Late one night I was up and staring at the television screen watching a sports show. The announcers droned on about some quarterback’s knee injury. I found myself not caring about the story, but I couldn’t make myself change the channel. I was transfixed, and my mind was wandering. Just as my eyes began drooping, I heard a buzzing sound coming from my kitchen. It was like the timer on the stove, but I wasn’t cooking anything. I tried to ignore it, but it got louder the longer it buzzed. Finally I got off the couch and went into the kitchen where the buzzing sound was much louder. It was so loud my ears started ringing. I clamped my hands over my ears as I inspected the stove, but the timer was at zero. The sound wasn’t coming from the stove at all. Suddenly, it stopped. I shook my head a minute, thinking I must have imagined it, but it was so loud and painful that it had to be real. But, since I was in the kitchen anyway I figured I’d get a snack and a beer and go back to watching my sports show.
I opened the refrigerator and was assaulted by the odor of spoiled food. The refrigerator was warm. The motor must have broken. I wondered if that could’ve been the buzzing sound. When I closed the door, I got a sudden fright. A massive man stood in front of me. He was wearing a black shirt with red polka dots and black and red striped pants. He wore a black hat with a red flower sticking out of a red band. He towered over me, smoking a cigar and grinning behind distinctly feline features. He puffed on the cigar and blew the smoke in my face.
Kaff. What the hell? Get out of my kitchen.
Not wasting any time are you primate? I like a monkey who gets right down to business. And no I won’t get out of your kitchen.
The sheer size of the man was enough to make take a few steps back. I’d never experienced anyone with such a presence before. What? Who are you?
Which question would you like me to answer first? The man said, chomping on his cigar and blowing smoke.
Who are you?
I’m Shamus. Pleased to meet you. He said, sticking his massive hand out for a handshake. I took it and we shook. I could feel his strength. That worried me even more. I was no slouch in the strength department, but this guy had some kind of otherworldly power coursing through his veins.
I’ll have you know, I don’t have any veins. And what you see before you is just a convenient projection to prevent you from having a heart attack.
Somehow Shamus was reading my mind. I’d have to be careful about my thoughts.
It won’t help. He said. I can read your mind no matter what you do to block me. It’s a clever little trick my dear old mother taught me. He puffed his cigar and blew the smoke in my face again.
Kaff. Stop doing that.
No, I don’t think I will. He blew more smoke in my face. Okay, now I’m done. Do you have any Scotch?
SCOOOOTCH. Now was that slow enough for your monkey brain? Do you have any Scotch?
I believe so.
Either you do or you don’t. Which is it?
I do, in the cabinet above the refrigerator. I said pointing.
Shamus reached up and opened the cabinet door. He grinned when he saw the Scotch bottle at the front. Excellent. He took the bottle, opened it, and nearly drained the whole thing.
Hey. That’s my Scotch.
And it was delicious. Do you have any more?
No. Why did you drink the whole bottle?
Because that’s all you had. Now let’s cut the small talk and get down to business.
What are you talking about?
This isn’t a social call old boy. Do you think I’d come to this…this hovel if I didn’t have pressing business to attend to?
I don’t know. I don’t even know who you are.
Of course you do. I’m Shamus, remember. I told you that already.
No I mean, I’ve never met you before, and I have no idea why you’re here. How could we have business together?
Do you shop in stores?
Yes, of course.
When you go into a shop you’ve never been in before, do you know the shop keeper?
No, of course not.
But you still have business with him, don t you? Otherwise, why go into the shop?
I see your point.
One of many that I’ll make this evening. Now, can we get down to business? Or will you keep jabbering on like a screeching monkey?
Fine. What’s your business with me?
Good question. Shamus snapped his fingers. A black book appeared in front of him. He snapped his fingers again and the book opened, and the pages fluttered to and fro. Suddenly Shamus placed his finger on a page and grinned. That’s very interesting.
It seems you’re going to experience a change in your fortune soon.
Really? I asked excitedly.
Don’t get your panties in a bind over it monkey brain, there’s more to it than meets the eye.
What do you mean?
Sorry, that’s not my department. I’m not privy to such things.
Then what are you doing here?
I’m here to make sure you’re ready for this change in fortune.
Why wouldn’t I be ready? I could use a break.
A break? Is that all you monkeys think about, getting breaks.
Sure, why not? I’ve earned it.
Doing what? Sitting on your couch watching hours of sports commentary by a bunch of has been athletes talking about nothing?
I work hard, I’ll have you know.
Do you now? And what line of work are you in, pray tell?
I’m a lawyer.
