stared at Dr. Hawkins like he was the Messiah returned to Earth.

“She is an alumn, not of the law school, but did her undergraduate here.” Both sides of the bald man’s lips pushed up his fat wrinkled cheeks for a second before falling into his perpetual frown. “In fact, we were exceptionally blessed this year with alumni willing to work with our students. Mr. Fikes, I understand your long-term career goal is a judgeship?”

“Um, yes?”

“I have something I think you will like. It’s in Lincoln County, which is the third largest county of the state so has extremely high volume, but they are looking someone to help support the summer rush in the criminal and family court systems. We have found a family willing to rent out a room, and the mediocre pay is enough to cover the room and all your incidentals. You won’t come out rich, but you should break even.”

“That is a bit far from my family.” Jacob stood and walked slowly forward.

“If you don’t want it, I have a Junior in mind, but it is the only offering I have working closely with judges.” The professor offered the sheet.

“I’ll need to run it by my family and…” he took the sheet and went back to his seat.

“Remember part of the winter interview is to make sure you are a good fit either way. You may turn things down when you return in January.” The next sheet of paper was a light blue instead of the cream the other two people had received. “Mr. Northern.”

“Yes sir,” Larry replied, standing.

“This is one of my students. One of my best. Do not embarrass me.” Dr. Hawkins handed him the sheet, then pulled the next one out while Larry returned to his seat reading the details of his possible internship. “Mr. Goard, if you will come down. I think you will be pleased with what we pulled out of the dustbin for you.”

“I’ll take anything, but bonus points if you managed an internship in Hollywood with Becky Trellis, class of ’12,” Seth panting slightly after coming down the stairs.

“Read the sheet.”

He looked down, then did a double-take. “You did.” Seth stumbled back and half fell to sit on the bottom step. “How?”

“Her father worked with your mother. You should know how important connections are considering your background and career aspirations. Ms. Hargate?”

Monica came around from her chair to stand by the professor.

“I had found someone local to your hometown, working with a shelter, providing pro bono work with abused women. But…” Dr. Hawkins flipped a few sheets down. “After reading your senior project, and you stepping up to organize an amendment, I believe we both have been letting you slide too much. See how this one looks to you, and, yes, the pay is for real, but living in the state capital is expensive.” He handed her a sheet.

She read it carefully before staring up at him. “Sir!”

“You earned it.” He frowned at her until she moved away.

“Give me, give me, give me.” Lindsey motioned at Monica as she came over, then squealed before passing the sheet to Breanna, with Jervin looking over her shoulder. “You are going to do amazing!” Lindsey hugged Monica around her neck.

“Mr. Santinelli, I do apologize, the best fit internship for you is out of state. We have found a grant to cover transport costs so you can visit your family monthly. The junior member of the law firm has family near your home and will be visiting during Christmas break and will organize a video conference interview with you at his home. The firm is large enough to have a hotel room year-round for people they bring in as expert witnesses. You may get bumped and need to sleep on an office couch when they do a deposition. But they have agreed to provide you a debit card to cover all meals. Again, you won’t come out ahead after a summer’s work, but you won’t go into a hole. A branch of the firm focusses on helping companies bring in specialists on visas.” The professor held onto the paper as Jervin approached, instead of extending it. “They really liked the fact you are fluent in three languages and can read and write in two more. Don’t let them take advantage of you for that. You are not a lawyer and they are not allowed to use your languages to read foreign law documents. We wrote that into the internship contract. You may do verbal translation, helping talk to people from foreign countries, but written translations they must pay you for and law translations are right out. Do you understand me?”

Jervin nodded.

“Words, Mr. Santinelli. You have a lot of them in that skull of yours.”

“Yes, sir.”

“And you will call me or Professor Leverett immediately if they try to violate this restriction. This particular alumnus was known for pushing limits, and this is the first time we are using him in a mentorship.”

“Yes, sir.”

“I mean it.” Dr. Hawkins finally handed Jervin the paper. “That goes for all of you. Whether the University has worked with your mentor once or a dozen times, if you have questions, call us. Put us on speed dial. Also, over your final semester here, we will be introducing you to the law school faculty, matching those of you who are staying with the University with an appropriate advisor. Get their numbers too.”

