The The Pen, Sword And Wreath
by .....© 1997 by John F. Clennan, All Rights Reserved
Of this story, the author says;The Story
This was written in response to
D. Grant DeMan's The Wrench, The Knife, the Gun and the Needle, but is dedicated to the Legislators of the state of South Carolina, those who had the courage to say the stars and bars should remain over their capitol as well as to those who had the wisdom to put it away.
One of my few faithful readers JAGIU@webtv.net writes, “ I like the inside view in the Tales Out of Court, but why are all the stories so sad?”
I didn’t mean to paint a dismal picture of my early days in law. In my early work, with prisoners in parole revocations gave opportunities for fun even when using the tools of the legal profession the pen, the sword and the wreath.
The bleakness is just a part of the times.
The year was 1983. That autumn for unclear reasons the U.S. attacked the
island nation of Granada. Even in Hunter Point Correctional Facility, a
factory building turned over to warehouse parolees spirits soared as the
gloom of recession years receded.
In the windowless second floor corridor leading to Hunters Point’s hearing
room, Ms. Eileen Kynd, the regularly assigned Legal Aid Lawyer, sashayed in
flowing skirts between ranks of grisly parole officers pouring over wrinkled
tabloids for the latest news of great victories ‘Over There,’ wherever
Granada was, as they waited for their hearings.
Maybe as I reflect back on hours struggling for comfortable repose in bubble
gum crusted plastic chairs lined against cheerless cinderblock walls, part
of the gloom was the place: Hunterspoint Correctional Facility, an old
factory building converted into a prison. A row of plastic chairs on either
side of windowless cinderblock narrowed the passageway. As Mr. Bridges the
robust turnkey who escorted visitors passed, Ms. Kynd seductively leaned
toward her more patriotic opponents to make way.
Military Police Blotter
was published by the legendary
Inditer Dot Com
Against advancing illness and frustration which the legal system
imposed, Bill Loepkey promoted literature and culture on the
internet. It is no small recognition that his countrymen
have hono[u]red Bill in their Bibliotek Nationale.
I leaned back in my plastic chair to enjoy Ms. Kynd banter about the war.
In 1983, time was on my side. Paid per diem by the city to represent
inmates the Legal Aid Lawyer rejected, I was rewarded for my snooze. And
that year saw no end to hopeless immigrants and Vietnam Veterans snared in
the dragnet sweeps of city streets.
“Troop all the Vietnam Veterans out of this jail alone,” Ms. Kynd taunted,
“and you can add another regiment to your attack on nowheresville - for
whatever reason you want it.”
The parole officers, garnished in plaid flannel, and corduroy, delighted in
testing Ms. Kynd.
“ Red witch.”
“Uncle Ivan needs your Kynd.”
“Don’t fire until you hear the clink of their - vodka bottles.”
The interplay, Ms. Kynd’s defense of 1960’s liberalism, livened up the long
waits in the corridor. In a lull as the debaters ran short on epithets I
glanced at the file. What was it this time? Did the ‘bad guy’ lose a job
or his flat or, having lost both, light a fire in the park to keep warm?
Despite a lofty purpose of bringing to heel the criminal element who
reverted to insidious ways, parole revocations rarely confronted high state
In the Army, I had handled major felony trials, but the bar associations
would not accept military credentials. “What would Army lawyers know anyway
What would I say today in real law? Joe, the Vietnam Vet, will go to the
V.A. for vocational rehabilitation or Jose, the unlettered immigrant, will
look for a job in the factory that doesn’t exist anymore?
What did we say in the Army Legal Corps of its leaf branch tab? The pen
creates it; the sword cuts through it and the wreath wipes it off!
As I pondered my strategy, the debate roared in the corridor.
Holding her hands on her well-proportioned hips, Ms. Kynd argued, “Okay, you
pound some palm trees into smithereens - you take all the sand on their
beach - and what does that do for you?”
“Good,” yelled a parole officer, jerking up from a plastic chair, knocking
it into the cinderblock wall, “make love not war. And start with me.”
The corridor rang with laughter.
Yet strangely Mr. Bridges, the broad-shouldered mocha complexioned turnkey
who escorted visitors to the hearing room projected a stony silence. As
Bridges pivoted to study the jeering ranks of the parole officers his combat
infantry badge gleamed on his uniform blouse.
Called into the hearing room just as the catcalling in the corridor overtook
the laughter, I did voice concern to Judge Jayson, “All of us veterans -
you, me, Mr. Bridges, sport the National Defense Medal, but we never answer
the Red witch. Only the parole officers jab her back - and none of them -
ever wore a uniform.”
“Ha, we have more important things to do,” Judge Jayson snapped as he looked
up from half moon glasses. “You - a per diem lawyer the city pays to bless
us with due process should concentrate on you work.”
“There is no hope for the hopeless.” I sighed. “Or should I say I’m ever
so happy for the opportunity to waste talent acquired in homicide trials in
the Army on bubble gum encrusted chairs to wait my opportunity to plead
before this august tribunal.”
“Ha - what would Army lawyers know?” Jayson looked through the file.
“The pen, the sword and the wreath. What the pen creates, the sword
scatters and the wreath wipes clean.”
“They should know proper appearance. You,” the Judge pointed an accusing
finger at me, “Gotta look more like a lawyer - instead of a bum…”
“It ain’t like,” I complained, “the city pays much for the trappings of due
“A cut-rate mall opened up in the factory building by the rail yard. Find a
bargain.” Jayson ordered. “Try it Sunday morning - it won’t be crowded.”
