By: Esther Pardes

“Pete, I’m standing here outside of the courthouse, and this place is packed with people! There must be about three hundred people still trying to get in, but they’re being turned away. Wait, I see here now they’re letting in a small group – looks like a family. Kids are all wearing colored Crocs…”

“Sounds like the star witness has arrived, John.”

“Oh yes! Folks, here they are, the famous ‘Crocs Kids,’ including Ezra Pardes, who led the FBI in a chase through the forests of Upstate New York in search of the criminal. Let’s see if we can have a word with one of them.

Hi there! I’m John Mondom reporting for 2020 LOOZ News. Can you tell our listeners out there, are you one of the ‘Crocs Kids’ who was targeted by Cropsy in that barn fire this past summer?”

“Excuse me,” a court official interjected. “These children are needed inside the courthouse immediately. They can speak with you later. Hurry in, dears, his Honor mustn’t be kept waiting.”

“Pete, I’m going to try to get in before they close the doors to reporters. This is John Mondom, reporting live from outside the courthouse.”

Inside the courtroom, the Crocs Kids looked all around them with typical childhood curiosity.

“Look! There he is!”

“Who?”

“Cropsy! See that man with the long hair? That’s him!”

“Could you believe that guy was hiding out in our chicken coop!”

Rebecca eyed the criminal critically. “Didn’t he realize he was going to give himself away if he walked back and forth between his old hideout and the chicken coop? I mean, all the FBI had to do was have the fresh mud sent to a lab to realize he was living with the chickens!”

“He probably didn’t think they’d actually check under all those branches. Thanks to Ezra, they found the evidence and tracked him down!”

A hush descended on the crowd in the courtroom as the judge entered.

“All rise.”

Morris nudged Sharon, who looked around at the crowd and scrambled to her feet. Little Charlie started wandering up and down the aisle.

“Order in the court!” The judge looked around solemnly. “Will the witness please take his seat over here.”

Mommy gave Ezra’s hand a reassuring squeeze. Ezra walked up to the front. The judge began monotonously listing the crimes Cropsy was accused of committing. Just when the kids began to wonder why they’d begged to come, the judge abruptly ended. Turning to Ezra, he smiled.

“So, this is the kid who’s not afraid to say the truth. Well, in this courthouse, you must say the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”

Ezra nodded. “I affirm,” he intoned carefully, making sure to repeat the words his Rebbe taught him. As a Torah Jew, he was wary of uttering an oath.

The proceedings began. The defendant’s lawyer questioned Ezra as to the exact description of what he’d heard Cropsy say. Ezra repeated word for word the threat he heard Cropsy shout in the forest a few weeks before the barn was set on fire. Mr. Pardes was called as a supporting witness, and he described the different incidents of damage that occurred on Pardes Acres.

Mommy, Joey and Judy listened carefully, but the twins, Rebecca and Morris, and Sharon, began to get restless. And Charlie was still sauntering up and down the aisle, peeking curiously at the throngs of people following the proceedings. Suddenly, without warning, Cropsy got up. A forest man, he had no patience for legalities. He spat at the floor and growled under his breath to his defending lawyer. The lawyer listened, nodded, and then turned to the judge.

“The defendant pleads not guilty, both to the robberies listed by his Honor, and to the incidents that took place on Pardes Acres.”

The Crocs kids looked at Ezra anxiously. He needed to convince the judge that this man should be in one place: behind bars.

Charlie had enough of traversing the aisles. He looked around and noticed a shiny hammer lying on the judge’s table. It was the only toy in the room. Charlie set off in a trot, heading directly towards the judge.