The Lazy Lemon Sun Ch. 03byRehnquist©
Come to find out, though, I was wrong.
Bright and early Tuesday morning, I was sitting in the offices of Taylor & Galarza, Attorneys at Law. At ten past ten, the door behind the receptionist opened and Whitney Patterson saw me, made a brave attempt at smiling, and waved me back. I hesitated, then got up and followed her.
"I thought Rebecca was handling this."
"She pawned it off on me," Whitney said. "If you're uncomfortable, let me know now and we'll re-schedule you with someone else."
We turned into a small office cluttered with files and legal pads. "But Rebecca said-- "
"Sleeping with you kinda changed that," Whitney said, taking a seat behind the desk and waving me to a chair opposite her.
"She told you?"
Whitney nodded. "Yesterday afternoon, after the appointment was scheduled. About the time she realized it could pose a serious conflict of interest."
"Because lawyers aren't allowed to sleep with their clients. Big no no. Quick ticket to disbarment."
I pondered this, then nodded. "Okay. How long you been doing this?"
"Lawyer for nine years, divorce and other civil law for the past seven months. I was a prosecutor before that."
She raised her eyebrow, daring me to challenge her bona fides.
I shrugged. "Fine. This should be simple enough anyway."
"That's what Rebecca said, and she'd know."
Whitney's face pinched as she pondered how to answer. Finally, she seemed to decide the truth was the best approach. "She was opposing counsel in my divorce. Did a solid job of pointing out the obvious. So she's got experience, okay? She says this is a no brainer, it's a no brainer."
"She represented your ex-husband? Against you?"
She nodded, the glimmer of a smile appearing.
"And now you work for her?"
"I'm a good lawyer and they needed someone with trial experience."
"But . . . you're friends with your ex's divorce lawyer?"
"Strange, huh? What can I say? She wasn't a total bitch or anything. If anything, she knew her cards, played them cleanly, and made it all go smooth as could be. You know what happened, what caused my divorce. How do I blame her for proposing what a judge would give me anyway?"
I said nothing, just stared at her. Lawyers, definitely a different breed of cat.
"So," Whitney said after a moment, picking up a pen and poising it above her legal pad, "we ready to get started on you and your situation?"
I nodded. I spent the next half hour answering her questions, then left with a questionnaire to fill out giving my financial status and everything but preferred brand of boxers. Another appointment was made for Friday morning to come in and sign the paperwork and get it all going.
* * * * *
Rebecca and I had dinner together Tuesday night. Cuban sandwiches with tomato soup. Rebecca stood next to me, her hip against the counter, as I pressed the sandwiches and heated the soup.
"Whitney and I were talking," she said.
"You told her about almost everything."
"Yeah, pretty much."
"You didn't mention the real reason you came here, though. Your little brother."
I stirred the soup and thought about it, then said, "Does she really need to know?"
"I think so."
"And you didn't tell her?"
"No. I wasn't sure you'd want me to."
"Then why're you bringing it up."
"Because I'm trying to get you to tell her yourself."
"And if I don't?"
"Then she won't find out from me, that's for sure."
I looked at her. Her deep brown eyes just seemed to gaze straight into my soul.
"I know this is all pretty hard on you, Mark," she said, her voice and her eyes both going soft at the same time. "I don't want to force you into anything. On the other hand, I don't want a hurricane to hit, either. A hurricane your own attorney doesn't even know is brewing, by the way."
I nodded. The lawyer in me knew she was right. Still, the human in me wanted to keep it private. "Let me sleep on it, okay?"
I finished the sandwiches, ladled the soup into bowls, and carried mine to the table with Rebecca following behind.
She dipped her sandwich in her soup, took a bite, and chewed slowly, her eyes on me the whole time.
"What?" I said when she finally swallowed.
She smiled. "Just because my last name's Galarza doesn't mean you have to make Mexican or Cuban or just generally Latin sandwiches whenever I'm around."
I laughed. "Come here," I said, taking a bite of the sandwich before pushing back from the table and walking toward the freezer.
I opened the freezer door and she looked in. "Left to right," I said, nodding toward the tupperware containers of labeled frozen sandwich fillings. "Sunday through Saturday. Mexican beef ribs, last night was shredded Thai chicken, tomorrow night's pulled pork, and so on."
