Sevier Juvenile,fiction by Matthew Funk

Andy kept knock­ing his head against the wall. Every­body in the cour­t­house lob­by just watched. Some held hushed con­ver­sa­tion, stared down the clock, pumped their leg. 

Jolene scoot­ed away from the damp slap of the boy beat­ing his sim­ple head against the cream-paint­ed brick. She crossed her Vans near the spread of Gary’s Nike high-tops. He sat straight as his hair-cut but his eyes dived for the floor when­ev­er nobody saw them.

“You here for the thing at school?” Jolene said. 

Gary glanced at her. “Bomb threat? Yeah.”

That’s pret­ty seri­ous, huh?”

His broad­en­ing shoul­ders hiked. “I ain’t guilty. Got put up to it. School’ll prob­a­bly drop charges. What’re you here for?”

Jolene pursed her glossed lips, cook­ing up an answer that tast­ed bet­ter than the truth. Andy’s dad, Har­lan, near­ly stepped on her feet storm­ing by. Har­lan cra­dled the boy’s head.

Hey, Andy,” Har­lan said in a lul­la­by tone, “it’s all right. Easy there.”

I want to go home, Dad,” Andy said, eyes dull under heavy lids.

Jolene and Gary wait­ed, their silent moth­ers flank­ing them like grave­yard angels, for Harlan’s reply. Har­lan just pet his son’s over­sized head and turned his wor­ried face away. A court clerk wad­dled out of Hear­ing Room 201 to call the next docket.

Jolene start­ed to stand. Her moth­er stayed her with a touch.

Not us yet, hon­ey,” she said. Jolene didn’t have time to relax before her mother’s next words made her tense as a coon trap. “Besides, when it comes time, you won’t be expect­ed to speak.”

Jolene twist­ed her face back to Gary, to hide the look of shock and protest on it. Gary was star­ing at the hear­ing room. In its door­way, an offi­cer stood, all meat-red size under a razor­back haircut.

Ain’t that Offi­cer McMa­han?” Jolene said to Gary.

Gary’s fea­tures answered, qui­et and sharp as a cor­nered animal.


After a half-ton boy was led from the hear­ing room in hand­cuffs, atti­tude angry as his acne, the lawyers arrived. It was late already, but each man act­ed like time was a force they were immune to.

Noth­ing to wor­ry about,” said the tow­er­ing lawyer to Gary’s moth­er, casu­al as the fit of his Knoxville-tai­lored suit. “We’ll raise the issue of the police officer’s son, Chance, putting Gary up to the bomb threat and yet not get­ting punished.”

Offi­cer McMahan’s here, though,” Gary whis­pered. “He was the one who stuck it on me and let Chance go. If the school’s going to drop it, why’s he here?”

The lawyer left with bare­ly enough time to smile.

Harlan’s lawyer sat by him, pick­ing his blue jeans’ fray. “This ain’t the kind of charge they’ll let slip, Har­lan. Your boy’s tes­ti­mo­ny could sink you.”

How?” Harlan’s teeth worked his lip like his hands did his knees. He watched Andy beam­ing at the police offi­cers lined up to speak at the hear­ing. “The boy’s slow. Retard­ed. It’s plain to see, even if it ain’t on record because I home school him.”

The lawyer shook his head as if just to see his beard sway.

Every­body has to be on deck here,” said the bean­pole boy of a lawyer to Jolene’s moth­er, cup­ping her wilt­ed shoul­der. “Speak­ing for Simon your­self will help. But if Jolene can speak on his behalf, that could make the dif­fer­ence between los­ing cus­tody of him and a home arrest.”

Jolene’s moth­er tensed her­self like a fist before lay­ing a soft look on her daugh­ter. “Jolene’ll speak for Simon. She knows he didn’t touch none of them kids a bad way.”

Jolene just nod­ded. She couldn’t raise her eyes for fear of let­ting her moth­er see what wailed, chained, with­in them.

The hear­ing room clerk called the next dock­et. Har­lan and Andy went inside to stand before Judge Rader.


Jolene pumped her bare leg four hun­dred times, count­ing each, as the clock spun until the Hear­ing Room door opened again. Gary drank down two bot­tles of Pow­er­ade, the blue kind, shar­ing half of each with Jolene. Their moth­ers stared at the absences left by their lawyers as if still try­ing to bar­gain with them.

Mr. Dar­ius,” the clerk called. “We’re ready to here the Sum­n­er case.”

Gary looked to his moth­er, already on her feet, and straight­ened his pressed shirt. “That’s us, Mama. Where’s Mr. Darius?”

She shook her head, mouth and eyes gap­ing, feast­ing on the crowd­ed lob­by. “Try and go find him. I’ll wait here.”

Gary bolt­ed like he did on the field try­ing to avoid a sack. Jolene trot­ted behind. 

I’ll help you look,” she said.

