After I stopped feeling sorry for myself or what I had been doing in this chair for so long, I pulled my phone out of my pocket. I set it to do not disturb. Several calls came in from the office. Curiosity certainly got the better of Barb, who served as my secretary and paralegal, and whatever else was needed to help me with the constant turning of the plates in my one-attorney practice. I didn’t want to explain anything to her about what had happened. But I had to at least let her know that the trial wouldn’t be over until after the holidays. I decided to text her that the case was adjourned until January 2nd.
I didn’t offer an explanation. She didn’t ask for one. This suggested to me that she probably heard about all this from someone she knew at the courthouse. No matter what, I already gave her a whole week off for Christmas. By the time she gets back, I’ll be back in court trying to clean up the trash can on my left.
I also had a flood of messages from Linda. At some point, I would have to tell her about the unexpected misadventures that missed my supposedly golden opportunity and boiled down to what was still gurgling on the floor next to me. I definitely didn’t feel like explaining anything to her about what had happened, as the news would have been met with a machine gun of questions stemming from a thinly veiled “I told you so” premise. At least I won’t have any doubts about why I took this case at all, or how I collected evidence, or why I didn’t kick someone off the jury, or why I did or didn’t say or did what I said. or did not say or do in court that led to the result. It’s more like saying “you need more sleep”. or “you should exercise more” or “you’re eating too fast” or “you’re eating too much” or “why didn’t you check the date on the milk?” or “why didn’t you apologize?” or “why didn’t you convince the judge to let you continue?” I was angry at the Inquisition, she said that she was just trying to help, and I replied that there was really nothing useful in this.
I remembered again that she had insisted on a party that night.
It’s my own fault that I didn’t make her do it another day, or didn’t do it at all. But I allowed myself to get carried away by the all-in bet I made out of the belief/delusion that everything would fit just right, that the Spirit of Christmas would step in and give us the result I wanted. raced for years, battling in singles and doubles in the infield, all in the hope of eventually circling the bases triumphantly after hitting the Grand Slam.
Running into Linda and Barb and everyone else would have been a lot easier if I’d just lost the damn case. This has happened to me before, more than once. Any lawyer who bragged about never losing in court didn’t handle many cases, because the best you can hope for when the court actually comes to a verdict is a fifty-fifty record. Too much had changed from the moment it all began, until the jury filled out the verdict form and knocked loudly on the door. It was a sound that used to fill me with wonder, but now only filled me with fear, no matter the outcome. Yet, whether they win or lose, few lawyers can claim to have turned a potentially huge win into an inevitable failure because they puke in front of the jury as they prepare to make their closing argument.
Linda also insisted that I be checked out. This is what I already planned to do. The fact that she will push me towards it will make me not want it. It was stupid, it was juvenile. But if I hadn’t changed by the time I was halfway to ninety, when was I going to change?
At the bottom of Linda’s messages, I noticed a request to stop by on her way home from court and pick up some things she needs for the party. Like I want to cut my euphoria or get out of my desperation to push the cart up and down and down the aisles of the grocery store. Luckily, the purgatory I plunged into set me up to want to do something tangible, even if it was as simple as making sure I got everything from a list of items, from four sodas to a big bag. paper towels (not the cheapest), long-nosed lighters to light the wicks of the red and green candles that littered the ground floor of the house, and three boxes of crackers, and a tray of the best cold cuts. and cheeses that the mother of one of my former clients (I got him well compensated so she didn’t hate me) put together in a Styrofoam rectangle and covered tightly with plastic wrap.
I simply agreed to Linda’s request and postponed further discussion until later. Hopefully much later.
Then there was a large iron clamp attached to the wheel of my car. I managed to sneak out of the courthouse almost unnoticed (Ralph heartily said “Merry Christmas, Chuck” to me as I raced through the revolving door) and stopped by the car to pick up various unpaid tickets from the glove box. I pulled the newest one out from under the wiper.
I made my way to the city building, two blocks from the county courthouse, and was suffering from the slurred attitude of Doris Evans, who was enjoying her last day of work of the year with a little Christmas cheer, one of the perks of holding a job for over thirty revolutions around the Sun and a much younger boss who feared her physically, mentally and emotionally. For most people, a sip or two has made them happier. Doris, in this respect and in many others, was unlike most people.
She was angry that she had to work on the last working day before Christmas to calculate the amount I owed and calculate the interest. In fact, she asked to see my driver’s license to remove the information, as if I was going to pay off my debt by issuing a bad check. She said that perhaps no one would be able to take off the shoe until next week. I reminded her that if someone was on duty that day to put this thing on, then surely someone was on duty that day to take it off. She narrowed her right eye, and a look that conveyed a two-word message that she wasn’t yet drunk enough to say out loud without fear of discipline, even to herself.
I smiled at her reticence and waited until I saw her call and heard her relay the order to remove the boot from my numbered white Subaru. I nodded to her, thanked her too effusively to be sincere, and shouted loudly into the empty room, “Merry Christmas to everyone and good night to everyone!”
I didn’t rush back to the car, assuming the guy Doris called was in no hurry to take off his shoe. To my surprise, a man in a city-issued gray work uniform hunched over the wheel, unlocking the front of the immobilizer and lifting it off the ground. I didn’t recognize him, but he seems to recognize me.
“Well, well,” he said. This is Mr Lawyer.
“Thank you for making it so fast.”
“Not a problem, Mr. Lawyer. I wanted to make sure you could come home. I heard you had a big day.
“Gary Galloway is my brother-in-law,” said the man, waving his stockclip a white pickup truck littered with dents, chips and other imperfections reflecting the reality that none of those who drove it owned it. “You know, that’s the guy you sued when you sued his company.”
“I’m sorry, buddy,” I said. “We all have jobs.” It was a small town; such awkward exchanges occurred from time to time. I didn’t want to explain to this guy what he should already know – I was suing his son-in-law not to get money from him, but because I needed a state resident to be named as a defendant. to keep the case from going to federal court, where it would be much, much harder to win. (Like I said, I know how it sounds. Like I said, that’s how it always works.)
The guy closed the back door before turning to me. Then he crossed his arms and leaned against her.
“My sister is very worried about this. She might leave him because of this.
“That would have been the case even if I hadn’t sued him personally,” I said, inspecting the wheel before getting into the car. “It’s just like that.”
The boy’s careless behavior didn’t match his words or his tone. He probably assumed that a courthouse security camera attached to the building, or a lamp post, was picking up our movements.
“You are playing games with people’s lives,” he said.
“In fact, I’m trying to help improve the lives of the people that I’ve played games with.”
“It doesn’t make any sense.”
I matched his negligence. It was pretty fun to trade verbal hostility without getting in someone’s face and not letting someone get in mine.
“Your brother-in-law slept with one of his employees. My client found out about it. She complained. Then they fired her for it.”
– I don’t hear that.
I stepped towards him, wondering if he would do the same. I had the urge to call for a punch in the face if that meant getting him fired. After considering how…