Practical Advice for the upcoming Irmageddon

NB- I am not a Florida Attorney, but I do practice personal injury law, and I have spent a great deal of time suing insurance companies to get them to pay when they don’t want to.  Here’s some essential tips on how to maximize your chances to get through a natural disaster as easily as possible.  Be smart-  remember that it is just stuff, and your life is more precious.  BUT, you can be prepared.  Remember, you’re not necessarily going to have access to power or documents, so think ahead.

  1. Have a copy of your applicable insurance policy.  Scan it to a Google drive or DropBox.  You may have more than one carrier, and more than one policy.  Get them all.
  2. Get all of the contact information for your insurance carriers/claims departments, and put that information in your phone.  Also send it to the Google drive.  Remote access is useful.
  3. Make sure that your insurance premiums are paid up and current.  Maybe more important this week than anything else, honestly.
  4. Take pictures of your stuff.  CONSIDER VIDEOTAPING.  Also, remember serial numbers- remember, you’ve got a ton of internet file storage, almost instantaneously.
  5. If there is an issue with your coverage?  Get it sorted out now while your feet are dry.
  6. It would be worth your time to figure out what is necessary to file a claim with your insurance company now, before you need to file that claim.  Get the forms.  See what they require.  Get your ducks in a row, early.
  7. Anything that is truly irreplaceable- wedding photos, videos, baby pictures?  Consider putting those things someplace watertight, like a sealable tub, if you can’t get them out of town ahead of time.
  8. If the worst happens, and you need to file a claim, do so promptly.  KEEP COPIES OF EVERYTHING.
  9. KEEP COPIES OF EVERYTHING.
  10. If you talk on the phone to a claims rep, request verification in writing.  Be specific.  If the verification doesn’t match your notes of the conversation, request clarification in writing.
  11. Be nice to the claims reps- they are trying.  Plus, being nice always pays off.  But, DO NOT SIGN ANYTHING WITHOUT TALKING TO AN ATTORNEY OF YOUR CHOOSING.
  12. The claims rep may tell you that getting documentation back is time-sensitive.  TALK TO YOUR ATTORNEY FIRST.
  13. This will be a stressful situation-  that’s ok.  Be aware of how you handle stress, and don’t let that drive you into making bad decisions or not getting what you are entitled to.
  14. The insurance company will have a staff adjuster to evaluate the claim-  it may be worth your while to have a public insurance adjuster advocate on your behalf- those folks speak the same language as the insurance company, which can streamline the process.  BUT, make sure your public adjuster is reputable, and is licensed.  HAVE YOUR PUBLIC ADJUSTER’S NUMBER IN YOUR PHONE.
  15. The best way to get fully compensated by an insurance company is to have as much documentation before a disaster occurs.  Nothing would be more useful than pictures of your stuff beforehand.
  16. Talk to an attorney.  Many attorneys will have an initial consultation with you for free.  If you have such a consultation, bring your supporting documentation to that meeting.
  17. Be safe, people.
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Ok, now what?

I’ve been thinking about this shitshow of an election since it happened, and I’m about to drop some white hot knowledge on you.

Those who voted for that reprehensible man-child?  They are irrelevant.  They are fucking irrelevant.  Let’s not get all up in arms over “how to reach out to the poor beleaguered Trump voter.”  THOSE PEOPLE WERE NEVER NOT VOTING FOR THE REPUBLICAN, ANYWAY.  This wasn’t a landslide, and it wasn’t a tidal wave.  This was the last gasp dead cat bounce of scared white people, belching to the surface.  The numbers don’t lie.  This is the furthest thing from a mandate that’s imaginable.

Real truth?  He got fewer votes than Romney, fewer than McCain, and certainly fewer than his opponent, Clinton.

Trump, and good for him, hit the absolute ceiling of actual votes vs potential votes.  He maximized his return.  Congratulations to him.  Hillary was a bad candidate and didn’t get her voters out, and certainly not in the right places.

BUT THERE ARE MORE OF US.  THERE WILL BE MORE OF US IN THE FUTURE.

Now fucking dry your tears, and get back in the ring.  You have work to do.  I have work to do.  What do we have to do?  Well, goddamnit, local elections matter.  If this odious shitstain being in the White House bothers you, don’t fucking hashtag about it, show up to a goddamn meeting.  I’ve found 3 organizations locally, and I will be at those meetings.  Would I rather be doing fun things?  Bet your ass.  But I LIVE HERE TOO, AND I LOVE MY HOME, MY STATE, AND MY COUNTRY AS MUCH AS THEY DO.  Sorry, Netflix, I’ve got shit to do.

