Authors: Andy Siegel
“So, Mom, how do you feel?” Mask off.
“Like I got hit by a wrecking ball from a crane gone wild, died, donated my organs, only to wake up from the dead to see my son’s wife isn’t taking care of him properly. A lawyer’s suit is part of his stock-in-trade. It shouldn’t have a stain on it, mustard, no less.”
Mask on. She takes three big inhales and wants it off again, so I comply. She continues. “But we both know my organs are not acceptable for donation and that wife of yours is too busy with her tennis and spending your hard-earned money to slip your clothing into a dry-cleaning bag and place it outside under the portico of that beautiful home you built for her so your cleaner can pick it up. Other than that, I feel
.” Mask on again. That last rant took the steam out of her, but I can’t leave it alone.
“Mom, I love Tyler. All marriages have stuff.” Mask off.
“Never close the door to other women. You must always talk to other women—you promised, a son’s promise to his mother.” Mask on.
“I do, don’t worry, I talk to them. But I’m good with Tyler.” Mask off.
She points to the guest chair motioning for me to sit down. She’s
exhausted from her part of our exchange. She takes three large inhales, then her lids close shut.
I spend the next hour sitting there. She opens and closes her eyes every so often as our pal the nurse periodically checks on us. Then, with her signaling again to remove the oxygen mask, I stand up and comply, positioning my ear so I can hear within a whisper’s reach. At that moment the nurse appears at the doorway and stomps in. “What are you doing?” she barks. “Why is her mask off? Why are you so close to her?”
“My mom wants to tell me something,” I plead.
“Make it quick. I’m watching you.”
I turn back to the bed. “What, Mom? What is it?”
My mother, even with great effort, can manage nothing more than a whisper.
“Did you dump her yet?”
wo days have passed since I visited Mom, and I keep seeing that oxygen mask of hers in my mind’s eye. Still, if she hadn’t asked me to dump my wife, I know I’d be worrying about her more.
The weekend distracted me. I had a romantic encounter with Tyler Friday night, having told her I settled a big case instead of revealing I was in front of the Disciplinary Committee. I spent the day Saturday admitting defeat in every tiff I intentionally started with her as an approach to foreplay, since I can’t resolve cases over the weekend. But the highlight was playing basketball in the driveway with my three kids all day both days. Now it’s Monday and back to business.
With my truck in the shop, I’m taking my weekend car to see the expert, Dr. Laura Smith. It’s a 1976 Cadillac Eldorado convertible, wide whites and all. But I’m not too happy about driving it from the burbs of upper Westchester to Brooklyn because it could also use some time in the shop.
“Tyler,” I call out before leaving, “remember you have to keep an eye on Otis to make sure he doesn’t get that funnel thing off his neck and rip his stitches out.” Otis is my eighty-five-pound Labradoodle. He looks like a doggy reggae star with his dreadlocks. Yesterday he cut his paw pad chasing a squirrel through a thorny rosebush and had to have it stitched up.
“I’m not watching Otis,” she yells back from somewhere upstairs,
“I have my tennis team practice this morning, which I guess I could take him to, but then I have to go to the mall in the afternoon. So I can’t do it.”
“But the vet said to keep an eye on him,” I yell, “and I’ve got to meet a doctor on a potentially
case out in Brooklyn,” I say, lying, to initiate the foreplay process at the start of the week. “Can’t you skip the mall?”
“Nope,” Tyler screams. “He’s your dog. You watch him.”
So I have a choice to make. Take her on or else take the customary path of least resistance. I choose a middle-of-the-road approach, hoping to appeal to her slim sense of reason. “Do you really
to go to the mall today?” I ask. “Would it be
for you to go tomorrow when the housekeeper’s here so she could keep tabs on Otis?”
“No can do. Got to go to the mall today.”
to? Are you firm on that one hundred percent?” I call out, getting tired of all the yelling and ready to surrender.
“Look,” Tyler yells, “I’m getting waxed today. Rita’s only working one day this week and today is it. The week after, I’ll be bleeding like a wounded lamb and I don’t feel comfortable getting waxed when I’m on my period. And for certain I’m not waiting three weeks to get this done ’cause the grass on the infield is growing.”
“Couldn’t you find a different groundskeeper?”
“Not an option. Rita’s actually from Brazil. Do you know how hard it is to find a hair-removal therapist to give you a Brazilian who’s actually
Hair-removal therapist? “Okay,” I yell, “I’ll take Otis.” Otis tilts his head and lifts his ears upon hearing his name. “Come on, Otis, my man. You’re going to see what it’s like to be a lawyer.”
We enter the garage and he jumps in the front of the Eldo. “In the back, Otis,” I command, four times. He just stares at me with those expressive eyes of his and that goofy big white funnel around his neck. “Okay, okay, Otis, shotgun it is.”
I pump the gas pedal four times, then turn the key. The engine ignites and the massive five-hundred-cubic-inch purrs to a hum.
An instant later, vintage music begins blasting from the aftermarket sound system I had installed back when I thought loud music was cool. Blaring out over and over again is the verse “roller coaster of love (Say what)” from the Ohio Players song.
I finally head down the driveway after accepting my CD player is stuck and explaining to Otis we’re going topless because the convertible motor is broken. Before reaching my entry gate I realize I left my lawyer bag in the house. I back up to the garage, where my wife’s in the process of pulling out. There’s not enough room for her to pass so I block her in and get out of the Eldo, leaving it running.
“Move that piece of shit!” Tyler screams. “I’ve got an early tennis practice!”
“One moment, honey. I forgot something.”
“Hurry up!” La Comandante orders as I enter the house.