He shot a look back to her, but any con­fi­dent reply dried up and blew away under the hot shock on his face. 

They walked the hall, flanked by cheap print-out posters of smil­ing fam­i­lies, ads for com­mu­ni­ty out­reach embla­zoned with Sher­iff badges, tacky daisy-orange fly­ers trum­pet­ing the U of Ten­nessee Volunteers. 

The end of the hall had no lawyers, only sad, fat women and the rain-frost­ed glass doors where jail­house vans sat. Gary cir­cled, dart­ing, refus­ing to be still.

Jolene tapped his arm and point­ed up to where the Child Ser­vices offices were.

I’m going up there.”

Why?” Gary asked, only glancing.

Got some­one I need to see.”

The dock­et was called again. Gary looked down the hall and back, and Jolene was already most of the way upstairs.

Har­lan came out of the hear­ing room alone with his head bowed.

I nev­er did any of those things,” he mut­tered, his lawyer’s atten­tion buried in his Rolex knock-off, deaf. “I was the best father I could be to that boy and no less.”

He turned back to Judge Rader’s cham­bers to watch the bailiffs cuff his son.


Jolene felt the scorch of her mother’s stare all the way down the hall. She unfo­cused her eyes, like they taught her in school to watch an eclipse, and walked into it.

Andy sat, cuffed and with his head cra­dled in both Harlan’s hands, beside Jolene’s mother.

Where you been, girl?” Jolene’s moth­er said. Jolene just shrugged and sank down and watched the rain chase smok­ers mak­ing fran­tic phone calls out­side the lobby.

You got to go, Andy,” Har­lan said, voice care­ful­ly knead­ing any trace of his sobs from it, refin­ing it into some­thing strong enough to reach his retard­ed boy. “I’ll vis­it you soon as I can.”

Why, Pa?”

Because you burnt up that house, boy. I tried my best. It was just one too many things for the Judge.”

I want to stay with you, though,” Andy said, echo­ing it again and again as the bailiffs smirked to one anoth­er, idling away the time with a talk of col­lege football.

The hear­ing room opened and Gary came out with moth­er and lawyer in tow. His shoul­ders were lev­el but his eyes stared out as if he were laid on his back.

Dar­ius and Gary’s moth­er drift­ed to a cor­ner and talked—him smooth, her all anx­ious speed. The clerk called for Jolene’s mother.

You com­ing?” Jolene’s moth­er asked her. 

Jolene shook her head. She drift­ed clos­er to Gary, star­ing at his hand as if she were hold­ing it. 

You ain’t going to say your piece for Simon?” Jolene’s moth­er hissed. 

I said it already,” Jolene said. She didn’t watch as her moth­er entered the hear­ing room, spine sag­ging more with every step.

You get off, Gary?” Jolene asked, find­ing enough hope in her­self for a smile. 

Nah,” Gary said. “But they didn’t con­vict me nei­ther. Trial’s been post­poned a third time. School won’t drop it but they won’t make a case.”

Jolene fol­lowed Gary’s stare. She saw it frac­ture as it met Offi­cer McMahan’s. The School Resource Offi­cer glared back at Gary, just to watch the quarterback’s con­fi­dence crum­ble. Then he went into the rain with his bailiff bud­dies haul­ing Andy away.

Gary and Jolene sank down onto the bench by Har­lan. Harlan’s cop­per hair screened his face as he stared at his John Deere hat, work­ing it in scarred hands.

Been here all my life,” Har­lan said to his hat. “And they take my son, just like that. Just like I was nothing.”

How about you?” Gary said to Jolene, look­ing away from where Dar­ius was try­ing to get his Mama to share a smile. 

How about me?”

Did you get out of trouble?”

Jolene looked up, teeth releas­ing her lip as she saw the Child Ser­vices offi­cer come from upstairs and head to join her moth­er in the Hear­ing Room. The CS woman laid a look of sym­pa­thy on Jolene, all the pity of a saint in stained glass shin­ing on her.

Pity didn’t make Jolene feel good, but it was all she had. It straight­ened her up. Her hand slid with­in brush­ing dis­tance of Gary’s. Her smile found his hard­ened eyes.

For now, maybe,” she said. “For as long as you can ‘round here.”

From with­in the Hear­ing Room came her mother’s wails of loss.


Matthew C. Funk is a social media con­sul­tant, pro­fes­sion­al mar­ket­ing copy­writer and writ­ing men­tor. He is an edi­tor of Nee­dle Mag­a­zine and a staff writer for Plan­et Fury and Crim­i­nal Com­plex. Win­ner of the 2010 Spinet­ingler Award for Best Short Sto­ry on the Web, Funk has work fea­tured at numer­ous sites indexed on his Web domain and print­ed in Nee­dle, Grift, Pulp Mod­ern, Pulp Ink and D*CKED.

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