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Hooshla Fox

Contracts

In a local cafe, he saw what I was reading and sat down at my table and said, "That happens to be one of my favorite books," and went on to give an incisive ten-minute analysis of the novel. Iím generally suspicious of strangers, especially bold ones, but I was trying to be more gregarious and open, so I made myself forgive his inconsiderate revelation of the storyís outcome and asked him about the curious, faded scar on his arm. He didnít answer, but we ended up chatting jovially for two hours about this and that.

Eventually, I announced, "I have to go. But letís meet for dinner tomorrow and finish our conversation then."

"All right," he agreed. "Where and when?"

"How about Luisaís on Fifth? At, say, seven-thirty."

"Sounds good," he nodded.

He then lifted a large, worn briefcase onto his lap and slid out two identical printed sheets of paper and a pen. He meticulously filled in some blanks on the pages, then handed the papers to me. Their header said, "Contract for Engagement." The document was all in pseudo-legal language and basically stated that blank and blank would meet at blank at blank oíclock on blank day of blank month. He had written his name, the name of the restaurant, and the day, month, and time. He had marked Xís where I was to print my name and sign it. He hadnít signed yet.

"Whatís this for?" I asked.

"Itís pretty straightforward. It formalizes what we just agreed to," he answered.

"You want me to sign a contract so you can be sure I wonít stand you up?"

"It protects both of us," he said. "Itís mutual. The second copy is yours."

"And what if something were to prevent me from showing up?"

He pointed to Section VI of the contract and read, "If either party is unable to fulfill his/her obligation, he/she must orally inform the other party no fewer than two hours before the time of the engagement, and furnish a detailed explanation in writing within three days of the failed meeting."

"Iím sorry," I said. "I donít mean to be rude, but this is kind of weird and I donít sign anything I donít fully understand. I would have to see a lawyer, at least."

"I am a lawyer," he said, reassuringly. "I donít practice, but I did go to law school. Hereís my degree." He reached into his briefcase and pulled out a laminated diploma.

I shook my head. "Iím sorry," I said.

"Thatís too bad," he frowned. "You understand that in that case I canít meet you for dinner?"

"Oh," I said, shrugging. "Well, maybe Iíll run into you here again sometime."

As I was standing and preparing to leave, he beckoned to the waitress and took from his briefcase a form entitled, "Record of Patronage." He noticed me glancing from it to his scar and looked up with a strangely somber smile.

"A guyís gotta watch his back," he said.


Hooshla Fox is a plush fox polymath currently residing in and representing South Pasadena, California. He may be contacted at hooshla@hooshla.com.

 

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