Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Cheese Man - Part 4

Steve Brown, Esq., had never defended a murder suspect. He had only been out of law school a year, a public defender for three months, and had successfully defended plea-bargained 6 cases. But this case was different. This was the kind of case that the media loved to dig their teeth into. This was the kind of case that could build a career.

He drafted a press release, read it, crumpled it up, and rewrote the release. A trial isn’t about the law, he remembered hearing Tom Cruise say in A Few Good Men. It’s about convincing twelve people that your client isn’t the right guy they want. And this was a case that needed some positive public opinion.

He finished off his second draft, read through it twice, made a few changes, and sent it off to all the major media outlets. Within an hour, he started getting calls from major news agencies from across the US. CNN and FOX news both wanted to talk to him, and Court TV was planning on having some coverage of the trial.

But it was the call that came in at 4:00 pm that got Brown excited. People Magazine wanted to know if he had a picture of her, and was hoping for some more information. If this was as good a story as his press release indicated and if Lisa was attractive enough, this story could end up on the cover of People magazine.

He emailed a picture of his client to People, and that night, People Reporter Ann Widder was in Detroit, scheduled for an interview the next morning with Lisa Berger.


Ann sat across from Lisa in the visitors room at Jackson Prison. Cameras were banned from the prison, although a requests had been put into the warden asking permission to photograph Lisa Berger.

They talked three times that week, Lisa talking about her relationship, her innocence, and her hopes for the future. Permission was granted for a photographer to come into the prison, and Lisa was shot in her orange prison jumpsuit, her blond hair looking glamorous, as she stood against a prison fence. She looked attractive, with a faraway look that conveyed both a deep sadness and hope for the future.

Steve was there for all their conversations, and was pleased with the tone the article seemed to be taking. He wished they had a picture of her in regular clothes, to make her look like less of a prisoner, but overall, this fit in with his plan.

Ann interviewed him extensively, and he hoped this article would be the start of things to come for him. There were plenty of school loans to pay off, and that Lexus he had his eyes on since he was a little kid, a some free pub could propel him to the next level.

Two weeks later, Steve Brown grinned when he saw Lisa Berger’s face smiling up at him from his mailbox.

Steve didn’t even notice the headline, which said Coldblooded Q-Tip Killer in blood-red letters.


“Have you seen this,” Lisa’s mother asked her on her weekly visit, tossing the magazine on the table that separated her from her daughter. “Have you seen this,” she yelled.

Lisa hadn’t seen the magazine yet, and was surprised to see herself looking up from people magazine.

“Look at that cover. It’s bad enough that you killed your husband, a chaval on our whole family, but how is your sister ever going to find a good shidduch.” Lisa’s mom was almost in tears. “Look at you. Wearing pants, hair uncovered, in jail. Oy, why couldn’t you just be in jail without telling the whole world who you are?”

“Ma,” Lisa interrupted, “This is part of my attorney’s strategy to get me out of here. A little good PR never hurt anyone.”

“Good PR. Oy, My baby is sitting in jail, like a murdered criminal, with all the shkatzim in the world here, and telling the whole world about it, and her attorney thinks she is getting good PR.”

“Tell me, Lisa, what am I supposed to do at Shul? Estelle suggested I go off the sisterhood board, and Shiffy won’t sit near me during shul or Kiddush. And your sister. Your sister. She is never going to get married now. The phone has stopped ringing. Before, after the killing it was slow, but now,” she paused and lifted the magazine up slightly off the table, “now it’s stopped. And she is going to be alone and not get a good shidduch.

Lisa waited for her mom to stop. “Sorry, mom, but I didn’t think about that. I”

Her mother interrupted. “Of course you didn’t think. Not when you married that bum, not when you killed him.”

“Lisa was near tears. “Stop it mom. Don’t you care about me getting out of here. I didn’t kill him, and this is going to help me get off.

“Oy, better you should stay here then bring this shame on your father and me. What did we do that was so bad.”

Lisa’s mom turned around, and walked out of the visitor’s room.


After her mom left, Lisa brought the magazine back to her cell. The guards took out the staples so she wouldn’t use them as a weapon, so she had to hold the pages together so they didn’t fly away.

