By Michael Neal Morris
“No devices in the courtroom,“ the officer said, barely loud enough to be heard. He leaned against the wall, perpendicular to the clerk, and scanned the people who had sat down after being told to rise for the judge.
A woman in her 30s was flipping pictures up on her Instagram feed. “Turn off all devices,” the constable said eyeing her, lingering on the “all.” She did not return the look but emitted a chuckle and stuffed the phone into the top of a shiny, silver purse. She let her gaze go around the room as if she had been the one to think of putting away her electronics.
Her eyes stopped at the elderly gentleman to her right and opened in an expression that was half surprise, half flirt. The corners of her mouth curled like a lioness who has found tomorrow’s breakfast.
When she had diverted her face toward the front, the old man allowed himself to look her up and down. Her face, he noted, was smooth with only a touch of makeup. Her brown hair was straight with the lines of white popular this month. Except for one long vein on the back of her right hand, the hands appeared to be 10 years younger than the rest of her. On her finger was a setting for a diamond the size of a pecan. Her nails were glossy with a color between maroon and peach.
He wanted to lift those fingertips from her leg as one pries apart articles of clothing affixed with static cling. He regarded the curves in her sides as she stood to answer when the clerk called her name. She ain’t fat. But she’s eaten, he thought. She disappeared from view, and then he remembered he had not had breakfast. He closed his eyes.
The guard repeated, “All devices must be turned off,“ and the old man opened his eyes a slit and lethargically moved his head to see if he could spy out the culprit. Three people rapidly put phones in pockets and under their legs. He went back to resting
He was laying next to the woman with the silver purse. She was wearing nothing but the huge ring in the feline smile. “I know you’re going to eat me,“ he said as he watched her lashes slowly go up and down. “But I’m too old to care.”
“Oh,“ exited her throat, “I bet I could get some energy out of you.“
“Really?“ He asked in his head and realized the word had escaped his mouth.
“Oh,“ was all she said, but not audibly. He focused on the mouth and thought he was floating inside it like a piece of hard candy.
“No devices,“ shouted the constable, “shall be on while the court is in session.“ The old man looked directly at the officer who was straining toward him. Something was wrong. He felt his pocket and pulled out his phone and the sound seemed to triple in volume.
The constable reached him and snatched the phone out of his hand. The man saw something on the screen, a text. But the officer shut off the phone before he could see anything in detail.
“I’ll take it if it goes off again,“ the constable said, returning the lifeless box.
He did not take his eyes off the judge from that point. The judge, for her part, saw nothing take place, her attention focused on the lawyers in front of her. The old man tried to will his heart to stop pounding.
A few minutes later, his lawyer slid onto the bench beside him. The old man didn’t move.
“I tried to text you, and let you know I was running late. When you didn’t respond, I tried to call. Hey, you OK?“
“She wouldn’t let me,“ the old man said in a scratchy whisper.
“Let you what?“ The lawyer asked. “Who?“
But he wasn’t moving. He closed his eyes and curled up, and he felt the woman with the big ring reach through the ceiling and put him inside her purse, where he was, for the first time, the right size.
Inside, he nestled between a box of tissues and a tube of lipstick. He breathed in the scent of her belongings, looked up at the opening of the purse gaping for a moment like an open-mouthed kiss. Then her phone was falling on him as he heard the zipper close.
Michael Neal Morris’ most recent books are Based on Imaginary Events, Release and Haiku, Etc. He is a regular contributor to the blog Two Cents On and posts almost daily to This Blue Monk. He lives with his family just outside the Dallas area and teaches Composition and Creative Writing at Dallas College.