Figure out what you can do locally, and then do it.  Don’t fucking tweet about it, be about it.  Keep at it.  Hold your representatives accountable, even if they’re from the other side.  Be loud, be in their faces.  And when you get a chance, you vote them the fuck out.

Register others to vote.  Find good people, and run them for local office.  I know shit is gerrymandered.  Tough.  Beat them anyway.  THERE ARE MORE OF US.  SHOW THE FUCK UP.  GET YOUR IDIOT FRIENDS TO SHOW UP, TOO.   WE OUTNUMBER THEM.  Don’t get buried in the weeds- don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.  Get involved.

Also?  And I’m serious about this.  Go to the damn gym.  I’m not saying you need to be a meathead, but learn to fight back, metaphorically, and also physically.  Life is a contact sport.  Be tougher.  Now is not the time to retreat into safe spaces because our feewings got hurt.  WE LIVE HERE TOO.

The other thing we have to do?  Is be kind.  Not to the Trump voters.  But to the people who will be hurt, who will be affected?  If you’re in a position to do so, then you have the obligation to do so.  Call people out on their shitty language, or on their behavior.  Particularly if you’re white.  Immigrants built this country.  Don’t tarnish that legacy.  Think about what the average immigrant put up with just to get here, because they thought it was a better place.  Honor that.   Those are tough people.  They are worthy fellow citizens.  Are you worthy of them?  Then be it.

But get active.  Take back your school boards, take back your state houses, take back your country.  We gave it away to these people, through laziness, carelessness, and arrogance.  Get the fuck back up off of the mat.

I promise you this will be hard.  They will fight, kicking and screaming.  BUT THERE ARE MORE OF US.  If we don’t win in a landslide, then it is our fault.  THE PROMISE OF THIS COUNTRY IS WORTH FIGHTING FOR.

Dammit, we are going to make this country a better place in spite of them.  Are you with me?

Dusting off the blog

Life’s been in the way of late, but I thought you all would enjoy my most recent tale of woe and misery:

So, I dunno, about 5-6 years ago, I started having these little pimples on the back of my head, at the hairline.  They itched like mad, and would occasionally bleed.  Not the worst thing in the world, but inconvenient and messy.  It’s funny- I never had acne when I was a kid, not really bad, but now I do.

Anyway, I tried a bunch of stuff over the counter, and then from my doctor, with varying degrees of success.  Apparently, they’re stress-related.  The doc asks me, “do you have a lot of stress?” I respond, “well, I’m a trial attorney in a high paced plaintiff’s firm, working for a sociopath, so, let’s go with yes.”

About a year ago, I go in to see a dermatologist.  Now the dermatologist is an OK doctor, but he’s got absolutely no affect.  I suspect he’s on the autism spectrum.  In addition to that, he’s, well, kinda creepy.  If I hear about him having a suit made of human skin in his basement, I won’t be surprised.

So, the dermatologist puts me on this medication about a year ago, and says that it can have some “idiopathic side effects”.  Meaning, that when you first go on it, you can have upset stomach, headaches.  Thankfully, I don’t have these problems- all seems well.

It manages the issue, and the pimples go away, and I haven’t had any bleeding or itching. Yay.  I go back in every so often, to check how I’m doing.  If I go off of the meds, the pimples come back.  So, I’m on this stuff for a while.

Yesterday, however, I go back in for my semi-regular visit, to see how I’m doing.

He comes in the room, inspects my scalp, and says in his usual flat affect, “how are you doing?”

“Fine.”

“Ok, we need to reevaluate the medication.  There are idiopathic side effects for long term use.”

/thinks to myself- [this is the first I’ve heard of these] (anything in the brackets is my internal monologue)

Doc:  “While what you’re on is the gold standard for this condition, long term use can have certain issues that we don’t want.”

[I’ve been taking this stuff for over a year]

Doc: “The initial idiopathic side effects are headache, and upset stomach, and you’ve passed that.”

[I remember that conversation.]

Doc:  “However, there’s a chance of certain idiopathic side effects with long term use.”

