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Closing Time

by Stephen Lautens

November 27, 1998

Unless you're a caveman or Buddhist monk, everyone these days seems to accumulate a lot of worldly possessions.

I'm no exception.

Some things we keep because they're valuable. Other things never get thrown out because they used to be valuable, like old bank statements, and keys to cars we don't own anymore.

A lot of things hang around the house "because they'll be fine as soon as I get around to fixing them."

Me? I end up keeping a lot of useless junk because they remind me of people and stories.

I spent last weekend clearing out my old law office. I hadn't been there for more than three months, and the lease was about to expire. I couldn't put it off any longer.

As a divorce lawyer, you collect some interesting things in ten years, and each one tells a story.

There was a photocopy of the cheque from my very first client. (I cashed the cheque - I'm not that sentimental.) I defended a young woman who borrowed a car without permission, ran a red and smashed into a parked car. Oh yeah - she also didn't have a license.

Not exactly the stuff Perry Mason built his career on.

She was obviously guilty and we were both prepared for the worst. Then the cop made up a stupid lie to help get her convicted.

The judge was so upset at the cop she stopped the trial and immediately found my client not guilty. I was too stunned to know what to do.

Her clerk finally told me to go home - I'd won.

I learned a valuable lesson my first time in court. Not everyone tells the truth. Sometimes not even the good guys.

While packing I found an old brass key to a grandfather clock in one desk drawer. A divorcing couple were fighting over it. It was all they could talk about. One of them had the clock and the other had the key. Each was useless without the other.

After I finally convinced my client to give back the key, his wife refused to take it. She didn't want the fight to be over, because that was all she had left.

He didn't want it back either, so I kept it in my drawer to remind me that sometimes you're not really fighting about the clock.

I had someone's wedding ring in my drawer for a while. He threw it at me after court. I caught it in mid-air like a magician doing a trick. About a year later the owner called me and sheepishly asked if I still had it. We were both happy to get it back to its owner.

In my cash drawer I always kept an NSF cheque someone wrote me. That's not unusual, except the person who wrote it happened to be a priest. It wasn't an honest mistake either.

The priest stiffed me.

What ever happened to: "In God we trust - all others pay cash"?

As I cleaned out the last few things I also found souvenirs from happier customers - cards, notes. People who came through the process and were better off at the other end.

And a little sign from a client that I kept on my bookshelf.

It said "Miracles Performed Here."

If only it were true.


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