The Tell-Tale File

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Crazy! I am not crazy. You may think that I am, but I am not. Do not judge me until you have heard my entire story, for it is the truth.

It started out simply enough. I am a 4th year associate for a large Chicago law firm. My work in the real estate department, drafting and reviewing commercial leases, is enjoyable. I am a meticulous attorney. I am scrupulous in every part of my professional and personal life. I know that I am not crazy.

I cannot say how the thought first entered my mind to take a pro bono divorce case, but once I did, the idea haunted me until the pro bono office found an undemanding case for me to handle. I accepted their file along with their procedural instructions. I felt assured that I would be as successful with this divorce case as I am with my real estate work.

You should have seen how well I handled the file. How careful I was to properly complete the necessary forms, how diligently I communicated with my client. When the case was nearly finished, I appeared before the court for the prove-up. I was cautious when preparing for this hearing. You see, I do not appear before a judge under normal circumstances; my real estate work is transactional. But this divorce case demanded that I stand before the judge, my client at my side, to present her case.

I was a success. My client spoke as I had prepared her. The Judge, upon hearing the evidence, pronounced her divorced. He then advised me that I should submit a Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage to him within 28 days.

I felt elated. How easy this all was. I hurried back to my office with every intention of completing all of my necessary paperwork then. But when I reached my desk, I discovered something for which I was unprepared: A message from my boss instructing me to proceed with all possible dispatch to Peoria, to assist him with a complicated closing. I hurried out of my office, carefully placing the divorce file on the southwest corner of my desk.

The closing was difficult and took several days longer than I had anticipated. When I returned to my office, there were other vital matters to which I had to attend. I gave no thought to my divorce file, but worked furiously into the deepest hours of the night. As I was leaving my office which was bathed in pale moonlight, I heard a rustling sound in the vicinity of my desk. Thinking it my overburdened imagination playing tricks, I quickly shut the door behind me and hurried home.

The next morning when I arrived in my office, bleary-eyed but ready to work, I noticed the divorce file in the center of my desk. I thought it odd, but gave it no further attention as I turned to overdue matters. But when I left late that night, I again heard the rustling sound. It was louder this time. Insistent, almost. But I was tired and overwrought and I left quickly. The next morning I found the divorce file upon my chair. I was shaken, but determined to put it out of my mind.

As my real estate work continued to prevent me from attending to my divorce file, I began to dread coming into my office in the morning. The file haunted my every waking moment. Its hideous rustling became so loud, I was forced to place it deep inside a filing cabinet, buried under a heavy stack of letterhead.

Yet still it rustled. Louder and louder, like a forest of dry leaves quaking in an autumn wind. I was sure that my boss would comment on it whenever he came near. I did not believe him when he denied hearing anything untoward. He heard the file noises. Of course he heard! He knew it was taunting me for not completing my work.

The file’s noise grew and grew and grew! The sound penetrated every fiber of my being. It was punishing me! The file would report my failure to complete my case. I would lose my law license! The file would not forgive my lapse. I had to get away.

I ran out of my office, speaking to no one. The moment the elevator reached the ground floor I raced out of doors. I had to escape that incessant noise. Suddenly, I felt a vibration. Was it the cursed file clinging to me? No! It was my Blackberry with an urgent email. I calmed my nerves long enough to read the small script. It was a message from the pro bono office. They were contacting me to offer their help. If I was too busy I could send them the file. They would complete the judgment and get it entered within the 28 day time limit.

I was saved! The file could not destroy me. I hurried back up to my office and quickly thrust it into the hands of a paralegal lurking outside my door.

“Here,” I told him. “Deliver this to the pro bono office. Quickly! Quickly!” I shoved him out of my office and pulled the door shut.

Quiet surrounded me and filled my body with peace. I had learned my lesson. The referring pro bono office was there to aid me in my work. I could contact them to avoid the disquiet I’d suffered. They would ease my burden. They would not allow my next pro bono case to make me crazy. I am at rest.