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                           The Defendant

                            by Don Urbanus

The Judge looked down harshly at Don.  “The defendant may rise. Do you have anything to say before the court passes sentence?”  Don stood up, conspicuous in an orange jumpsuit, and looked around. His mother was crying softly, her face buried in a tissue, but everyone else in the courthouse eyed him coldly.
     “Your Honor, first, I would like to say that I’m sorry. I’d also like to explain the enormous pressure I was under running a nursery.  You worry about the weather, the bugs, leaf-spot and mildew, weeds, watering the plants, staking and pruning, plants getting overgrown, plants too small. And everyone wants to talk to the owner to see if they can cut a deal.  People want everything in bloom, even if the plants never get any flowers!  They want plants that bloom or have fall color all year, that never need to be pruned or watered, that never get any bugs or ever have to be sprayed or fertilized.  When you take them all over the nursery to show them what might work for them, they pull out a catalog from some Midwestern company that sells little twiggy trees, and they point to a picture and want to know if we can get that tree or bush for them. The strain just got too much for me, your Honor.  I….I’m sorry.”
     The Judge smirked.  “Oh, come now, Mr. Urbanus. You expect the court to believe that? Everyone knows how wonderful it is to work in a nursery. I myself would rather….well, never mind. In any case, you cold-bloodedly strangled that dear, sweet, little old lady and all she said to you was that she always wanted to work in a nursery.  I’m sure that half the people in this court would also love to work in a nursery and fill the shoes you so despicably soiled.  You are a disgrace to the nursery business.  Therefore, I sentence you to twenty years in the nearest federal penitentiary where I hope you will at least redeem yourself in the prison’s garden.”
     Don was led slowly away; chains dangling form his wrists and feet.  By that afternoon he was shoulder to shoulder with other dangerous felons, issued his prison blues and told to report directly to the warden.
     The warden appeared pleased.  “Says here you have a degree in horticulture.  Very impressive.  You used to work in a nursery?” the warden asked, not looking up from the papers on his desk.
     “Yes, sir.  I ran the entire operation,” Don answered softly, his whole manner subdued and remorseful.
     The warden gazed at Don with his cold blue eyes and thin lips, which were now breaking into a broad smile.  “You know,” said the warden thoughtfully, “I always wanted to work in a nursery.”
     Four guards had to pull Don off the warden.


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