Thursday, January 31, 2013

Recess (Flash Fiction - Legal)

The Recess

The sound waves from the bailiff’s, “All rise!” were still reverberating against the wood-paneled courtroom when Judge Gilly’s black robe disappeared behind the door to his chambers.  The jury was safely tucked into the jury room where it could deliberately not talk about the case.  Both the clerk and court reporter filed back into their offices.  Judge Gilly was meticulous and deliberate.  You could set your clock by the length of his afternoon recess.  We had fifteen minutes: not fourteen and not sixteen.

The plaintiff sits back down with his attorney at their table and they start talking.  Clients often give their attorney suggestions during trial.  They would be better off just sitting silently while the attorney reviews trial notes. 

I am defending this case for the Retail Insurance Co. of America, which sent a risk management supervisor to sit in on the trial.  The RICA rep and I strategized over lunch and she wants me to settle this case for $15,000.00.  The case is worth more than that and she knows it. 

RIA insures Global Grocer, an upscale grocery outlet in a suburb off the interstate.  The plaintiff, a forty-two year old surveyor, on an errand for his wife stopped at the store to pick up some salad dressing.  Walking by the olive bar he slipped on some oily brine that had been spilled on the floor.  Hitting his head on the floor, the plaintiff fractured one of his cervical vertebras and damaged an adjoining disc.  He claims to have debilitating pain and restricted mobility.  He hasn’t worked since the fall.

I walk over to the plaintiff’s table and wait to be acknowledged by his attorney.  Finally recognized I say, “Can we talk?”  The attorney gives me a long look as if asking whether there is an anything I have to say that is worth getting up out of the chair to hear.  We walk out together.

Once out in the hall I start pressing, “Judge Gilly has already ruled that you can’t introduce evidence that the store upgraded to a safer bar.  I don’t see how you can fault the grocery store.”

“That oily mess was on their floor.  My client was entitled to a reasonable expectation of safety.”

Not letting up I continue, “The store has a regular inspection and maintenance schedule.  What more can they do?  You may have persuaded Judge Gilly not to dismiss this case before trial, but he came close to throwing this suit out.  I think Gilly is going to dump this thing.”

The attorney, working on a contingency fee and getting nervous about leaving without a paycheck, has invested heavily in this case.  “I’m more interested in what the jury is going to say than the judge.”

I was ready to get to the money.  “The insurance carrier for Global Grocer would like to finish this case here and now and they are increasing their settlement offer to $12,500.00.”

I could see it wouldn’t be enough.  The attorney was almost contemptuous.  “This case is worth at least $75,000.00.”

“I can never get you $75,000.00.  Gilly is going to tell the jury that Global had to have notice of the spill before there is a duty to clean it up.  You have no evidence that Global knew there was a problem before your client fell.  After the judge is through instructing the jury, they are going to end up dismissing the case and your client gets nothing.”  I didn’t have to add that the client’s attorney would also get nothing.  “Give your client something.  Take the offer.”

The attorney gives a disappointed head shake and says, “I’ll convey your offer to my client, but I will be advising him not to accept.”  We walk back into the courtroom.  I sit down next to the RICA rep.  She gives me a deadpan look I knew to be a request for a report.  I shrug.

I glance at the clock. It’s 3:08 p.m.  It dawns on me that I don’t know when the recess started.  Plaintiff’s counsel hands me a piece of folded paper.  Unfolding the paper I see a single figure: $35,000.00.  I slide it over to the rep.  She shakes her head, “No.”  I take a sheet of scratch paper and write “$25.000.00?”

She crosses out my number and writes “22,500.00.”  I take the plaintiff’s note, cross out his number and write in ours.  I hand it back and say, “This offer expires as soon as Judge Gilly takes the bench.”  The plaintiff and his attorney begin to boil in animated conversation.

The bailiff opens the door to chambers and calls out, “All Rise!”  I take to my feet and glance over at plaintiff’s table trying to determine upon which side they will alight.

Mike Mallory

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Graveyard Watch (Historical Flash Fiction)

Twas less than a fortnight ago when Pell, one of the Duke’s lads, interrupted the mid-day meal with a fierce banging against the front door.  His hands were covered in heavy leather gloves against the cold and he came close to punching through the brittle wooden gate that serves as the entryway into the hut.  With an air of deferential politeness he was ushered inside the dirt-floor hovel.  Looking around the premises, as if overcome by gratitude that his station is superior, he comes to attention and remembers his errand.

