The Friday Fictioneers Challenge: Write a 100-word story based on the photograph.
USED TO BE
“The convention center? Well, go about six blocks, to where the old movie house used to be–the one that burned in ’87–What’d you say, Fred?”
“It’s The Oaks now. Condos.”
“Oh, that’s right. Well, just before the condos, turn right, and when you get to where the Masonic lodge used to be, there’s a–What’s that, Fred?”
“It’s the Hyatt–”
“All right, the Hyatt. Turn right again, and almost to where Milton Badey’s furniture store used to be–”
“Omni. One day they’ll knock down this diner and this’ll be where we used to be.”
On my husband’s first visit to my hometown, I took him on a walking tour: There’s where Miss Blanche Harris used to live, and my great-grandmother lived there, and when my grandfather moved in from the farm he built that little house, and the house across the street was Uncle Carl’s, and that one belonged to Aunt Bettie and Uncle Maurice, and Rob and Nell’s grocery store was there, and right next door was where Dick Ward sold double-dip ice cream cones for a nickle, and next door to that was Earl and Lorene McCutcheon’s store, and that was the Masonic lodge, and across the street was Dr. Luckett’s office, and that was the cotton gin, and there are the scales where they weighed the cotton wagons, and there’s the old post office that was a bank before it was a post office, and that was the gin yard where they stored the cotton bales, and the skating rink was back there on the river before they moved it to Lockhart . . .
And when the tour ended, I realized everything I’d told him was history.
(The the event pictured below happened before my time. And it’s Fentress Resort. That’s the skating rink in the background.)
I was sitting with friends yesterday evening, studying a menu, when our waiter tipped the tray he was carrying and poured ice water on me. Seven glasses full. Most went onto my lap. My slacks were sopping.
That was the most invigorating experience I’ve had since the Director of the Tort Litigation Division of the largest law firm in Austin hit me smack in the chest with a water balloon. No cause of action was involved. We were engaged in a water balloon fight.
She was contrite, apologized all over the place, but, as I told her, hitting someone was her job. I just happened to move into range.
If the fault fell on anyone, it was my attorney. I was parked at a picnic table with other paralegals and secretaries who were pleading headaches–one pleading a migraine, which she was subject to–when my attorney came over and said, “C’mon, Kathy.” I don’t know how he knew I didn’t have a headache. I could have pleaded migraine, but I didn’t.
He had migraines, as well, so he knew one when he saw one.
I had migraines, too, and I never lied about having one. I preferred to embarrass myself in a three-legged race than to tempt fate.
Anyway, lying to lawyers is not a good idea. They know.
So I participated and got the balloon treatment. And I benefited from the experience. In addition to forgiving the Director, I told her the water was a relief. Pease Park isn’t air-conditioned in late spring.
Best of all, I was the only paralegal wearing a wet tee-shirt. It wasn’t the kind that turns transparent, but it was a tee-shirt, and it was wet. Normally when I tell the story, I leave out the phrase not transparent.
Yesterday’s waterfall didn’t have nearly the joie de vivre of the water balloon incident. My friends were appalled and tried to dry me off. Several suggested I head for the restroom and wring myself out (staff had supplied terry cloth hand towels), but moving would have been disastrous. I would have left a trail of water from here to yonder.
Then friends worried I would freeze in the exceptionally cool room. I assured them I wouldn’t. I haven’t frozen since the Great Snow of 1986.
Anyway, after the initial surprise, I laughed and said, “I’m all right, I’m really all right, really, I’m all right.” And I was.
But I also wanted to spare the waiter’s feelings. There’s a reason I’ve never been a waiter, and dumping food and drink on people is it.
I’m glad I behaved graciously about the deluge, because later, the same waiter tipped another tray–while it was resting on a stand, which takes a goodly portion of dexterity–and lost an order of tacos pastor. That time our entire table laughed (except, perhaps, the woman who had ordered the tacos). I made a point of saying, “We’re not laughing at you; we’re laughing with you.”
The waiter appeared to take the business with equanimity. He probably zenned it. A lot of zenning goes on in Austin.
Telling the whole truth, as I must in a post involving attorneys, requires me to admit I took the cascade with aplomb for the reason every writer with half a grain of sense lives by:
It’s all material.
I tell the story of the water balloon because I think it’s public record, I hope. I hope also I can’t be fired retroactively. For anyone who just has to know, I’ll explain someday why a bunch of lawyers and support staff were lobbing liquid at one another. But the story is better if you don’t know.
I’m told, however, that listening to tort lawyers plan an afternoon of vigorous recreational games is most instructive, because they spend half the time discussing injury, liability, damages, duty of care, breach, proximate cause, and such.
My own speculation–and it is mere speculation, not legal opinion, so I’m not practicing law without a license–is that in any potential suit, sovereign immunity and res ipsa loquitur, plusa modicum of intentional infliction of emotional distress would battle it out in the courts.
And, yes, I had to check Wikipedia to brush up on most of those terms. I knew them for the test, but since then they’ve re-filed themselves in short-term memory. I do remember quite a bit about res ipsa loquitur and sponges, and I have vivid memories of putting together many trial notebooks.