Monday, November 06, 2006

In Which Michael Discovers He's In Way Over His Head

“I am so in way over my head,” Michael Farmer thought. “Bit off more than I can chew. Overfed the gold fish. Overstuffed the…”

“What are you babbling on about then?” asked his Snobby British Male Secretary from right outside his door.

“Um, nothing, I was just thinking about these documents,” Michael replied. Did he really say all that out loud? It was official - his brain was further off the track than he thought it was.

He looked around his depressingly small, windowless office (no window offices until your sixth year – it was like a perk for surviving that long at the firm). His tiny desk was surrounded on three sides by boxes and boxes of documents. His job was to go through them, thousands in all, and catalogue them in a way that made sense. The problem - he had no idea what he was doing. He was a real estate attorney who had volunteered for this corporate assignment because his department was slow enough to make him nervous about meeting his yearly hour requirements (and, more importantly, missing his $50,000 bonus target). He spent twelve hours a day cataloging documents for a fat little man named Wellington Fargo whose nickname, predictably, was Wells.

His phone rang. “Mark, Wellington Fargo here. How goes the cataloging?”

“It’s Michael sir. And I’m having some…”

“Excellent! That’s the type of team spirit we like her at Sullivan Powell. You are a real asset to this firm Mark. The way you left bankruptcy for corporate because we needed a man in a pinch. Way to go! Now when you have some time, come up and I’ll give you some more work. We like to keep the associates busy, busy busy.”

Michael looked depressingly at his huge pile of work. “It’s Michael sir. And I’m actually a real estate attorn...”

“What did you say? Good, good. I must take this other call. Talk to you later.”

“Is everyone here insane?” Michael asked the dead receiver in his hand.

“What was that then?” asked Snobby Male Secretary


On his way to Jamie’s office (Jamie being the only other normal human being at Sullivan Powell), he noticed Anderson Dunleavy attempting to make a covert exit from Mary Beiring’s office. He also noticed a very disheveled Mary, tucking in her blouse, with a very evil smile on her face. Anderson refused to make eye contact and slouched down the hallway.


“So in conclusion,” Jamie told Michael, “it doesn’t matter that you don’t know what the hell you’re doing with the charting. Old Wells Fargo will never even look at it anyway. You are currently riding the easiest assignment of your life. You can nap in your office ten hours a day and give Welly your grocery list and you’ll get the same ‘great work Mark’ that you’ll get either way.” They both laughed. It was impossible not to.

“I wish I had mentioned this to you a week ago, I’ve literally been going insane.”

“Think nothing of it,” Jamie replied. “One day you can talk me off the ledge and we’ll call it even. Did you hear about Phil Tucker?”

“Tucker. Hmmm, he’s that weird dude who has no friends and keeps to himself right? What about him?”

“They canned his ass.”

“What? Why?”

Jamie shook his head, the expression on his face somewhere between amazement and amusement. “Well, it seems he hadn’t shown up for work for the last five weeks.”

“He never called in? He wasn’t on vacation?”

“Nope. He just wasn’t here. The worst part is, no one even noticed. Seems he suffers from depression and was off his meds because he was finishing a huge deal here and didn’t have time to go home and get ‘em for a few days. Once the deal was done he crashed. The only way the firm even knew he was gone was because his parents called. They also hadn’t heard from him in five weeks.”

“That is truly fucked up,” Michael Farmer declared. The both burst out laughing again. It was laugh or crazy. When the dust settled, he continued. “I hope your boy Dunleavey’s had all his shots.”

“What’s the supposed to mean?”

“I think he just finished added himself to Mary Beiring’s greatest hits.”

If Jamie’s desk hadn’t been in the way, his jaw would have hit the floor.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Anderson Arrives

Anderson Dunleavy took a deep breath, and entered the office, with a steaming cup of coffee in hand. “Good morning, Ethel.”
“I don’t like you,” she replied.

It was the same every morning. The woman had taken an immediate dislike to him, and wasted no time in spreading vicious rumors about him around the office.

Last week: “Anderson is actually a woman.”
The week before: “Anderson Dunleavy has no first name because his mother gave him the names of both men who could possibly be his father.”

Ethel terrified him, and as he was only a first year associate and in dire need of her favor, he knew he was doomed. Now, without fail, the sight of Ethel caused him to urinate on the spot. He had taken to always carrying a cup of liquid to make it seem like he spilled something instead.

This morning, as he felt the trickle, he quickly poured some coffee on his pants as a cover up. Ethel looked down past her glasses. “Did you just wet the floor?”
“Coffee. I spilled coffee.” Anderson quickly made his exit, past the desk of his assigned assistant, Baird Powell.

Baird was the son of one of the firm’s partners, and was hired in the most egregious case of nepotism Anderson had ever seen. Not only was Baird entirely incompetent, but he was frequently causing Anderson extra work through inexplicable mistakes, and often unspeakable embarrassment.

