The four seasons sat sullenly in the section reserved for the accused.
Spring, Summer and Autumn had all appeared as a show of moral support for their ancient uncle, Old Man Winter but the case against the old man was a good one and the Citizens of the North were thirsty for blood. They had had it up to the trap door of their union suits with the harsh treatment they had received winter after painfully long winter and now it was time for justice. The courtroom was soaked in anger and frustration and a mob mentality had the officers of the court on edge. The citizens of the north had come to the township hall with one common goal: to see the old man run out of town once and for all.
The job of defending him had fell on my shoulders and being new to the North the rest of the staff ducked this case until I naively came forth and volunteered. I had always liked the old guy and had no real beef against him so I found it an unobjectionable task.
Spring sat there in his muddy boots. One cuff of his trousers was tucked into his sock and the other sat crumpled around the top of his unlaced Sorel. His long limbs seemed naked and tree like, somewhat out of place as he uncrossed his arms and blew his perpetually runny nose. He called it a transitional cold, one that sprung from too many temperature changes. His cheap Hawaiian shirt was open at the neck by two buttons, as if he wasn’t freezing in the presence of Old Man winter and he had somewhere to go to beat the cold. Funny thing about this gangly looking fellow. In spite of his slovenly appearance and oversize structure he held a certain promise or potential of better things to come and when he stood up he always looked shorter than when he was seated. Then again, Spring (or Bud as the others called him) always seemed longer than he actually was.
Old Man Winter gazed over his shoulder at the three knowing full well they were all in cahoots but he would take the blame if he had to. He winked at Summer.
Ah, Summer. Her bare shoulders were tanned from her days at the beach and her blond streaked hair was pulled up into a pony tail and hung over the back of a golf visor. She was perpetual youth and the Citizens loved her. However, If one looked closely, gnats, mosquitoes and deer flies could be seen buzzing around her beautiful countenance and sometimes her breath fairly dripped with the humidity. When she cried, it was usually soft and gentle but without a warning she could turn into a full fledged raging torrent. Luckily that was only when she was too close to Spring or Autumn. She gazed longingly at Autumn.
Autumn was, as usual, decked out in beautifully bright colors. His powerful physique was that of a hunter. If ever the Creator had epitomized a man’s man it would, without a doubt, be Autumn. The air of Autumn was the essence of existence. Unlike Spring as the harbinger of Summer it had a separate freshness that inspired and energized all who would partake of it.
However, in spite of his strength and power he exuded a certain sadness. It was almost fatalistic in a knowledge of impending loss. The death of all that is green and warm. The end of life itself. But he carried his sadness with dignity and it served the Citizens of the North year after year to take note of his demeanor and digest it as if it were the perfect teaching metaphor for keeping life in perspective.
The gavel sounded as the Judge was seated. It would be a bench trial not requiring a jury for at this late date no impartial Citizens could be found. The prosecution began its case and immediately began
sitting instance after instance of power outages, school closings, hazardous travel, and astronomically high utility bills. People were fed up with him showing up in October and not leaving until May. Even his appearance offended them. With his white flowing beard and weather beaten face he looked too much like the wizened characters of A long and best forgotten era. It was as if he carried snowshoes under his down parka wherever he went and was anxious to use them. He was the unwanted relative who never seemed to know when he had overstayed his welcome.
Witnesses were brought forth to testify and the derogatory comments regarding the old man’s behavior were unfit for a well-driller’s ears. I had been anxious to bring snowmobiliers, ice fishermen and skiers to the stand but there were none to be found, It was later learned they were outside busily enjoying the benefits of Old Man Winter’s making.
The Prosecution had rested and I was ready for my moment in the “sun” so to speak.
“Old Man Winter” I began, “stirs the wild depths of the human spirit. When you see the winds blowing across the fields only to sculpt into beautiful drifts accompanied by the music of his sonorous whistling something primeval is pulled forth into the conscious mind.”
“Objection!!” shouted the Prosecutor, “the defendants attorney is engaging in cheap prose and is obviously avoiding reality!”
“Stick to the facts, young man!” scolded the Judge. “Objection sustained.”
