by Paul Beckman


The veil is lifted from the bride’s face and the groom is holding her cheeks and staring into her eyes—she’s staring back into his and they’re both smiling. The picture  isn’t crystal clear there’s a film, watery coating to it which makes it all the more  romantic and as the attorney speaks the couple slowly recedes and we see that it’s tear shaped and now an eye with the tear below it—only the one eye—the one tear—the one vision of them getting ready to seal the bargain with a kiss but the kiss doesn’t happen and the tearful woman is sitting between her parents and the attorney who’s speaking loudly and with disdain walks in front of them and they along with the watchers are blurry and the lawyer with his buckskin fringed jacket, eel skin boots, belt buckle the size of a radiator, and long hair with gray eyebrows hanging like awnings slams his hand  on his desk. Everyone including the judge jumps. The lawyer’s in perfect focus, everyone else visible but out of focus suggesting a wide open lens and the banging of the gavel by the judge pulls back to him showing the clear gavel and now the lawyer is out of focus with the rest of the courtroom including the jury. “Keep the antics down, Counselor,” the Judge says and as he says this his lips are in focus as are his mustache and van dyke beard. We see he has amalgam fillings but he speaks with authority and then we watch the face of juror after juror–twelve of the “peers” of the accused. Can they really be peers? There should be a better more inclusive word but they each have a serious look.

“Admit you did this dastardly deed out of jealousy and let these good people get on with their lives. It’s going to end up that way and you know it,” the Cowboy Counselor says and now the lens is down to the smallest opening and everyone’s in focus. The parents of the dead almost-groom are crying, their shoulders heaving, but they are soundless.

“Please take off your suit coat,” the attorney says and the defense attorney objects and the judge shoots a black paintball at him signifying overruled and splattered once again the lawyer sits in humiliation and is passed a towel.

“Now take off your shirt and if you have one on take off your undershirt.”

The defense attorney begins to rise to object, the camera focuses on the judge reaching for his paint gun, and the attorney sits without saying anything.

The defendant is a kaleidoscope of colors until the camera pulls back and into focus comes a picture of a bride and groom and the defendant is the groom and the bride is the widow and like a slide show a white picket fence tattoo is shown, little kids playing, the two of them smiling and a honeymoon scene. And now the cowboy lawyer asks how long he’d dated the widow and he says he’s never met her–only seen her from the office window across the alley and knew they belonged together until this interloper ruined their life plans and he had to show his love and the interloper had to go.

The gavel bangs, the foreman of the jury stands the uniforms walk over and handcuff the killer, the drive to the penitentiary, the cell, the gurney with the killer strapped down and the tear is back in focus and the groom holding the bride’s cheeks and staring into her eye’s—her staring back into his but this time neither is smiling.



Paul Beckman has two story collections, Peek and Come! Meet My Family and Other Stories. Paul has had over 300 of his stories published in print, online, and via audio in the following magazines as well as others: Literary Orphans, Connecticut Review, Playboy, Matter Press, Litro, Thrice Fiction, The Airgonaut, Jellyfish Review, and R.K.V.R.Y.. He blogs at