BURNS v. BURNS:
MR. and MRS. BURNS v. CONNOR (a four-year-old minor): Conference Transcript
BB: I’d like to open this conference by saying that my clients appreciate Connor’s cooperation. We are aware that his time is valuable and hope our attempt at an agreement is swift and productive.
C: My client is open to the possibility of a fair settlement and hopes to avoid going to trial.
BB: Very good. Let’s begin. My clients, Mr. and Mrs. Burns, are petitioning Connor and the state of Maine for some “alone time” in which to, pardon the expression, conduct sexual relations with each other. They claim this right as an unspoken tenet of their marital contract.
C: My client feels that your clients have enjoyed adequate “alone time” already this month. There was that seventeen minute window on the fourth, after Mr. Burns had returned home from dropping your client off at preschool and Peso had gone down for an early nap, thereby leaving Mrs. Burns briefly unencumbered, conscious, and available for “relations.”
BB: My clients are wondering why Connor’s baby brother, Owen, is being referred to as “Peso.”
C: Our client has reassigned his baby brother the identity of Peso, the first-aid-kit-wielding penguin from the brilliant animated television program The Octonauts, and will refer to him as such for the remainder of this conference.
BB: Noted. Regarding your client’s claim of the coitus incident on the fourth, my clients would like it explained how Connor is defining “this month.”
C: My client defines “this month” as Halloween.
BB: Our clients would like to point out that Halloween is, in fact, only one day, which is at the end of October. We would also like it recognized that we are now halfway through November.
C: Our client is wondering if it is going to be his birthday soon.
BB: Let the record show that your client’s birthday is at the end of August, which is almost a year away.
C: My client feels this is unfortunate and unfair. He would like an Octonauts party for his next birthday.
BB: Mr. and Mrs. Burns would like to focus on the matter at hand. Would Connor consider taking a daily nap again, possibly at the same time as Owen?
C: We’d like you to rephrase that question, referring to Owen only as Peso.
BB: Very well. Would your client consider taking a daily nap again simultaneously with… Peso?
C: [Consults with Connor briefly.] My client is insulted by this proposal. He would like the record to show that he hasn’t napped since he was two and a half.
BB: My clients are well aware. Would your client consider the possibility of having quiet time in his room by himself for a half hour, during Owen’s—I mean, Peso’s nap?
C: My client is not familiar with the concept of “quiet time.”
BB: Quiet time is defined and outlined on page 24 of our proposal. Line 15a.
C: [Brief pause while shuffling through papers.] My client is uncomfortable with the concept of quiet time, as it is defined in Line 15a on page 24 of the proposal. [Whispering among themselves.] My client would like to ask if you’re a sea pig.
BB: I’m sorry—is he asking if I am a sea pig, or if my clients are sea pigs?
C: He would like to know if your client, Mrs. Burns specifically, is a sea pig.
BB: [Hushed angry tones between the Burnses and their lawyer.] Mr. Burns would like to assert that his wife IS NOT, and does NOT resemble, a sea pig. Also, we would like to be provided with a definition of sea pig.
C: My client asks that you refer to season 3, episode 7 of The Octonauts, in which Captain Barnacles conducts a mission to stop a herd of sea pigs from marching into the Mariana Trench.
BB: My clients are not familiar with the episode of The Octonauts in question.
C: My client, Connor, says that is because they have yet to sit through an entire episode. He also says that he cannot help it if the subtle nuances of The Octonauts are lost on Mr. and Mrs. Burns. The show does not pander to pedestrian tastes.
BB: My clients are offended by this. Mrs. Burns would like to remind Connor that she and her husband are fairly well read.
C: My client says that John Irving doesn’t count.
BB: [Angry rumbling.] Mr. and Mrs. Burns would like the record to show that John Irving is a national treasure!
C: Okay. Okay. I have consulted with my client, and we have a proposal. Connor will sleep in until 6:20am tomorrow, allowing Mr. and Mrs. Burns twenty minutes of alone time, in exchange for a piece of his Halloween candy.
BB: No, no, that won’t work for us. 6:20 is too early for marital relations. It will have to be a time of day when they are both home, awake, and not exhausted. Also, Mrs. Burns is telling me that Connor didn’t eat enough lunch, and therefore candy is off the table.
C: Let me consult with my client. [Tense whispering.] My client is willing to take a spontaneous and unheard of twenty-three minute nap, sometime between the hours of 11am and 4pm tomorrow, occurring simultaneously with one of Peso’s naps, thus providing an adequate window for your clients to conduct their marital duties, assuming they are straightforward about it. But he still would like a piece of his Halloween candy.
BB: Mrs. Burns stands firm on the forbiddance of candy.
C: In that case, my client would like to have something in the cabinet.
BB: Mrs. Burns is counter-offering Connor a graham cracker from her purse.
C: My client is requesting three graham crackers and a bottle of juice from the vending machine.
BB: We are prepared to offer your client TWO graham crackers and his sippy cup, which contains whole milk.
C: [Whispering and nodding.] My client accepts this offer. Congratulations, everybody. We have reached a settlement.
MR. BURNS: [Pumps fist.] Yessss!
All parties rise and shake hands.
BB: Let the record show that this conference has resulted in a successful settlement and the case of BURNS vs. BURNS will not go to trial.
MRS. BURNS asks CONNOR if he needs to go to the potty before they get in the car.
Illustration by Allison Ross