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The Court of Lost Souls

Open the doors of Courtroom 303-W and hear the everyday tales of violence, tragedy and heartbreak

"Has she ever physically hit Carla?" Manzanares asks.
"Ahh, not really. She'll...ahh...like, say that Carla is fat and that she...ahh...like, eats all the food." Bobbi leans into the microphone as if she hopes the device might suck the testimony out of her.

"Anything else?" the judge asks.
The microphone hums over the dead air for a moment before Bobbi is struck with another thought. "Oh, yeah!" she exclaims. "Lara drowned her horny toad. We come home and found Lara in the house, and when we went downstairs, the horny toad was dead in its tank."

Lara shakes her head in disbelief and tells the judge she has no questions for Bobbi, who steps down from the witness box like a rock star getting off stage.

Next up is Carla's father, who takes the oath expertly. He tells the judge about how things work out fine at the house when Lara's not drinking, but when she gets drunk, she gets upset about Carla not helping around the house, and he once heard her threaten to kill Carla.

"Was she serious?" asks Manzanares.
"Oh, no," he replies, "I don't think Lara would hurt her for real. She's just fed up."

Lara steps up to cross-examine him. She has only one question: "Did I kill her frog?"

Dad says he doesn't know.
Carla takes the stand to testify about the time, she says, when Lara threatened to stab her with a pen.

When it's Lara's turn, she tries to explain why she yells at Carla so much.
"I just get frustrated trying to work and then come home and take care of my own three kids," she says. "And Carla just comes and goes as she pleases. She moves out one month and then moves back in with her friend the next. They eat and don't do anything to help out. She's just totally selfish and messy, and when I got her a job this summer, she quit after two weeks.

"I know that I get fed up and yell at her sometimes, but I'd never hurt her. I just want her to help out, is all."

Judge Manzanares, himself the stepfather to two children, gives his decision.

"Ms. White," he says, "You've described your stepdaughter as self-centered, messy and inconsiderate, among other things. Well, you just described the typical teenager." Carla's father nods his head in agreement. "But as a society, we require adults to deal with this even when adolescents can't. So what I'm going to do is grant a restraining order with the exception that you can stop by the house to pick up your children after school so long as you avoid Carla. And if the issues of your sobriety, which have been pointed out as being a problem, are attended to, then we can modify these orders."

Lara sits at the defendant's table, puzzled.
"Now, if both parties will agree to it," Manzanares continues, "we will reset this case for review in thirty days as long as Ms. White enrolls in a program of monitored sobriety--" Carla's father raises his hand, cutting the judge off mid-sentence.

"And violence classes?" Carla's father suggests hopefully.

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