[Go on…]

Doc: “There can be a certain risk of pigmentation change, long term, and that pigmentation change has a slight chance of being permanent.”

[…]

Me: “What sort of pigmentation change.”

Doc, while examining my hands, ears, and lower legs: “Well, there’s a slight risk of a blueish pigmentation change.”

/NEEDLE SCRATCH

Me: “Say again?”

Doc, same flat affect: “You could turn blue.”

Me: “I could turn blue? All over?  And it could be permanent?”

[blue_man_paul_karason-today_show]

Doc: “Well, the risk of pigmentation change isn’t very high, and the medication is doing an excellent job of managing the condition, but we’ll need to monitor.”

[I’ve been on a medication that could turn me into the world’s largest Smurf?  AND THIS IS THE FIRST TIME THIS ISSUE CAME UP?]

Doc: “So, we’ll try you on this other medication, which again doesn’t manage the condition as well, but doesn’t run the risk of this idiopathic side effect.”

Me, fully paying attention: “Does this one have any idiopathic side effects?”

Doc: “Well, there’s a risk of some sun sensitivity.  You could get sunburnt.”

[I GET TO PICK BETWEEN ZITS, BLUE, OR RED?]

Me: “But the new medication has zero chance of blue?”

Doc: “Yes, but there are other side effects.  But no chance of blue.”

Me: “Give me the sunburn.”

/fin

Sorry to disappoint any Blue Fugate fans, or fans of colloidal silver.

Politics

Man, when I was a kid, I dreamed about being President.  I really thought that I’d be working in the government somewhere, trying to help people with their issues.  I used to read about the people in Congress, knew all of the people in the positions of power, both sides of the aisle, and was just a total political junkie.  Hell, at 10 I convinced my grandfather to cast a vote for John Anderson instead of Reagan.  When I was in school, I worked in the Michigan State Senate, and even got a degree in International Relations, before going to law school.

And now?  Now the very idea of politics makes me want to vomit.  While I nominally side with the Democrats on things, they don’t speak for me.  And the other side?  Actually, factually insane.

I never liked John Boehner.  He and I would certainly disagree on just about everything.  But he is an adult.  He came by his conservativism honestly.  He’s a self made person, who seems to believe in the principles of limited government honestly.  He’s incredibly conservative-  historically, he’d rank as one of the most conservative Speakers, ever.

And he is resigning, because he’s tired of trying to reign in the right wing of his party.  These people are nuts.  It’s our fault, though.  I look at the people who are running for office in my local races, and both sides make me nauseous.  They’ve gerrymandered my district into such contortions to ensure that the seat stays Republican.  I have nothing in common with half of the people in the district.

Plus, personally?  NO fucking way I want to go into politics.  With what I’ve written in this blog, just so far, I’m unelectable.

There are times I’m really happy I’m old, and don’t have any kids.

Let’s get personal, shall we?

Given my background, and family experience, I seem to specialize in gallows humor.  I guess that’s about the best way to deal with a, well, tumultuous childhood and youth.  So, starting from the end and working backwards, here’s a story about my mom.

My mother’s posthumous three-way.

Mom and I had a very contentious, difficult relationship. She didn’t ever understand me, and didn’t ever really get my motivations in life.  Mom was a “go along to get along” kind of person, who wanted to adhere to the social norms.  And me, I was an abnormally smart kid who wanted to change the world.  I think that she would have been happy if I’d have stayed perpetually 12 years old, and lived at home. Once I got past that point, she didn’t know what to do with me.

My dad killed himself when I was 10.  (More on that later).  So, in addition to our odd relationship because of me being me, because of my dad’s premature death, I got thrust into the role of being a substitute parent for my brother, which wasn’t healthy for anyone.  Additionally, mom’s dating relationship was…. checkered.  I started high school when I was 13. By the time it came for me to consider high schools, Mom and her second husband, Bob, had gotten serious enough that they were looking at houses in Detroit, where Bob had to live because of the residency requirements for City of Detroit employees. Mind you, there were enough “new dudes” between my dad’s death and when she met Bob for me to distinctly remember around 6 or 7 others, very distinctly.  Anyway, she thought Bob was the one, and instead of sending me to a Detroit public high school, I went to Catholic school.