In a booming voice, fit for a report to King Phillip, himself, Pell announces that I have been summoned, without so much as a prithee, by the Duke of Northumberland to stand the graveyard watch for three days in the churchyard behind the abbey.  They are burying Lady Francis Bandon, one o’ the Duke’s cousins and someone has to watch over her. This is an opportunity to serve the Duke and maybe to gain some bit ‘o favor. 

This is a new practice: the graveyard watch.  Digging up some old coffins so as to make room for the more recently departed, there was a lot of coffins from the time of yore what have scratch marks.  And the scratch marks was on the inside ‘o the coffins.  Only one thought comes to mind: people have been buried alive.

Now, the important people who die get a string tied ‘round their wrist and the string comes up outta the ground and is tied to a bell. If they wake up from the dead, why they can just wiggle around to ring the bell and them that buried ‘em just digs ‘em up again.  The graveyard watchman is charged with keepin’ his eyes and ears on that bell and go a running to the vicar’s house if it starts ringing.

With the wind a howlin’ and the rain beatin’ down it would have nice to have an oilskin or a greatcoat.  The woolen shawl is soggy wet and heavy cold.  Curled all up in a ball, half inside the old tree trunk like a fox, offers a little protection from the elements, but makes it hard to keep an eye on the bell.  Then again if it rings, keeping “an ear out” ought to be enough.

It is bootblack dark with a disturbing wind.  Leaves and sometimes even whole braches scuttle by.  That little bell, hanging from a little piece o’ wood is getting buffeted by gusts just like everything else.  Sure, it rings from time to time but that’s probably just the wind.  Still, it is a bad night to lay here wondering if her Ladyship has been buried alive.  God bless her Ladyship.

It’s best to let the wind die down and then see if the bell is still ringin’.  If the vicar is woken in the dead ‘o night to an alarm by the graveyard watchman and the Duke’s people get all busy in the middle of a storm and dig up her Ladyship only to find she is still dead as a piece ‘o firewood, why, then some mighty disaster would surely befall that graveyard watchman.  I durst not wake the vicar. 

If by chance that bell be ringin’ on account of her Ladyship pullin’ on the string, she will no doubt stop before long.  Bless her Ladyship’s soul.

 /Mike Mallory

( - it may just be an urban myth.  Then again, it’s on the World Wide Web! )

Monday, January 21, 2013

Hometown Public Art

In 1962 the Space Needle was build for the World’s Fair in Seattle.  Specific architecture will fall somewhere in the continuum between functionality and the aesthetic.  The Space Needle is more sculptural than functional.   The Space Needle was privately financed, although it sits in the Denny Regrade which was a colossal public works project at the turn of the 20th Century. 

In the mid-60s, my parent’s generation spent almost one-half a trillion (in 2006 dollars) to create the Interstate Highway System.  The Interstate Highway System has allowed a national market to develop between the many manufacturing and agricultural locations and the consuming public.  It is hard to imagine that the Puget Sound public, now reluctant to approve mass transit would favor that kind of authorization today.

Historically, public art was found most in nationalistic monuments and statues and portraits of famous people.  New Deal legislation in the 1930s included the Public Works of Art Project which increased public subsidies for the arts as never before.  The PWAP employed almost 50 artists in Washington State and contributed to a fresh cultural awareness.  A common theme of public art in that era is “progress,” which is cultural as well as political.

The linkage between public works and public art was perpetuated in Washington Statutes. “Pursuant to RCW 43.46.090 through 43.46.095, onehalf of one percent of the state’s capital appropriation for the original construction of specific public buildings is set aside for the administration, acquisition, and conservation of works of art for the state art collection.”  WAC 30-40-050.  Most, if not all, cities and counties have similar set-asides for art funding. 

It is unquestioned that public funds may be expended in order to develop markets or make commerce more efficient.  On the other hand public expenditure for art, in the age of the mega-deficit, has come under the cross-hairs of budget cutters.  NPR and PBS were targets during the 2012 elections although Big Bird came out it with just a few ruffled feathers. 