She looked at me and snorted into the back of her hand. "Jesus, you're about the most anal guy I've ever run into."
"What can I say?" I said, shutting the freezer door. "I'm a lawyer, too. I like my ducks in a row."
She just shook her head and went back to the table. We finished eating, then went for a walk, chatting easily.
Neither of us initiated any frisky business. It was unspoken, but clear as a bell: No more until the divorce.
After Rebecca left, giving me a chaste kiss on the cheek before departing, I almost called Whitney to speed things up.
Knowing they talked about me--and what Rebecca and I had already done--changed my mind, though. Seem in a hurry and Rebecca would probably come down on me like a ton of bricks.
That set me to thinking about Rebecca. She was mid-thirties, independent, smart, witty, all around wonderful. Yet, she'd never been married. Why?
That gave me something to think about. It just niggled in the back of my head, and I wasn't really sure why.
* * * * *
"Ask you something?" I asked Ferlin Fargo as I wiped up the bar after the lunch crowd.
"Shoot," he said, not bothering to look up from his newspaper.
"You're divorced, right?"
"What's the dating scene like for a divorced guy?"
He finally looked up from the paper, his lips pursed as he pondered why the singles scene sucked.
"It's like this," he finally said. "Me--and you, for that matter--it's not like we're suddenly single again and the available dating pool is a bunch of young, sweet, innocent things. You're what? Thirty?"
He nodded. "I was thirty-six, but it's close enough. Problem is, single women in their thirties are usually one of two things: Divorced or just not marriage material."
"'Not marriage material?'"
"Don't wanna get married. Or, if they're in a relationship, they're hell on wheels and it never gets close to marriage before it crashes and burns."
"Or they have a problem with even getting serious," I added. "Too independent and just don't wanna be tied down to anyone in any way."
"Yeah, like that," he said, now sliding the paper aside and leaning over toward me. "Then you got the divorced ones. They're a tricky bunch, too."
"You gotta find out why they're divorced. Were they spendthrifts? Too demanding? Sleeping around?"
"It's not always the woman's fault," I pointed out. "Those could just as easily apply to their ex-husbands, too."
He smiled and nodded. "Exactly, which means they're gonna be real leery. The worst their marriage--the worst their husband fucked 'em over--the more they tend to paint every man with that brush."
I pondered this, then said, "Why did you and Denise get divorced?"
He gave a sad shake of his head. "My fault. I was never there. Workaholic."
"Then why do you still see each other?"
"We love each other. She's the only one for me. Always will be."
"Loves me to death, but can't live with me. Can't live with all them nights I'm working til the early morning, all them weekends I'm home for four, maybe five hours then gone again. No way to raise a family, no way to have a marriage."
"You ever think of maybe cutting back?"
His smile was forlorn. "Sorry, buddy, but it's who I am. Might as well ask a leopard to change his spots. Ain't gonna happen."
"And she knew this going in?"
"Didn't start out that way, just ended that way."
"But you still spend time together?"
"When we can. We just don't stay married."
"Yeah," he said, then sighed. "If only. . . ."
* * * * *
I gave long, hard thought to what Ferlin had said. It wasn't enough to just get rid of one problem only to face a whole slew of problems for which I wasn't really prepared. No, I had to give long hard thought to what would happen after the divorce.
Take Rebecca, for example. A year or two older than me, perfect, and still single. Neither she nor anyone else had ever hinted at any serious boyfriends in her past, which was strange. Women her age--if my secretary, wife, and others I'd known--were at least occasionally bringing up previous boyfriends, if only to bitch about them. Never a word from Rebecca, though. Was she really too independent to ever be married? Or did the thought of marriage just make her nauseous?
Of course, why should I give a damn? We'd slept together once, and the number of meaningful conversations we'd had could be counted on two hands with room to spare. Still, I liked her. She was the first since I'd discovered the sham I'd been part of for more than seven years. And there was more than a bit of fear that she'd prove to be the best prospect I'd ever have as bachelorhood loomed on the not-so-distant horizon.
Whitney was another example. She'd cheated on her husband. Still, I guess she'd never really been too happy in her marriage, either. Did that mean she'd never be happy in a marriage? Or that she'd cheat again at the first sign of discontent? Though I had no romantic thoughts so far as she was concerned, I worried she was indicative of one side of the divorcee coin.