After I graduated from law school, mom and Bob moved to Arizona. I didn’t go out there very often, because I didn’t like him, didn’t get along with her, and didn’t consider Arizona home, for holidays.  Arizona was not the place where I grew up-  I had no family there, save her, and really no memory of the place. Ultimately, mom got diagnosed with ovarian cancer, stage 4, and I did go out and visit her at that point.   If we’re being honest with ourselves, I think I only ever visited her 2-3 times during her life in Arizona, which lasted from 1997-2011.  Thankfully, mom did recover from the ovarian cancer, and had around 5 more years of pretty good health after. She ultimately died in what I’d consider a pretty decent way- she was at the casino at 2 in the morning, won a small jackpot, celebrated, stood up, and dropped from a massive heart attack. There are worse ways to go.

Following her funeral, my brother and I were trying to decide what to do with her cremains. Ultimately, I got a third, my brother got a third, and Bob also got a third. I decided that I wanted to put my portion of her cremains near my dad’s grave.  This goes over extremely poorly with my brother, because he still resents our dad for killing himself.  Whatever, those are the only two parents I will ever have, so that was my decision about what to do with the cremains.

So, one day I get a smallish box in the mail. Contents: 1/3 dead mother. Kind of unceremonious, but whatever.

I go to the cemetery, to see what there is to see. I evaluate the plot where dad is, and decide to go to the nearest garden store to get a nice plant that’ll come back yearly. I go and get the plant, and come back to the gravesite to take care of things. After cleaning up the site, and digging the hole, it’s time to get the cremains out of the box.

I look at the box.  It’s about 4 inches by 4 inches by 8 inches, to give you a sense of size.  Your average cardboard box, containing 1/3 of the mortal remains of my mother, with whom I’ve had a troubled relationship.  NBD.  I peel the sticker off of the box that says “mom, XXXX-yyyy”. There’s another sticker underneath, that says, “Steve Jones, XXXX-yyyy.” Inside the box is a bag of cremains. Now I don’t know if you’ve ever seen cremains, but they’re really just grey powder with an occasional bit of bone within. As they say in Spinal Tap, “you can’t really dust for vomit [or cremains]”. I have no idea who’s in the bag. But it’s what I’ve got.

So, I open the bag, stand upwind of the hole, and say, “Dad? Mom? Steve? I hope the three of you will be very happy together.”

There are times when all you can do is laugh.

Another tale from a previous life

This was the only time, to date, that I was ever accused of ineffective assistance of counsel.

Before moving back to Michigan, I was a public defender in Keene, NH (home of the Pumpkin Fest). While you might think that Keene was an idyllic small town, there were still a fair amount of crimes, and indigent people, requiring my services.  There was a fair amount of DWI, some domestic assaults, and a large share of heroin possession/trafficking-  in large part because of the proximity to Interstate 91, which was the north-south conduit from Montreal to New York City.  Additionally, the impact of Oxycontin on the rural population (about which more in a different post) contributed to the drug problems.   We covered 2 counties, and were fairly busy.

One particular day I get a call to go meet with a client who’d been charged on very serious charges, and was a guest of the state.  I roll up to the jail, zip into my usual meeting room, and meet my client, Mr. C. He’s a 20 something kid, who’s facing 14-16 serious felonies. He’s looking at the rest of his life behind bars if this goes badly.

The story is this:
My client is a “nonconformist”. NH gets a lot of over the top libertarian types- guys who trust the government not one whit. On the date in question, he’s at home. Not far away, across the border in Massachusetts. in the town of Winchendon, a murder’s been committed. The Winchendon cops think they know who did it, and they think they know where the person is. They think that the shooter is at my client’s house. So, Winchendon PD calls Keene PD, and says, “we’re looking for John Brown, for this murder.” The Keene cops go and get a warrant to find this alleged shooter.

The warrant says that they’re looking for “the person of John Brown.” That’s it. This will be important later. The warrant is for Mr. C’s address.

So, the Keene cops go to Mr. C’s house, knock on the door. After a while, Mr. C comes out, with his hands up. He sits by the cop car. When the cops ask him about John Brown, Mr. C says “I’m not resisting, I’m not hindering, but I won’t help you. I’m a nonconformist.”

The cops have the place surrounded, all staked out.

Before anything else can happen, a guy comes out of the house, pulls the door shut behind him, puts his hands up, and says, “I’m John Brown.” He shows ID confirming that he is, in fact, John Brown. The Keene police now have John Brown in custody, and Mr. C is sitting quietly next to the cop car with his hands on his head.

