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
"It protects both of us," he said. "Itís mutual. The second copy
"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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.