Unfortunately, that meant Anderson took on more than he really had time for, only leaving the easiest of tasks to Baird. Not that those always went smoothly…

Last week: “You wanted me to send your mother roses? I thought you meant mine. Don’t worry, it was still your name on the card.”
The week before: “The fax wouldn’t go through, so I made it into a paper airplane, but it didn’t go very far. Only till about James’s office.”

Anderson placed his coffee on his large mahogany desk, hung his jacket on a hook, and admired the view of bustling New York City outside his window. He remembered the corporate memo he had to submit to James, which he had asked Baird to make copies of yesterday, and went to check with Baird himself, as Baird had not yet mastered the intercom system, referring to it as “the stupid talking beep.”

Baird usually wore shorts to work, his hair in a pony tail and his goatee moussed into a different shape each day. His cubicle was filled with roller skates, a scooter, a surf board and various other modes of transportation, some more useful than others.

“Baird, were you able to make copies of that memo for me?” Anderson asked with a tone of hope in his voice, despite the fact that Baird was playing Tomb Raider on his computer.

“The memo? Oh shoot. I sent it to India by mistake. But I could give you this lovely afghan instead,” he said, holding up what was indeed a lovely blue afghan. “It was a total mixup. I am just the dumbest person ever.”

Anderson put his head in his hands and actually cried a bit. He knew better than to doubt or even ask why Baird might have sent the memo to India, just as he knew there was no chance Baird had saved the memo in the system, either. He said a bit too angrily and loudly: “Yes. Yes, you are. Without a doubt, you are the dumbest %!@*$ and the biggest moron ever!”

Anderson went white, and quickly ran around the corner to make sure Ethel hadn’t heard him. He came close enough to hear her tell someone out of view, “It’s sad really. Anderson has only one nipple.” He let out a sigh of relief and returned to Baird, who was looking very forlorn.

“Dude. That was harsh,” Baird said.

Anderson suddenly remembered whose son Baird was. “Oh. God, oh. No. I didn’t say you were the dumbest person ever. You said that. I was repeating. I was reflecting back. Oh, God, boss’s son. I need some coffee. Do you need coffee? I’m going to go now.” As he turned to go, he thought of another way to smooth things over. “You know what? I will take that afghan instead. Thank you.”

He walked backed to his office, closed the door, and laid down on the floor, putting the blue afghan over his face. He repeated his mantra:

I am losing my mind.
I am losing my mind.
I am losing my mind.

As soon as he felt calm, he tried to recall why he went into law in the first place. Initially, he had wanted to change the world, and thought of public advocacy. An internship with a human right’s group made him realize that not only was he not a good public advocate, but he didn’t actually like helping people, either. His next internship was at a swanky Los Angeles firm, where he was treated to steak dinners and fine wine each night. He was definitely willing to sell his soul for the money, and at this firm, he had.

Anderson’s reverie was broken by the sound of Mr. Powell Sr.’s voice booming through the hallways. Mr. Powell was hard of hearing, and spoke to everyone, and expected to be spoken to, at high volume.

Mr. Powell: “Ethel, where are my pills?!”
Ethel: “Who do I look like?”
Mr. Powell: “You look like Ethel. Aren’t you Ethel?”
Ethel: “Yes.”
Mr. Powell: “Well, alright then.”

Mr. Powell went back into his office, only to ring Ethel on the intercom, speaking loudly, of course. “Ethel, the doctor will be here at 3 PM to check my prostrate. Send him right in when he arrives.”
Ethel immediately paged Anderson,
“Anderson, Mr. Powell would like to see you at 3 PM in his office.”

Par for the course.

What he wasn’t expecting was the next intercom message. “Anderson, Mary Beiring would like to see you in her office now.”

Mary Beiring, a sixth year associate, had a reputation of getting by on her looks. Anderson had not had much interaction with her until now, and was surprised to be summoned. He roused himself, smoothed his suit jacket, picked up his coffe in case he passed Ethel in the hallway, and headed to Mary’s office, reminding himself not to mention Mary to his wife. She was already upset that he was always coming home so late. No need to add fuel to the fire.

Mary was putting blush on her cheekbones when he knocked and entered.

“Mary, what can I do for you?”
“Hello Anderson, Ethel told me you are going to examine Mr. Powell’s prostrate later today, and I thought maybe you could give me a breast exam.”
Anderson blinked his eyes, and said, “One more time.”
“A breast exam.”
“I’m not a doctor. You can’t have believed for a minute that I’m a doctor.”
“I know. This isn’t a mammogram or anything.”


Anderson found himself in James’s office at 6, as he always did. He admired James’s slick and suave ways, and saw him as something of a mentor, and perhaps protection from Ethel. Usually, they had a drink, talked about sports, and discussed the cases they were working on. James was a consummate professional, and made Anderson feel like he actually was in fact working in a law firm. Today, the conversation began differently:

“James, I think I’m losing my mind.”