“Ms. Mills-Jumper,” the professor pulled the next sheet out and sighed. “The downside is this internship will start immediately. The senator wants to fly you out to Washington DC, make sure you are a good fit for her and her staff, then return back here once the session breaks and take you on a tour of her offices throughout the state where she meets her constituents. She specifically asked for a firebreather.”

“A senator … oh, my god!” Lindsey exploded out of her chair and snatched the paper. Only one of the two US Senators for the state was female, and it was… “I could kiss you!”

“Please don’t.” Dr. Hawkins said dryly. “Alright everyone. See you Monday. I look forward to your amendment. Dismissed.”

(words 3,117, first published 4/17/2024)

Argumentative Law series

  1. L is for Legality (4/14/2024)
  2. M is for Monday (4/15/2024)
  3. O is for Options (4/17/2024)
  4. Editing Rant: Q is for Quorum (4/19/2024)
  5. Writing Exercise: Y is for Yoke (4/28/2024)

Flash: M is for Monday

Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash

Most of the Argumentative Law class were tucking their textbooks and computers into their backpacks when Dr. Hawkins blew into the room in his normal rush. Filling the vacuum behind him, Monica closed the door and made her way to her usual location in the small lecture hall. Tears edged her eyes and soaked her lashes. Lindsey hopped down a row to sit beside her, giving Monica a quick hug and then held her hand, and Jervin looked on with sympathy. Their first drafts of their senior project were in the rearview mirror, and they understood the trauma of that first round of feedback. Fikes and Goard would be experiencing it soon enough and kept their heads forward, not looking at their classmate.

John’s lip curled and Moore whispered a comment to his girlfriend Breanna which made her punch his shoulder and move to the front row. The two men’s senior advisor for their project was the pre-law department chair, Dr. Leverett, who only took on legacy students, supporting those ‘most likely to succeed’.

“Why is property and property rights important in the law? Mr. Goard, this is your area of expertise, impress me. Don’t limit it to intellectual property.”

“What, oh, property. Well, we own things.” Seth rocked in his chair.

“You are not impressing me.”

“Ownership is important, acknowledging ownership is important.” Seth’s eyes drifted to where Monica and Lindsey whispered.

“Eyes forward Mr. Goard. You talk to the Judge first, the gallery second. You will rarely have a jury in your chosen field.”

“People need to feel that they own the items they make or buy, whether it is their home, their car, their book, or their movie. It’s essential for capitalistic societies and encourages growing economies. Why would citizens put into all the extra work if their stuff gets confiscated at a drop of a hat? If we don’t protect property rights, workers will do the bare minimum because there is no benefit doing stuff beyond roof and food.” The heat kicked on, so Seth raised his voice. “Extra effort is hard. Governments need to respect people’s property rights, or repay them in a fair manner. Thieves and pirates must be punished harshly for their crimes as they undermine the labor of workers. Property is essential. Really, all law is about protecting people’s property rights.”

“Wait.” “No.” “Not this again.” “Are you crazy?”

Dr. Hawkins clapped his hands and everyone quieted. “Let’s work with that assumption tonight. All law is about property rights. Ms. Hargate, how is murder a property crime?”

Monica rubbed the back of her hand against her wet cheeks while Lindsey glared at the professor. The soft-spoken student cleared her throat before talking over the blower for the heating vent. “Murder is a property crime because … people own themselves?” She glanced at Lindsey who nodded encouragement. “That would be it. Life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness, where the pursuit of happiness is a substitute for property because our forefathers were merchants and didn’t want to have property be an inalienable right so they switched out that. Also made sure it wasn’t happiness, but the pursuit of happiness. Still that means life and liberty, your personal life and your freedom plus the pursuit to make your life comfortable through stuff and ideas, belong to you. You belong to you. Someone assaulting you and-or un-aliving you takes your rights away.”

“That works.” Dr. Hawkins nodded. “Ms. Crawford, why are children property? How are they property?”

