6.29.2009

the verdict



Harmon rose from his seat. The heavy oak chair scrubbed against the pine floor and echoed loudly he thought, probably because the standing room only crowd were all watching him and the chair made the only sound in the tall, lantern lit chamber.

The storm that had been raging for nearly an hour had subsided, but water still dripped from palm fronds just outside the now open windows. The heavy downpour was so loud on the tin roof during the storm that both Harmon and his opponent were now hoarse from making their oral arguments in their loudest voices.

The rain eased as Corbett Thomas made his closing argument. Then it was Harmon who would speak as the silence of a fresh rain washed earth wrapped the tiny pioneer building and then settled out across Gatorbone Lake.

Harmon waited, then walked slowly across the room to the opposite corner, gathered up an easel and the cloth covered frame it held, and walked over to where a dozen people sat motionless under kerosene lanterns and in front of open windows. He knew each one of them could feel the rain cooled night air spill in the windows and across the back of their necks. He knew they did not want to be there making this decision. He could make it easy for them.

He stood before the dozen and looked each one in the eye with no discerning emotion. He just looked at them, slowly, one and then the other. Then in once single graceful motion he lifted the cloth from the image as said simply “How could this be called anything else?”

For years and years as the story was told, it was Harmon’s final question that was credited with a verdict being rendered nearly instantaneously:
It is a Sunflower.

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