by John Grant
During the long course of my early twenties I have switched
to many careers in the hope of pursuing the red-blooded American
Dream of benefiting my fellow humanity, attracting babes, getting
Junior Rockets's autograph, making billions and being able to
piss on my landlord after all these years, but never once did it
cross my mind that the day would dawn when I'd decide to become a
It began, as do so many of my life-changing moments, with a
phonecall from my good friend Dave Knuckle. I was surprised to
hear from him in this way, because normally it is a case not of
him phoning me but of me phoning him and that with some
difficulty because of course for the past few months he's been on
the lam in various parts of the globe from a zealous FBI.
So when I picked up my Buffy the Vampire Slayer novelty
cordless telephone and, as always, paused for a moment as I tried
to remember which breast it was I was supposed to stick in my
ear, I assumed this would be just another call telling me I'd won
two free plane tickets to the destination of my choice. (Why
two, I always wonder. Why should I want to go to the same
place twice?) But I couldn't have been more wrong.
"Poopsie . . . er, Alan," vibrated a desperate voice against
my teeth. "Is that you?"
I switched breasts. "Yes. Dave?"
"None other. Look they've got me!"
"The feds. They said I could have one free phonecall to a
legal representative if I allowed them to smash me up a bit and
pull a couple of my front teeth."
"Seems fair enough," I said. "Dental charges are hell these
They must have hit him again, because he screamed.
"But why phone me?" I continued. "I'm not a lawyer."
"Because yours was the only phone number I could remember,
you cretin!" To someone else he added: "If you've got to attach
electrodes to one of them, could you make it the left? The other
has . . . sentimental attachments."
"I'm not a lawyer," I repeated.
"You could take a crash course!" he blurted. "Look, I gotta
go the doctor says it's time for me to drink eight quarts
of water and get my stomach jumped on."
"Wait!" I cried. "Where can I find you. Some kind of health
"I'm in Camp X-Ray Annex!" he howled. "It's in Elizabeth, New
Jersey. Just look for the nicest part of town and that's it.
I put the phone down, turned to my computer and surfed to
Yahoo, expertly navigating my way through AOL's diet of animated
popups offering me penis enlargement, organically grown viagra,
the lead stories in their World News section ("Jennifer Lopez
Cuts Toenails", "Bush Has Vocal Cords Extracted From Colon"), a
chance to make my views known in their new poll ("Which Britney
Spears song is the best single of all time?") and the chance to
hear the new Backstreet Boys release before it's deleted. Once at
Yahoo, a mere forty-five minutes later, I typed in my search
terms: "+law +'crash course' +'zero aptitude required' +cheap."
After I'd declined such was my devotion to good old
Knuckle's plight various exciting popup opportunities to
enjoy cheaper long-distance calls, a bargain offer for a Star
Wars Episode II all-in-one printer-fax-scanner-lightsaber,
and an exhortation from Pat Buchanan to take the Pledge, I was
given a list of 47 sites offering cheapo crash courses in the
The topmost of them, a company called Internal Sessions (not
to be confused with Inside Sections, which is about the sort of
Beyond the Appendix With Gun and Camera stuff that's been
happening to Alfred E. Bush), seemed to be offering the best
deal: all I had to do was send them the money and a team of
internationally renowned legislators and jurisprudence experts,
including tv personality Sir John "Napoleon" Ashcroft, would
carefully consider my application and send me a framable diploma
by return mail.
There was one big disadvantage to the Internal Sessions deal,
of course, which was that I didn't have any money. However, what
I did have was my landlord's credit card, foresightfully
purloined during his last visit to my apartment to reblock the
lavatory, and so I was able to enroll immediately on-line. No
sooner had I done so than a pdf opened containing the promised
framable diploma, complete with authentic signatures, so that I
could just print it out rather than having to wait for it by
It was a matter of moments to print the thing out
well, it would have been if my printer hadn't been a Compaq U650.
In the end I simply copied it out by hand every bit as
good and considerably cheaper than a cartridge and a half of
inkjet ink and determined to make my way to Elizabeth NJ
the following morning to see my good old buddy in his cell.
I found Camp X-Ray Annex as easily as Dave had suggested
it was the part of Elizabeth that lacked smog and,
after the mere formality of a CAT scan to make sure I wasn't
harboring any dangerous thoughts, was ushered into a visiting
room. Not long after, Dave crawled cheerily in, his head tangling
merrily among his manacles behind him.
"I see you're keeping your spirits up, anyway," I said.
"As well as can be expected for a man who's had his groin
used as a dartboard." he shrilled. "Have you decided to take my
"Of course," I said. "Look, try and get as many bits of
yourself onto this chair as you can and make yourself
comfortable, and we can have a chat. First of all, what have you
actually been charged with?"
"Nothing," he said. "If they charged me with anything they'd
have to admit the possibility I'm innocent, and so they'd have to
stop torturing me, grant me access to a lawyer and . . ."