Now, remember the language of the warrant? “the person of John Brown”? Keep that in mind.

What the cops SHOULD have done:
told Mr. C that he was free to go, and left the property.

What the cops COULD have done:
had a warrant for “the person of John Brown, and a gun”.

What the cops DID do:
Went into the house to “secure the premises”.

What did they find in there? The largest seizure of drugs that had ever occurred in Cheshire County to that point. Multiple pounds of cocaine, and heroin, and I think 50-60 giant marijuana plants, plus multiple illegal guns, and a couple of bombs, for good measure. This is a BIG story out there- it’s the biggest bust in forever.

They’re happy. REALLY FUCKING HAPPY.

That’s when I get involved.
So, after meeting with Mr. C, and getting the details and the documents from the cops, I realize that they screwed the pooch. BAD. This was all an illegal search.
Once John Brown comes out of the house, the purpose of the warrant is fulfilled. Anything else they do is beyond the scope of the warrant. It’s all illegal, and it isn’t really close under NH law.

I spend the entire night writing the best fucking suppression motion of my career, and file it with the court the next day. I hand deliver it to the prosecutor, because I’m an asshole like that. We’re scheduled for hearing at the end of the week, and I go to my client in jail, and tell him to be cool, because I really like our chances for getting him out.

While waiting for the hearing, I get a call from the prosecutor, who suggests I come visit him in his office. He sounds really, really happy.

I go and visit the prosecutor in his office, and he tells me that I have a problem with Mr. C’s case. I say, “what?”

He says that it’s probably true that I’ll win the suppression motion. Unfortunately for me, Mr. C has expressed his displeasure with his confinement in an unproductive manner.
How’s that?

Well, I’m glad you asked. It seems he jammed one foot in the toilet, and another over the drain. He then started flushing the toilet, and the sink, flooding his cell.
When the guard came down the hall to see what the fuck was going on, Mr. C reacted poorly.

Apparently, telling the guard that “my lawyer’s going to get me out, and I’m going to come back here and cut your fucking head off and use it to play soccer up and down the hall of the jail cell” was frowned upon in that establishment.

In addition to making one a poor guest, it also makes one susceptible to felony “threatening a law official” charge. Particularly when one repeats it to the second guard who came down the hall afterward. So now we have multiple counts, with witnesses.

Whoopsie.

It’s “let’s make a deal” time. I wind up working out a really great deal for the guy- the prosecutor wants him to plead to some of the possession charges, but the ultimate deal is time served, and probation. He had to plead to 2 felonies, but all in all this is a SWEETHEART deal.  This guy will be getting time served.  This is excellent lawyering on my part.

Here’s where things go off the rails.
In NH, as with many other jurisdictions, there’s a gap between a plea and sentencing, so that probation can do an investigation and issue a report. We do the plea, and during the colloquy I ask him if anyone is coercing his plea, and if he’s satisfied with my representation, and if he understands the consequences of the plea. Yup, yup, yup.
Now all he has to do is wait 3 weeks, and he’ll be sentenced and out of jail.

Anyone wanna bet on how well this is going to go?

In the meantime, Mr. C is mostly being cool. I visit him a couple of times, to make sure he’s staying cool. He’s so thankful for the job I did for him

Then his father visits him in jail. His fucking father.

Daddy dearest convinces him that “a real lawyer” could do better than his public defender, who’s a tool of the state, man. Daddy dearest thinks that I’ve sold him down the fucking river.

Problem: the only way to vacate the plea? To allege that I’ve provided ineffective assistance of counsel. At the time of the plea, he acknowledged it was knowing and voluntary. So, he’s gotta throw me under the bus.

Fine, whatever. I withdraw, and one of the private attorneys gets appointed. The plea is withdrawn, and because new attorney doesn’t know the case, everything is pushed back like 3 months. While Mr. C sits in jail. I show up at his ultimate sentencing, at which time he gets a deal that’s worse than what I got for him (including the extra three months of custody).

I TOLD YOU SO, FUCKO.

There’s a coda;

Like 6-8 months later, I’m in court, and I see that he’s in custody on a probation violation. Now the Keene District Court at that time was on the second floor of a multi-use facility building- the kind that has those folding walls so that the room can be multiple sizes. It’s not a secure facility. Anyway, I can’t represent him on the probation violation, because of the prior ineffective claim. So I say, hey, Mr. C, what’s up? and then leave.