I'd run into the other side of the divorcee coin all too often. Women who'd been so miserable--often for good reason--that they thought every man was a useless piece of shit. They'd been open with their scorn of the male of the species frequently and vocally, then looked at any men gathered near daring us to challenge their assessments. No fucking way I wanted to deal with some shrew like that.
The scariest, though--far and away--was the Ferlin and Denise saga. You've seen it: The case where they got divorced, but they still loved each other to death. Any new men in such a woman's life would be constantly and critically compared to their one lost love, and no one would ever measure up. Maybe with some patience, the man haters would come around and get over their anger. The one-lost-true-lovers would never come around, though. Was it fair? Fuck fair. Fair's got nothing to do with it. It's the way it is.
By Friday morning, though, I decided that Rebecca was right. I needed to get moving, get proactive for a change.
So I showed up, looked over the documents, and signed my petition for dissolution of marriage and a few related forms.
Then I spent ten minutes telling Whitney about my little brother, as well. She'd only sat there, jaws agape, and, when I'd finished, said, "Is everyone down there just a big flaming asshole?"
* * * * *
Sunday afternoon, I spent five hours with Teddy Cooper working out the kinks in what I thought was my best song. By the time he'd finished critiquing it, I was convinced it was a useless dreg not worth saving.
"This A chord?" he said, strumming the progression in question.
"I'd do this," he said, then did a progression of suspended chords. It changed the sound dramatically, as I knew it would.
"Sure," I said, "sounds better and all. You think it really fits, though?"
"It does if we throw in an augmented chord here," he said, then proceeded to strengthen the chord progression of the entire song, measure by measure.
By the time we'd finished a couple hours later, you could still recognize my original chord progression, but just barely.
Then we spent an hour flushing out and tightening the lyrics. It was both amazing and depressing to watch his mind work. His thoughts and suggestions were nearly always spot on, and they came out like rounds from a Gatling gun.
We finally spent the final hour trying to work out a bridge he insisted the song cried out for. He was right, and I'd long tried to do something along those lines. Taking what I figured had been one of my more inspired attempts, he smiled and said, "Close. Let's work on the lyrics and progression, though."
By the time I left at almost six thirty, I wanted to rush home and burn all of my other songs before he could go through and dissect them piece by piece. He must've sensed my frustration, though, because his hand on my shoulder stopped me at his front door.
"You're really pretty good. Maybe not great yet, but you have a knack for this."
"Yeah, sure," I said, then started to move.
His hand gripped my shoulder tighter, though. "You know, most of the songs Nick and I write, they take a long time. Sure, every once and awhile one'll come up on you real quick and we'll have it almost totally complete in a day or so, but most of them take days or weeks. A few even months or years before we go back to them and a new idea strikes."
I nodded, not really believing him.
"In an afternoon, you've got a piece that's almost ready for publication. Still a few kinks, but I'll have to let Nick hear it and think it over. Just something kinda pokin' at me. But anyways, that's really pretty goddamned good."
I looked at him and said, "It's almost not even the same song."
"Bullshit. Same lyrics with only a few changes; same chord progression, just jazzed up a little; and same melody line except, what, seven or eight notes?"
I shrugged. "But I'd have never even thought of those things."
He smiled. "This is what I do for a living, man. Seven days a week, three sixty-five a year. You get good at something when it's all you do, right?"
"God, I sure hope so. Because right now, I feel pretty goddamned inadequate."
He let go of my shoulder and tapped a light punch to my bicep. "Well don't. You'll get better, just watch."
"Okay," I said, picking up my guitar case next to the door and opening it to go out. Once on the porch, I stopped and turned. "Hey, Teddy?"
"Don't let Nick hear it unless I'm there, okay?"
"I wanna see how his mind works on it, too, y'know? Helps me get better faster, I think."
"Sure, man. Fine. When he frees up, I'll give you a call and we'll all set something up."
"Next week then?"
"See ya then," I said, raising my hand in a goodbye wave.
I still felt dumb as a stump.
* * * * *
Monday morning, Ferlin approached and asked if I could play again the upcoming Saturday night. Same time, same equipment, same everything. Golden Rodeo still wasn't healed, apparently.
"Sure," I said.
"Good," he said, then reached into a cupboard and pulled out four posters announcing my upcoming gig. "Hate to think I went through all the trouble of having these printed up for you to tell me to go to hell."
