I am taking a new writing class, one that focuses on constructing scenes. I like the one below because it works on a lot of levels and has the advantage of being absolutely true.
I am lost. At twenty-five, the age when most lawyers begin their first jobs, I have left my job as a paralegal. I am making my living as a free-lance title examiner, spending my days tracing other people’s stories through big dusty books. For some reason, one of my lawyer clients has decided to use my services to deliver subpoenas. The assignments he chooses for me are not difficult or dangerous. As mortgage interest rates rise to 18% and my title business slows, I see no reason to say no.
Except that I am terrible at the job. In an age before Google Maps, I have no sense of direction and hate talking to strangers, particularly in situations that betray my ignorance. I will drive forty miles out of my way rather than ask for directions.
This morning, I have used town maps to find my way to a suburb south of Boston, an area where I have never been. As always in Massachusetts, the streets are a maze and street signs are minimal. Am I on Acorn Street, Acorn Terrace or Acorn Circle? The numbers on the houses are hard to spot as I cruise by.
Eventually, I decide I must be close. I abandon my car to search on foot. It is late spring, mid-day. The high sun focuses everything with bright intensity. The lines of the houses are too sharp, the treeless suburban lawns glow an iridescent green. The streets are deserted. Not a car goes by.
A postman comes around the corner. He is tall, in his summer uniform, graying red hair receding under his cap. His mail bag looks heavy, but he moves with big, confident strides. I long to ask directions, but can’t.
“Hi,” he says, saving me the trouble. “What are you doing here?”
I explain about the subpoena, how I can’t find the address.
“So is that what you want to be, a lawyer?” he asks, squinting the manila envelope I hold out in my hand.
“I don’t know,” I stammer. “It’s hard. Unless you go to a top school, there aren’t that many jobs.”
“Nonsense!” he admonishes. “You can’t think that way. The cream will always rise.”
He pushes his cap back on his head and uses a handkerchief to wipe the sweat from his brow. Then he points me in the right direction and sends me on my way.