Cease and Desist
by Jay Werkheiser
Davey sighed and paused his TV show. The doorbell rang again, somehow sounding more insistent. He sighed again, peeled himself from the couch, and brushed potato chip crumbs from his shirt.
He opened the door a crack. “What is it?”
A man stood on his porch, looking as stiff as his suit collar. “I’m here to serve you with a Cease and Desist letter from my client, Mr. David Keeler.”
“I’m David Keeler.”
“Right. The letter is from the future you. Didn’t you read about the new time travel devices?”
“Saw it on TV. Wait, future me?”
“Can I come in, Mr. Keeler?”
“Davey.” He sighed and opened the door all the way.
The lawyer stepped in, glanced at the grease-covered couch, and continued to stand. “The letter states that your eating and, uh,” glancing down at Davey’s ample gut, “exercise habits are injuring my client and that you are to cease immediately.”
“Hey, I ain’t hurting nobody but myself–”
“Harrumph.” Davey crossed his arms over his gut. “I can eat whatever I want.”
The lawyer rifled through his attaché case. “My client already knew you wouldn’t comply–”
“How’d he know that?”
“So he filed a complaint in Federal court. Here’s your summons.”
Davey found a lawyer at the local mall. “Didn’t your office used to be a shoe store?”
The lawyer, Thomas H. Cromwell, Esquire, squinted at him through glasses thicker than the chocolate bar in Davey’s hand. “It might have been.”
“You want a lawyer or not?”
Davey eyed the guy’s plaid suit. “I guess so.”
“Who’s suing you?”
Davey handed him the court papers.
Cromwell held the chocolate-stained papers up to his nose, squinted, and dropped them onto his desk. “I see. What are you planning to do about it?”
“Hire a lawyer.”
“Right. Court date’s coming up soon.”
Davey glared at him. “What do you suggest? Can he, uh, I mean can I really force me, um, myself to eat healthy crap? And exercise?”
“That’ll be up to the judge.”
“Can you stop him?”
“We’ll see, now won’t we?”
Davey noticed that his eyes, magnified as they were by his glasses, held not even a microscopic glint of confidence.
The Honorable Linda Livingston presided over the case, which had become a bit of a media circus once Davey–Future Davey–had aired his complaint on the talk show circuit. Health zealots, individual rights activists, and just plain whackos dueled with chants and picket signs outside the courthouse. Davey slouched in his seat next to his lawyer, trying to be invisible.
“Your honor,” Cromwell said, “I move to dismiss this case.”
“On what grounds?”
“On the grounds that you have already ruled in my client’s favor.”
The judge frowned. “What makes you say that?”
“Because there have been no other suits from the future, which means that in the future you have already established precedent against such cases.”
“Objection,” Future Davey’s lawyer said. “Courts in the future have ruled that no such case may be filed before this point in time so as not to interfere with this court’s ruling.”
“Motion denied.” She turned her attention to Future Davey’s lawyer. “You may present your case.”
“The David Keeler of this time is causing direct harm to my client. Further, his habits violate the Healthy Eating Act of 2024 and the Fitness Act of–”
“Objection,” Cromwell said. “Those laws haven’t been enacted yet.”
“But they have for my client.”
The judge tuned her steely gaze on Cromwell. “Well?”
“Erm…the actions weren’t illegal when my client committed, um, is committing them. Ex post facto.”
“Agreed.” She turned her attention to Future Davey’s lawyer.
“But surely it’s unfair to expect my client to work with laws that are decades out of date. Ad ante facto.”
“That’s not a thing.”
“Counsel will only cite law that currently exists.”
The lawyer grumbled. “Okay, perhaps Mr. Keeler’s actions are legal–”
“But they still harmed my client. Reckless endangerment.”
“He’s endangering no one but himself.”
“Exactly. And that’s who is suing him.”
Seeing his cushy life vanish before his eyes, Davey stood. “Your Honor, may I say something?”
The judge threw up her arms. “Why not?”
“I know my lifestyle is unhealthy.” He patted his gut. “That I should eat better, and exercise more. But I put in long hours at the fast food place, and I’m tired at the end of my shift, so I just bring a bag home. Exercise? Sure, I tried it, but it takes too much commitment.”
“That’s just laziness,” Future Davey’s lawyer said.
“Exactly!” Davey replied. “And it seems I still will be lazy in the future.” He pointed at his rotund future self. “He could have started eating right and exercising at any time. But it was easier to hop in a time machine and force me to do it for him. I’m not proud of it, but that’s exactly who we are.”
“Goes to the character of the plaintiff,” Cromwell said.
“I’ll allow it. Court is in recess while I make my decision.”
Davey melted into his seat when the judge returned with her ruling.
“This case,” she said, “is about responsibility. Both Mr. Keelers are lazy and irresponsible, to be sure, but I can only judge the present one. I rule in favor of the plaintiff.” She smacked the bench with her gavel.
Davey turned to Cromwell in a panic. “You mean I can’t eat fast food? I have to exercise?”
“Don’t worry,” Cromwell said. “I’ve prepared an appeal of sorts, just in case.”
“Good! When do we file it?”
“About fifteen years ago.”
“That’s when you graduated high school, right? Decided not to go to college, sat around watching TV, started working at the fast food place.”
“Yeah, that’s right.”
“So why should you do all the work getting in shape? Let’s make him do it.”
“Yeah!” Davey beamed for a moment, then his smile fell. “Only…”
“Who’s he going to sue?”
©2016 Jay Werkheiser — Published electronically at DigitalFictionPub.com: February 10, 2016. You may link to or share this post with full and proper attribution; however, the author retains the complete and unrestricted copyright to this work. Commercial use or distribution of any kind is prohibited without the express written permission of the author.
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