NYC FF

Political Satire – Courtroom – EpiPen

Breath of Life

by

Jeanie Fritzsche

Entering the courtroom, Judge Crocker takes the bench and addresses the jury.

“Good morning,” he says. “As you learned in voir dire yesterday, this case concerns the plaintiffs, Grandparents Against Spurious Policies, or GASP, versus the San Respira School District.

“We have Ms. Susan Spires representing GASP, Mr. Arthur Whiffen for the school district. Counselors, are you ready to begin?”

They are. Ms. Spires, a tall, reedy woman, approaches the jury.

“Good morning, ladies and gentlemen,” she begins. “This is a simple case, a case that gets to the heart—not to mention the lungs—of our most precious commodity: children. The San Respira District has issued a demand – an ultimatum! – that our children, our grandchildren, be required to have one of these,” she whips a small, metal cylinder from her pocket and holds it aloft, “registered in the school nurse’s office at all times.

“This,” her voice trembles, “is an EpiPen. What, you ask, is an EpiPen?”

Ms. Spires steps toward the jury box, brandishing the canister before her like a crucifix. “A vial of epinephrine. And do you know what epinephrine is? It’s SPEED! That’s right! A highly addictive amphetamine! And the San Respira School District is ordering children to bring “speed” to school, requiring it be registered in the school office at all times!”

She leans in close to Juror #5, his eyes crossing to focus on the canister. Emphasizing each word, she repeats, “No child may attend school without this.”

The jurors, alerted by the quiver in her voice, now become distracted by the sound of an quick, airy puff. The judge has dipped his head behind the bench, popping back up to exhibit a sheaf of papers.

“Oops,” he says. “Dropped this. Proceed, Ms. Spires.”

She continues, “There is no justifiable reason for children to be required to bring EpiPens to school. In fact, EpiPens have been shown to cause irregular heartbeats, nervousness, feelings of over-excitement. I ask you – do school children need to feel overexcited? Aren’t they already overexcited enough? Ask any teacher!

“Another concern,” she continues, removing the lid from the canister and pointing to the small black tip, “this is a needle! EpiPens are administered by sticking needles into young children. Do you want school personnel sticking needles into your child? And one more thing . . .”

Another series of puffs – two, three, four – from the bench. Ms. Spires glances at the judge, who nods curtly for her to proceed.

“EpiPens have been shown to cause . . .” Reaching under the dais, she pushed a button, a screen descends, “AUTISM!”

Projected across the courtroom is the magnified photograph of a boy, perhaps ten years old, curled on the floor staring fixedly at his wriggling fingers.

The jury gasps.

Leaving the photo for all to consider, Ms. Spires cedes the floor.

Mr. Whiffen rises from his table, snaps off the projector and turns to the jury.

“That child is not autistic,” he says, his confidence evident in his Hugo Boss suit, his Testoni shoes, his insouciant smirk. “That is a PhotoStock picture, available online. I happen to know for a fact that that child is blind, not autistic. And blindness is NOT a side effect of the EpiPen.

“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, this is a very simple case.”

More puffs from the bench.

“The San Respira School District recognizes that, with smog levels rising and global warming increasing pollens, life-threatening asthma and other pulmonary disorders are on the rise. Children, nature’s most vulnerable victims, can develop symptoms overnight. It’s not unheard of for them to come to school perfectly healthy and BAM!!” – he smacks his hands together – “go into pulmonary failure by the end of math class.”

The jury has begun to lean in toward Mr. Whiffen, finding it difficult to hear him over the sonorous wheezing from the front of the courtroom. The sudden smack jolts them back.

Ms. Spires rises from her seat, requesting to approach the bench. Mr. Whiffen joins her at the bar and a heated discussion ensues. While the jury can hear only snippets of the conversation – “recuse yourself . . .,” “obviously atomizer. . .,” “unfair advantage. . .,” – they see that the judge is having none of it. A curt snap of his wrist sends the lawyers to their places.

“As I was saying,” Mr. Whiffen addresses the jury, then looks pointedly at his opponent, “we cannot foresee when a child may experience sudden-onset respiratory problems. Without lifesaving medication readily available, death could follow in minutes. It is well within the purview of the District to require the appropriate medication be on hand.”

While the jury appears unsure about the District’s “purview”, Whiffen is confident they understand that anyone who can afford the shoes he wears knows what he is talking about.

“Further,” Mr. Whiffen continues, glancing down at what is, in fact, a blank piece of paper, “County Code 439.673 requires ‘Issues of public health and safety are legislated by parties falling under administrative reliance upon hierarchical and representational arbitration.’”

No one, including Judge Crocker and Ms. Spires, suspects that Mr. Whiffen has invented the supposed “code” on the spot. About to ask the attorney to clarify his citation, the judge opens his mouth but can phonate only the most aspirated wheeze. As he pounds his chest, his eyes roll to the back of his head.

Arnie, the bailiff, rushes forward. Reaching into his pocket as Judge Crocker slides to the floor, he pulls out the EpiPen auto-injector that he keeps for just such emergencies. He removes the safety cap and jams the tip into the judge’s fleshy thigh.

The jury cringes.

Within minutes, as all in the room wait with bated breath, Judge Crocker’s own breathing relaxes. He sits up and nods at Arnie, who eases him back to his chair.

With a slight rasp remaining in his voice, the judge surveys the courtroom. Looking squarely at Ms. Spires, he asks, “Do I hear a motion to dismiss?”