by B Craig Grafton
Tariq had been in the office before. When he incorporated his business, the convenience store. The convenience store in the black part of town where he was accused of being racist because he hired no black employees. But the law firm of Wallace and Wallace had resolved that matter quickly by holding a press conference with Tariq and all his family members—his wife, children, his niece—all present and pleading their case emphasizing that this was a family run business by people who had come to this country to escape the violence and poverty of the Middle East. The whole family worked there, even the children. It was a mom and pop business. You couldn’t get more American than that. They had meant no discrimination by not hiring blacks, it was just that they needed the family to work together to have their American dream come true. Dream must have been the magic was word that turned the tide of public opinion in their favor. They had a dream. My father was brilliant for thinking up that  strategy, recollected attorney Jonathan Wallace as he now waited to see what was Tariq’s legal problem today.

His wife was with him, with her scarf covering her head as was customary in her country. She had been in this country five years and still dressed as she always had. She had not adapted to the American style of clothing. Her apparel definitely told everyone that she was still a foreigner. Tariq on the other hand dressed as an American would dress—like his customers as he soon would be going back to work. It was the way that the third Palestinian dressed that took Jonathan by surprise, sixteen year old Lydia, the daughter of Tariq’s brother who was still in Palestine. A pretty girl with dark eyes and complexion but who had the look of a typical American teenager: tasteless and revealing. Her dye streaked hair, her tight jeans that hung low on her hips, held up by her big jewel studded black belt, her somewhat tight revealing tank top T shirt, her ear piercings and bling necklace all reminded Jonathan of Britney Spears, the pop recording artist, and not of an immigrant from Palestine. Lydia sat there obsessively tweeting on her phone, her teenage ‘don’t bother me’ attitude radiating from her body.

Tariq had legal guardianship of Lydia. Jonathan’s father had done that at considerable expense since so much foreign correspondence and translation was necessary in getting the consent of her parents in Palestine. Tariq gladly paid the fee since his father was a highly respected attorney and Tariq was one of those people who only bought the best—and therefore most expensive—of anything, including attorneys.

Now Jonathon, only five years a licensed attorney, sat before Tariq.

“Where is your father?” Tariq asked appearing somewhat nervous and upset.

“My father is on a pilgrimage in Israel,” replied Jonathan.

“Yes, I know that you are Polish Jews,” spoke up Tariq. “Jews are best lawyers. That’s why I hire your father and not that local Lebanese attorney. He’s Muslim, but not a good attorney.”

“I talk to my father daily and will discuss your problem with him tomorrow,” Jonathan assured Tariq. “How can I help?”

“My problem is Lydia. She’s been arrested for shoplifting. She is guilty. Look at her. There is nothing that I can do with her. She does not respect me, my wife, or our customs. She’s become defiant and has bad American friends. Now she is a criminal.”

“Tariq, is this her first offense?”

Tariq nodded yes. Lydia had never looked up from her phone the whole time, busy absorbed in her tweeting.

“Well then, what usually happens for first offenders is that she’s placed on a year of court supervision and ordered to do about 20 hours of community service. If she stays out of trouble for the year and does her twenty hours, the case is dismissed. It’s like it was never on her record. I’ll talk to my father about it, but I can assure you that he will recommend that.”

“Can you get court order keeping those two girls who she was arrested with away from her. They’re a bad influence.”

“No, the law doesn’t provide for that. After I have talked to my father, I will get back to you okay?”

“Okay,” said a reassured Tariq as he and his wife rose to leave. “Lydia we’re leaving now,’’ shouted Tariq as he shook  her to get her attention.

The next day Jonathan called his father, then Tariq.

“Tariq my father says to plead guilty and be put on court supervision as we previously discussed. I have also talked to the attorneys for the other two girls and they plan on doing likewise. So if that’s agreeable to you, we’ll do that. Okay?”

“Okay.” came the reply of relief.

“Have everyone at the courthouse half an hour before your court time and we’ll go over everything again. Also have her dress like she did when she was in the office the other day so that she looks like a typical teenager and so that all three girls will look alike and will all get the same result. Okay?”

“Of course she will dress like that. How can I stop her in this country?”

At Lydia’s court appearance everything went as planned. The judge accepted her plea and ordered court supervision. Tariq thanked Jonathan profusely and scowled at Lydia to do likewise. She mumbled a faint thank you, not looking at Jonathan.

As Jonathan closed his briefcase and prepared to leave, the judge called him to the bench.

“I see that your client has assimilated quite well, Jonathan.”

“Yes she has, your honor,” chuckled Jonathan as he and the judge watched Tariq grab Lydia by the arm and roughly escort her from the courtroom. “I wonder what she would have got for shoplifting in her old country?”

“Better that she is here and assimilated,” reflected the Judge.

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B Craig Grafton

The author’s stories have appeared in Romance Magazine, Frontier Tales, The Zodiac Review and The Fable Online.

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