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THE MOUSE

    Once a mouse was summoned for jury duty.
    The mouse reacted to this summons with apprehension. It had gone about its life avoiding trouble at every turn and looked with deep discomfort upon the prospect of having to listen to and actually decide what should be done about the troubles of others.
    Nevertheless it dutifully presented itself on the appointed day, fearing that not to do so might turn out to be worse than jury duty. Might it be held in contempt or have to stand trial itself if it failed to report? Might it be put in the dock and accused? Better to take the lesser of two dangers and show up.
    Sitting in the jury selection room, surrounded by others summoned on the same day, the mouse listened through the morning and into the afternoon for its name to be called. The passage of the hours did little to calm its uneasiness. If anything, the opposite was the case.  
    What if the trial was a murder trial, it wondered? Would it be able to look at the accused calmly? Would the accused look back? What if the accused looked back with the look of a psychopath, one with connections ready to hunt the mouse down if the verdict went the wrong way?
    While the mouse was agonizing over questions such as these, it heard a low grumbling next to it. “No way I’m sitting on any jury. It’s my vacation time.”
    “I going to ask to be excused too,” the mouse’s neighbor on the other side responded to the grumble. “I can’t stand the sight of blood.”
    Blood! The mouse hadn’t thought about the sight of blood. Would there be a knife in evidence? How big a knife? Would there still be blood on it? How much blood?
    All of these concerns, disturbing though they might be, were not the mouse’s greatest worry, though. It was more anxious about the possibility that in this case, as in most of life, clear decisions might be difficult, might even be impossible. With its best intentions and effort, what if it was still unable to determine the facts of the case beyond a reasonable doubt? The victim deserved justice, of course, but so did the accused. What a mess rendering a verdict might turn out to be.
    Can we really sort out all the motives for our actions, the mouse asked itself? Weren’t there extenuating circumstances for nearly every move in life? And if there were, how do you decide? Not by simply “adding things up” surely: three exhibits in evidence for this side, two for that, so this side wins. Was justice a math problem or an exercise in common sense? 
    But what in life ever came down to mere “common sense”? Didn’t life defy common sense on a daily basis? Didn’t justice demand something else? Or was justice in fact little more than a makeshift way of cutting life down to size, whatever had to be left out in the process? Was justice simply the best of a bad bargain, then, one that nobody should be too eager to claim credit for? More an admission of life’s messy nature than some glorious ideal to congratulate yourself on? 
    And if one’s own case were ever in the balance, would justice be foremost in one’s mind? Or would just making your escape be? 
    As the mouse troubled over these conundrums of the law and life, a voice came on the PA system and announced, “We have a jury impaneled now, and so your obligation has been met. You are free to leave.”
    “Whew!” the mouse and its neighbors all sighed. “That was close.”