Larry Webster: Buckling up didn't click but courts need feed

Some people look real nice in orange suits

Contributing columnistMay 27, 2012 

Slemp has had a lot of hard luck in his life. He once went to Casey County and couldn't find a gate. He can't find Andy and Barney on television. His tools are flea-market Chinese, guaranteed until you get to the edge of the flea market.

He is no good with women, even his own. As a young man, he couldn't make out in a women's prison with a suitcase full of pardons. Worst of all, when he was courting Canola Jane, he hired an airplane to fly over the stadium with a sign asking her to marry him.

She got wind of the plan and hired her own plane, which answered Slemp's romantic proposal with a sign that said "I'm very fond of you, but I'm not ready yet."

So on court day, Slemp was feeling humble as a meth scab. He had tried to get that seat belt on, post-blue light, but even as the state trooper walked up with that hand on top of that big pistol, Slemp was still jerking at the seat belt, trying to get it uncaught and across his shoulder.

Being white and of good pickup truck, he was merely cited to court and the law did not hit him or search his truck with a dog or anything like that.

Slemp doesn't much like being in trouble with the law, especially if it is for stuff that oughtn't to be against the law, like hunting and fishing and riding your kids around untied on the back of a flatbed truck with nary rack nor sideboard, with limbs hitting their faces and locusts going into their mouths.

Social work has saved kids from all that, mused Slemp, who thinks outright exposure to danger is safer in the long run than trying to outlaw danger.

Why it is anybody's business if you wear a seat belt or not is beyond his imagination, which still has libertarian remnants.

But they do have to pay for those courthouses some way, so there he sat waiting for his case to be called so he could find out the cost of sitting on a car seat the same way generations before him had.

Soon here comes a string of scrubby-looking men, neon pale, each about one half khaki scrubs and orange flip flops with a chain between them and the other half world-class tattooery. Today's haul was guarded by guys with big bellies.

The prisoners were in pairs, Siamese joined at the wrist, such that it required Astaire/Rogers footwork and compassionate cooperation between them to get out of the jury box and go around to the table.

Their suits were coveralls, as the level of cooperation necessary for two prisoners to hold each other's pants up does not come until later in the sentence. Each prisoner in one of those teams was either hoping or dreading that he would be judged by how his handcuff-sharer would go over with the judge.

One by one they told the judge that they had a job as soon as he let them out. Slemp realized that he needed to call Washington and tell them that if you put the unemployed in jail, they would all have jobs the next morning.

Slemp thought the women looked pretty good in those scrubs, the ones who did not look like victims of chemistry.

They will each stay in jail a little and then yield up to the courts $50 a month of their SSI check so the courts can feed their habits, too.

Slemp paid his fine and went home, but his ride home was notably absent of click.

Larry Webster is a Pikeville attorney. Reach him at

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