When the official summons from the Sheriff’s department arrived in my mail box, I thought I’d been caught speeding again by the camera at an intersection in town, or they were soliciting for the Sheriff’s reelection. I was surprised it was a summons for jury duty. Since turning eighteen, I’d managed to avoid the list of those called for over thirty years, and by the time I finished orientation, I wished I hadn’t been called at all.
I arrived early, cleared the security scanner, found a seat on a pew near the window, and waited while I watched over two hundred potential jurors fill the room. A construction worker one row down must’ve come straight from a building site because of orange flecks of insulation he had all over his green t-shirt. After the pews filled, late potential jurors stood on the side aisles, and a man with an oil change company’s emblem stitched on his shirt stood by the window next to me.
The sunlight shown through the window and highlighted specs of dust moving in the air. I blew and watched the particles float around and wondered how many of them contained the flu virus that was going around. Given the coughing and spewing of germs in the room, I wished I’d worn a mask. The mechanic looked down at me, nodded, and I noted the sunlight created an orb around his elongated head. His head looked like skulls I’d seen on the History channel. I wanted to snap a photo of him, and send it to Giorgio Tsoukalos, the host of Ancient Aliens, to prove there were descendants of these African Congo tribes alive and well in America and they weren’t aliens, but I did wonder if he had a sagittal suture, a characteristic of all humans and the difference between those who had intentional cranial deformation and skulls located that didn’t and were speculated to be alien.
The judge gave a sermon about our obligation to serve and who could not serve, told us not to expect our ten dollars a day check unless we actually served. He said it wasn’t an operation that just paid people for nothing, like he did for his ex-wife. One woman left early after he talked about convicted felons, and a Hispanic fellow left when the judge said we couldn’t serve if we weren’t citizens. I wondered why the judge needed to highlight these folks in front of two hundred others. He also dismissed those who had health issues, a humped over elderly woman using a walker and an old man pulling an oxygen tank on wheels.
Once the crowd was dismissed, the exit line moved slowly, and I held onto the card we were issued, so I’d remember to call after five o’clock every day to check and see if I had to report. Once outside, I saw the mechanic propped against the wall. I approached him and introduced myself.
“Do you mind if I ask you a question?”
“Naw, I don’t mind.”
“Do you know if your family is descended from a tribe in the Congo?”
“I don’t know that. Hell, I don’t even know who my daddy was.”
“I know this sounds strange, but do you recall your mama telling you if your head had a sagittal suture.”
“Man, are you crazy? I don’t know what the hell you talking about.” His voice level had increased.
“Well, would you mind if I had a quick look at your head?”
“Man, you better move on before I whip your ass. I saw you making blowing faces at me in there.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you. It’s not what you think. Oh, never mind.”
The deputy manning the security scanner stepped our way, asked if there was a problem.
Rather than explain, I just walked away. I guess I should have explained myself more. I went straight back to work even though I felt like should’ve gone home to shower. Instead, I made sure to use the hand sanitizer I kept in the car and wondered if next time I should go over to the oil and lube store where he worked to apologize, maybe get an oil change, see if I can talk him into letting me having a look. After all, if he was an alien, it would be a great find.
Niles Reddick is author of the Pulitzer nominated novel Drifting too far from the Shore, two collections Reading the Coffee Grounds and Road Kill Art and Other Oddities, and a novella Lead Me Home. His work has been featured in eleven collections and in over two hundred literary magazines.Website: https://nilesreddick.com/