When I returned to my office, there were three checks from the city waiting
for me. I plunked them down on my desk: one for the landlord, one for the
secretary and this little one to visit the bazaar.
It was early on Sunday morning when I arrived at the old factory building
the Judge described, overlooking the rail yards where dilapidated freight
trains stood idle on rusted sidings. You have never seen such a collection
of junk merchants: from toys to tools. When I stopped at the clothier, I
inspected the dust covered goods and declared, “This didn’t fall off the
truck; it was dragged under its wheels.”
At that moment, I was tapped on the shoulder; I swung around, expecting to
face an offended stall-keeper. Instead I found a twenty year old boy with a
smooth face in a lime green shirt with an Army recruiting badge dangling
from the pocket.
“Sorry, I done my time.” I started to turn away.
“I’m looking…” the boy recruiter spoke fast, “for people to stand in a
picture … I have to run some sort of public display and … nobody will help…”
“Just so long as I don’t have to sign nothing.”
I followed him over to the recruiting table. At it stood Mr. Bridges. On a
bulletin board, behind us there were newspaper clippings of the Army’s
exploits in far away Granada. With a look of impatience, Mr. Bridges
muttered, “Judge Jayson’s idea of a joke.”
The recruiting sergeant clumsily reached into a big briefcase spilling its
contents out onto the floor. Mr. Bridges retrieved two civil war Kepis
which rolled away from the clutter.
The sergeant read from his script. “Encourage public participation in a fun
loving photographic session. Ask people to pose in traditional uniforms: I
have two tunics: one blue and the other grey.” The boy looked up at us.
Mr. Bridges looked down at the Kepis and handed me the grey one: “I guess
this one wouldn’t fit me.” Bridges said. His dark complexion gave no hint
of insult or offense.
I looked at the branch tab on the Kepi. “Crossed rifles - Infantry -and we
thought the lawyers were the canon fodder,” I remarked as I donned
A crowd collected as we put on the tunics, mine grey with blue cuffs. MR.
Bridges and I stood at attention shoulder to shoulder in front of the table
as the boy recruiter fumbled with a camera on a tripod.
The crow was jovial … with good reason. War news from Granada was very
favorable. But no one got too close to the table.
After the photographs were shot, the by recruiter and returned to his
script. The crowd dispensed quietly. “Encourage the audience to suggest a
“Audience?” Mr. Bridges asked, “I guess that’s us.”
“How about …” I suggested, “One Country, one Army, one English language.”
“Very good!” remarked the boy. “Let me copy that down.” The sergeant bent
over to retrieve a pen and paper from the floor. “Let’s see … could you
Mr. Bridges looked at the ceiling and intoned, “The Army’s political claims
are the foundations of the republic: one country, one army, and one English
“Oh really,” the recruiter asked with wide eyes. “I never expected to get a
“And we expect,” I said to Bridges, “to conquer Granada with the people the
sergeant finds for us.”
Finishing with his notes, the recruiting sergeant looked around. “Nobody
else came … I guess you can keep those hats and jackets.”
"Tunics --- in the Military we call them tunics," Mr Bridges corrected the
boy in a gentle but firm tone.
Then Mr. Bridges looked at me strangely. “Are you at the jail on Monday? I
mean to deliver our answer to Ms. Kynd and to the parole officer ‘patriots’;
wear that grey tunic and Kepi.”
“In a confederate uniform ! The prisoners will riot; the guards ‘ll beat
me; Judge Jayson ‘ll …call the bar association.”
An evil smile sprouted from Mr. Bridges lips. “The prisoners and even the
guards like a good joke, so does Judge Jayson. And the parole people .. the
joke’s on them ... imitation patriots. I’ll fix it up for you.”
I do admit feeling not a little out of place appearing at the rear gate of
Hunter Point Correctional Facility in a Confederate outfit and kepi. There
were not a few gasps from raggy parole people who queued up, spiked coffee
cup in hand, for admittance to the jail that morning.
Yet the Correction Officers in their uniform navy blue tunics maintained
their stoic composure, as I whisked through twisted corridors to the waiting
Ms. Kynd’s debate with the parole officers in the corridor languished.
“Fascist … expansion ..what…will…happen…when you find…there’s no more places
to conquer?” The words were said but without feeling. All eyes were on me
When my case was called, the defendant, Vietnam Veteran, with a scraggly
beard, paid the get-up no mind. Only the accusing parole officer stared at
the hat in dismay.
We were already sitting down in the hearing room with Judge Jayson on his
high bench oblivious to the Kepi, ready to start when Ms. Kynd burst in.
“I’m accused,” Ms. Kynd breathlessly argued, “of being everything from a Red
whore to a Grand Dragoness of the Ku Klux Klan and look at him,” she
pointed accusingly to me, “He wears the rebel grey.”
“Get me Mr. Bridges.” Judge Jayson ordered with a swing of his gavel.
A chorus of blue jacketed Correction Officers sang out in the corridor: “Get
Mr. Bridges.” Further down the corridor, you could hear the words “Bridges
to the front” ring off cinderblock walls.
When Mr. Bridges appeared in the doorway, Judge Jayson asked, “Ha - do you
see anything wrong with the attorney’s hat?”
With permission, Mr. Bridges removed the grey Kepi from my head and gently
held it in his hands to study it.
“Well,” demanded Judge Jayson in roar.
“The branch tab is crossed rifles … infantry .. not the wreath of the legal
corps…and the brass isn’t shinny, according to regulations.” Mr. Bridges
replaced the hat.
“Ha…” retorted Judge Jayson, “what do Army lawyers know anyway?”
“What the pen inscribes the sword defies and the wreath swishes it away.” I