Thursday, 18 May 2017

Sawdust and Snow

[Media prompt] UMich student says minorities are oppressed by wood panelling.
Sawdust and Snow

Rudi Lundquist looked at himself in the mirror, leaning in for a better view as he ran a rough hand across his chin. Satisfied with his shaving, he pulled at his shirt collar and tightened his tie. Then stepping back, he put on a jacket and straightened up. He buttoned it up, and then undid it. Because of his broad shoulders and narrow waist, neither option suited him. He smoothed down his hair, took off the jacket, and after taking one more look at himself turned off the light and left the house.

Rudi felt the cold snow through the soles of his dress shoes, and he stepped carefully so as not to dirty them. He had remembered last night to clean the seat of his truck, but when he opened the door what had seemed miraculous last night appeared the same as usual in the morning light. He went back inside and returned with a clean towel, which he laid on the seat. Before climbing in, he sniffed his underarms and patted his hair down again. After he started the engine, he sat for a while staring at the light reflecting off the snow.

When he got to the T-junction, he could see the Johansson chimney smoke disappearing into the white sky. One of the dogs loped down the drive, stopping as it recognised his truck. Rudi eased out onto the road, checking his chin in the mirror again before settling in for the long drive to town.

He arrived at the courthouse early, and not knowing what do with himself drove back the way he had come before stopping on the side of the road, the big engine idling quietly in the silence. The wind had picked up, and snow drifted across the black strip disappearing into the distance. His father had crashed near here, at the eighty-three mile marker, on a day not dissimilar to the one he found himself in now. He was coming home from town, mid-morning, after picking up a new saw mill blade from Mr. Miller. Rudi still bought his blades from Miller's Hardware, and he still called the man that ran it Mr. Miller.

The courthouse was off Main Street, and Rudi steered his truck into a space at the far corner. Judge Buford’s Buick was parked where it always was. The sheriff’s car took up two spaces. Not that it mattered. There were more spaces empty than full.

Inside, the hot air prickling at his cheeks, he smiled at Joan.

“I … we’re all so sorry, Rudi,” she said, looking up from her desk.

“It’s just the way things are nowadays,” he said. He fumbled with the buttons on his jacket.

Joan said, “Here, let me do that,” and stood up to adjust his tie and do up his top two buttons.

“There,” she said. “You go in there and hold your head up high.”

Rudi thanked her, and when he heard the bailiff call his name went into the courtroom.
Judge Swanson shuffled some papers on the bench, but otherwise the room was silent. Rudi sat and waited until he the judge asked him to stand while he read out the charges.

“Morning Rudi. You’re charged with cutting timber, cutting timber into panelling, selling timber panelling, and shipping to customers. This is summons 164096 … 59401. Lights please.”

The room darkened, and video footage of him working at the mill running lumber through the saw appeared on the screen. Before it finished, a woman with a strong Mexican accent yelled out, “Racist scum.”

The judge called for order. Rudi sat down and waited for it to be over.

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