I get a call from Pat, the clerk of court, as soon as I get back to my office. Keene is a classic New England town- there’s a white steepled church, and a public square. The church is at 12 o’clock on the dial, the court is at, say 2 o’clock, and my office is at 8 o’clock across the square.

Pat says, “JASON. GO TO THE FRONT WINDOW OF YOUR OFFICE, NOW.” And promptly hangs up.

What do I see when I get to the window? Mr. C, dressed in his orange detainee jumpsuit, shackled at the wrist and at the ankles, trying to run across the square, his feet going as fast as they’ll go. In hot pursuit was Smitty, the bailiff, who was about 5’9″, 320 lbs. Smitty would get closer and closer to Mr. C, and just when he was gonna jump, Mr. C would zig. Smitty’d go down, and then the process would repeat itself. Finally, they caught Mr. C.

Last I heard, he was in state prison.

/fin

The Smell

Another tale of client meetings and woe, aka a Smell named Arthur.

I get an intake sheet from the intake department, and was told by the intake partner that it was “a good case, and a hot one- need to make contact asap.” I’m nothing if not a team player, so to the batphone I go.

I call the prospective client, and she sounds intoxicated. She says that she doesn’t drive, and can’t take the bus to our office. (of course not). She tells me a bit about the case, and I agree, against my better judgment, to visit her at her home in what can only be described as a “festive” neighborhood in the fair city of Detroit. Note- I confirm her phone number, and address during this call. She sounds kinda drunk, but it’s 11:00 am on a Thursday, so who isn’t?

So, I go to the address that is given, turn right at the wig shop, then left at the other wig shop, and then right down the road in question. There are no houses on this road. None. Like, it’s an alley on steroids- there are houses, or burned out hulks on the cross streets, but here? Nada. So, I look around, drive around the block (all the while I’ve got my head on a fucking swivel- blanx no want carjacking), and figure that it was just a crank call.

I call my office, and ask them to call her to confirm where she lives (I do not want to call her directly, because I do not want her to have my cell phone number).

So, I call my office, and ask them to call the client. I’m driving back towards the office, to get stuff done. My assistant manages to conference in the client, who says, my address is XXXX Street- the same street that I was on, with no houses. I ask her to spell the name of the street, she spells that same street.

Now, being not a rookie to the city of Detroit, I ask her what the crossroads are. She says, between Couzens and Livernois (two roads that don’t really cross- I mean, they do, kinda, but those directions didn’t make sense.) She then says, and I shit you not: “I’m right across the street from the Uptown BBQ”. What I should do is go back to the office and reschedule, but that ain’t what I’m going to do. I’m on a mission, and I’m curious (two traits what will kill me, eventually). I google the Uptown BBQ, and find that it’s not terribly far from where I was, but that it’s across the street from a similarly named street to the one she gave me previously. Let’s say- Brown St, vs. Braun St. (not actual streets, but you get the idea.)

So, I go back to this area, and find Braun St. Sure as shit, it’s right across from the Uptown BBQ.

I roll up to the house. It’s a dilapidated Detroit house- there’s a blue tarp on the roof, and the spitting image of Zelda Rubinstein in the doorway, waiting for me to come up. I email my staff that I made it (mostly to let them know to contact the authorities if I don’t check in in an hour).

Zelda waves at me, and I exit my car, walk up the steps (dodging the loose boards), and open the door.

I am greeted by a smell. I am greeted by THE Smell. All other smells pale in comparison to the Smell. All of a sudden, I looked like the Nazi who opened the Ark of the Covenant in Indiana Jones.  This guy- giphy

the Smell staggered me backwards.

This Smell has heft. It has weight. It smells like someone had taken the oldest, nastiest kitty litter box imaginable, and then made it into Latakia pipe tobacco. It smelled like someone was smoking the tiger cage at the zoo on a hookah. The Smell’s name was Arthur. Why Arthur? Because that’s what the Smell told me its name was.

Blinking my eyes, I looked around the front room. The couch (please, please don’t make me sit on the couch) was full of Kewpie dolls, all staring at me while I adjusted to the Smell.

