October 29 - January 16

Pete O'Rourke

© Copyright 2002 by Pete O'Rourke


Photo of a grocery shopping cart.
The law must be crazy.

       I hereby relinquish any and all rights to attorney - client and or any other privileges and allow anyone to read and/or reproduce this document. I am of sound mind and have never been convicted of a felony.
      The following is the diary Mr. Crockett told me to keep so I could accurately tell a jury two or three years down the road how I felt after the accident and how it had affected me and my family.

      October 29
      After work yesterday, my 42nd birthday, I went to the Food Mart to buy snacks for the actors in the various tableaux of the Jaycee’s Haunted House. It was opening night, and I was project chairman. This year, all the profits will go to Special Olympics. As I approached the intersection of aisle 6 with the cross aisle in the rear of the store, a beautiful woman turned left from the cross aisle slamming her cart into mine. My right elbow was jammed into my abdomen. She was not keeping a proper lookout because at the time of the collision, she was leaning over her baby in the child seat making cooing noises to him.
      She smiled and apologized to me. As I continued shopping, I remembered something that I needed to do at work so I took out my portable recorder. At that moment, Mr. Crockett approached me. I forgot to turn off the recorder, so what follows is verbatim:

      That fat bitch wasn’t even looking where she was going.
      Do what now?
      How badly hurt are you? Sit down here.( He reached down to the lowest shelf and knocked several boxes of cereal onto the floor to make a space for me to sit.)
      Hurt? ( I tried to keep walking, but he blocked my way.)
      You need a lawyer not only for what just happened to you, but to keep it from happening to anyone else. You’ll deserve every dime of her insurance.
      Insurance for shopping cart accidents?
      Every homeowners policy has coverage for negligent acts. And I know there are a million ways you could use the money. Do you feel a tingling sensation? That’s a sign of back injury.
      No, no. Sorry, I’m.... How much?
      Low Six figures.
      ( At that point I felt a tingling sensation. I sat down among the Cheerios.) I do need money.
      All honest men need money. Here’s my card and here’s Mr. McCain’s card.
      But nothing really happened to me.
      We’re not talking about truth here. We’re talking about justice. And those are two very different things.
      ( I took the card.)
      Be there at eight sharp. I’m gonna go get that fat bitch’s license plate number. Start keeping a diary so in three years you can tell a jury how this accident screwed up your life. That’s the best advice you”ll ever get.( He kept low as he headed for the parking lot. I got up, put the Cheerios back on the shelf and drove around for two hours.)

      October 30
      I arrived at your office today at 8 am. The janitor told me you never get to work before 10. I sat in one of a long line of empty chairs outside your office. At 9:07 your secretary Annie showed up and confirmed you’d be there around 10. She laughed when I told her I’d been there since 8.
      At 10:23 you arrived. By that time, 7 other people were also waiting. I was the first one you called into your huge office. There were heavy curtains on the windows and it was dark except for a small desk lamp. You were standing behind the desk pouring a glass of water from a pitcher. I decided last night to secretly record all conversations related to my lawsuit.

