The Judgment of Clarence

Two of Bill's friends are getting married, and Bill decides to throw a big party to celebrate. He writes up the invite list: all his homies, and all his lovelies. He's about to send it out, but then he decides he'd better run it by Hillary first.

Hillary is Bill's main squeeze. She's got a sharp eye, and Bill learned—long ago—that it's best to get her buy-in on things first. Hillary scans down the list. She raises an eyebrow at a few of the names: Gennifer, Kathleen, Monica... It seems that Bill is inviting some of his—ahem—loveliest lovelies, but, well, Hillary knew who Bill was when she married him, and it really isn't worth making a fuss about at this point. But then she sees Linda on the list. "No. No Linda. Linda is trouble. Remember?" And Bill does remember, so Linda is off the list.

So the invites go out, and people get excited, and people start talking about the party, and eventually word gets back to Linda about this big party that she isn't invited to. And Linda is pissed.

Now, Linda isn't the type to sulk in silence. She decides that if she isn't going to enjoy the party, then no else is, either. And she knows just how to make sure they don't.

She pulls on some jeans and sneakers and a T-shirt, and she throws her hair back in a ponytail. She grabs a box from her closet, and she heads over to where the party is happening. People are already arriving when she gets there. She sees Hillary and Anita and Monica standing together. She sashays up to them with the box under her arm.

Hillary looks at her suspiciously. "We weren't expecting you."

Linda puts on sad eyes, and says, "I'm so bumming! This great party, and I can't be here. Ken called at the last minute with some deal he needs me to look at." (Rolls eyes.)

"And look: I even got new shoes for the party." Linda opens the box and pulls out a pair of gold-lame spike-heel open-toe T-strap sandals. "Aren't they pretty?"

The three lovelies "oooh" and "aaah" at the shoes. "These shoes are so awesome, they have to be worn by the hottest woman at the party. That was going to be me"—a shimmy and a simper—"but now I can't be here. It will have to be one of you instead."

Linda sets the shoes on a table and turns to leave. "Party on!" And with that, she's gone.

That leaves three lovelies and one pair of shoes. The shoes really are awesome. They all want to touch them; they all want to wear them. But none is prepared to just declare herself the hottest and reach out and grab them for herself.

A few tentative motions towards the shoes. A few awkward glances between them.

"It has to be one of us."

"But which one?"

"How are we to decide?"

"There's no way we can decide. We need someone to say. Someone else."

"But who?"

And then who should walk up but Bill, with a big grin on his face and a big cigar in his mouth. He sees the three ladies gathered around the shoes. "Well, what have we here?"

"Linda stopped by," begins Hillary. The smile on Bill's face freezes. "She left these shoes. Aren't they pretty?"

"Yes,..." replies Bill, carefully.

"These shoes have to be worn by the hottest woman at the party. We need you to say which of us is the hottest."

Now Bill, he a sharp old dog. He can see the angles, and he can see that every angle of this thing is just nothing but trouble for him. And he takes that cigar out of his mouth, and he puts back his head, and he just laughs and laughs.

Then Bill puts his left arm around Hillary, and he puts his right arm around Monica, and he faces right directly at Anita. And he says, "Ladies, ladies. You got the wrong man here. That kind of decision making is not my department. See, I'm what they call an executive type. You know, man of action. What you need is a judge. And I think we got one right here at this party."

Bill looks out across the party, and he sees who he's looking for, and he calls out, "Clarence, my man! A moment of your time."

Clarence hears Bill, and he walks over to him, and he says, "What can I do for you, Bill?"

Bill explains the situation. "Clarence," he says, "Linda left these shoes here to be worn by the hottest woman at the party. So we need a judge to say which of these three lovelies is the hottest. You a judge. Can you do that for us?"

Now Clarence, he sharp too, and he can see angles just like Bill. But where Bill sees trouble, Clarence sees, shall we say, opportunity.

Clarence looks at the shoes, and he looks at the three lovelies, and he smiles. "They are right pretty shoes, and you three are right pretty ladies. I think I can render a judgment that will make two of us very happy." It's about as direct as he can make it, short of putting it up on eBay, the way Rod did when he was trying to sell that chair that he had.

Clarence scoops the shoes up off of the table, hooking his fingers through the T-straps and dangling them from his hand. Then he steps back and waits for the lovelies to come to him.

Hillary goes first. She steps over to Clarence. "Clarence," explains Hillary, "you're a big man, but it seems to me that you've never really gotten the respect that a man of your stature deserves. Sure, you've got money, and you've got title, but sometimes people look askance at you, like you don't really belong there; like maybe you never should have been there in the first place.

"I could help you with that. You know I'm tight with Bill. If I wear those shoes, you could be tight with both of us. You walk around with me and Bill, and no one is going to question your position any more.

Clarence thinks, and he nods, and he says, "That's a fine offer. I'll consider it."

Then Hillary steps back and it's Anita's turn. Now, Anita's really not down with this at all. It seems there is some history between her and Clarence, and she's not at all sure that she's going to get a fair shake from him. Other hand, it's not like she thought she was going to do any better with Bill, not with Bill being so tight with both Hillary and Monica.

And those shoes...the shoes dangling from Clarence's hand. The shoes are awesome. The shoes are hot; she's hot; she's the hottest; she should be wearing the shoes; she wants the shoes; she sees herself wearing the shoes; she deserves the shoes. And if Clarence has the shoes, then...

"Clarence," explains Anita, "you're a justice. I know that's hard work. Law is complicated. Statutes, cases, precedents, procedure. A lot to know. A lot to keep track of. And if you don't mind my saying so, I can see that it's a challenge for you.

"I could help you with that. I could help you with your cases. With your decisions. With the research, the reasoning, the writing. You could be a first-rate justice. One who could lead the court. One who could dispense not merely justice, but wisdom.

Clarence thinks, and he nods, and he says, "That's a fine offer. I'll consider it."

Now it's Monica's turn. There's nothing to explain. She walks up to Clarence, and she slips her arm around his waist, and she says, "Clarence, you could have the hottest woman at this party."

Clarence doesn't have to think. There's nothing to consider. He slips his free arm around Monica's waist. He brings his other hand with the shoes across to her hand. The shoes slip from his fingers onto her fingers.

Clarence and Monica walk back to the others, arm-in-arm. The shoes that were dangling from Clarence's hand are now dangling from Monica's. "Monica," Clarence announces, "is the hottest woman at this party, and she will wear these gold-lame spike-heel open-toe T-strap sandals. Aren't they awesome?"

And Bill, he doesn't even have to see the angles. All he has to see is the look in Hillary's eyes, and the look in Anita's eyes. And he knows there be trouble.


Steven W. McDougall / resume / swmcd@world.std.com / 2013 April 19