Before walking back out, I open up the only drawer in my seven-thousand-square-foot home I can call my own and take out one of the cigars stored in a ziplock plastic bag with indelible marker writing that reads:
. I sniff it, cut the butt, stick it in my mouth, then go back out while stuffing the ziplock in the side of my bag.
“Hurry up already!” Tyler growls as I stroll past.
I continue at a pace that will annoy the hell out of her.
“Turn that music down!” she yells as I reach the Eldo. “I can hear it all the way over here. What are you trying to be? Some kind of gangsta?” she screams in a spine-piercing pitch. It has the equivalent effect of what one must feel during a lumbar puncture that accidentally lances a nerve root.
I get in and take a few moments to light my cigar. “Move already!” Tyler calls out her window, honking her horn. I give her the international sign for “I can’t hear you” by pointing to my ears, at the same time exhaling a big puff from my mild and smooth Avo. Yeah, I’m being an ass, but so what? I just realized, after all these years, it’s part of the marital contract and I’m way behind on the deal.
I grab the shift and happen to look up before changing gears. I see the Eldo reflecting off the glossy finish of her fancy Benz. Her side panel is acting like a mirror, and it’s one of those rare times where
one’s given the chance to take a momentary and unintended visual inventory.
I can clearly see the reflection of my license plate, which reads:
. I see that massive Eldorado chrome bumper and distinctive front grille. I see the signature crest-and-wreath hood ornament and the superlong silver-colored hood with its custom black double pinstriping. Behind the windshield and steering wheel I see some balding asshole smoking a big stogie next to a funky black dog in need of a haircut with a large white funnel around its neck, evidencing a recent visit to an overpriced vet.
Some guys look cool smoking cigars and some guys look like they’re trying to look cool. I’m the latter.
At least I admit it.
As I drive across the Brooklyn Bridge I accept “roller coaster of love” will forever be etched in my mind. It was catchy when I turned out of my driveway, but after two thousand verse repeats …
I come straight off the bridge onto Adams Street, taking the long way to my destination because I insist on passing Brooklyn Law School, my alma mater. A half mile later, I’m the first car stopped at the red light at the corner of Joralemon Street with the Supreme Court to my right and BLS in front of me. I’m next to the curb and on the sidewalk are three attractive law students carrying those red law books. The girl with the curves heads over so I put the passenger window down, thinking how early spring is my favorite time of year to admire women as they transition their clothing.
“Oh my God,” she says, staring at Otis, “that dog is so cute. Can I pet him?”
“Sure.” She reaches in, slightly bending, and scratches under his chin. Her tank top floats down and open, so now the ancient question arises. When a girl wears an inviting shirt that showcases her gifts,
early in the season while a nip is still in the air, put on no doubt to attract the attention of her male counterparts—pork bait—am I supposed to look?
“What happened to him?” she asks, focused on Otis.
“Cut his paw, stitches,” I answer, noting a pile of résumés jutting out from under the cover of her law book. “What year are you in?”
“Second,” she says, without looking over.
“I went to BLS,” I offer, trying to connect.
“Really? What kind of law do you practice?” She still hasn’t looked away from my dog, scratching him intensely, arm back and forth causing things to jiggle, wiggle, joggle.
Before I get a chance to answer, some guy on the sidewalk yells out, “Cool car,” giving me the thumbs-up. I say, “Thanks,” then turn back to my intern candidate.
“Personal injury and medical malpractice, specializing in HIC cases.”
“That’s interesting,” she answers, now working his neck.
“And I happen to be interviewing law students for a summer position.” I thought that would induce her, but no dice. Given her reluctance to look at me, I feel it’s safe to sneak a peek from the perfect angle she has provided. I almost feel like it’s my duty as a man to check out the goods, so I do. Ah yes, they are lovely. I look up after a quick glance and finally we are eye to eye. She smiles. I smile back. She has beautiful, expressive green eyes and I can tell she’s about to express herself.
“No, I just glanced for a—”
“You were peeping the whole time!”
“No, not the whole time, just—”
“Uh!” She storms away, back to her friends.
Well, that answers that ancient question. You’d think, being a law student, she would’ve asked me what an HIC case was, anyway. The follow-up questions are the most important ones. I can’t have someone like that working for me.
The rest of my journey, left on Atlantic Avenue, onto Flatbush, then
taking side streets to my destination near Prospect Park, went without a hitch. Tallying the number of thumbs-ups the Eldo gets has become sort of a counting game for the kids and me. Eleven is the total for this trip, a big number, all since coming off the bridge. Brooklynites possess a certain spirit of understanding for this old relic, something most of my neighbors up in Westchester just don’t get.
I noted that the defendant, Brooklyn Catholic Hospital, the institution sued in Suzy’s case, is just three blocks away from my expert’s medical building. I find this fact curious.
I park in the lot underneath the medical building and take out from my bag the black marker I’d grabbed from my drawer with the cigars. “Hold still, Otis!” I plead as I write on the funnel in capital block letters,
SEEING-EYE DOG IN TRAINING
. I walk up to street level, and in the front door of the Smith Pavilion, with Otis on a short leash, instructor-style. Three steps in I see a security-type guy twenty feet away and closing in.
“Sit,” I direct, and Otis complies. “Good boy,” I say, pretending to give him a treat, creating the illusion of positive reinforcement.
I look up and see the guy is ten feet away.
“Come!” I order, and walk away from him. “Heel!” I command in a loud voice in an effort to further perpetuate my charade.
“Hold on there!” demands the guard.
“Otis, sit! Good boy,” I say as Otis complies. “Yes, sir?”
“You can’t bring that dog in here,” he states smugly, apparently convinced of his authority.
“Sure I can. It’s part of his training.”
“I can read what you wrote on that plastic thing, but you’re not fooling me. Besides, you left out the
DO NOT PET
part. I’ll need to see an official document,” he continues, “if you want me to believe you.”