      I’m reading Mr. Crockett’s report.
      I didn’t go to the haunted house last night, and I didn’t go to work today.
      Haunted house?
      I thought it’d be in the report. Maybe I never told him.
      Do I need to know about it?
      I don’t know. I guess not.
      What doctor did you see?
      They’re going to beat you up about seeing your lawyer before you saw a doctor.
      Mr. Crockett told me to be here at 8.
      Crockett’s an idiot.
      Dr. Richeson’s my doctor. You need at least a day’s notice to see him.
      Do I need to know that?
      ( No answer from me. You picked up the phone and pushed a button.)
      Annie, Mr...?
      Cogburn needs an appointment with Todd.( You hung up the phone.) It’s all set.
      What is?
      Your appointment with Dr. Cassidy.
      For what day?
      Where’s his office?
      One floor down.
      Your secretary makes appointments for him?
      It would appear.
      What kind of doctor is he?
      My kind.
      I mean his specialty.
      You mean for joints?
      Of course.
      Is that the kind of doctor I need?
     Tell me about your accident. ( I did while you sat down, stared at a stock ticker on your computer and nibbled on a cracker.)
     What the hell kind of street name is aisle 6.
     It happened at a supermarket.
     What kind of car were you driving.
      Cart. I just told you. It must be in Mr. Crockett’s report.
      And I told you I was reading that report when you came in. Pretend I wasn’t reading it and tell me the story again.
      ( I did.) Do I have a good case?
      ( You stood up and seemed really excited.) It’s almost...it almost happened to me. I’ve seen it happen.
      Who are we going to sue?
      The fat bitch who ran into you, of course, and the supermarket.
      She’s not fat. She’s perfect. Why the supermarket?
      They could’ve put those round mirrors at the end of each aisle so cart operators can see what’s coming around the corner. Or even stop signs. Or an employee directing traffic at each cart crossing. And having failed to make the cartway safe,  they should’ve  provided impact absorbing bumpers. Or little air bags. My God what couldn’t they have done? Did the cart manufacturer do any collision tests? You bet your ass they didn’t. We’ll go after them too. You go see Dr. Cassidy.
      Should I go to work?
      Ask Todd.
      You didn’t even ask me if I was injured.
      You’re not a doctor, how would you know. We’ll clean those corporate cigar smokers out.     (You grabbed me by the arm and dragged me to the door.) You ever see The Rifleman tv show?  (I nodded) My great grandfather was Lucas McCain.( You twirled an imaginary rifle and shot from the hip.) Gotcha, maquiladora bastards.. I was born a McCain with his heroic blood rushing through my veins so I could help you. ( You pushed me out of your office and closed the door. I asked Annie for Dr. Cassidy’s suite number. I also asked her why there weren’t any diplomas on your walls. She said they had sent them all out to be redone when you changed your name from Wirzbicki to McCain.)

      At the doctor’s office, I filled out an information form. His nurse took my pulse, blood pressure and temperature, and  left the room. The doctor came in talking on a cell phone.

      You can’t use words like always or never. Do you really believe anything always or never happens? Those are children’s words. I do too sometimes say I love you. I do too hug you back.
      Would you like me to step out?
      Are you from Wirzbicki?
      No. If I wanted you to leave would I have spent the last hour on a cell phone with you.( He put his hand over the mouthpiece and whispered to me.) What’s the short of it?
      ( I gave him the short version.)
      Ouch. I love your parents, but they play golf every Tuesday with my wife’s. Where did you as an adult - as an adult now - think that was going.( Hand over the phone.) What did Mr Crockett say was wrong with you?
      Slight tingling.
      Ouch. I admit when you say you love me I sometimes answer,”So do I”. That’s how I feel then. Do you want me to reflexively answer back,” I love you too”? I can’t do that. I’m a doctor.  I’m complicated
 Look, I’m in with a patient. Are you willing to accept part of the blame for where we are or not? (Hand over the phone.) On the information sheet you crossed out motor vehicle and wrote shopping cart?
      It happened in a supermarket.
      What did?
      My accident.
      I don’t have time to read all this now. No, not you, I’m talking to my patient. We’re never alone. That’s the problem. We both have our careers, our investments, our kids, our spouses, each other. We want it all.( Hand over phone) Did Wirzbicki say there’d be more of these?
      Cart wrecks.
      Oh. He seemed pretty excited about it.
      ( He opened the door a crack and spoke to his nurse.) You see where he’s crossed out motor vehicle and put in shopping cart? Let’s make that change to the form and print up...2000. ( He closed the door.) I’ll see you tonight - late. No? No you won’t see me? ( He screamed,”FAT BITCH” and slammed down the phone. She’d hurt him so it took a while before he could continue my examination.) Thanks for understanding that I had to take that call.
      Hey, we all have family.
      So when...ok...uh.... That’s it. ( He started to cry a little.) Sorry. ( He left the room. After a while his nurse came in. She gave me prescriptions for pain killers, muscle relaxants, two weeks of physical therapy and a back MRI. She also wrote out a two week excuse from work.)
      Do you have insurance?
      What kind of doctor is he?
      A whiplash doctor. The very best.
      Whiplash. Is that still the medical...word?
      I’m a single mom. I work here, but I don’t buy any of this car crap. I guess yours is cart crap. Do what he tells you. We’ll all make money.

