The offices of Fuchs, Felix, and Anuran are normally damp. The building’s maintenance crew installed a complex system of de-humidifiers, but they don’t work well in the muggy Virginia heat. Felix, Fuchs’ corner of the building suffers most; they are on the northeast side and do not benefit from the broad light of the southern sun.
The secretaries are happy for the cool light and warm moisture, which are perfect for African violets. But in early summer, the weather encourages a smoky grey mold to grow on some of the case files.
“Blue mold. The associates bring the spores in from depositions,” George Anuran says. “Then, the damn stuff holds on tight and grows where it can.”
“It’s really bad in the janitor’s closet,” says one junior secretary, turning a small violet-pot toward the sun. “ . . . which is nearly swampy—someone left a wet mop in there last week. I think something’s growing in dark. I mean, besides the mold. And the bugs, which are from worms, I think.”
“At least we have fresh air, here, George. Get out of your fuckin’ office, into your goddamn Jap car and get down here. “
“Those Japs buy cigarettes, Jack. You want to boost their economy.”
“And bring one of those wormy kids with you. They need some sunshine. They’re pale as store-bought eggs—you’d think they grew up in a hallway. Or in that closet where Judy keeps her grandkids’ toy bike.”
This is when new associates appear, ready and desperate to ease into the sunny, aromatic tobacco growers’ fields—and they grow to love tobacco.
“We grow our own and roll our own,” Fuchs says about his lawyers. “That way we know what we’re gettin’, and everyone knows what they’re best for.”
“Where’s the new associate?” says a junior partner.
“He’s in the closet, Mr. Sullivan.”
“The new associate, yes—Grenville.”
“Which closet? What’s a lawyer doing in a closet?
“The utilities closet—the one with the cleaning supplies and the circuit breaker—that’s where Mr. Fuchs gets them. He’s riding Gavin’s truck, right now.”
“Who? George? Or some kid in the supply closet?”
“The associate, Mr. Sullivan. But he doesn’t have his suit or briefcase. Dolores ordered them, but he’s a ready a little early.”
“He’s coming early. He’s ready early.”
“Oh. What about references? Where the hell is this . . . lawyer supposed to have come from?”
“Three years of defense work. Paperwork’s thin, but it’s believable. He’ll be O.K. We’ll get him out before he matures too much.”
“All-righty, then. But I need someone today. I guess George took the other one out to the fields to color-up and meet clients. In the meanwhile, find a towel or something and let this one out.”
Winona Winkler Wendth is a peripatetic New Yorker and freelance writer who lives and teaches writing and literature near Boston. So far, her work has appeared in Spectrum Magazine, Third Coast, Falling-Apart.net, The Bennington Review, and The Yale Journal of Humanities in Medicine. She holds an MFA from The Bennington Writing Seminars, is a film buff, not a bad photographer, and a pretty good cook. She spent a couple of years working in a law firm that specialized in corporate defense.