A lawyer! By the great Galactic core, this is more serious than I thought. I didn’t realize this was an emergency intervention. Shamus said talking to the ceiling. You didn’t tell me he’d be a lawyer. I’ll need some help with this one. Concerned, Shamus looked through his book again. No. No. No he won’t do. She’s retired. He’ll just make matters worse. Wait, he’s the one. Good old Rufus won’t fail me. Shamus threw the book aside. I was curious about the strange tome so I went over to have a look at it, but I couldn’t find it. Shamus snapped his finger and suddenly an old fashioned pay phone appeared in my kitchen. He pulled a shiny coin with the head of a rat on it out of his pocket and put it in the slot. He dialed 1-1-1 and then started talking. I need your help. What do you mean you can’t? He’s a lawyer. You will. Wonderful. Come right away. Then he hung up the phone and chomped his cigar. He was silent.
What’s going on? I asked impatiently.
One moment. He’ll be here soon enough.
Rufus of course.
And who is Rufus?
I am. Came a raspy high pitched voice. Out of the shadows of the living room a short, thin man appeared. But this was no ordinary man. Rufus had the head of a rat, with piercing fierce eyes. He wore a purple tuxedo with a yellow bow tie. He walked with a stylish cane, and looked very annoyed. I am annoyed. He said, clearly able to read my thoughts too. Is this the lawyer?
Yes Rufus. He’s got shifty eyes. Be careful with this one, Shamus warned.
Yes, shifty eyes and a suspicious look on his face. Rufus replied.
Stop talking about me like I’m not in the room.
Quiet monkey, the grown-ups are talking. Shamus said sharply. His fortune is supposed to change Rufus, but I don’t know about this one. It could be a mistake.
The book doesn’t make mistakes Shamus. If he’s meant to change, then change he will.
What are you two clowns talking about?
Clowns? Rufus said. My associate and I are not clowns.
You know how these primates are Rufus. They can’t see the forest for the trees. They can’t even see the trees most of the time.
And they don’t have any manners, do they Shamus?
Not a bit.
I’m not the one who drank all the Scotch, or blew smoke in my face.
No, that was me. Shamus said. What’s your point?
That was rude. I said firmly.
No, that was part of my job you silly pea brain. I told you Rufus. This one is a piece of work.
Yes. I can see that. We’ll have to be cautious. One wrong move and this one might turn out like that little Frenchman.
Or the Austrian. He was a doozy too.
Yes. Well we can’t always win can we Shamus?
No, I don’t suppose we can.
Stop all this nonsense. Just tell me what’s happening? I said abruptly.
Just like a lawyer to miss the importance of good banter. Shamus said.
Now, now, Shamus. Lawyers aren’t all bad. They’re just mostly bad.
Now, just a minute. I’m a good lawyer. I proclaimed.
You see, even he knows it. Shamus said.
I know what? I demanded.
You admit you’re a good lawyer. Rufus replied.
And? I continued my line of questioning.
A good lawyer is the worst of the lot. Rufus added. I think we’ve come in the nick of time though Shamus. I think we can help this one, without too much collateral damage.
I’ve had enough of this farce. I’m calling the police, or the animal control department.
No you won’t. Shamus said.
Oh no, and why is that?
Because, like all monkeys, you’re afraid, declared Shamus.
Afraid of what? I’m not afraid of anything.
Rufus held up his hand to stop the two of us from arguing. Gentlemen, we must stop this bickering. Sir, you’re not going to call the police, animal control or anyone for that matter. We’ve disconnected your phone for the time being.
What? That’s illegal. You can’t do that.
We did it. Shamus said. Accept it.
I’ll just use my cell phone. I went into the living room and looked around for my phone. Where is it? I left it right here on the table.
Do you mean this? Rufus held my cell phone in his hand. You won’t be using this either.
That’s my phone. Give it back, right now.
No. I won’t be doing that. Rufus said. He threw it into the air and it vanished. Now there won’t be any distractions.
You two won’t get away with this. You’re holding me hostage. I’ll sue.
You see Rufus. This is what this particular breed of monkey does. They threaten law suits whenever life doesn’t go their way. It’s no wonder this world is in such bad shape. Shamus said puffing on his cigar. Don’t you get it, pea brain? You’re in no position to order us around, we’re in charge here.
I know my rights.
Rights? Rufus chuckled. That’s very amusing. Your species is always on about rights, as if they mean something. You’ll learn, someday, that there are no such things as rights, just responsibilities.
This is America! I ranted. I’ll call my Congressman.
With what? Rufus reminded.
I sat on the couch staring at the television. I was deflated.