      When I got home that night, my wife was cooking. I didn’t record the conversation at first because I didn’t anticipate it. She said there were tons of messages from the Jaycees last night wondering where I was. She asked why I wasn’t there on opening night after I’d practically lived in the haunted house for two weeks while we were building it, and why wasn’t I there tonight? I told her about the accident. She said the same thing happened to her and my son’s teacher a few weeks ago. I asked why she hadn’t mentioned it. ( I turned the recorder on in my pocket.)

      Mentioned it?
      The accident.
      What accident?
      With Jack’s teacher.
      It was.... We laughed about it. What are you talking about?
      ( I told her everything.)
      You are not going to sue some poor woman for that. Period.
      Legally, tingling is tingling - car or shopping cart accident - it doesn’t matter which.
      It could’ve been me bumping into somebody like... you.
      But it wasn’t you. We don’t even know her. It’s just her insurance. And the store’s.
      You’re going to hurt this woman for money.
      I’m going to sue her. Sue her. Four more years and Mike’s in college. We have $157 in savings.
      You’re kidding right? This is a joke. But if it weren’t for real, you’d be at the haunted house. You love the haunted house.
      I’m tired of the haunted house every year. Let’s just try this. Aren’t you sick of this paycheck to paycheck hell? It’s legal. He’s a lawyer for Christ’s sake.
      We’ve always worked. You worked longer hours than anybody.
      It’s Barbie’s dream house, not Ken’s.
      What the hell does that mean?
      They’ll settle early. They had no cart safety equipment.
      No safety equipment?
      None.( She got wobbly on her feet and had to grab the back of a kitchen chair for support.)
      I’m going for a drive. ( She left. Whenever we fight, she tries to find an open church where she can pray. I assume that’s where she went. I never asked her.)

      I called in sick yesterday, but I didn’t give them any details. Today when I called my boss asked me what was wrong. I told him. He laughed and started shouting out to everyone in the office what had happened. I could hear everybody laughing.

      I have a lawyer. ( He stopped laughing and you could hear him shushing everybody up. This felt good.)
      Why do you have a lawyer?
      To represent me in legal matters.
      How much time off do you need?
      I’ve got a two week doctor’s excuse. But it may be longer.
      Would you like me to send you a copy of our disability policy.
      You also applied for the district job. Are you telling me you’re now a disabled applicant.
      Ok, sir. ( That was a first.) Please call whenever you’re up to it and let us know how you’re doing.
      Are you saying every time I’m up to it I’m supposed to call?
      No, no, no, no, no, sir. Just whenever it’s convenient.

      I hung up the phone and said wow to myself. I also went to the physical therapist today. They massaged me and rubbed me with heated, buzzing instruments. Wow. I blew off the

      November 1
      This morning I got a call from the woman I had the wreck with. She was crying. She’d just gotten a letter from my lawyer. It said that due to her careless indifference and gross negligence I am enduring extreme pain and suffering, and that I can’t ever work again because I’m totally and permanently disabled. It demanded $300,000 within ten days or a suit would be filed It advised her to forward the letter to her homeowners insurance carrier. She said she wanted to meet me at St. Stephen’s in 15 minutes. (That’s my parish too.) I told her to call you. She said she wanted to talk to me. I reluctantly agreed. She told me her name was Marla.
      The church looked great inside because the only light was coming in through the stained glass windows. I saw her kneeling in front of the statue of Mary. I walked over to her.

      Marla? ( She is so incredibly beautiful.)
      Why are you doing this? ( She kept kneeling and grabbed my right hand and held it in both of hers.)
      It’s perfectly legal. He’s a lawyer.
      My lawyer.
      I can’t afford a lawyer. My husband died in an accident last year. I work two jobs and I’ve got a two year old.
      I’ve never seen you here before.
      I can only go to the 7:30 because of work.

      ( At this point I was seriously thinking of letting her off the hook.) I don’t know what to tell you. Access to the courts and all. It’s part of being a good citizen. There’s nothing...( At this point you can hear a crash on the tape because the little leg on her kneeler snapped and she fell over landing hard on her shoulder. I helped her to her feet.)

