Stuart had an easier time in school neglecting to shave: his friends didn’t care how he looked and he didn’t much care what strangers thought. Anyone else he’d tell he was growing something for a play. It was a plausible excuse; Stuart had always been the stand up and act out type.
Now, when introductions are made and explanations are due, Stuart tells people that he’s just started a new job and he needs a beard. When asked what he does, Stuart says that he’s a barbarian and doesn’t much care if anyone gets the joke.
Truth be told, it doesn’t matter one way or the other to Stuart’s new boss whether Stuart shaves or doesn’t, though the man does think facial hair makes Stuart look older. The boss’s business partner thinks Stuart looks better clean-shaven. Stuart splits the difference and gets away with not shaving for days at a time. When he’s bald-faced and meets someone new, Stuart says that he’s a lawyer and laughs to himself. Most don’t believe him because under the circumstances he doesn’t look old enough to be a lawyer, which Stuart thinks is wonderful, because he is a lawyer, and it only pays to have the world underestimate you.
Tuesday was going to be a very big day for Stuart. His motion to dismiss the case against his client was up for hearing and Stuart was sure that his position was undeniable. The judge had requested oral argument and counsel was to appear at 9:30 in the morning. Stuart shaved, fully, Sunday night. He thought he looked best a couple of days after shaving. Stuart always shaved at night because he still cut himself up pretty badly; he gave himself the night to heal before showing his face at the office.
“Damn it,” his boss said first thing Monday morning. “You shaved.”
“I thought you didn’t care,” Stuart said.
“I didn’t until now, but I can’t let you go before Judge Myers looking like you’re fourteen. He won’t take you seriously.”
“Isn’t it better that I look young than like a bum?”
“No.” Was his boss even listening?
“He’s a judge,” Stuart suggested. “It’s his job to consider——”
“You’re three hours out of law school, Stuart, and you have a lot to learn. Rob’ll go.”
“Rob will argue the motion tomorrow. Give him the file.”
“But I wrote the motion. It’s my motion.”
“Rob’s read your motion. I gave him a copy just in case.”
“Just in case I shaved?”
“No, just in case . . . just in case. I’m not firing you, Stuart, I’m just giving this motion to Rob to argue. It’s my fault, I should have told you to keep the beard. My fault.”
“This is all about my face?”
“Yes. I appreciate your shaving to look good, but in the future, don’t shave for Judge Myers.”
Stuart closed his office door and sat at his desk to draft another motion, quick and dirty. When he was finished, he asked his secretary to fax the one-page document to chambers and to Stuart’s adversary.
It is possible that no judge had ever called an attorney so soon after receiving motion papers for clarification of the relief sought and the grounds upon which the motion was being made.
When word got back to Stuart’s boss, he called Stuart up to the conference room and closed the door before he started yelling.
“Motion to Adjourn for Time to Grow a Beard?! Well, now I’m sure Judge Myers has no doubt you’re mature enough to practice law. Go back down to your office and read the Court Rule regarding frivolous motions and the substantial penalties for making them. We’ll discuss this at length later. Do not make any more motions without speaking to me first. Don’t pick up a pencil without permission. This is serious.”
Stuart had brought lunch. He ate in his office, then spent the afternoon brainstorming. How was he going to grow a beard by nine-thirty tomorrow?
He buzzed out to his secretary, a girl not much younger than he. “Get me the number of a dermatologist, please.” He’d bill his client for the call. He’d say he was questioning an expert.
But Stuart didn’t like what the dermatologist told him. Isn’t a lawyer supposed to be able to buy the answers he needs from his experts? Stuart called several other doctors over the next few hours. Every one of them said it is impossible to accelerate hair growth. Stuart did learn that facial hair grows after death, but he was at a loss to imagine how that was going to help him immediately. He was just hanging up on the seventh doctor when his boss knocked on his door and came in.
“We’ll put this behind us,” his boss sighed. “I’m calling it a day. I think you should, too. I’m sorry you won’t get to argue your motion tomorrow, but there will be hundreds more in the years to come. Rob’ll do fine. He’s going to stay late to make sure he understands the whole deal. If there’s anything you think he should know, tell him.
“And remember, Rob’s not the enemy. This was his case before I hired you. I took it from him because I thought you’d enjoy working on it. And I was right. And there’ll be more for you to enjoy down the road. But meanwhile, unless Judge Myers recuses himself or you can make yourself look like not the youngest person ever to have passed the bar exam, Rob’ll go.”
His boss left for the night. Stuart put some things away, shut down his computer, turned off his light, wished Rob good luck with a wave, and then walked out of the office.
About an hour later, Stuart came back to the office because he had thought of a way to make himself look presentable to Judge Myers. All he needed were a couple of basic school supplies, which he found in the cabinet above his boss’s secretary’s desk. And he wanted to make sure that Rob knew not to go to court in the morning.
The boss came in early the next day because he wanted to destroy some documents before anyone else showed up to work. But the man wasn’t early enough: Rob’s Jeep was already in the lot, in the same spot it had been in the evening before. Could Rob have spent the night?
The boss peeked into Rob’s office and saw that, in fact, Rob had spent the night at his desk. He was now asleep with his head on his arm. The boss could only see the top of Rob’s baseball cap. And he could smell . . . yes: On Rob’s desk next to his elbow, the boss saw an open bottle of rubber cement and a pair of scissors. Rob had evidently been cutting and pasting the old-fashioned way. The boss stepped back out. He still had that shredding to do. Let Rob sleep. He didn’t have to be in court for some time yet.
Stuart’s office door was closed.
The boss went upstairs to his own office, put his bag down, wheeled his chair out from under his desk, then pulled out the garbage pail and shredder from behind his chair. The boss happily began shredding away. But something was bothering him, and that something niggled at him while he shredded. Shred. Rob’s downstairs. Shred. What if Rob hears him shredding? Shred. But Rob’s asleep. Shred. Rob’s asleep downstairs. Shred. With his head in his arm. Shred. On his desk. Shred. Wearing a baseball cap. Shred. Baseball cap. Shred. Today is Tuesday. Shred. Tuesday. The office dresses down on Friday…! Why is Rob wearing a baseball cap?
The boss stopped shredding.
Scissors. Rubber cement. Baseball cap. Oh, God.
The boss sprinted downstairs. But before he got to Rob’s office he passed Stuart’s. He flung open Stuart’s door. Stuart’s office was empty. Only the furniture and the computer remained. Everything that was Stuart’s was gone. The boss walked into Stuart’s office and found a piece of paper on Stuart’s old desk. A note? The boss took the paper, unfolded it, read it. Rob gave me an idea, Stuart had written. Something off the top of his head. The boss shuddered, then shrugged it off.
Stuart’s boss had scalped a client or two in his eighteen years of private practice. The boss thought that maybe he could forgive Stuart for scalping his senior associate if Stuart won the motion. But Stuart was only going to win the motion that morning if the rubber cement held.
“Baldfaced Lawyer” appeared in Awkward Two, 2010.