He sat alone in the booth waiting, alternating his gaze from the rain soaked parking lot to the stopped clock on the wall to the front door, waiting. The original version of
Rock Around the Clock, that immortal song, belted out across the Diner.
Finally, he spotted him in the parking lot, running in from the rain, his expensively coiffed hair covered by an equally expensive imported leather briefcase. He watched him push open the glass door and shake the raindrops off and look around the Diner.
“I’m here,” he waved and then stood to shake hands with his friend.
“Bobby!” the lawyer said with a handsome grim. “Good to see you, you look good.”
“Al,” he replied, “sit down, have something to eat.”
They sat down and the lawyer held up his palm. “Bobby, I’d love to but I’m running late and,” he patted his washboard flat stomach under his white oxford collared shirt, “I’m watching the weight, we’re not in high school anymore kiddo.”
“You wish we were though, huh?” Bobby asked and then, embarrassed by the remark said, “but that was then, and this is now. How’s your sister?”
“Phoebe?” he answered, “she’s fine. We’re very close. She’s got two kids now.”
He looked around the Diner and said, “Look at this place. It never changes. This is how it looked in high school, remember? Time stands still in this place.”
Bobby reached across the table and grabbed the lawyer’s arm tightly.
“Hey, listen, thank you for coming by, all right? I’m on the go all day so this is easy for me. I appreciate you coming by. I know you usually meet people in the office.”
The lawyer waved it off. “We’re teammates, we’ll always be teammates, and you’ll always be my captain.”
Bobby sat back in his chair and looked out into the rain while he spoke. “School, seems like….like a million years ago.” He turned and faced his friend. “I wish I could go back, you know? I was something then, you know, somebody.”
“You’re somebody now Bobby,” the lawyer offered.
“Naw” he said looking down at the table. “I’m an in-home medical equipment salesman. That’s what I am.” He pointed a finger at the brief case. “Maybe you were right. Maybe I should have gone to law school, huh?”
He noticed the waitress approaching and waved her off. “Give us a second, will you huh?”
She smiled and returned to the counter. Turning to the lawyer, he asked,
“So, you get a chance to talk to her? Get her straightened out?”
“Well” he answered carefully. “I spoke to her counsel Bobby, I’m not allowed to speak to her directly since she’s represented.”
“Her lawyer’s a shark in high heels. She’s worse than her.” Bobby spat out the words.
“Be that as it may,” the lawyer said, “there’s nothing she or I can do about your ex-wife and her issues with…”
“I call my little girl,” he said cutting him off mid-sentence. “I can’t talk to her on the phone. She’s not here, or she’s asleep or she’s in the shower, and when I do talk to her she doesn’t talk back. She’s got the kid hating me…me…her own father. You think that’s right? She turns a child against her father? That’s why I say we drag this thing before the courts and examine it.”
“Bobby,” the lawyer said as soothingly as he could, “expert testimony alone will set you back ten, maybe even fifteen grand. Then there’s court costs, filing fees, depositions, time missed from work. And for all that, I can’t promise you a thing will change.”
“Okay, go ahead. Do it,” he said turning his attention back to the parking lot. He didn’t mean it. He didn’t have that kind of money.
“Bobby,” the lawyer said.
“I can get a loan on the business,” he lied.
“Bobby,” the lawyer said.
“Sometimes you gotta spend….” he continued.
The lawyer leaned forward across the table and held his friend’s face in his hands.
“Bobby,” he said, “as much as anyone, I love you. I’ve known you all my life. Now what happened to you with her, that’s not right. I’ll be the first to say it, but kiddo, forget it. Just give it up. Sometimes you just have to walk away and this is one of those times.”
The song Summertime floated through the air. The lawyer sat back in his seat. “It’s not fair, it’s not right, but that’s the way it is and throwing good money after bad won’t change a thing. Time changes things Bobby. Stay in contact with your daughter any way you can. She’ll come around. Kids are sharper than you think. They see more than we think they do. Give it time. It could be five years, ten years, but she’ll get curious and you never know. In the meantime, and I know it’s a long meantime….find somebody…don’t go through life alone expecting not to be alone in the future Bob.”
Bobby looked at him and shook his head. “She left me after seven years…seven years…that’s nothing seven years….for who? For a punk…” He sat back exasperated.
They sat in silence for several seconds and Bobby reached into back pocket and pulled out a checkbook. “What do I owe you?”
The lawyer slid the checkbook from Bobby’s hands and gently hit him on the head with it before returning it to him.
“A promise,” he said, “that you’ll consider what I said.”
“I heard you,” he said with a waning smile. “You’re right.”
The lawyer stood, collected his brief case, and said, “I’ll work out the custody and the child support. You’re going to come out all right on that end, I promise.”
Bobby stood, slowly like a defeated man does and the two friends embraced.
“Let me ask you something,” the lawyer said. “Do you remember the Ansonia Derby game we played?”
“I remember,” he answered, “every moment of every one of them. Which one are you talking about?”
“The one we lost,” the lawyer said buttoning his raincoat. “The one we lost because I fumbled. Remembered that?”
Bobby smiled and put his hand on the lawyer’s arm. “Forget about that,” he said. “It was a million years ago.”
“I thought my life was over,” the lawyer said. “I hated myself.” He pulled up his collar and said, “Do you remember what you told me? Do you remember what you said to me that day?”
Bobby thought about it for a second but he couldn’t recall his words.
“You said to me, somebody has to win and somebody has to lose and today it’s our turn to lose. You’ll win next time, I promise. You’ll see, it will work out. And I went on to live another day because of those words and everything worked out.”
The lawyer grasped his friend’s hand and he said, “You’ll see, Bobby.
You only fumbled. It will all work out.”
And he left.