Dream of:01 November 1997 "Cardboard And Granite"
I was sitting in a law office, or at least what purported to be a law office. Actually it seemed more like a passenger bus inside, with different people sitting at work at their seats, instead of at desks. I felt a bit incommoded in my narrow work space. I hadn't been working in the office long, and I wasn't yet used to my new environment. I also wasn't yet well acquainted with most of the people who worked in the office.
One of the lawyers from the office, dressed in his suit for court, was just about to leave, opening up the front door of the office/bus. As he was departing, the lawyer began talking with a person sitting in one of the front seats, and I heard bits of the conversation. It was soon clear that the lawyer was talking about a court action against Sullivan (a Dallas attorney), and since I knew I had once known Sullivan, I listened to what the lawyer had to say.
Of course I had never known Sullivan well, having only met him two or three times. After I had graduated from Baylor Law School and received my law license in 1983, I had gone to work for a lawyer in Waco, Texas. Sullivan had been a friend of my employer in Waco, and when I had decided to move on to Dallas in 1984, my employer had introduced me to Sullivan. Sullivan was a well established attorney in Dallas, mainly representing banks and handling high-dollar divorce cases. Sullivan and I had discussed my going to work for him, but nothing had ever come of it. He had always impressed me as a slick operator, always immaculately dressed, gaunt, handsome. He seemed successful, yet not particularly happy.
Now, as I listened to the lawyer leaving the bus, it was clear that a criminal action was pending against Sullivan. That surprised me. I would not have expected Sullivan to have become embroiled in some illegal activity. I might have expected it of Terrell, a lawyer who had worked in the same office as the one in which my employer and I had worked in Waco. Terrell had always seemed to operate on the edge of the law; hearing about a criminal action against him would not have surprised me. But Sullivan was another matter.
As soon as the lawyer stepped off the bus, I spoke to the person with whom the lawyer had been discussing Sullivan, and I asked if the lawyer was prosecuting or defending Sullivan. The person answered disdainfully that of course the lawyer was prosecuting Sullivan. That surprised me because I would have thought that an attorney for the state - not a private attorney - would be responsible for a prosecution. But the news also made me realize something else: it might be possible for me to help Sullivan. If I were working in the very office where the prosecuting attorney was working, I might have access to documents which could benefit Sullivan. All I would have to do would be to obtain the documents and show them to Sullivan. But almost immediately I discarded the idea. The risk of being caught would be too great. Besides, I didn't even know the nature of the charges against Sullivan, and whether I should help him.
I spoke again to the same fellow to whom I had first spoken, and told him that I supposed that Sullivan had been charged with committing some kind of fraud. Again the fellow responded disdainfully, that of course it was fraud. Apparently it was to be expected that eventually someone like Sullivan would commit fraud and get caught. It sounded terrible to me. I began reviewing in my mind the elements of fraud. I knew there were five or six elements, but I was unsure I knew all of them. However I had a general idea. I knew fraud was a fuzzy area, sometimes difficult to grasp.
From my seat I could see out the window, and noting that some action was taking place outside, I walked up to the door and stuck my head out. An amazing sight lay before me. In the area in front of the bus, stretched as far as I could see, were small cardboard huts. Each hut - probably about three meters by three meters, and not more that a meter and a half high - was made completely of brown cardboard. It looked as if each cardboard hut housed a single person; hundreds of the huts, all pressed in together (not even a path or an aisle between them) formed a vast wasteland before me
I realized I was looking out on a sea of abject poverty, that all the people in these little cardboard cells were the dregs of society, the outcasts, the ones who had nothing. But the biggest surprise was yet to come: from the cardboard shack closest to my bus, the police were extracting Robert Sullivan! It was immediately clear that Sullivan's fortunes had sunk to the lowest level, that he was now living in these desolate conditions, that he no longer had anything.
Sullivan was handcuffed with his hands behind his back. He didn't look at all as I remembered him. He now had long frizzy hair which hung over his shoulders. Instead of an impeccable suit, he was wearing a black tee shirt and some scruffy pants. No longer thin, he had a heavy paunch belly hanging over his waist. A truly pathetic picture. Yet he walked upright, and he didn't complain.
Immediately across the street from the cardboard city was the courthouse: a tall fortress-like building, dark and foreboding, almost like a mountain of black granite. At the street level was one little door which led into the otherwise impenetrable building. The door was opened as two men, one on each side of Sullivan, each holding an arm, led him into the building.
I cast a last look out over the flat cardboard roofs. Unbelievable that so many could live there. I felt a sense of responsibility toward these lost souls, as if there was something I could or should do for these people. It even seemed as if some small seed of commitment might be breaking open in my mind.
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