Friday, June 18, 2010

Stanley's Difficult Divorces

That awful man had a brother I'll call Stanley, who went through a difficult divorce thirty years ago. He and his wife had started taking their arguments out into the front yard, for the entertainment of the neighbors I suppose, though apparently the neighbors did not appreciate the favor because they kept calling the police, quite promptly the afternoon Stanley didn't happen to be wearing clothes when the argument moved out to the yard. Anyway, I don't know that Stanley or his wife ever got physically violent, but even so, one of their spats made the front page of the newspaper just for the sheer melodrama of the event.

Stanley didn't want to be married any more, but he also didn't think the court or the state or anyone else had the try to tell him what to do or be with their fancy but meaningless sheets of paper, which is more commonly an argument against marriage than against divorce, but Stanley was an uncommon sort of guy. So when his wife got a lawyer and started the proceedings, Stanley got mad at the lawyer and the court and the state, and, in a fit of pique, told a crowd of people that he would kill his wife's lawyer. The lawyer happened to be in the crowd at the time.

Well, once I accidentally threatened to kill a guy if didn't stop clicking his pen. Anyone who has seen 12 Angry Men knows that these things slip out sometimes when we are pushed far enough, and they shouldn't necessarily be taken literally. The pen-clicker just laughed and stopped clicking. The divorce lawyer didn't stop the divorce, and he most definitely didn't laugh, having perhaps not been a watcher of black-and-white movies. Some people just aren't.

The next thing we knew, Stanley had been picked up and taken to the city jail, and here was the really interesting part: he wasn't charged with anything. He was just picked up and put into a cell. This was a pretty smart trick because if someone isn't charged with a crime, they don't get a case number, and consequently they aren't really in the system, and their case can't very well proceed.

Of course this is highly illegal, so the family could have gone in and protested, hired a lawyer, called the newspaper or something, but the fact is our lives were suddenly ever so much more peaceful with Stanley in jail we just didn't quite get around to saying anything to anyone about it.

If Stanley had used one of his daily phone calls to ask us to hire a lawyer, we'd have pooled our resources and done it, but Stanley had the same attitude about criminal law as he did about divorce law-- no one had the right to boss him around with their pieces of paper, even if it was in his best interest. So Stanley's daily phone calls were mostly about his philosophy of life, a subject which had gotten really tedious for us years and years and years earlier. Fortunately, since he called at the same time every day, we knew when it was him. And we compared notes and quickly figured out that he was working his way down his list. So for example if our phone rang, that awful man and I knew that his parents had decided not to take today's call, even though we knew darn well they were home this afternoon, and if we didn't pick up either, soon the phone at the next younger brother's house would be ringing, and so on down the list of relatives. The people lower down the list would complain about all the times we didn't pick up, but they didn't appreciate how rough it was for those of us closer to the top.

The jail had a little law library, and eventually Stanley petitioned for access to it. He spent months studying the law books, and then he wrote a letter to the state supreme court saying that he was being held in a city jail without being charged with a crime. He waited but didn't hear anything back, so he asked around for advice, and then wrote and sent another letter, this time including a self-addressed stamped envelope. That letter eventually came back with a note saying that the court had a policy of not responding to handwritten letters. So he petitioned for access to a typewriter, and hunted and pecked at the keys and repeatedly started over again until he finally had a legible letter. And a self-addressed stamped envelope. That letter eventually came back with a note saying that the court had a policy of not responding to single-spaced letters. So on and on it went. For over a year.

We wondered if some of this delaying tactic was a result of private conversations going on between the city people and state people. And we appreciated their efforts because as annoying and time-wasting as daily calls from Stanley were, they were not nearly as annoying and time-wasting as Stanley in person. But we all knew that eventually Stanley's protests were going to be heard by some higher authority who would disapprove of holding a man in jail without charge, and when that inevitable day seemed near, we braced ourselves for Stanley's release.

But then someone decided that Stanley was to be sent to get a mental health evaluation. And that this mental health evaluation was to take one year. We'd never heard of such a thing, but we all quietly decided that we could live with it. Then to our relief, the daily phone calls stopped. That was a wonderfully quiet year.

A year to the day after his arrival at the institution, Stanley was put into a car without explanation of where he was going, driven back to his home city, and put out on a street corner downtown with simple instructions: "Don't cause any more trouble."

It was too far to walk from there to his parents' house, and he didn't have a dime for a payphone. So when he spotted some Hari Krishnas chanting and dancing on the opposite street corner, he walked over and started to talk, and that evening he went home with them to their commune where he stayed until they couldn't stand it any more and kicked him out.

So yeah, that was a pretty difficult divorce.

Stanley's second wife was the sweetest, most gentle soul I've ever known. They didn't actually have a paper saying they were married because of Stanley's principles, but that marriage lasted nearly twenty years. For most of that time they lived over a thousand miles away, so the rest of the family didn't hear much of anything from or about them, But then one day recently Stanley called that awful man to ask for a ride and a place to live and please make it quick because his wife had hired a man to kill him.

So Stanley is back down south, and there was no talk of charging his wife with a crime because we all understand entirely, sympathize even, and we hope her recovery is progressing well.


  1. :-O Fantastic. Simply fantastic.

  2. Thanks, Apple. I looked for a way to include Stanley's years in the nudist colony, but that just didn't fit.



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