Thursday, September 24, 2009

Continuation of Felis Catus Canonicus Officium, a Short Story by the Lawyer

Driving over the ornate stone bridge spanning a moat, I pulled up to the gate and entered the code M. had given me to gain access to the housing addition he lived in, jam-packed with monotonous McMansions. Having found his house, I got out of my car, and with a pet carrier in hand, I rang his doorbell. He had explained to me that when he left my office that morning, to the best of his knowledge and without his noticing it, Missy must have taken refuge in the back seat of his BMW 740 when he opened it to put his brief case and jacket there. I was skeptical, churning in my mind how on earth he was planning to use my cat to further a legal advantage against my client.

The door swung open and I was greeted by M., wearing a plain white t-shirt, boxer shorts and sandals. His hair was disheveled giving him the appearance of maniacal intellectual that had just blown his last cerebral gasket.

“Hey Cal, man, come on in.” Nobody calls me Cal, but M. decided that was my nickname.

“Where’s my cat, M.?”

Call me Brad, please. It’s fine. It’s locked up in the garage. I put out some water for it, and some left over chicken.”

“‘It’ is a ‘she.’ Show me to the garage and I will be on my way.”

“Sure,” he said as I followed him into a great room the size of a gymnasium. M. let himself fall into a leather couch. “Hold on,” he said. “I need to sit down for a second. Have a seat, Cal,” he said pointing to a cushy leather chair on the other side of the coffee table from him. I sat, growing impatient. He opened and pulled out a prescription bottle of medicine from a drawer on his side of the table. He dropped a pill in his hand, tossed the it in the air and caught it in his mouth, and swallowed without the aid of liquid in a way that seemed practiced. “You want one?” he asked holding the bottle to me.

“No thanks, goddamnit Brad. I want my cat.”

Before I could lunge across the coffee table a him, whack him across the head with the cat carrier, grab him by his little pencil neck and choke the life out him, a woman entered from an arched doorway at the other end of the great room. “Ah, my lovely wife,” said Brad making a big production of her appearance by holding out his hand in her direction. His lovely wife shot us both a mocking smile.

She had a body that had been grandly augmented at the chest, and nipped, suctioned and tucked at the other parts, replete with bee-stung lips—the sort of harpy that possessed a cheapness about her that was compelling. Standing at the bar to the right of the gaping fireplace, that was too clean to have ever burned a yuletide log in, she dramatically dropped two ice cubes in a glass and filled it with vodka.

“She hates my guts,” M. said to me while looking at her.

“It’s true. I do,” she said, raising the glass to her botoxed lips in a fashion that could not have been more seductively executed. They both looked at each other in chilly silence. She elevated to the balls of her feet, twirled to the direction of the door from whence she came, and with drink in hand, fluttered out of view. I looked at M. puzzled.

“Yeah, I’m pretty sure I hate her, too. I haven’t completely made my mind up. She’s a great fuck, though.”

“I could see that,” I opined.

“Oh shit…,” said M., Taking his head in his hands while having a little break down. I was afraid he would burst into tears at any moment. “We sent our only daughter off to boarding school a year ago. This is no environment for a child to grow up in. Isn’t that sad? Mom and dad are too fucked up to raise their own daughter.” He looked around the room grimacing and fighting back a nervous breakdown.

“I’m sorry about all of that,” I said, wondering if he might deserve a greater portion of suffering than the average citizen.

“You want your cat?” M. stood and walked to the kitchen and I followed after him with the pet carrier, as anxious to be gone as I imagined Missy was. Through a door tucked away in the corner of the kitchen, we stepped into the garage that was as big as most people’s houses, and cleaner, too.

“You know where I got off on the wrong track?” M. asked.

“No. Where?” I asked not knowing what can of worms I was inviting to be opened.

“Going to law school. I should never have done it. If you had it all over to do again, would you?” I confessed that no, I would not have. I scarce knew an attorney that would. “Remember the first day at one-L orientation,” M. continued, “when the dean of the law school steps up to the podium, maybe wearing a fucking bow tie, and says something like: ‘It is an honor to welcome you to the first day of your legal career.’ And then waxes poetic about what a wonderfully rich and prestigious profession law is, and the glories of being a part of a two-thousand, five-hundred year old tradition, and how our families should be staggered with pride, blah, blah, blah. One thing you know for sure, a guy who has a big hard-on for the legal profession has never practiced a minute of law, down in the trenches, or else he’s just plain weird and easily amused.”

I nodded in agreement while scanning the garage for Missy. Convinced I was going to have to wait it out until she showed herself, I set down the pet carrier and took a seat on it and listened to the droning sermon that M. was winding up to deliver.

“This is what the dean should have said if he weren’t concerned with meeting the college’s budget with our student loan disbursements: ‘It’s an honor to stand before you and apprise you of some uncomfortable truths. A full fifty percent of you should not be here. Fifty percent of you should stand up right now, walk out of here, and never look back. Find something different to do, for Christ’s sake, or for the rest of your lives you will look back on this day, dragged down by regret, your stomach in knots, that you did not heed my words. You are the people who chose law school for no particular reason. Or you chose this path because,’ he would say trying not to laugh, ‘because you thought you can change the world. Ha! You will be bored stiff with the law by your second year.’”

I sensed and heard movement in the corner of the garage behind M.’s car.

“‘Up to thirty percent of you, if you do not get up and leave right this minute, will end up nuts. You will suffer at rates higher than the average for all professions, from depression, alcohol and substance abuse, marital strife, and social alienation. You will be what is called the walking wounded. This business is not for you. If you fall into this category that I just described—if you have a creative bone in your body—stand up and run, don’t walk.’

