Despite Mac’s offer to meet my flight, I drove home. I was not alone. My mom flew in to help me close my apartment and ride with me. It was summer, and she was on hiatus from school. I’m glad she came. I needed my mother terribly.
“Sperry,” she said when I told her about the firm, “There are two kinds of people in this world – those who like people and want to help them and those who like power and wealth and using them against other people. You will find those two types of people in every profession and every location in the world. Perhaps, more of the power and wealth people congregate in big cities, but I’ve known plenty at home, too. They live out by the country club. I wouldn’t live there even if I could afford to.”
I nodded. “Mac once said he lives in his family’s home so he can avoid the country-club set.”
“That’s right! It’s his way of keeping some distance between himself and the power-and-wealth set. Mac has money, but he is not like those people. He gives generously to church and charity, is on the board of deacons at church, and is liked by everyone who meets him, whether they are his wealthiest client or the man who services his car.
“You have nothing to feel badly about in leaving your job. You’ve simply decided that you are a people person and that you want your practice of law to help people survive, not help them wring other people dry. Your daddy felt the same way. If he hadn’t, I couldn’t have loved him.”
“Thank you, Momma.”
She gave me a tight hug, and I had a peaceful night’s sleep. The next day, we set out for Dennison. No, I wasn’t taking my furniture. I had sold most of it to Paul and Dennis; I had donated the rest of it to a shelter in southeast DC.
Lesson Learned: Don’t spend money to put down roots until you know you want to stay there.
I didn’t have money to get my own apartment, so I lived with Momma. It would not be a permanent arrangement – we both agreed on that – only a stopgap measure while I earned enough money to move out, on my own.
It turned out to be a welcome arrangement, for I needed time without money worries, and I needed my mother’s wise counsel. Odd, but the rebellion of my teenage years had departed, and I welcomed her advice.
Mac gave me a small room in the corner of the office and told me to fix it up to suit myself. He even sent me to the office supply store to buy a new chair, since the old one was off its casters and wobbly. It had been old Mr. Ellis’ chair, and he had been a very heavy man. I hung a picture from my apartment on one wall and my diplomas on another wall. The third and fourth walls were taken up by the door and window, which were large in the old First National Bank Building, where I worked.
At noon, we locked the office and took an hour for lunch. Mac was off to meet someone about his philanthropic work. I went home and ate with Momma.
That afternoon, Mac brought in a case file and handed it to me. “Don Acona was stopped for driving under the influence,” he told me. “He’s not disputing the charge, but he’ll need someone to make sure his interests are represented. Take a look at the police report and see what you think. We’re going to court tomorrow morning.”
“Does he have a previous arrest record?” I asked.
“It’s all in the file,” Mac told me as he looked around to see who had just come in the door. “Yes? May I help you?”
“Is Miss Cervantes in?”
“Yes. May I tell her who wishes to see her?” Mac asked.
“Barton Hammonds,” the voice replied.
I nearly dropped the file folder when I heard the name. I was scrambling to recover the folder when Mac turned to me. I looked up at him and nodded.
“She will be right with you, Mr. Hammonds,” Mac said as he walked toward his office.
I went out, to the reception area. Barton Hammonds arose as he saw me. He smiled.
“Might I have a word?” he asked.
“Yes, of course,” I replied. “Please come back.”
He followed me into my office and glanced about. “Very nice. I like the personal touch you’ve given it.”
“What is on your mind, Mr. Hammonds?” I asked without thanking him for the compliment.
“First of all, I did not follow you out here. I’m in Dallas this week on a case. While in the area, I thought I would drive up and ask why you left so soon and so suddenly.”
“I don’t like the way I was treated at the firm, Mr. Barton, being told when I can use the restroom, being led to believe I’m doing valuable work when, in fact, I am proofreading five-year-old material. Shall I continue?”
“That is our training program, Miss Cervantes.”
“Well, it’s not for me. Now, if you will excuse me, I have to prepare to represent a man in court tomorrow.”
“Yes, I heard. DUI. Don’t you deserve better than DUI?”
“Is there better than trying to save a man from himself? Two years ago, his wife died of cancer. Last year, his daughter ran away with her boyfriend. The man has lost everyone near and dear to him and has turned to alcohol. If I can befriend him and possibly make a difference in his life, then I would like to do so.”
Hammonds studied her. “It appears we misjudged you. We thought you were tougher than that.”
“You didn’t misjudge me. I thought I was a tough old buzzard, too, and that I wanted to be one. I was wrong.”
“Tough old buzzard,” Hammonds mused, chuckling wryly. “Well, yes. This is Texas, isn’t it? May I know what caused you to change your mind?”
“Seeing how tough old buzzards treat each other,” I told him. “I went to the firm ready to be a team player, a member. I was lied to before I even accepted the job. I was treated like a kindergarten child. I was threatened with dismissal for making a single mistake. Where are the rewards for being a tough old buzzard?”
“They come later, after you have proven yourself.”
“Promotions come after one proves himself. Human decency should not have to be earned. Now, if you will excuse me, I have work to do, and you have a case in Dallas that surely must need your attention.”
I arose, walked him through the office, and showed him out the door. As I returned to my office, I caught a wink from Mac.
“Now, there’s Ben Cervantes’ daughter! Tough when need be but not too busy being tough to do the right thing,” he said.
I leaned in the doorway to his office and nodded. “I think that’s what it needs to be about.”
“That’s exactly what it needs to be about. Well, you read through that file. Then, we’ll put our heads together and see what we can do for the old boy.”
“I was thinking of community service,” I said when Mac and I got together to discuss the DUI case. “We don’t want to give Don back his driver’s license so he can go back out and cause a fatal accident. We do want him to stay sober long enough to think about which way he’s headed.”
“Community service can be very effective if the defendant wants it to be. You’ll need to discuss it with Don, though.”
“I can do that. In fact, I think I’ll walk over to the jail and have a talk with him. Maybe try and get him into Recovering Alcoholics, as well,” I mused as I turned to leave.
“I’ll see you when you get back,” Mac said with an approving twinkle in his eye.
(c) 2008, Virginia Tolles, All Rights Reserved