The lingering heady smell of a ferocious rain surrounds me on the porch. I've dragged one of my five-dollar home-made estate sale folding tables outside to write and drink coffee. I feel the night's pressure in my lungs. I dreamed of trying to navigate a small car through a narrow space with two passengers. Hold your breath, I cautioned. I struggled awake to find that an asthma episode gripped my body. Rescue inhalers make my finicky heart race, so I'm trying the openness of the porch. Sometimes that helps my breathing; it certainly soothes the rest of me.
The wide washed expanse of my neighborhood sizzles with the song of the cicadas. Their pleasant noise echoes the frenzy of last year's bunch, a seventeen-year brood making an unprecedented second appearance in Missouri. I find their chattering pleasant today, though one of them slipped through the broken bathroom screen upstairs last night and scared the daylights out of me by landing on my sleeping self. Now they hover wherever cicadas stay -- in the ground, I suppose; and talk to each other in their rhythmic soothing way.
I had an e-mail from a client last evening which depressed me. She's decided to surrender a fight to retrieve her child from his malicious father, who started a smear campaign against the mother at a time when she had different counsel. She feels hopeless. I can only imagine; I can only try to encourage her to keep the faith. I cannot guarantee that I will undo the harm her prior attorney did, nor can I promise that she will prevail. I shuffled through the various pleadings filed by the other side over a five-month time, and stared with dismay at the thin stack of what my client's former counsel feebly tendered. I've done more in two weeks than my predecessor did in twenty. When I come across such poor professional performance by a colleague, I want to weep. I want to understand why the person put forth such little effort. As with doctors, the failing of a lawyer can devastate the client and cost him or her thousands with no potential of any progress in their case. It tires me just to imagine my client's anguish and despair.
I will call her later today and see if I cannot help her cling to something close to sanity.
The sound of the cicadas today reminds me of the 1998 emergence of the 17-year brood. We had a screened porch then. Patrick hovered in the living room near the door staring at the horde as it descended. Whether through an open door or a torn screen, the beasts swarmed the porch, raising their racket, fluttering against the ceiling and the side of the house. We stood transfixed.
Suddenly Patrick spied our cat crouching in a corner of the porch, snarling and growling. He jerked the handle of the screen door before I could stop him and plunged out into the swirling mass of insects. He snatched his cat and dove back into the living room with a furious plunge. I slammed the door and stomped at a handful of invaders. Patrick released the cat who dove under the couch, still hissing, her green eyes gleaming.
Patrick and I fell into chairs, laughing and crying in turns, while the sound of the massive brood roared outside.
By contrast, this year's gentle cicada hatch speaks longingly of summer's close. From my porch the sound blends with other noises of the morning: the occasional car, the distant drone of traffic, voices of the neighbors, an occasional timid bark. These few minutes outside have done their work. My breathing has slowed; the tightness has eased; the asthma attack has loosened its grip.
I sit rocking, thinking of these next few days in which I must prepare for my upcoming trip to California. I will lay out my clothes and pick items that harmonize with one another. I'll move my son's guitars from the guest bed and wash the sheets for my friend who has agreed to house-sit. At work, the client status sheet waits for my close examination. Every available minute will see intense effort; every client will receive several hours of writing, phone-calling, or notation. By Friday morning, files will be downloaded to a flash-drive or e-mailed to myself; notes will be scanned; and instructions given. Ten days away from home and the office could lead to the kind of disaster which I can't allow my clients to suffer. I do not want some other lawyer sitting with an inherited file, cursing my name. I do not want one of my clients speaking of surrender because I failed them.
The morning slips away. A friend will be here soon for breakfast and a visit. I must make good use of my time and start the weekend's chores. My hour of pleasant dalliance draws to a close. I drain my coffee as the sun slips behind a bank of grim clouds and the voices of the cicadas rise in the heavy air.