Nick Gillespie argues that public funds should not be used for art in part because there is sufficient support in the private sector.  But if one examines the differences between NPR and commercial radio or PBS and commercial television broadcast the question that emerges is not whether radio and television would continue to exist, but whether the American public would lose an irreplaceable cultural resource.  Similarly, the National Endowment for the Arts offers grants for exhibitions, installations and permanent works which provide an important cultural contribution regardless of their commercial feasibility. 

There are private foundations and non-profit organizations that contribute to art funding and even public art.  One of the more interesting is the Billboard Project which puts up billboard displays of art in public places.  Locally we are fortunate to have KSER, a community radio station.  Yet I can’t help but imagine an increasing sterility in public places, if not for Public Art funding.

Much of the criticism directed at public funding for the arts hovers around the most shocking exemplars, but a better gage of public art funding is the collection of local government.  The City of Everett and Snohomish County both have collections. Some of the art is outdoors and some confined to meeting rooms and interior space.  A map identifying some of the Everett collection is located here.  The Everett Public Library has a downloadable audio tour of some of the collection.  Seattle has a similar tour. 

One of the reasons the funding that public art seems expendable is that the collection is taken for granted because it is freely observable or people are unaware of the pieces hanging in some meeting room.  There are wonderful works of sculptural and two-dimensional art in the collection of the City of Everett and Snohomish County.  There is a lovely Bernie Weber watercolor in the Everett Treasurer’s office.  Colby Avenue is marked with mysterious and compelling sculptures.  The next time you are walking past a public building, take the time to seek out the art, your art, within.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Getting Even (Sports - Flash Fiction)

I inch up to the mid-line keeping their forward about five yards in front of me.  Three strides.  I need three strides in an open field for acceleration, adjustment and positioning.  Their keeper sets the ball down at the corner of his box and backs up to run into his goal kick. 

I glance up at the clock.  Eight-six minutes.  Four minutes left.  Four long minutes.  Most goals in a match come in the last ten minutes of the half.  We are up by one, but don't become complacent.  Tighten up.  I am an impassable barrier.  Impassable barrier.  I am impassable.

The keeper's kick sends the ball in a powerful parabolic curve dropping to their mid-fielder on the left side, my side.  Our midfielder challenges the player with the ball.  Their right wing, my primary responsibility, tenses and bobbles on his feet, waiting for a clue or inspiration about how to position himself for a pass.  I give him three strides and wait for his move. 

The ball handler starts an aggressive dribble out toward the side-line.  The forward, my man, anticipates a chip and sprints down-field.  I stay with him.  I stay goal-side.  I am close.  I am making him an unattractive target.  I am in control of my space.  I own the field. 

My midfielder, fifteen yards up field, overcommits when the ball handler feints to the outside.  The opposing ball handler comes away clean with the ball, gliding toward our goal.  I am the only defender capable of challenging the ball carrier, but I will have to give up my man and let him lag behind me.  I check for offside but my mates cross-field have sagged back and given the attackers too much maneuvering room. 

I can't let the ball handler continue unaccosted, I leave my man and strike out toward the ball hoping the center-back will pull the defensive line up and hobble the forward with the threat of an offside call.

The ball carrier has me at a disadvantage.  He has the center-field and I will have to come at him from the outside.  Our vectors converge and we start running shoulder to shoulder.  I hear a roar from the crowd and my opponent begins to pick up speed as though surfing the sound waves.  I dig, pull and stretch, lengthening my stride.  I will myself into flight.

He will be in range of a credible shot within five strides.  I can see the outline of the penalty box in my peripheral vision.  I don't want to foul unless absolutely necessary.  To make a clean tackle I cannot slide from behind.  I must be even with the ball handler.  I am a hair behind.  I must gain.  I must fly. 

He redirects the ball, but the move costs him a fraction of a second.  Our shoulders buffet one another back and forth in an attempt to unbalance the other.  My shoulder comes up in front of his.  I am more than even.  I am clear to slide.  One more touch and he will shoot with his left foot: the far side of my challenge.  I will have to cross in front of him.  I must deflect the ball. Time it. Time it. Now....

