“Well, now you’re being sued,” she said. She made it sound like she wasn’t surprised that I was in trouble, but she didn’t expect it to be a lawsuit, or she knew I’d be sued, but she didn’t expect it quite so soon.
It had to do with my paper route. I had recently begun delivering papers for the Mishawaka Times. I usually had only twenty papers, but Wednesdays were different. On Wednesdays, we gave out a free paper to everyone in the area – a whopping 412. It was a lot of work but a veritable gold mine, one cent for each extra paper delivered.
I couldn’t deliver all of these myself, so my friend Jeff helped me. Every Wednesday, we started at 4:00 a.m. We folded the papers in my basement and put them in four paper carrier bags, two for each of us.
We started the route by staggering up the basement stairs and squeezing through the back door. Then Jeff would walk on one side of the street and I on the other. We couldn’t throw the papers from the sidewalk to the porches because they were too light, the Mishawaka Times being only about twelve pages long. We walked through people’s yards and dropped them on their porches.
One nice spring morning, Jeff pointed out that we would get done a lot faster if we rode our bicycles across people’s lawns. I wasn’t sure it would work because it’s hard to ride a bike on the sidewalk with two heavy bags of papers, let alone through thick grass. We decided to give it a try. It was hard peddling, but we finished the route in record time.
After breakfast, I went to school thinking the world was a reasonable place. Then I came home for lunch, and my mother was waiting.
“You and Jeff rode your bicycles across people’s lawns, didn’t you?”
“We thought it would be faster, and it was.”
“The Mishawaka Times called this afternoon and informed me that you are being sued for riding across the grass of a Mr. Feldman, who happens to be a lawyer.”
I knew I should have given Jeff that side of the street.
“I don’t know what you’re going to do now,” Mom said.
I didn’t know either. I was used to being in trouble, but this was a whole new level. I tried the strategy of just ignoring the problem and hoping it would just go away. I’d done that before, but it never worked. This time it did. I didn’t hear anything more from Mr. Feldman for twelve years.
In 1974, I fell in love with a woman named Bonnie Butsch. Guess where she lived – right next door to Mr. Feldman. I noticed it when we went out on our first date, but since I had no plans of driving my car across the Feldman lawn, I figured there would be no problems. I successfully dodged Mr. Feldman from October 1974 to June 19, 1975.
Two days before our wedding, Bonnie’s parents had a cookout and invited their neighbors. It wasn’t long before I was introduced to the Feldmans. He didn’t seem to remember me, so I thought I was home free. Then as the cookout was breaking up, Bonnie told me that Mr. Feldman wanted to speak to me. He was waiting near the front of the house.
As I walked toward my rendezvous with the grouchy old man, I wondered if he remembered the lawsuit. Mr. Feldman put his hands on my shoulders and looked me straight in the eyes. ”Young man, let me tell you something. Before you even think about beating up Bonnie, you just remember this. She has two very large brothers”. He gave me his best glare, turned and walked away.
I was stunned. Beating up Bonnie has never entered my mind. In fact, I’m not sure I could do it, then or now. In 38 years of marriage, I’ve yet to win a battle for the covers.
When I informed Bonnie’s family about Mr. Feldman’s warning, they burst out in laughter. To this day, we joke about that incident.
I never saw Mr. Feldman at the wedding or the reception or since. Surely, there’s a time limit on lawsuits. Isn’t there?
Here are some novels that concern lawsuits and other legal matters.
My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult
The King of Torts by John Grisham
The Gods of Guilt by Scott Turow
Defending Jacob by William Landay
Identical by Scott Turow
Death Angel by Linda Fairstein
A Time to Kill by John Grisham
Tragic by Robert Tanenbaum
Blood Money by James Grippando
Fall From Grace by Richard North Patterson