Chapter 4

Written by: Ant Gavin Smits
A defensive rebuttal rises like vomit as she speaks, ready to spray across the table. Both barrels. How dare she argue? Whose car got almost totalled, side smashed in? I look down at the witness statement.
She thumps the table, anger swelling her presence. And then, behind her, a pin lets go of the wall and dives. It bounces off the tawa floor toward her chair. The poster slumps and a corner curls over like a wave breaking in slo-mo.
In that moment of distraction, I take a breath and regroup. No need to snarl; I have plenty of pins to hold up my argument. But I decide I’ll pass on the tea.
I pull myself more upright, the plastic seat groaning as I move. I flick my notes aside and take up the police report. I look towards Donna with eyebrows raised.
“Shall I answer?”
She isn’t looking at me. Donna is leaning toward Lucinda with empathy all over her pose. She stiffens slightly when I speak. Too snarky? Suck it up.
“Of course,” she says, allowing me a brief glance.
I run my finger down the police report’s tightly typed text. Why didn’t they make the boxes bigger? “It says the test administered by bla-bla-bla returned a blood alcohol reading of 0.12% BAC.” I look up at the destructor. “I’m not surprised you can’t recall what happened. The police told me, when I asked, that this is more than twice the legal limit. Have you done this before? Drunk driving, I mean.”
Lucinda’s upper body jerks. Her eyes widen, she sucks air. I’d rammed her confidence in the side. I hoped I’d written it off. I look back at the report to get the breathalyser test result number.
“You don’t have to remind me,” she sniffs. Donna is quickly on it, her hand crossing the distance to Lucinda’s like a rattlesnake striking. She squeezes the unbandaged wrist gently.
“Just wait a minute, Lucinda,” she says calmly. As she turns back to me, I see the warmth has melted.
“You’re not being very helpful, Barry. Lucinda is well aware of the alcohol issue.”
I am not really listening. I am watching Donna’s fingers caressing Lucinda’s. Their nail polish gleams. Are their pinkies discussing their manicure?
Restorative Justice suddenly seems appealing.
“You pleaded guilty,” I say. Was Donna angling for me to ask the judge to be lenient at sentencing? She hadn’t been in school with us, twenty years ago. Bullies shouldn’t be enabled. I mightn’t have split after graduation if big sis hadn’t been so jealous. I looked at the bloody bandage encircling Madeline’s sister’s wrist.
I smile, recalling the earlier, possibly serendipitous event. With luck, the pin is now pointing upwards, ready for a ride in one of Lucinda’s thin-soled shoes. I glance at the facilitator. Speak warmly, I tell myself. “Do you think Lucinda understands how hurt I felt?”
It’s true, I reflect. You never forget your first love, or the thing that pushed you apart.


This is so witty I smiled all the way through. You've captured the tone and added depth to the story. I can see that room and the occupants and all the baggage they brought with them. Well done and great to have you back.
That restorative justice moment is brilliantly captured. This chapter is so good.