* * * * *
Wednesday night, it was my turn to sit at Rebecca's table while she made dinner. Whitney was there, too, which seemed fine since there was no chance of hanky panky until everything else was done.
"So what're you gonna do when this is all over?" Whitney asked.
"Not a clue. Probably just keep tending bar for awhile."
"And that doesn't bore you? All that education, those years of appellate work, and you're going back to bartending?"
"I like it. I don't have to think that much, and it's nice being around people who aren't always facing the death penalty or suing big oil and stuff like that."
"You'll get bored, though," Rebecca said. "Once this is all done, I give you 'bout a month. Then, one day, you'll be standing back there saying to yourself, 'What the hell am I doing here?'"
"Picking up women," I said back.
She turned and flashed me a grin. "Pervert."
"Still," Whitney insisted, "you don't want to get back into things?"
"I don't have an Illinois license, and I'm not going back to Tennessee. Ever."
"What about teaching?" Rebecca suggested.
"Dunno. Never done it."
"Not a bad idea," Whitney said. "Hell, Chicago alone's got, what, six law schools?"
"And we're not that far from Marquette, Madison, or DeKalb, either," Rebecca added.
I chuckled. "Really. Think about what you're saying. Can you really see me in front of a classroom full of eager young law students lecturing them on civil procedure or contracts or whatever?"
"Actually," Whitney said, eyeing me over, "I can."
"Just keep your pecker away from the student bodies," Rebecca chimed in.
"And with your resume, I'm sure one of 'em would give you a shot if they've got an opening."
I shook my head. "Doubt it."
Whitney pulled out her PDA and typed something into it. "I'm going to call around tomorrow, see what's shaking."
"Is this all part of being my lawyer?"
She looked at me and smiled, but Rebecca answered for her. "She knows what it's like getting divorced. You kinda just give up on things for awhile, seek change whether it's good for you or not. She doesn't want to see you fall into the same boat as most of our other clients."
"That happen to you?" I asked Whitney.
She shook her head. "No, but only because Rebecca caught me moping around one day just after I gave my notice at the State's Attorney's office. She kept me on the straight and narrow."
"So you do this for your other clients?"
"She owes you," Rebecca said, "so she's going the extra mile."
"When you played that song a couple of weeks back--the one where you told everyone you weren't playing until someone asked us to dance--well, someone asked her to dance. And now she's dating him."
I looked from Rebecca to Whitney, who gave a sheepish smile.
"Her hero, no less," Rebecca continued.
"Shut up," Whitney said.
"Oh, come on, you know he is."
Whitney looked from Rebecca to me and said, "So far so good."
"Your first since the divorce?"
She shook her head. "Just the first that wasn't out to screw and skedaddle."
I put my hand over hers. "Well good for you."
She sandwiched my hand and said, "It does get better, Mark. Believe me, it really does. It just takes somewhere around forever for it to happen."
* * * * *
I still hadn't approached Clarice Talbott, and both Rebecca and Whitney were on me to figure something out.
Frustrated, I decided on a cold call to her front door. Hell, we'd sat next to each other for two games in a row, so it wasn't like I was a total stranger or anything.
Thus, I went to her front door Thursday night after work and knocked.
Clarice seemed dazed when she opened the door, and I said, "You have a minute to-- "
Whap! She slammed the door in my face.
My eyes went wide, then I heard her frantic voice from within. "Yes, he's here right now." Pause. "No, I don't know that. I told you I don't know that. It was just those few times."
What's going on? I thought, and with my next thought answered my question. They'd figured out where I was and knew I'd be getting to her.
And they were probably already in town.
Right across that phone line.
I got in my car and left, wondering how they'd figured it out.
* * * * *
Whitney's call awoke me at seven thirty the next morning.
"She's been served," she said. "At your condo, last night about nine."
"Not the night before?" I asked.
"Last night," she repeated. "Nine."
"Thanks," I said, and hung up.
Let the games begin.
It was almost eleven, and I was just back from my break. The crowd was mostly the same as before: Wall to wall bodies jostling and sweating on the tiny dance area and three deep at the bar. I'd played some different songs than before, but no one seemed to mind. There's a bonus of playing in a cover band for five years; at your fingertips are hundreds of the schmaltziest pop hits of the past fifty years to cover every occasion.