I then fully see my client. She’s in her late 50’s, white, under 4 foot tall, and her eyebrows are shaved in an inexplicable pattern. They’re mesmerizing- they kinda look like someone’s shaved out the inside of her eyebrows, and has let a ring around the outside grow. She is clearly mentally challenged, which is fine- I’ve represented the mentally challenged before, everyone needs access to lawyers.

I’m directed to take a seat at the table.

From the “kitchen” area, comes a dude. Dude’s in his 40’s, average height/build, and looks like a gainfully employable member of society.  Your absolutely average looking white dude. He introduces himself as my putative client’s fiance. I’m flabbergasted. My gast is truly flabbered. There are questions, and concerns roiling in my mind, along with the experience of my brain processing the Smell. Then I start to look around the dining room, and that’s where things get weird.

You know how you can adjust to smells? Like, they’re still bad, but your brain gets accustomed to them? I’m not sure that was what was happening here, precisely, but I’m starting to be able to allow my senses to perceive things other than the Smell. F’rinstance, I notice that I’m sitting on just the edge of a chair, praying that whatever’s on the cushion is confined merely to my overcoat. (I’ve given up on the overcoat).

I also start to take in the decor- there’s an ironing board to my left, that has 5 or 6 plastic mechanized fountains on it, all of which have no water, and are coated in a thick layer of dust. There’s a set of weights on the floor by my left foot, covered in cobwebs and rust, that haven’t been moved in months. Across the room from me is a velvet picture of the crucified Jesus, and what I can only describe as a mechanical Taiwanese cuckoo clock- it has dolphins, and whales on it. The clock is not plugged in, and currently reports that it’s 6:34 am. It is not 6:34 am.

There’s an enormous cobweb dangling down from the light fixture, almost touching the top of the table I’m seated at. As we talk, the cobweb sways in the breezes.

On another wall, there’s a cabinet, which ought to be used for storing dishes. It was not. On top, there were a host of woodworking tools, which was, shall we say, worrisome. Inside the cabinet, there were 25 or 30 different figurines from the He-Man Universe, all posed in a neat row, silently observing the proceedings and silently judging me with their plastic eyes. From the corner of my eye, I can see the bathroom. The less said about what I see there, the better.  I still can’t talk about what I can see of the bathroom.

I can see the kitchen door, leading outside, with the rusty scratch marks from some long- forgotten dog. Finally, I can see a cardboard sign indicating that we’re at the North Pole, and that this is Santa’s workshop.

Christmas is now dead to me.

The first thing that the dude says to me after introducing himself as [Zelda’s] fiance is “we want justice for [dead sister]. She was the only source of income for all three of us.”

Uh…..

They then want to sue the city because there were no streetlights where the hit and run occurred. I explain to them that there’s no liability for this, based upon case law.

I ask [Zelda] to tell me about her sister, and she said “we were twins. She lived alone, and was on disability. She had mental problems.”

Indeed.

So, we discuss the facts of the hit and run, all the while I know that the Smell is permeating deeper and deeper into my very soul. I’ve written off my overcoat, and am wondering where I can get a Karen Silkwood shower.

The dude brings up the streetlights again, and asks me “Isn’t there some other angle you got to get us some money?” I got nothing, other than the desire to flee.

At this point, [Zelda] offers me something to drink. Yeah, no. I’m good.

I answer their other questions, and get ready to leave.

I stand, and pass back by the gauntlet of Kewpie dolls, and head for the freedom of the open air.

When I get outside, I take off my overcoat, and put it in the trunk. I don’t want the Smell anywhere near me. I pull away from the house, roll the windows down, and open the moonroof, hoping to air out the car. The Smell is still in my mouth, and nose, and mouth, and hair.

I call my staff, and report that I’m still alive, for certain values of alive, but that I’m not going to be coming back to the office, as I must go shower. I head home, leave my overcoat in the garage, change clothes, and shower.

While I’m in the shower, it hits me. When the water hits my hair, the Smell is revived. I almost retch, and shampooed 2 times, to get the smell out.

As I’m drying off, one thing occurs to me.

I know what the smell of cat urine is like. Part of the Smell was the odor of cat urine. For a smell this strong, there should be cats. Lots of cats.

Yet-

Even though I could see into multiple rooms, I NEVER SAW ANY CATS. EVER.

WHERE WERE THE CATS?

I returned to my office a few days later, and my assistant said that the paperwork we filled out still stank of the Smell.