“‘As for the fifty percent of you that should be here, you are hard-wired for this endeavor. You enjoy the game, and are highly motivated by extrinsic rewards—accolades, winning cases, and of course, you are most beholden to money. You’ll like the long hours, as long as there is a whiff of victory in your nostrils. You are weird, but I like you, and so does the law.’”

I reached under the car, stretching as far as I could, and grabbed Missy by the collar. She began to struggle. I could tell that she was in her ‘outside feral mode’ where every living creature was a threat. Missy struggled as I dragged her out. Pulling her up to me to, her claws dug in through my shirt and scratched deep in my chest, neck and shoulders. M. watched with astonishment as I wrestled her—a bloody death match between man and beast—into the pet carrier.

“I regretfully agree with all that you said,” I commented to M. “How do you know all that—the statistics?” I asked, my white, pinpoint button-down, tattered and stained with blood.

“I researched and wrote an article on lawyer dissatisfaction to submit for publication in the bar journal. I showed it to a junior partner at our firm. He told me if I wanted to keep my job I had better shred it, delete it from my hard drive, and never mention it again. So, I did.”

M. pressed the button causing the garage door to roll open. He walked with me to my car in the driveway. “You know what sucks?” he asked.

I could think of a few things. “No, what?” I asked.

“I am scheduled to be called into the senior partner’s office, this Friday. All of the partners will be present. I am going to be made a partner. I will smile, and appear satisfied. Everyone will give me a pat on the back and congratulate me. I will say, ‘Thank you. I have been waiting for this for a long time. This is great. I appreciate it.’ Drinks will be rolled out. We will give cheers, clinking our glasses together. I will take a gulp and smile.

“What no one will know,” M. continued, “is that I will feel like dying right there on the spot, hopelessly depressed and despondent. No one will know that they just made a man partner who is dying inside. Goddamnit!” M. burst out into tears, and clutched me in his arms, hugging me with all his might. “I guess I could liquidate it all, get divorced, lose everything in alimony,” he sobbed. “But what would I do? The only thing I know how to do is practice law,” he pleaded with his tear streaked face pressed against my chest.

Feeling a little awkward, I patted him consolingly with one hand, while Missy frenetically bounced, pounded, twisted, howled and hissed in the carrier held by my other.

“I’m sorry,” M. said regaining his composure. “I’m really sorry, Cal.”

“It’s all right. My heart goes out to you,” I said.

“No, no. Your cat did not magically end up in my car. When I left your office this morning, I was getting into my car, and she walked up to me. I have no idea why I did it. It was just a thoughtless impulse. I picked her up and threw her into the back seat.” He released me from his grip. “Thanks for listening to me.”

“Sure, no problem,” I said, while noticing his neighbor across the street, who had just gotten out of her car with her child, no doubt wondering to her self what the meaning of two grown men hugging was—one with a ripped, blood stained, tear and snot streaked white button down, holding a box that shook from which unimaginable wailing was coming, and the other in his underwear, eyes swollen from crying, and wiping his nose with the back of his arm. She rushed herself and her child into their home.

I placed Missy in the back seat of my car. The garage door began to shut with M. disappearing behind it, receding to the door to his kitchen. “Brad! Brad!” I shouted. The door stopped and then began to open again. M. walked out of the garage and to my car.

“Yeah, buddy, what’s up?”

“Can I ask you a question?”

“Fire away.”

“What is it with all of those long, pregnant pauses on the phone?”
M. laughed. “Minutes are made of seconds, and hours are made of minutes. There is no such thing as an hour that isn’t a billable hour.”

Jeff and I stood in the elevator that was whisking us up to the forty-third floor to the plush offices of Whierling, Dervish, Mayhem, Spitwhittle, Goodard & Bonkem, or something like that. “Man, you should have brought that cat of yours with you in your brief bag,” said Jeff. “That yesterday—pure entertainment.” We stepped out into the lobby and greeted by a receptionist that, judging by her looks, must have turned down the opportunity to be a Playboy Playmate.

We were shown into an oak paneled conference room, bigger than M.’s great room, lined with oil paintings of disgruntled and fiercely serious looking old white men. The court reporter sat with her fingers poised over the stenotype, at the ready to pound out an inspiring composition. Wilkes sat glaring at us in his usual old fuddy-duddy manner, his arms crossed, while M. poured over the volumes of paper in front of him.

“Hey Brad. How’s it going?” I asked, taking a seat.

“Mr. Pickleton,” he said, pushing a file-stamped copy of his motion for sanctions against me, my firm and Missy across the table to me.

Again I found myself repressing the urge to do bodily harm to M. I considered grabbing him by the tie, synching it up tight, and choking the life out of him, but decided I didn’t need the law suit.

“You little son-of-a—,” I stopped myself. Then I made the mistake of looking at Wilkes. “What are you smirking at you smug, old bastard?” The court reporter captured it all and reduced it to the written word.

After the deposition I went back to my office, did some research and prepared a response to M.’s Motion for Sanctions. It was getting late and the office was empty except for me and Missy who sat directly under the lamp on my desk, basking. I lit a cigar and wondered to myself: ‘What could I do if I were to give all this up? How would I pay for the crushing amount of student loans I owe?’

I came up blank.

Instead I turned to my favorite fantasy.

The waves rolled in and out, whooshing, pushing and pulling. Sitting under the umbrella with me were two luscious, big-butted mulatas, teasing me with their fingers, speaking with thick Jamacan accents. And the waves went whoosh...whoosh...whoosh….

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