Lacing her fingers together, Breanna smiled at the professor and then the surrounding students. “Since children do not yet have full citizenship, they must be protected from general use and abuse by their parents. Children do not yet have the maturity, mentally or physically, to take care of their needs or their home. Interestingly they have two types of property law applying to them, one is their parents being their owners. Some of whom might claim ‘I brought you into this world, I can take you out.’ But that is not the case, because children are also fall under community property laws, not like marriage with everything split, but more like the commons where everyone can use the area but everyone is also responsible to take care of the area. This community property aspect is needed because the children will eventually become adults and have legal rights to themselves and until then the parents and the community must protect them.”

“Anyone want to expand on what else is both owned by an individual and shared through community property.”

“Housing.” Jacob answered. “You can own your house, but you got to keep the lawn mowed and yard clear for health and safety, controlling rodents and disease in the neighborhood. Reducing fire risks. HOAs may be annoying but they have a place.”

Lindsey interjected.  “So long as they don’t confiscate the house for flying the wrong flag out front.”

“I’m going to agree with Lindsey here,” Seth said. “People must feel safe in their neighborhood and homes, and HOAs confiscating houses just because the lawn is too short or too long violates rights.”

“Speaking of rights,” Dr. Hawkins looked at Larry. “Mr. Northern, how can you tie the first amendment to property rights?”

“Thank you for the softball, Dr. Hawkins.” Larry tilted his head to the side and his smile took up the room. “The First Amendment rights covers religion, freedom of expression including the press as well as the individual, and the ability to assembly peacefully. All these are intellectual property rights.”

“Excuse me?” Seth blinked from his seat. “No, no.” He held up his hand as though to push back an oncoming bus about to hit him and shook his head. “No.”

“Do you have more to contribute Mr. Goard?” Dr. Hawkins prodded from this place leaning against the lectern.

“Fuck.” He leaned forward, pushing his curly hair back. “No, I’m good. I’m going to need to change my outline, but I am good.”

“Since you have shaken Mr. Goard’s world, could you continue Mr. Northern?”

“Well, freedom of expression is the easiest, that allows people’s ideas, the most central part of themselves, to be shared and not suppressed. Suppression of the individual is akin to confiscation without reimbursement if done by the government. If done by the community, where everyone has the right to walk away, that is similar people looking at a … painted clay pot and deciding not to buy it. If the government took the clay pot away so no one could see it, property has been removed from the owner. Similarly by preventing an idea from being shared, the government has seized intellectual property. Freedom of religion, the very structure of ideas made reality, and assembling peacefully to share ideas are just expansions freedom of expression.”

“Beautifully stated as always Mr. Northern.” The professor’s black eyes moved to Matt in the back row where he was still glaring at the back of Breanna’s head. “What other bases are there for law other than property, Mr. Moore?”

“I don’t know, Civil law maybe?”

Jervin held up his hand. “How about relationship law?”

“Mr. Santinelli, would you care to expand?”

“Sure, everything we have done so far is basically about figuring out who owns something and someone or something else acting on it – stealing it, suppressing it, protecting it. But another law structure is the connections between people and society. We kind-of have seen a bit of this already with the children not only being owned by their parents, but the community having a responsibility to the children and their potential adulthood within the culture indicates how things are. Many indigenous cultures do not have ownership of things, especially the land, but the relationship between the people and the land. A responsibility of stewardship for not only future generations but to the land and the environment in-and-of themselves, kind-of like how we do corporations as ‘people’ but not really. Anyway some indigenous cultures judge people on relationships. Duty and responsibility, privilege and benefit.”

“What complete communism.” John sneered beside Larry.

“Well, yeah, kind-of. Capitalistic law is all about property, while communism which requires sharing of resources would be more relationship based. That is the discussion we are having today, right?”

“Capitalism is better than communism.”

“When you got the privilege on your side.” Lindsey snapped back from where she sat.

“If you like communism so much, move to China.”

“China and Russia are not really communistic states, they are oligarchies just like America, ruled by an elite who take all the property for themselves.”

A clap stopped the squabble. “This is dining hall discussion, not lecture hall. Good talk everyone. Thursday afternoon we will be working our understanding of law as a relationship versus property through a debate. I will send out links that I want you to read to prepare for the debate and I will send out who will be on which side of the debate at six am Thursday morning via the group chat. You can read beyond the assignment as you wish but you must share your resources on the chat because one of you nine will be the judge and will need to know all sources drawn on. The rest of the class will be divided four to a team. I do want each of you to come up with two, and only two, questions for the debate and post them to the chat by Wednesday at five pm.

