The Trial of Justin B. (With Apologies to Franz Kafka)

March 12, 2014

Chris Randle is a writer from Toronto who has written for The Globe and Mail, The National Post, The Comics Journal, Social Text, the Village Voice an...

Adapted from the Bieber deposition.

The lawyers escorted Justin B. to a small windowless room. Everything there was made of wood, walls, ceiling and floor, hammered clumsily into place. The television was also made of wood. As B. looked around this wretched chamber, his pompadour wilted. One of the lawyers leaned over the desk where he sat and regarded him evenly. “Do you know Selena Gomez?” he asked. B. did not answer. The lawyer went on for some time, not even waiting for a response: “Do you know Selena Gomez? Do you know Selena Gomez?” B., who suffered from an anxious disposition, felt this was all quite impossible. Finally he raised a trembling hand and pleaded: “Don’t—don’t ask me. Please don’t ask… don’t ask me about her again.”

The lawyer paused, tugging on his neatly trimmed beard. “I am a trustee of this court,” he offered mildly, “and we all know you have recognized its authority.” B. sank into his chair, eyes closed, and gathered his floral Dries Van Noten jacket about him. “Indeed, to deny that would only confirm your provisionally established guilt. Now,” the lawyer continued, “do you remember being in Australia?” Shaking, B. stammered: “I-I don’t know if I’ve been to Australia. Have I been to Australia?” He flung his strangely buff form across the desk in a heap, growing more and more agitated. He could not recall visiting the nation at issue, but he felt that he had long dwelt in an abstracted, metaphysical Australia, a dreamtime, as it were. B. lifted up a finger with abject regret and asked: “What kind of question is that?”

Nobody managed to clarify. Another lawyer produced several indistinct photographs and spread them gravely next to B.’s head, as if handling ecclesiastical documents. “Your actions are a matter of public record,” he remarked. “It is known that you were present while gentlemen of the press have been assaulted. Were you not seen at the town’s most notorious carriage-racing route, possessing certain circumscribed substances? And you also lie under suspicion for the eggs hurled at Count Grimslock’s castle. But this is gossip, almost, compared to the other charges you face. They are unspeakable crimes, and so I will not speak of them. Everything shall emerge at the trial, of course.”

At that moment a revelation arrived upon Justin B., and he swivelled back unsteadily upon his chair. The perpetrator of such renown became clear. It was someone very much like himself, alike in abs and mien, devoted not to courtly music but pursuing the most extreme and indescribable depravity. Furred all over instead of on the upper lip alone, its appearance combined the childish and the degenerate. Only now did B. begin to notice the awful room’s heat, and sweat dewed his much-remarked-upon forehead. The lawyers drew back an inch or two as he approached panic. “Oh, I’m so sorry,” B. moaned, fluttering a hand around his lips. “There’s been a mistake. Don’t you see? It looks like me, it wasn’t me! It was—it was Swaggy the Mouse!” Gazing distraught into disbelief, he wished that the usher were here. But the usher was dead.

Some time later B. woke up from where he had blacked out on the floor. One of the lawyers was looking at another’s notes with a cigarette in hand. “Ah, you’re awake,” he observed, and made a suggestive glance at the fellow next to him. “During that histrionic display, you kept calling for an ‘Usher,’” the questioner said. “Is this figure instrumental to the case? Did they, for example, convince you to...” He trailed off before playing a phonograph recording where the accused could be heard describing intercourse with a plastic bag, or possibly a woman. “Oh no, sirs,” B. answered in a dazed tone, still prone where he’d collapsed. “I’ve been detrimental to my own life.”

Chris Randle is a writer from Toronto who has written for The Globe and Mail, The National Post, The Comics Journal, Social Text, the Village Voice and the Awl. Along with Carl Wilson and Margaux Williamson, he is one-third of the group blog Back to the World.