Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Full Benes

Reece Hirsch

I’ve never been back to Leon High School in Tallahassee, Florida for a reunion and have no intention of doing so. However, let’s assume for a moment that I did and that I had to answer for my writing.

The scene opens on a basketball gymnasium filled with middle-aged folks dancing, if you can call it that, to the schizophrenic sounds of 1978. The soundtrack – everything from Blondie and the Sex Pistols to the Bee Gees and The Eagles’ Hotel California. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times ….

By the time you reach about age 25, you have either mastered a few passable moves on the dance floor or you never will. Most of the reunion attendees were still shambling through the same steps that they had half-heartedly attempted at the prom over 30 years ago, pale imitations of that paragon of awkward dancers, Seinfeld’s Elaine Benes. There was a balding guy doing a hitchhiker sort of thing with his thumbs (the “Quarter Benes”). There was another guy shaking his hands in front of him like he was playing the maracas (the “Half Benes”). And then there was a woman in the middle of the dance floor who had it all going on – the spastic leg, the jerking thumbs, the tossing of the hair. Sweet Fancy Moses, it was the Full Benes.

I was so spellbound by the performance that I didn’t notice the guy with a beer who was now standing next to me. I checked out his nametag and saw that it Greg Talbot, a name that I vaguely recalled from high school but couldn’t quite place.

“Remember me?”

“Sure, of course I do … Greg. Nice to see you again.” I didn’t have a clue who this person was.

“Want to know how I knew you?”

“You mean other than the fact that I haven’t changed a bit in 30 years?”

In answer, Greg removed a copy of my legal thriller “The Insider” from his jacket pocket. “Read your book. I was really curious when I’d heard you’d written one because I’m a lawyer, too.”

“What’d you think?”

“I think you’ve got something against lawyers. I kinda resent it.”

“I’m a lawyer myself, Greg. They’re my people. But if you practice law and don’t have at least a touch of self-loathing, then you’re probably just not doing it right.”

Greg pulled out his copy of THE INSIDER, which was filled with yellow post-it notes. “How about this from page 21:

When a client like Carlyle Industries approaches a law firm for representation, it is a little like a gazelle wandering onto the African savanna within striking distance of a pride of lions. The dominant predators claim the largest portion of the kill. On the Discovery Channel, Richard Grogan would be classified as an apex predator. Richard was at the top of the law firm food chain – he eats others, but no one in his world eats him.”

“Don’t you think that’s a little cynical?” Greg asked.

“It’s just a work of fiction, Greg. I was just having some fun.”

“And here, on the same page, a law firm is compared to a ‘nest of tarantulas.’”

“Tarantulas have families, too, don’t they? Who are we to judge?”

“Speaking of family,” Greg said, “there’s this from page 127:

The partners viewed a terminated associate as an unwelcome reminder to the other associates that although Reynolds Fincher might be a family, it was a family where love was not unconditional. For their part, the associates treated their soon-to-be-departed colleague with the cool sympathy reserved for someone who had contracted a disease brought about by a perceived moral weakness, like an alcoholic suffering from liver failure. They had to believe that it was a fate that could not befall them.”

While Greg was delivering his reading, I tried to recall at least one factoid about Greg Talbot from high school. An image sprang to mind from my senior yearbook of Greg running track. The man standing in front of me could have been that person aged 30 years, but it wasn’t easy to connect the dots. They looked so very different.

“You were a jock in high school, weren’t you, Greg? What sport did you play again?”

Greg took a little too long to reply, then said, “Football.”

I knew at that moment that the person I was speaking to was not Greg Talbot. All I really knew about him was that he was someone who had read my book very closely and found plenty that he did not like.

Realizing that the silence was dragging on and Greg was expecting something, I asked, “What kind of law do you practice, Greg?”

“Personal injury,” he said, reaching into his inside jacket pocket to remove something heavy.

“Great seeing you again,” I mumbled over my shoulder as I turned and pushed my way through a knot of dancers as Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “What’s Your Name” began to play.


Michael Wiley said...

Graduating in 1980 myself, I recognize the sounds and scenes that you describe, Reece -- and especially the dancing.

A fun post.

Reece said...

Thanks, Michael. I'm just glad that we don't dress like we did back then. At least there's that.

Gabi said...

That is so creepy and psycho. Exactly how I remember high school. Good rule of thumb: when angry people reach into their pocket, move stealthily away. Or run. Glad you survived it.