Wednesday, September 7, 2011

An English Lesson

From Beverly Hills I ride my bike down to Westwood, past the village to the Veterans Administration precincts. I am meeting my English student here during her lunch break. I load my bike onto the back seat of her car, slip into the driver's seat, and we take off for the freeway to the valley. Along the way I begin our English lesson. Today, review of the use of articles.

When we've reached the crest of the pass and gone down again to Ventura Blvd, we are almost there. The lawyer's office, the lawyer of the TV Producer I'd sued to get back the memory book found in Hungary two years before. I ask my student:

- Don't you want to come along to protect me?
- No! What are you afraid of? Always joking. It's the office.
- It's an office.
- It's an office.
- There's a lawyer in the office whose clients aren't happy with me.
- You made what you had to.
- You did what you had to.
- You did what you had to.
- I did. Still I wish everyone would like me.
- Grow up.
- I'll grow up.
- I'll wait in the car.

A bank seems to take up the building's entire ground floor. I go in and ask how I get to the offices, if I am in the right place and there in fact are offices. Go down the driveway, turn right at the parking attendant's booth, turn right again when you see doors, that's the entrance. Climbing a few flights of stairs I step into an elegant waiting room and announce myself to the receptionist. She informs me:

- They are waiting for you.
- They? What they? Which they?
- How should I know? Whoever you have an appointment with.
- One or more than one?
- You know your business, I don't. How many do you want to meet you?
- One.
- Alright then.
- Alright what?
- What?
- I give up.
- Would you like something to drink?
- What do you have?
- Water. How many drinks are you expecting?
- I'll take water.
- Would you like ice?
- Sure. And yes, if you're going to ask, more than one ice cube.

She smiles and goes to the kitchen. When she returns she tells me if I like I can wait in the conference room on the floor below. She adds:

- They're almost ready for you.
- They're!
- The stairs are down the hall to your right. Good luck.

Taking the stairs two at a time, in a minute I see before me a glassed in conference room. And inside, yes, more than one: two men, big and ugly but not too ugly, obviously brothers, about forty years old, casually dressed, lounging about on opposite sides of the table, doing nothing. One looks up from his reverie at my entrance, asks:

- Here to see the lawyer?
- I am. What are you two doing here?
- Waiting.
- For who?
- The lawyer. Sit down. He won't be long. He knows you are here. Are you a lawyer?
- No. But I sued your guy's clients.
- What was it about?
- A book I found. His clients didn't want to give back to me. I'm picking it up now.
- So he lost this one!
- He had no chance to win.
- Why not? -- You're hesitating. You don't have to answer.
- I am going to sign a settlement agreement that says I cannot defame his clients. I checked: that means spreading unfavorable stories that are not true. So sticking to the truth: I used the internet to publicize our business dispute. That publicity, though true, was not favorable to the clients.
- You're a born lawyer.
- That's like saying I was born dead. No thanks. Save me from all power mad money worshipers.
- What is your profession?
- What's yours?
- Here he comes.

The brothers leave the room, and in exchange for signing the settlement agreement I get the book. It all goes smoothly, with no acrimony to speak of except my own when the lawyer says his clients meant well.