My right foot lands out far ahead and as I come over it I straighten my left knee and sling my body forward.  My left foots points forward and reaches for the ball.  My body hits the ground as gently as an airplane touching down on the runway and slides.  I feel the satisfying tap on the ball on the toe of my soft leather shoe, followed immediately by the slap of his boot under my ankle.

He goes down hard, sprawled out in front of me.  Still on the ground I push up on my elbows to see what has happened.  The ball rolls harmlessly to our keeper who pushes it forward as he surveys the field.  The crowd is booing.  I am inside the penalty area.  My opposing forward is curled up in a fetal position in a pathetic plea for sympathy.

I was even.  I was more than even.  It was clean.  I didn't tackle from behind.  Anxiously, I look around for the referee hoping he saw it my way.


Sunday, January 13, 2013

A Menu for Gun Control


Gun Control is on the table of public opinion again.  There are design and regulatory options available to reduce the killing power of firearms available to the public.  Responsible gun control will, I believe, be crafted from the options below.  In my opinion, laws consistent with the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution could be enacted which:


1.    Every firearm needs to be registered.  The registration process must involve, at a minimum, criminal, restraining orders, substance abuse and mental health records.  Gun safety and handling courses should be mandatory.  Every sale must involve registration or a registration transfer.  The Gun-Show and Private Sale loophole will have to be closed and all unregistered guns will have to be documented.  All firearm transfers (sales and gifts) should go through a licensed firearms dealer with background check.  (Similar to Transferring a Car) There must be a record of every change of ownership.

a) Every firearm must bear a legible serial number and be registered in federal database to someone.
b)  Owner must notify a dealer and report any lost or stolen firearms.

2. Limit magazine capacity and perhaps require design features with reduced reloading speed.   I like the Larry Simoneaux’s suggestion that weapons should be limited to fixed magazines with capacities under ten rounds.

3. Limit speed of semi-automatic fire.

4. Limit types of rounds (e.g. no hollow-point or Teflon coating).  Loads designed to penetrate bullet-proof vests or glass should be illegal.

5. Impose an annual tax on possession of firearms.  Firearms have a social cost ranging from injuries and bullet-proof vests for law enforcement officers to registration and regulation expenses.  An annual tax on the possession of firearms will allow gun owners to contribute to the cost of their choices. The tax could be a graduated tax such as $5.00 per caliber per year.

6. Require that firearms be stored or transported only with a locking trigger guard or in a locked gun cabinet.

7. Implement an automatic firearm alert system through electronic identification.  All Firearms would be required to have a permanent Tracking Chip.  The Firearm Tracking Chip (FATC) would be designed to be detected by FATC Detectors (FATCD).  FATCDs could be installed in schools, stores and private homes for that matter. The FATCs would have to be built into a sensitive part of the firearm so they could not be disabled without disabling the firearm: a problematic but not impossible engineering issue.


8.  All firearms must be registered with annual renewals.  Registration and renewals will trigger a review of appropriate databases to confirm eligibility.



As long as the 2nd Amendment is interpreted as granting a right to citizens to possess firearms, there will be gun fatalities.  But there are ways to keep guns out of the hands of children, people with a history of crime or domestic violence and those with a mental and/or emotional disease or disability.  There are also technological avenues to limit the amount of damage done by someone intent on mass murder.


The death rate for gun related deaths in US was 1 in 10,000.  In the UK it was only 4 in 10,000,000.

The text of the 2nd Amendment allows for regulation of firearms.  We tightly regulate motor vehicles, drugs and natural gas distribution in the name of public safety.  Social vulnerability to assault weapons justifies a more thorough regulatory system for firearms.

Mike Mallory



Saturday, January 12, 2013

I have changed the name of my blog and broadened its scope. The blog was originally called the "Everett Sketcher" and was devoted to art reviews and plein air paintings in and around Snohomish County. The scope was so narrow that I wasn't able to produce enough suitable material. It is time for a change.

I have been considering new names. I was thinking about Mycopedia, but it was taken. "Mike's Copedia" seemed cumbersome.

I plan to provide a space for the wide range of my interests. I hope to post images of my art, examples of my creative writing, opinion pieces, social criticism and more.

My personal mission is to enliven the world by responding to life with insight and delight. I have decided to move forward with the blog name, "The Grand Reveal." The name is still on probation.

If you are currently a follower, I hope you will stay with me as I develop this more expansive theme.