      Are you alright?
      Fine. Fine.
      Only a doctor knows if you’re fine.
      Then why did you ask me?
      You need a lawyer.
      Thanks to you.
      Not for that. For this. What the hell kind of raggedy assed priest would let something like this happen to someone kneeling in prayer.
      I couldn’t have made it through the last year without Father Mike.
      Does he regularly test and inspect the kneeler legs and record his findings? And there should be orange safety warning labels on each pew so people can make an informed decision about whether it’s safe to pray. Do you think the manufacturer conducts kneeler stress tests?. You can bet they don’t. Don’t you want to prevent other people from getting hurt?
      I’m desperate for money.
      All honest people are. Here’s my lawyer’s card.
      Will he charge me?
      No. And he’ll send you to a doctor for free.
      I don’t want to sue my church.
      People do. That’s why they’re insured.
      Thank you. ( She kissed me on the cheek.) You gave me hope.( She smiled at me and left the church a changed person. I said prayers of thanks for the kneeler miracle for about thirty seconds. Then I ran to my car and followed her home. I had to know where she lived.)

     November 2-9
     ( Not much is happening, so from now on I’ll only record the major events of each week.)
      I went to physical therapy every day except Sunday. For the first time in my life, I am in touch with my body.
      My wife is not speaking to me. She is very, very angry, and each day I miss work she gets angrier. It’s for the best she’s not talking to me because we’d just fight.
      I spend hours parked a little ways down the street from Marla’s apartment hoping to see her. I imagined I saw her drive by once in a new Mercedes sports car with LITIG8 license plates.
      Tuesday afternoon I went to the library. It was filled with homeless people. I was reading a home repairs book when I heard, and smelled, a homeless woman standing behind me reading from a big dictionary on a stand. This wasn’t recorded, but I wrote it down as soon as I got to my car.

       Peace. (She read the whole definition.)  Justice.( She read the whole thing. I got up and tried to leave. She blocked my path and put her hand on my shoulder.)
      See how powerful words are when they’re not strung together? A glorious word stands strong by itself. Could you help me out? ( I gave her a dollar.) God bless you. You’ve got a good heart, but you’re lost. You’re wasting your time reading books. There’s no wisdom in them. They won’t show you the way home. Close your eyes.
      Close your eyes and rub them hard.
      No thanks.
      ( She yelled at me.) Do what I say. Close your eyes and rub them. ( I didn’t. She yelled louder.) Do what I say. (A security guard came over.) You again Meklo. I’m not sleeping this time. I’m reading. You can’t throw me out for reading. ( She started to yell at me again when he forcefully grabbed her arm.)
      It’s ok. Don’t hurt her. It’s ok. ( I closed my eyes and rubbed them to try and calm her down. He was dragging her out of the library as she screamed,” See all those sparklers behind your eyelids. Those are star maps. That’s how to find your way home. With your eyes shut tight.”)

      November 12
      I went to your office because yesterday was the tenth day since Marla had received my $300,000 demand. I didn’t get there until 11 because when I woke up in my car outside Marla’s apartment, movers were loading a truck with her stuff. I wanted to follow the truck so I’d know where she was living. Several times she went up and down the stairs in front of her apartment carrying boxes. I took pictures of her. I swear I’ve never done anything that insane in my life. I  know I’m stalking her, but I’m like a salmon when it comes to her. Do you think a salmon wants to swim upstream? Bears. Fishermen. Eagles. They probably don’t even like fresh water anymore. Waterfalls. White water . They don’t care. You have to kill them to stop them. I left before the moving van pulled out because I couldn’t wait to ask you if she’d paid me the $300,000.
     When I got to your office there were five clients ahead of me. I will only put down here a brief part of my conversation with one of them.