Face facts lame brain. Shamus said. Fact: a talking rat and talking cat are in your living room. Fact: you’re going nowhere fast. Fact: you haven’t much time so don’t waste it. All those facts add up to this. Shut up and listen for a change.
I was silent. For the first time in my life, I wasn’t in control of the situation.
Now that we’ve settled that, we can move on to more important things. Isn’t that right Shamus? Rufus declared.
Indeed. Agreed the giant cat.
We’re not here as your enemies. We’re here to help you. Rufus began. Your species is caught in a constant battle of oneupmanship. Even your legal system is designed to be adversarial.
Yeah, I said dryly, so what?
Hasn’t it ever dawned on you, Rufus continued, that your adversarial attitude is what keeps your people from reaching the stars?
No. I said.
Of course it hasn’t dawned on him Rufus. He and his kind are dullards, the whole lot of them. They’re too busy with trivialities to know what’s what. Shamus said.
Why are you so down on us? I asked, turning to look at my two captors.
Because you’re barbaric animals, that’s why. Shamus shot back at me.
Rufus stamped his cane to get our attention. Gentleman, gentleman, have some decorum. My associate, despite his caustic personality, is correct. Your species has cultivated a dangerous outlook on life. In the language of your religious traditions, this outlook is Satanic.
Oh, I see you are just a couple of religious nuts proselytizing. I don’t need any missionaries. I said folding my arms. This is America. We have freedom of religion here.
You lame brain, Shamus cut in, this isn’t about converting you to a religion. It’s about you opening your eyes to reality.
I didn’t respond. I just sat smugly in my seat certain of my argument.
Please Shamus, allow me. Rufus sat next to me. Your concerns are unfounded, my fellow. We’re not here to change your religion, if you have one. We’re here to delineate between the world as it is and the world as your people have distorted it. My characterization of your outlook is sound. It is Satanic, in the precise meaning of that term. It comes from the Hebrew language and it means “adversary.” It’s the spirit of contention and conflict that permeates your culture.
Thanks for the Sunday school lesson fellas, but I’m not biting. I said. You are barking up the wrong tree with me.
I told you Rufus. He isn’t worth the effort. Shamus chided.
No. He’s worth it. He just doesn’t see it himself yet. Rufus admonished. My dear fellow, you’ve lived for so long with the adversarial outlook that you don’t recognize it for what it is. That’s common among your species. Your people are slow to see things. Your short life spans make it difficult to see how this mentality insinuates itself into your civilization. But it’s there and its presence in your mind prevents you from achieving your full potential.
I unfolded my arms and stared at the television. The two were silent. I think they were waiting for me to come back with a biting response, but I didn’t have one. Let’s suppose, I said, that you’re right. What am I supposed to do about it?
That’s not our department. Shamus and Rufus said simultaneously.
We’re not here to tell you what to do. Rufus continued. We’re here to make sure you do something.
Chum, you’ve been sitting on that couch too long. You’ve become anesthetized to the world you live in, and you don’t experience it on a spiritual level. Shamus added.
But, I’m just doing my job. I answered. My job requires that very outlook you condemn.
Then it’s a flawed line of work. Rufus said.
I don’t know how to do anything else. I don’t know how to be anything but a lawyer.
Do you want to guide the wayward soul, or should I Rufus? Shamus asked his associate.
I think I will respond Shamus. My good man, you aren’t your work. Who you are is separate from what you do. You’ve hidden who you are behind a persona that you created so that you could be a good lawyer. But, as I said, a good lawyer is a bad thing. Lawyers are the facilitators of the adversarial mindset. They don’t create it, but they exploit and perpetuate it. They provoke it and promote it. Being a good lawyer means being a good enemy and adversary, a Satan.
I sunk in my seat. Shamus came around to stand in front of Rufus and me. He blocked the television. This crap prevents you from looking into yourself. It keeps your mind locked outside, where it can’t see the truth. That’s what allows you to do things you know are wrong. You never face yourself my boy. Shamus stepped aside, and in place of the television was a dark mirror. I could see my reflection and nothing else. Take a deep look at what you’ve become, he said.
I stared at the mirror. My face stared back at me. My eyes were empty. My skin was pale. I had no life. Then, the image changed. My face vanished, and in its place I saw a twisted reptilian head. Its eyes were yellow and fiendish. My whole body had transformed into a reptile, cold and calculating, devoid of compassion. I had become a predator, feasting on the misfortunes of others. I started to weep. I put my head in my hands and sobbed uncontrollably. After what seemed like hours, I wiped the tears away and looked around for Rufus and Shamus, but they weren’t in my apartment anymore. The mirror was still there. I got off the couch and went into my bedroom and fell asleep.