“Northern your first draft is due tomorrow morning. Crawford, I will need yours Thursday morning. Santinelli and Mills-Jumper, I need a summary of your present research documents Thursday. Dismissed.”

(words 1,614, first published 4/15/2024)

Argumentative Law series

  1. L is for Legality (4/14/2024)
  2. M is for Monday (4/15/2024)
  3. O is for Options (4/17/2024)
  4. Editing Rant: Q is for Quorum (4/19/2024)
  5. Writing Exercise: Y is for Yoke (4/28/2024)

Flash: L is for Legality

Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash

Overweight, more of a ball than a triangle, and sweat gleaming on his bald head from the trek from the parking lot to the small lecture hall, Dr. Hawkins rushed in the room, instantly silencing those already there, filling the quiet with a slamming door. One quick sweep of the room verified all students for his special class on “Argumentative Law” were in attendance. “What has the Supreme Court done?” he asked while shoving his briefcase into the lectern. He wouldn’t touch it again until it was time to leave.

“Preserved the Sanctity of Life.” John jumped in first, like normal. Coming from a long line of criminal lawyers, he grew up breathing court talk over dinner.

“Fucking evangelical.” Lindsey muttered under her breath.

Dr. Hawkins beady eyes flew to her. “What’s the problem?”

She shoved her chair back. “You know.”

“No, I don’t. What is wrong with his statement?”

“Sanctity.” Monica said, breathlessly, her soft voice cutting through the classroom’s silent fear of the professor’s rage. “It’s sanctity.” The pleasure figuring out something finally strengthened her statement.


“America, first amendment includes separation of church and state. ‘Sanctity’ is a religious term, basically defining life, all life as holy.” Her dark eyebrow met. “And it’s not, it can’t be.”


Monica beamed at getting a ‘good’ for the first time this semester.

The professor nailed the boy next to her with his eyes. “Why can’t life be holy, Mr. Goard?”

“Well … um. Separation of church and state.”

“Ms. Hargate already said that. Do better. Mr. Fikes?”

“Crap, well.” Jacob stared at the ceiling a second. “Food. We kill all the time for food – plants, animals. So it doesn’t matter if life is sacred as a general thought, some life has other purposes. We don’t care about the religious quality of life. We have to look at the legal value.”

“Oh, oh. Right.” Jervin snapped his fingers thinking. “Pets have a different value from food animals which have a different value from men–”

“Which have a different value from slaves, children, and women.” Lindsey interrupted, her arms crossed. “Sanctity of life only applies to white men and unborn babies. Everyone else is just property.”

“Good point Ms. Mills-Jumper. We will discuss property if time allows, otherwise next Monday. Back to the ‘sanctity of life’. What are other issues? Mr. Northern?”

“The judges, by using a religious argument, invalidate their decision.”

“Keep that in mind. But there is a long history of using God-given rights for the common law. Expand.”

“Well, sanctity has no value in the court of law, any more than God-given rights.”

John growled beside Larry. They were roommates and president and treasurer of the Christian club on campus respectively. Larry lightly kicked his foot to the side to shut John up. Unlike John, a heritage baby with his last name on one of the dorms, Larry needed his grades high to keep his scholarship. Everyone in the class, being seniors, had Dr. Hawkins previously and knew his vindictive nature.

“Legal rights, humanity rights matter. While animals and pets have property rights in relation to their owners, humans have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

“Pretty, but not enough.” Dr. Hawkins leaned on the lectern. “That would get a jury’s attention, but not a judge. Moore? Mr. Moore?”

“Um, when does life begin?” Matthew asked hopefully.

Breanna, his girlfriend moaned, dropping her face into her hands.

“What, you can do better?” Matt snapped.

“Well, the question you asked is important, and that is exactly what the judges should have sent back in this decision. When does LEGAL life begin? That needs to be decided by the legislature. Until it is, life should begin at first breath as that is the common law definition.”

“Is it Crawford?” Dr. Hawkins pinned the woman with his eyes.