       I mean, I’d had training on it at work, so I knew, legally speaking, I was harassing her. But it got weird because I was her supervisor, but I absolutely had to have sex with her. Like she’d ask me for a raise, and I’d say,” Let’s discuss it at the motel sex.” That’s what I call it. She’d tell me she was a little behind in her work, and I’d tell her I could use her little behind in my work. I’d take a penny out of my pocket, throw it on the ground in front of her and tell her to bend over and pick it up. I mean it was an everyday thing. So naturally she sued me and the company. They put me under oath and took my deposition. I told ‘em the truth. I thought of pulling a Clinton, but that’s perjury, and that’s jail time for me; I ain’t the president. Besides I figured the company would pay, and if I got fired, there’s millions of jobs in retail.
      The next day, the boss hands me a letter telling me I’m fired because of what I’d said in the deposition. So then I figured, alright something bad has happened to me, so I should see my lawyer about whether there’s any money in it. Jackpot! The letter said they’d fired me for what I said in the deposition. They didn’t fire me for what I did to her. They fired me for honestly participating in civil rights litigation. That’s illegal retaliation.
      Civil rights?
      That’s what they call it.
      Like with Rosa Parks?
      Her name’s Crystal.
      Do you really think they’re going to pay you even after you admitted everything you did to her? It’s almost like you’d be stealing .
      Hey, I never stole anything from a job that I didn’t earn. And I’m here to pick up my end of the settlement: 34,787. The bottom line is, McCain says there’s a big case out there that says that legally they screwed up worse than I did, and that’s a fact.
       It’s the law. I’m telling you man, anything happens to you - anything- go see your lawyer. Anybody who doesn’t is a chump. You never know. I mean you lose your balance, go see him. It all only makes sense to lawyers.
      What are you going to do with the money?
      I don’t know. Vegas probably. I still really love her. When McCain called me this morning to come pick up the check, I asked him to call the company and tell them they could keep the money if they’d make her sleep with me one night. He said we shouldn’t do that. And I understand why.
      When he came out of your office, he did a little happy dance in front of me, showed me the check and shouted,” Love pays, baby!” I congratulated him as he ran to the elevators.

       You took people into your office ahead of me that arrived long after I got there. I complained to Annie. She said the other people had emergencies. I said one of them was only here to pick up a check. She asked,” What other kind of emergency is there?”
      You had lunch brought in at 12:30 and you left for the day at 4. I followed you to the elevators.
      Have you heard from the insurance company about the $300,000 demand?
      Oh hell no. This is still the diplomacy phase. In a case like this, they won’t pay unless you go to war.
      When’s that?
      When we file suit. And this is going to be a long war.
      How long.
      Russian winter long. Look in my eyes and hold still. ( You used your reflection in my eyes to fix your hair.) The eyes are a mirror.( The elevator came and you stepped in.) Gotta go. Can’t keep her waiting. She’s perfect. ( The elevator closed between us, and I fell to my knees for a few minutes.)
      I went straight to Marla’s apartment. The moving van was gone. I drove around until 2 a.m..  I fell asleep in a Whataburger parking lot. A cop woke me up around 6:30. When I got home, my wife was getting breakfast for my son. She seemed even angrier than before. To show her a light at the end of the tunnel, I told her the $34,787 story. When my son left for school, she said she’d found my photos and wanted me out of the house today.

      November 13 - 27
      Two weeks of unreturned calls to your office. Two weeks of wandering around til late at night and then sleeping on my friend Ron’s couch. He’s been single all his 45 years and he’s prickly as hell about having me around.

      November 28
      Your secretary just called to tell me that my case has been scheduled for mediation next Tuesday. I tried to ask her about it, but she answered each of my questions by saying, “ Just
show up Mr. Cogburn.” Calling you three times a day has soured her attitude toward me. Will Marla be there?
      My work called today. I got the promotion. I never even interviewed for it. I told them I still hadn’t been released by my doctor. They asked about my family.

      December 5
      I showed up at the mediator’s office at 9:30. You weren’t around, so I went to the coffee room. There was a big, tall guy there in an expensive looking blue suit. We said good morning.
      Are you here for the mediation.
      Oh yeah.
      I’m the guy who was injured.
      Is that right? Where’d you get hurt?
      My back.
      ( He slapped me hard on the back.) Well I’m Jack Hardin, and I’m here to cause you some real pain.
       My client’s Food Mart. I should thank you little man. You’ve found something brand new to whine about, and these days that’s no small thing. You’re gonna make me lots of money.
       There’ll be a lot more little shits following after you, and I bill at three hundred an hour for everything including this bullshit conversation. But I’ll call it something else on my bill.
       It’s unethical for me to talk to you without your lawyer around
       Any chance of settling early?
       With my monthly nut? I got two houses, a big old ranch, a cabin cruiser and two kids in college. Now, how can I settle early? And besides, Food Mart wants to make an example of you. See, I have these big old rusty screws I’ve been saving. The heads are as big as my fist. Well, they want me to slowly screw you to the cross with them. I told them I’ve been saving them for 20 years, and there’s none like ‘em anywhere, and it’s gonna cost them if they want me to use ‘em. And those good folks told me they didn’t care how much it cost. Hallelujah and  jubilee. Sugar? So before I crucify you, I’m gonna mock you, whip you, pound a crown of thorns into your skull and roll dice for your clothes. I’m gonna torture you til you howl for your daddy.
       Are there any sane lawyers?
       I’m the only one. ( He slapped me on the back and left.)

       Before the mediation got started, you and Mr. Hardin laughed and joked around like old friends. He’d brought a young lawyer with him. There was also a corporate rep from Food World and an insurance adjustor.
       The mediator gave us a little speech about his legal experience, how he knew we were all there in good faith, and how he hoped we could resolve the matter short of litigation. You told them the story of my accident and what they could’ve done to prevent it. You also told them I had $ 12,500 in medical bills, which amazed me.
      Mr. Hardin stood up and said:
      “We’re not paying you a dime. In fact, if you sue us, Mr. Cogburn, we’re going to sue you right back because yours will be the most frivolous lawsuit ever filed.”
      The mediator stared at Mr. Hardin for a while and then separated both camps into two rooms. He asked you what our initial settlement demand was. You said $300,000. The mediator went to the other room to deliver that message. I asked you if they could really sue me. You didn’t answer. He came back after about 45 seconds to tell us that they were offering nothing and were in fact demanding $5,000 from us for their attorneys fees and expenses so far. He asked you if you wanted to call an impasse now or wait til after lunch. You said we’d already paid for the sandwiches so we might as well wait. You talked to the mediator about Warren Buffett for a while. I again asked if they could really sue me. You said you’d be right back and left. You never came back. When lunch came, I went to get some coffee. As I walked past the other side’s room, the door was partially open and I saw Mr. Hardin doing the twist with his associate while the adjuster clapped and laughed. The Food Mart rep wasn’t in there with them. I sidled up to the door and pushed it open like I was the corporate rep coming back. The clapping, laughing and dancing stopped immediately. When they saw it was me, they all looked angry. I smiled at them. After the mediator told me he was declaring an impasse, I asked him if they could really sue me. He told me to go home.

       December 12
       My lawsuit was filed today.

       December 14
       Annie called me and said Mr. Hardin had subpoenaed me for a deposition on December 20 at 1:30. I was to be at your office thirty minutes before it started. She said they’d sued me back and hung up.

       December 20
       After not sleeping at all last night, I got to your office at noon. You hustled me into your office at 1:15.

       Have you ever been deposed before?
       No. Did they really sue me?
       No time for that now. There are three basic rules. First rule: Don’t volunteer any information. Just listen carefully to the question and answer only what you’re being asked. Most of the questions can be answered yes or no. In the real world if someone asks you if you know where the emergency room is, you tell them it’s around the corner. But in the deposition world when they ask you if you know where the emergency room is, what’s the right answer?
       Good. And then let them ask you where it is, if they remember to. See in this business information is ammunition, and the more information you give them the more ammunition they have to shoot at us. So for instance when they ask if you were wearing those glasses at the time of the accident, what’s the right answer?
       They were flipped up on top of my head.
       Are they distance glasses?
       Why the hell weren’t you wearing them? They’re going to try to prove the accident was your fault because you couldn’t see her coming.
       I didn’t need them in the store.
       But wait a minute here. They were on top of your head, therefore you were wearing them. So when they ask you if you were wearing your glasses, what are you going to say?
       Won’t I be sworn to tell the truth?
       Yes. What are you going to answer?
       See you’re hung up over here at truth. I’m way over here at justice. It’s 1:25. Right now, truth is a luxury you can’t afford.. They were on your head, therefore you were wearing them.
       But that’s not really what they’re asking.
       How the hell do you know what’s going on in his head when he asks you that question. He might be imagining you nude wearing those glasses like an anklet. The right answer is yes.
       No. I know what the question means.
       You don’t know shit. You do not know shit. This is a dog case. And a client like you makes me want to let go of the leash. I’m going to tell him your kid called sick from school, and he needs you to come get him. The depo’s off. Get out of my office. It’s day like this a man needs a woman.

        December 21
        After yesterday, I knew something would happen. You called and said to be at your office at 2 sharp. You didn’t make me wait at all when I got there.

