Mr. Supial had it in for me.
I knew his intentions weren’t good when I heard a soft knock, opened my apartment door and saw what was outside. It was a koala—a plush specimen holding some official-looking papers.
At first, I didn’t take the bear seriously. I had a Tasmanian devil-may-care attitude. But after the creature had subpoenaed me, I knew I was in deep manure.
Later, when I showed up for my court date, I could see the jury was stacked. Six wallabies and a panda crowded the box.
The front of the courtroom looked no better. The judge was an old kangaroo, with a graying pelt and a sagging tail. The bailiff was a seven-footer, straight from the grasslands.
There I was, barely more than a young kangaroo, a joey, having to defend myself before Mr. Supial.
The judge thumped his jumpers on the table, and the court came to order. “How do you plead?” he asked me.
“Not guilty, your ear-ness,” I replied.
The wallabies and panda remained silent while the attorneys—one with a white belly, the other with a black nose—faced off.
“Are you a regular joey or not?” one asked me.
“I don’t recall,” I said.
“Does the document before you refresh your memory as to whether you are a regular joey or not?”
I stared at the koala’s summons. “I haven’t a clue,” I insisted.
“Well, were your parents kangaroos?”
“Yes,” I said, “but they came from two different species.”
“Aha! Then you admit you are a kanga-mule, not a regular joey!”
“Look,” I said. “I have a friend named Joey, I drink joe, and I even play the banjo. So I must be a regular joey.”
To prove my point, I hopped around the courtroom. When I got to the jury box, I balanced, tripod-like, on my hind legs and tail.
The judge pounded his thumper. “This point is moot!” he snorted.
He turned to the jury. “You may return to your savanna,” he said.
Fixing his large-pupiled eyes on me, he said, “It’s a wasteland out there. Mean red kangaroos come in every herd, and not all of them are diurnal. Let me give you some advice: Look before you leap!”
The stiff-eared bailiff gave me a nod, and I hightailed it out of there.
Thaddeus Rutkowski is the author of seven books, most recently Tricks of Light, a poetry collection. He teaches at Medgar Evers College and received a fiction writing fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts.