The Courtroom was packed that Thursday. The air was thick with fear and tension by litigants who just did not want to be there, lawyers who were totally oblivious to their clients and who were more interested in thumbing their smartphones to check out the latest betting odds on World Cup rugby games, and Her Right Honourable Judge Jane Travesty who was on the verge of a mental breakdown and who spewed magma from her oral chamber:
“I am sorry Madam, but I just cannot see how you can cite your husband’s refusal to dress up in drag and go to his job at SARS as a valid ground for irretrievable breakdown. And your lawyer should know better than that. Mr Hardgrief please do not bring such cases before my Court. We are all aware of your amateur comedy career, but this is not an open mic venue. Matter stands down. Call the next case”.
I motioned to Arata to sit down next to me on the last wooden bench at the back of the Court. He was shitting himself. I whispered to him:
“Now Arata, you see over there. Where the wooden witness box is. When your case is called, you need to stand up and go there.” Pointing now to the bar where the lawyers were seated like magpies, I continued “I will be sitting there and I will turn around when they call your case and I nod, that’s the sign you must walk to the box. You understand?”
Arata seemed to be turning pale. All the stress of his blighted marriage seemed to be rising up from inside his spleen and converging in his brow. He had the face of a man that was either passing a kidney stone or was getting ready for war. I walked to the door of the Courtroom, gave the Judge the perfunctory bow, gave Arata one last look and then came back inside wearing my gown and walked towards the bar.
“In the matter of Arata Yakinoma vs Lingpong Yakinoma”.
Arata made his way to the witness box. He walked with purpose and was completely focused. Except it did not look like he was about to give evidence in Court.
“Can you please raise your right hand and say that you swear to tell the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help me God?”
Arata looked at me and I nodded slowly and mouthed the word “Yes”.
Judge Travesty was perplexed and intervened: “D o y o u u n d e r s t a n d E e e n g l i i s h, Mr Yakinoma?”
This wasn’t going well. I stood up and addressed the Judge: “may it please the Court m’lady, my client is visibly nervous and he is just settling in. May I ask the Court to give him some latitude?”
“Mr Varkel. We haven’t even got past the swearing in part and your client has already stumbled. Can your client understand English Mr Varkel?”
“I would say he can m’lady.”
“What do you mean you “would say he can”. He either can or cannot understand English.”
“I’ve seen him speak English to customers in his sushi restaurant. He definitely knows his salmon from his tuna m’lady.”
“Mr Varkel. Are you making a mockery of these proceedings? Now move along. Lead your client Mr Varkel.”
I was back up on my hind legs. I smiled at Arata. Actually, I almost burst out laughing but then immediately made myself think of my ex-mother-in-law which calmed me down quicker than 50mg of intravenous Xanax.
“Mr Yakinoma, do you consider Cape Town as your permanent home and fixed address?”
Arata looked desperately at me like an extra on a film set who had forgotten his five word dialogue. But then I could see it was about to come out in a raging torrent.
Arata looked at the Judge precisely as I had taught him when we were practising in the lane outside his sushi bar and said in a deadpan voice:
“Your huna. My name Arata Yakinoma. Commander of the Salmon of the North, General of the blowfish legions and loyal servant to the True Shogan, Arata No Otasan, father to a murdered Blue Fin Tuna, husband to a to be murder tomorrow wife, and I will have my vengeance in this life or the next.”
I was speechless. The Courtroom was dead quiet. The stenographer had keeled over on her desk. But that could have also been from last night’s Klipdrift brandy binge I thought. I could not look up at the Judge. I could not look down. I imagined fields filled with Afghan poppies and that AK47 again pointed at my balls. I was sweating. My blood pressure dropped lower than the rand/dollar exchange rate.
And then m’lady spoke. Well not in her usual caustic sarcastic tone, but in something that resembled a pyroclastic free flow:
“Mr Yakinoma. We are not holding auditions here for the Japanese version of Gladiator. Let’s take a ten minute recess. And Mr Varkel. In my chambers. Now!”
(scene from Barry Varkel’s “Nigiri Law” – to be continued…)