       I can’t represent a client who won’t work with me. I’m no longer your lawyer. Annie’s out til Monday. Please come by Monday at three to pick up your file.
       I think....
       Is there something in my manner that suggests I care what you think? Monday. Three o’clock. Leave now.

       December 24
       I arrived at your office at three. Annie took me right in to see you.

       It’s a miracle.
       You didn’t see the local news last night? It’s all over Good Morning America this morning.
       What is?
        Jesus. You don’t know? The intersection of aisle 6 and the cross aisle. Your exact intersection. Saturday night two teenage boys were racing down the cross aisle pushing their girlfriends in shopping carts. Just as they raced toward aisle 6, a mother pushed her cart with her two year old baby in the kiddie seat directly into the path of one of them. The little girl is thrown out of the cart, flies through the air and lands on her head. The mother runs over to pick up her unconscious child and the other customers won’t let her move her. She looks up to heaven and prays that her beautiful child will live. She’s in critical condition. They don’t know if she’s going to make it. And the beauty part is, after your accident, the store put up video cameras at each cross aisle, so they got the whole thing on tape. One of the store security guys sold the tape to channel 7 and told them about your lawsuit. So not only does the media have this spectacular video, they also have proof positive that the store knew of a dangerous condition and did nothing about it. Katie Couric is going to need a team of shrinks to help her get over this one. Jack Hardin called. They’re offering the whole 300,000. But best of all, Oprah wants you and me on January 16th. Her people just called.
      You said it was a dog case. I came here for my file. I’m not paying you 40% of anything.
      Let me explain something. I have a world view that informs everything I do here in this office. And the direction mankind needs to be going is we all need to stay the hell away from each other. There are too many of us, and we’re trouble for each other. The guy next door’s a pedophile who lusts after your son’s ass. The kid up the street is planning how to rape and murder your daughter. Your fellow men are all the sons of bitches ahead of you in all the long lines you’ve ever waited in. It used to be that you’d move further out into the frontier when you could see the smoke from your neighbor’s chimney. Now, the frontiers gone. We’re all stuck with each other. So how do we deal with it? I’ll tell you. Your neighbor’s blaring his stereo, have your lawyer call his. Your in- laws want to come to town more than once a year and you don’t want them to, have your lawyers work it out. Got a job interview, bring your lawyer. And let everyone know that if they do anything to upset or, God forbid, hurt you or anyone in your family that your vengeance through the legal system will be as swift, sure and unmerciful as a lightning bolt from Olympus. Our lawyers will give us the distance from each other that the frontier used to afford. But, sir,  I also have the heart of a statesman. I know that with all this separation, we need something to bind us together as a people. And just as the Founding Fathers united us as a nation by the common grievances they spelled out in the Declaration of Independence, so I have composed a lawsuit naming all the people of the world as plaintiffs and every company who ever sold a product that could possibly damage the ozone layer as defendants. It’s taken three years to draft, but it’s finished. And by its terms, all humanity are indivisibly united by a single profound grievance. Now to get back to your case, what attracted me to it was its universality. That it had happened to so many people. And anything that grieves and thereby unites a lot of people, I am there. But today, everything’s changed, and your story needs me. You blew the whistle about a danger that threatened us all, and your outcry was ignored. I’m the only one who listened to you , stuck by and believed in you. That’s our story for Oprah. And if you let me continue to be your lawyer, I will make you the first plaintiff listed in my ozone lawsuit. It will forever be known as the Cogburn case. I’m offering you immortality.
       My wife left me over all this.
       Exactly. That makes our story even more touching. Look, we’re going to be famous, and we’re going to make some money. Happiness is.
       Tell Hardin I won’t take a dime less than 350,000, that I want it by tomorrow, and that I want him to pay 10,000 out of his own pocket unless he wants me to tell Oprah the crucifixion story. I’ll be back here tomorrow at 3 to pick up my money.

        January 16
       I hadn’t cried since I was 12 years old, but I cried when they showed the video tape of the little girl flying out of the cart. Oprah took my right hand in both of hers and told me I’d done everything I could to stop that from happening. When you told her about the Cogburn case, she called us “world heroes.” Then Oprah brought out my wife as a surprise guest. She told me she was sorry for leaving me and we hugged and kissed. I told her that I’d always loved her. You wept.

      Pete O’Rourke has practiced law for 18 years.

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