“Right, you would ask that. Okay, I take that back. Let me look.” Breanna clicked at her computer, talking all the while, the only one who dared research and talk in this class. ” … the common law defines death as when the heart stops beating, so it could mirror that when the hearts start beating, which a lot of the evangelical Christians talk about. But since legal life also impacts plants, that cannot be the only definition. According to Black Law Dictionary ‘That state of animals and plants, or of an organized being, in which its natural functions and motions are performed, or in which its organs are capable of performing their functions. Webster. The sum of the forces by which death is resisted. Richat.'” She smiled. “Life is the SUM of the forces by which death is resisted, not just heartbeat. Breathing by plants and animals is also an important aspect and modern science prefers to define body life as beat and breathing, but quality of life by brain function.

“In the mix is being ‘born alive’. A child is not considered a child unless ‘born alive’. No social security number will be given until a child is born. A birth certificate isn’t issued. They have no personhood. They cannot be considered a citizen until birth.”

“Exactly,” muttered Lindsey. Dr. Hawkins turned his face toward her again, so she spoke out. “Sanctity of life is bullsh– is an imprecise term. Yes, we should treat life, all life, as important, but we have long established that human life, in particular those who qualify for citizenship, life is more valuable than life of non-citizens and lawbreakers.”

“Damn.” Jervin’s statement carried.

“Very good Ms. Mills-Jumper. There is hope for you yet.”

“Can you be less misogynistic?!” Lindsy waved her arms at the rest of the class. “You don’t even call on the women in your class, only the men. If we didn’t speak up on our own, nothing would happen.”

“You aren’t going to get that special treatment out there.” Dr. Hawkins nodded at the door. “And yes, I am aware I only called on the men. This is our fourth meeting and we got twelve to go this semester. Question, how many men noticed I only called on the males?”

Jervin raised his hand slowly. The rest of the group heads swiveled around, looking at the others. The three female students all had their arms crossed, even Monica’s face had hardened.

“I’m assuming all the women noticed?”

The women nodded at the professor.

“Mr. Santinelli, you noticed, why didn’t you say anything?”

“Um, well, because…”

“When did you notice?” Dr. Hawkins stepped to the side of the lectern and leaned forward, putting the dark-skinned student on the spot.

Jervin whispered, “First class, about half way through.”

“Good on the observation, horrible for seeking justice.” Dr. Hawkins clapped his hands together. “We need justice for humanity, not just men, not just women. For humanity. Our job as lawyers is to help justice happen. That includes stopping injustice at home, in school, if you go into politics, in the legislature and on the bench, if you go into business, in the work world. Going forward everyone will be called on. And if I fall into old habits, I expect everyone in class to call me on it. And ladies, gents, stand up for yourselves. Lawyers run over everyone. Especially criminal trial lawyers. You will need to break the cycle OUTSIDE of the court. Inside court, you are sharks. Outside, you are human. Get the best researchers, receptionists, and law secretaries you can, you will need them because you are human. Treat these people well so you KEEP them. Nothing is better than a well-trained assistant.

“Now to conclude today. ‘Sanctity of life’ has quite a bit of meaning as it keeps being used in law decisions. Today you got some ideas of how to pull that apart or support the ideal, depending on your client needs. As Ms. Crawford indicated, the start of life is not clearly defined, though the start of citizenship is. The legislature should clearly define when legally protected human life begins and its value in comparison to adult citizen’s life. Common law until recently applied different weights to males and females; now it seems that inequality of adult life valuation by gender has resumed. It will be up to you and your generation to either strengthen equality between the genders or formally and clearly remove it. I would appreciate it not be the mess of when “adulthood” begins – drive, drink, sign contracts, inherit, vote – giving hundreds of breakpoints. But that is up to you. I will be in my office for the next hour. Fikes, Goard, I need your senior project outlines. Hargate, your first draft. Dismissed.”

(words 1,452; first published 4/14/2024)

Argumentative Law series

  1. L is for Legality (4/14/2024)
  2. M is for Monday (4/15/2024)
  3. O is for Options (4/17/2024)
  4. Editing Rant: Q is for Quorum (4/19/2024)
  5. Writing Exercise: Y is for Yoke (4/28/2024)