On Friday, I fly to Phoenix for a trial — my own. They’re billing it as “The Trial of the Century.” As the Ghost of Mark Twain I will be tried for publishing racist materials. The AP English students who are prosecuting me will get the preponderance of their evidence out of “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” — real courtroom, real judge, mock trial.
These kids, I’ve been warned, are ready to put me in the dock, where the Honorable G. Murray Snow will preside. Some plaintiffs have even gone out and purchased new clothes for the occasion. Am I nervous? Well, wouldn’t you be?
I’ve been cautioned by judge Snow that, if convicted, my sentence might involve picking up rubbish alongside the road. But, if acquitted, I shall be treated to throwing Frisbees in the park with my antagonists.
This is my fifth encounter with the exemplary students at Deer Valley High School, and we’re two and two. This is the rubber match.
The extraordinary teacher who has arranged these adjudications, Mrs. Allen, has put this challenge forth to her 2013 charges: “For 128 years, ‘Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ has been inciting fights and fomenting controversy, a fact which surely would thrill Mark Twain. Opponents of the novel regard its ‘racist’ overtones as anathema to the spirit of freedom and racial equality that America fervently continues to pursue. Proponents of the novel regard it to be one of the most important books in their education, and one which satirizes mankind’s egregious flaws while simultaneously elevating Jim, the slave, to a position of virtual sainthood. So which of these views is borne from truth? I hope this trial will be an experience that continues to echo through all the years of your life. Be amazing!”
I’m not going to tip my hand here, but I had counsel from judge Chuck Weller and will go on record as stating that, “I have no prejudices as to cast, no prejudices as to creed and no prejudices as to color. All I need to know about a man is that he is a human being...he can be no worse than that.”
Win or lose, we’re off to our neighbor state Arizona, so if you don’t see me around at the local pool hall, and I don’t show up for Samuel Clemens’s 178th birthday bash at The Mark Twain Cultural Center & Toccata Guttman Music Hall on the 30th, well, you’ll know I am picking up rubbish in my white suit alongside a road in Phoenix.
On the other hand, should we win, well, that will be news to please my friends and distress my enemies. Of course to celebrate such a notable occasion I intend to participate in a Frisbee throw in the park, then head home to continue celebrating Nevada’s sesquicentennial as a free man. I’ll be quick to publish in this fine family journal how it all plays out. Should I lose, please come visit...or send a poinsettia at Christmas.
To learn more about McAvoy Layne, visit www.ghostoftwain.com.