Fortified by the challenge, I resumed my monologue.
“Who among us has not gazed on the fresh fallen snow and for a moment seen life in its virginal state, untouched by mankind. Who has not ventured forth with a sense of awe and responsibility as they became the first to lay their tracks upon a picture perfect canvas. Who among us has..”
“He’s doing it again!” interrupted the prosecutor.
“Overruled.” sighed the judge. “Now I’m curious where this is leading. But beware young man, this better be good.”
I stared calmly into the Judge’s eyes with a knowing look of confidence.
“When we speak to our relatives and friends who have fled to the southern climes and with a chuckle they complain to us of a cold snap in the 60’s we endure. They say it sarcastically as if we are fools and should be packed and on our way south abandoning all that is sacred and beautiful around us.
“How often have we seen something that has been a part of our everyday experience when suddenly it is stripped of surrounding foliage and it appears to the insular eye as a thing of undiscovered beauty. Or to be traipsing about on snowshoes in an area that was previously unreachable. Winter makes explorers and poets out of us. We discover things in a raw and natural state that only Old Man winter can reveal.” I glanced apologetically at Autumn but his serene expression never wavered as if he knew I would have to say things to hurt him and he accepted that.
“Winter has made us stronger, made survivors of us. Old Man Winter is the son of the ice age.” At this comment, the prosecutor rolled his eyes. “Early man adapted and survived in spite of the glacial onslaught. Old Man Winter has taught us to rise up and meet challenges from within our souls that redefine our sense of existence. This white fringed master of the season, I leveled my gaze back on the judge, makes us, no..demands that we appreciate the other three seasons. We endure for the sole opportunity of starting over.” Spring sat up and smiled, suddenly dignified. “Old Man Winter requires that we live or perish. Keep moving or freeze. Winter has taught us that if you survive me, you can survive! But” I exclaimed with a warning tone, “If we opt to wait it out indoors we become addled and crazy with cabin fever. Even the Senior Citizens of the North who have the means to retreat to a warmer setting but choose to stay, look at them, there is a glow of life that burns from within and they are busy living life not listening for the final countdown. They are sustained and they owe it...I owe it..we all owe it ” I turned and pointed to my client, “to him. Old Man Winter.”
The Judge broke down in tears. The Prosecuting Attorney threw his hands up in dismay while the spectators in the crowd stood and cheered. I had done it. Now it was only a formality. The Judge smacked his gavel and half crying declared..”the defendant is cleared of all charges..case dismissed.”
I collapsed into a chair and reached out my hand to the old man. He took it in his icy grip and shook it vigorously. “I knew you could do it.” he bellowed.
His breath bit into my face and fresh tears flooded my eyes. I turned away nodding my head, “I believe in you.” I replied.
As the courtroom emptied the Citizens filed by and patted me on the shoulder.
“Come on out to the farm,” I heard one say, “we’re havin’ a sleigh ride.”
“Rabbit huntin’ tomorrow!” said another.
In a bigger sense my task was complete. People were getting back outdoors and enjoying Winter.
When it seemed too much time had gone by I looked up...the courtroom was empty . I slowly made my way to the exit. Out in the parking lot mine was the lone automobile waiting patiently under a freshly fallen blanket of snow. The soft street lights by the town hall were the solitary beacons of geography and cast a beautiful illumination on the snow as it descended from the darkness above only to dance through the spotlight and fall to the earth below. I shuffled carelessly through the powder and was jerked to a halt by a familiar old voice.
“Thanks again,” said the old man, his voice carried aloft on a stiff north wind. With a spring in his ancient step he slid over to me and with grandfatherly affection took me in his arms and hugged me. I felt a chill go through my bones and shivered uncontrollably. “I must be off,” he whispered and like that, he was both everywhere and gone.
I brushed the snow off my truck and climbed into the driver’s seat. Finding the correct key I inserted it into the ignition and turned it. “IdonwannaIdonwanna” the battery complained then clicked a few times in dying defiance. The streets as well as the parking lot were deserted and I resigned myself to either a long wait or a long walk in the falling snow. I laughed to myself and thought, “Oh well, sometimes the guilty go free.”