James looked up from his papers, and said very firmly, “No. Say nothing like that here. This is the sanctuary zone. You want crazy, you have plenty to choose from out there beyond this door. Any of those people out there we work with. But this room, my office, is the no fly zone. Comprende? Now where is that memo?”
“I believe it’s on its way to India.”
“No. Violation of the craziness rule. We just went over this.”
“But that’s what happened.”
“Lie to me. Make something up. As long as it sounds plausible.”
“I’m not going to lie.”
“For Chrissakes, you went to law school!”
“True enough.”
“You know what? I don’t care. You do not leave here tonight until that memo is on my desk, even if you have to go to India to get it!”

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Post 1 - In Which Jimmy Has A Tough Morning


He jerked awake, somehow managing to slam his head against the brass headboard from the lying down position (difficulty degree, 3.2) while still completely unaware of all the W’s – who, what, when and where. When it all came into slow focus, he groaned and wished he was still in the dark.

How could it possibly be 8:30 already?

He slammed the snooze button on his alarm clock, knocking over a three day old half-can of Red Bull in the process and spilling the anti-sleep fuel all over his hundred dollar suede slippers. It was going to be one of those days.

James Brennan sat on the side of his bed, rubbing his face and trying to keep his sleep fogged brains from leaking out of his eyes. He had come home at 4:30 in the morning, thanks to another exciting session of “emergency due diligence” for stupid Martin Alexander – know around the office as Mr. Burns because he had an uncanny resemblance to, well, the evil Mr. Burns from the Simpsons. Acted like him too, the mean old bastard.

Jamie contemplated going back to bed for, say, the next twenty hours or so, but that wasn’t in the cards. He had at least twelve hours of work staring him in the face and if he didn’t get the old patootie in gear, he’d be at work until 4:30 again. So instead of lying back down and drowning himself in goose feather, he stood up, his feet going right into the puddle remains of Red Bull. Yup, definitely one of those days.

He contemplated life in the shower. It was his favorite part of the day, the morning shower, where he could spend a good ten minutes slamming his head against the tiles and question his career choice. James Brennan, lawyer extraordinaire.

He’d been doing it for six years now. Coming out of University of Chicago Law School (Law Review, of course), he’d been a hot property for all the big firms. He’d gone with the powerhouse firm of Sullivan, Powell and Weiss (offices in New York, Los Angeles, Washington, Bangkok, London and Moscow) because, well hell, because of the money, why else? It was all about the money for post-law school Jamie. Imagine a punk like him coming out of grad school and making WAY over a hundred grand a year, plus bonuses in the tens of thousands and working with some of the most important financial institutions in the world. It was a no-brainer really.

Especially if you are an idiot.

So now it’s six years later and look where I am, he thought as he toweled, working on four hours of sleep and staring another late night in the face. And another. Oh, and another after that. Possibly a Saturday too. Great freaking life.

The he was out the door, stopping at Starbucks for the obligatory triple venti hazelnut latte and in the office by 10:15. You had to love living in the city. Sure he spent the majority of his salary on rent, food, dry cleaning and booze - but you couldn’t beat a commute to work in under half an hour in New York. Unless you lived in Queens. But whatever.

He passed his secretary, Ethel Mervin, on the way to his office. Ethel was the classic old school secretary, right down to the glasses on a gold chain around her neck. All she was missing was her hair in a 1950’s beehive. But Ethel was also one of those special people who managed to know every piece of gossip in the entire seven hundred and fifty attorney firm. And if she liked you, she gave you the gossip instead of spreading it about you. No one with any sense crossed Ethel Mervin. Luckily for Jamie, there were plenty of people at Sullivan Powell who had absolutely no sense.

“Good morning Ethel”, he said, “you look absolutely radiant this morning.”

“Morning Jimmy.” Only Ethel could call him Jimmy and get away with it. Ah the power of the snake-like tongue. “My, you look terrible.”

“Thanks Ethel.” He lowered his voice conspiratorially. “What’s the a.m. scoop baby?”

She smiled. She loved it when he called her baby. James Brennan was not without his charms after all. “Well,” she said, her voice set into Stage Whisper font, “did you hear about Mary Beiring and Stuart Caldwell?” I gave her the negative headshake. “Well, it appears the did the horizontal Lambada last week in Conference Room D.”

“They did not!”

“Indeed they did.”

Well that was a very interesting piece of news. Mary B. was a fellow sixth year associate, blond and well endowed, and always dressed slutty enough to attract as much attention as she wanted. And then there was poor Stuart Caldwell, recently divorced - and apparently completely desperate enough to hook up with the firm’s poster child for abstinence. He had to think about how this information would come in handy. The beginnings of a plan were already forming in the evil section of his brain. Maybe this wasn’t going to be such a bad day after all.

“Well Ethel, I must chew on this while I get some caffeine into my system. I didn’t get any sleep last night. Late night and all.” It was always wise to have several good exit excuses with Edith or you could easily lose half an hour of your life.

And with a flourish, Jamie was in his office, door closed, and ripping through the two dozen emails he'd received since four that morning. Another beautiful day at Sullivan Powell baby.