I interrupted. "Wait a moment, I thought I was your
"Er, yes," he said. "But not officially. As far as the
authorities are concerned, I'm not entitled to a lawyer at all. I
was only able to get you in here by claiming you were my mother."
"Um," I said. "Well, what is it that they say you did? It
must have been something pretty heinous for them to have spent
all these months chasing you across several continents."
He shrugged, with disastrous effect. "What I did was I
referred to George W. Bush as 'Ol' Bumface'."
I sucked in my breath. This was more serious than I had
thought. "And they took exception to your saying he was old?"
"Ah, no, Alan," sighed Knuckle. "It was, er, the other bit.
Look, you couldn't help me tuck this lung back in, could you?"
"That's ridiculous!" I exclaimed, complying. "How on earth
could they object to that? I mean, you only have to look over
your shoulder at yourself in the mirror, checking for privily
lurking zits, to see that . . ."
"Hush!" implored Knuckle urgently. "Walls have ears, you
know. And since yesterday two of them have been mine."
I took the diversion of his cerebral cortex falling off the
chair onto the floor as an opportunity to change the subject.
"How did they catch you, anyway?"
He spat a tooth in disgust. "It's a long story, but . . .
well, basically, I blame Britney Spears."
"As do we all," I responded understandingly. I've found that
playing her records is very useful for eradicating cockroaches,
but not very much else. "How did it happen?"
"I was tempted, fool that I am, by all the publicity for this
new restaurant of hers in Manhattan's scenic Eleventh Avenue
district," he said mournfully. "You must have heard of it. The
Britney's-A-Go-Go. A very upper-class joint -- the topless
waitresses wear genuine sequins, not yer tatty paste jobs, and
she's drafted in a French chef from the Hoboken Chicken McNuggets
"Oh, that French chef," I said. "The guy Sir John
Ashcroft was saying only recently had been plotting to plant a
dirty bomb in New York."
"The very one," confirmed Knuckle. "Look, could you turn my
eyes contemplatively towards the ceiling for a moment? it
adds to the atmospherics. Anyway, it seems that Sir John was
actually right about something for once, because, when Britney
gave this guy his opportunity to do just exactly that, he seized
it. I was one of the innocent-bystander victims. I sat down and
ordered from the Noovle Quizzin Boom Bang A Bang Menu, as it was
called, and soon afterwards a tasty plate of BouchÇe de Moulu
Boeuf en Sauce RelevÇe de Tomate dans un Bun Frais avec Pommes de
Terre Frites Ö la Franáais was set in front of me."
"Sounds delicious," I said.
"Better than McDonalds, anyway. They took the paper off.
Well, I had a couple of mouthfuls of these succulent viands and
abruptly had the most overwhelming or, rather, upwhelming
urge to rush to investigate the possibilities inherent
behind the door they'd thoughtfully labelled 'Vomitoire Ö
l'Hommes'. It was while I was in there, having powerblasted my
way through the line and totally out of control of my mental
functions, that as ill luck would have it the feds busted the
place. I think they'd heard that Britney was a dealer in this new
street-drug you hear so much about, Virginity, but they couldn't
get any evidence against her so they settled for picking up the
small fry instead in other words, me."
"The swine!" I breathed.
"Initially I supported their actions, tell you the truth,"
said Knuckle with a shudder. One of his eyes went rolling off
towards the corner. "With a yell of 'Collateral Damage!' they put
a couple dozen rounds into the karaoke machine and did us all a
favor. It was only later . . ." After a moment he added: "The
cockroaches seemed pretty pleased, too, for some reason."
"This 'Bumface' accusation," I said. "Are you actually
"Then" the reluctant exhalation whistled through my
teeth "I don't see as there's how I can do much for you
except plea-bargain, should the case ever come to court. I might
be able to get the death sentence commuted down to a mere 180
years' solitary confinement breaking rocks, hammer not supplied.
But, to be perfectly frank with you, Dave, that's probably about
the best I can do."
He groaned resignedly. "I'd expected as much. I'll just have
to do my time, I guess get it all over at once, in other
words. Could you ask for offenses of Bumface-calling against six
former Presidents, twenty-eight assorted Prime Ministers,
seventeen fascist dictators, two Popes, Martha Stewart and the
Sultan of Brunei to be taken into consideration as well?"
"I'd keep quiet about the Martha Stewart bit if I were you,"
After a brief discussion of legal fees, I left him for the
guards to clear up as best they could and came back here to my
apartment. Of course, I'll be moving from this dump soon. Since
Dave's case won't come to trial for years, if ever, and since
he not being allowed a lawyer I have nothing I can
do except collect my fat monthly retainer from his offshore
account, I feel it important that my new-found status in the
legal profession be reflected by a move to somewhere more
salubrious. The Upper East Side, perhaps.
But, just in case you should all think I've sold out in any
way by joining the Establishment, I must add that it's not all a
barrel of laughs being a lawyer. No sirree! For example, I've
been totally, totally, totally unable to find Junior
Rockets's telephone number anywhere . . .