The Euripides Tree This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

August 31, 2010
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When I was growing up, I somehow always knew I would end up here, one way or another. Heck, I’d been told that since the time I was born. “Your daddy left you, your momma’s a drunk, you’ll end up in a bad place someday, Tamiah.” I knew this was coming. I just didn’t think it would happen like this.

“I spent most of my teenage years trying to live up to expectations. Everyone expected me to be just another girl from a run-down neighborhood, someone you didn’t want to mess with. So that’s who I became, appearance-wise anyway. That’s why I got my nose, eyebrow, and tongue pierced. I got tattoos all up and down my arms, on my back, ankles, wrists. My hair is always either blue or red, depending on the mood I’m in that month. I never went to college, having just barely passed high school. I needed to look out for my sisters anyhow. I had to take care of them since our mom is in no condition to, and I wasn’t going to leave or do something stupid to mess that up. So by the time I hit the drinking age, I went off to fulfill another expectation, and got a job at the dirtiest bar in town. Cooper’s.

“And that’s where I was that night. It was late; around closing time, and I was starting to clean up. The bar was practically empty, but a few people were hanging around. I was thinking that I was gonna have to kick ‘em out so I could go home. Three men, in business suits and briefcases were sitting towards the back of the room. They had been there for a while; I remembered when they walked in, because we didn’t usually get the white, businessy type at this bar. They were having a whispered discussion, I assumed about money and such. They only person besides me there at the time was another weird customer; Rich white girl, sweater, pearls, blonde hair and all. She had been sitting in the back for hours, looking worried or anxious about something, but I’d bet you my nights pay that she hadn’t ordered a single drink.

“ So, as I said, it was close to closing time, so I was starting to clean up. I headed to the back room to get out some beers for the next day. As I was lifting down the crate, I heard a huge bang, like a gunshot, and I dropped the crate on the ground. The beer bottles exploded, shards of glass falling all over the floor. I ran across the room to find out what had happened, stepping on broken glass on the way. I heard screams as I burst through the door. ‘What is it?’ I screamed. ‘What was that noise?’ I whipped my head around, searching for the source of the blast.

And that’s when I saw it.”

“Saw what, exactly?” asked the lawyer, who was pacing in front of me. “Describe for us what you saw after you left the back room.”
I swallowed noisily, and fingered the edges of my skirt, which was exactly what my lawyer told me not to do. “It makes you look guilty,” he said. “Don’t fidget.” But the lawyer was walking back and forth like a prowling lion, and being on the stand was 100 times more pressuring than the practice sessions in jail. Especially when you’re the meat, and the lion is going in for the kill.

“Well, the first thing I saw was the body.”

“Whose body?”

“At the time I only knew it was one of the guys in a business suit, but now I know it was Emery Tanner.”
“And how did the body look?”
“It had blood all over, and it looked like someone had shot him from the back.”
“Who else was at the scene, and what were they doing?”
“The gun was lying by the feet of the white gir-“
“I did not ask you where the gun was, Ms. Harding, I asked you what the other people in the bar were doing.”
“The white girl, Jenny Mason, was screaming, really loud, and she had run over to see if the man was alright. One of the men, David Gardener, I guess, was standing near the body, not saying anything… he didn’t even look affected by it. His colleague was crouching near the body, trying to see whether he was alive or not, and he was kinda gasping, or hyperventilating.”
“And what happened then, Ms. Harding?”
“Well, I don’t know what everyone else was doing, because I fainted right about then.”
“Right, you fainted. And was that how the police found you when they arrived at the scene?”
“According the reports that came back from the lab, there were no fingerprints found on the gun. However, forensic scientists were able to figure that the angle at which Emery Tanner was hit, the bullet must have been shot from somewhere at the front of the room. Near the bar. According to your account, Ms. Harding, you were the only one near the front of the bar, weren’t you?”
“Yes, but-“
“And isn’t it true that Mr. Tanner had great sums of money in his wallet at the time of his death?”
“Yeah, bu-“
“And haven’t you and your family been struggling to pay your bills for the past few months? Isn’t it true that money like that would have helped out your family tremendously?”
“It would have helped, but I never would have-“
“So why wouldn’t you murder him?”
I exploded.
“I have a question for you, Mr. Eurydice. Why was I convicted, besides the fact that some guys decide I was the only one who could have shot him? Why would I shoot a complete stranger? I didn’t even have a gun! Why not blame the white girl, who had the gun sitting at her feet? Or the businessman who didn’t seem to care his friend was dead? Why walk in there and arrest me, when there were also three other people at the scene? Why aren’t they up here with me? Why was I the only one arrested?”
My voice had risen, and the people in the jury were starting to mutter. My lawyer glared at me from where he was seated. I had broken practically every one of his rules, and probably ruined the whole case, his and mine. But I needed to know. As my heart pounded and my cheeks flushed, I was sitting on the edge of my seat, waiting for his answer. Why, out of four people, would the police automatically arrest me?
The lawyer seemed unfazed by my outburst, and walked calmly towards where I sat on the stand.
“I have one question for you, Ms. Harding. If you were thrown in that situation, with the four possible suspects, and you needed to arrest one, who would you choose?”
His question was answered by silence.
I considered the possible suspects, as if I was just a spectator, someone who wasn’t personally involved. Someone whose life and the life of her sisters weren’t hanging on the line by this trial. Just four complete strangers. Would I convict a blond girl who was driven to hysterics by a brutal murder? Would I arrest the man who was on the floor, trying to save his friends life? Would I handcuff the man who stood in utter silence, most likely from shock? Or would I arrest the girl with tattoos, blue hair, and piercings? The girl whose clothes looked like they hadn’t been washed in three days? The girl whose mother was an alcoholic? The girl who worked at a bar? The girl who no one wanted to mess with?
“No further questions,” said the lawyer as he sat back down, and I knew why.

I would have convicted me, too.

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