She flipped through the pages, and read every word.

“That Ann,” she said out loud. Ann had turned everything she said around. The story was a disaster, making it look like she hated cheese, and hated everyone who liked cheese. All she had said was that she thought her late husband ate too much cheese.

She hadn’t seen Steve Brown in a while, he claimed he was preparing her defense and didn’t have time, but she thought he was probably trying to get himself some more face time on TV some more.


Carol walked over to Yitzi. “Yitzi, come to bed,” she called into the other room. Come see my new outfit.

Yitzi walked into the room and stared. Carol stood with her leg against the bed, wearing nothing but a short skirt and bra top made up completely out of Q-Tips.

“Come and get it, bad boy,” she said, grinning.

Yitzi walked over, and planted his lips on Carols.


The trial was scheduled to start in two weeks, and Jack Kay was working overtime. Ever since he started working with Jose, the two of them discovered they shared a passion for ears. They were determined to put Lisa in jail for the rest of her life, and worked sixty hour weeks putting their case together.

The People Magazine article just helped their case.

Anyone who has ears and has eaten cheese will feel safer when she is off the street, they would say. Should make picking a jury a breeze.

The preceding story is Fiction. You can find the beginning of this story earlier on this blog.

Previous Section

Friday, February 17, 2006

The Flight

The lights receded through the open window, getting smaller and smaller until they could no longer be seen out the window.

The plane shook slightly, and Donna settled back in her seat. She sat in silence, closing her eyes , listening guiltily to the conversations that swirled around her.

Ahead, a stranger on his way to New York for the first time regaled his fellow passengers with his entire career history. He had worked in the restaurant business, Hooters, actually, before moving into the booming ReFi market. Tomorrow, in New York, he would interview for his dream job, he breathlessly jabbered, as his seatmates hung on every word.

Behind her, a man talked about tires. Whether he bought tires, sold tires or manufactured tires was not entirely clear. Regardless, he talked incessantly about tread and wear and steel=belted radials.

The weather was rough, an the plane bounced around, reminding Donna of the little boat her daughter would play with in the bath.

Caitlin would splash, and make waves. And tip the boat over.

"What about the people in the boat," Donna asked her daughter one day. "Are they OK?"

"Oh mama," Caitlin answered, "Jesus is watching over them."

Donna tried not to cry, and fought back the tears. It seemed that everything reminded her about Caitlin nowadays.

Caitlin, so sweet when she was younger, so beautiful and innocent. It almost killed Donna to remember the last time she saw her daughter. She was smiling as she went into the delivery room.

Donna chose to wait in the waiting room. Going into the room would bring back too many memories of cancer and her own mother.

Caitlin was smiling and excited. For the first time in months, she looked like a happy fifteen year old when they wheeled her out.

Three hours later, a doctor sat Donna down and gave her the awful news. Caitlin was dead, and the baby might not make it through the night.

The next morning, there were two bodies to bury.

This trip was supposed to help Donna get away from her grief, give her some distance. Donna didn't think anything could help her.

The turbulence was awful, and getting worse. Donna thought about trying to sleep, like the old lady across the aisle, but the idea of waking up to a crashing plane was too frightening to imagine. She would stay up, try not to vomit and if the plane was to crash, she would take solace from the fact that she would meet her daughter in heaven.

Was she going to heaven, though, Donna wondered, and even if she did go to heaven, would Caitlin be there. Donna was sure the baby went to heaven, so pure and innocent, but her daughter might be a different story. She did get pregnant outside of marriage, and died without confession.

Donna had thought about her daughter';s eternal resting place every day since Caitlin died, and she couldn't decide. Was Caitlin in heaven or Hell? She thought about talking to the priest at church, but the pastor who had been in the church for all those years was in jail for fifteen to twenty, part of that whole priests screwing little boys thing.,

He, Donna was quite sure, was going to Hell.

The new priest was a young man, probably in his late twenties, and she wasn't about to go looking for religious guidance from someone who was born in the 80s, twenty years her junior.

So Donna just wondered. Sometimes with a drink in her hand, and sometimes with the whole bottle in her hand. Sometimes it was just so hard.

Just so hard.