Day 12 in my novel-in-a-month effort

Chapter 12: Righting Wrongs

 The Comptroller shall, upon appointing a receiver, cause notice to be given, by advertisement in such newspapers as he may direct, for three consecutive months, calling on all persons who may have claims against such association to present the same, and to make legal proof thereof.

—Title 12, United States Code, Banks and Banking, Receivership, Notice To Present Claims

Alan Spinkter very much wanted to sue someone, and it occurred to him that the Governor would be a good place to start.

The rural Arizona legislator sat on his back porch, reading the newspaper. He liked newspapers; he liked them very much. But his interest in newspapers was highest when his name could be found somewhere in its many column inches; it reached a fever pitch when his name was paired with his photograph.

By that standard, Spinkter was not so in love with today’s newspaper. In fact, he hadn’t seen his name In about two days. Man oh man, he thought, what does a fella have to do?

That, of course, was a rhetorical question, for no one knew the answer to that better than Spinkter himself. Over his two and a half years in the legislature, he had managed to make it into the big city daily newspaper 811 times. His name had landed in the local paper about 900 times. And don’t get him started on Web hits.

Spinkter took the power of the press very seriously. That is why he kept two interns on staff in his office at the Legislature doing nothing but reviewing pages for mentions of his name. If they had a spare minute, they were expected to insert into their Facebook and Twitter social media channels news items regarding the fantastic progress Alan Spinkter was making in Phoenix, the site of all that was ranged against the everyday Arizonan. Fortunately (the twitter posts would say), “Alan #Spinkter does what’s right by everyday Arizonans, fights the forces of evil, bring sanity back NOW”

Although he was dedicated to all forms of self expression, he understood at a cellular level that television was the big dog in the fight. And he grew especially interested when an idea came his way that would be worthy of TV coverage.

Through the past legislative session, he had thought a lot about that topic. It was his steadfast belief that his constituents – at least the ones he agreed with – deserved nothing less than his focused attention on ways to publicize his efforts and his successes. After all, he thought, his success is their success. And when he could get on TV, his constituents were extremely successful.

The idea of a lawsuit leading to news coverage was not a new notion, at least not for Spinkter. In his time in the Lege, he had sued four different people or entities six different times.

He had sued the state Superintendent of Public Instruction for the propriety of certain educational materials.

He had sued the City of Phoenix Mayor for his failure to enforce federal banking laws.

He had sued the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors for disallowing certain expenditures by the county sheriff’s office, expenditures that would have brought the Capitol buildings and grounds under the sheriff’s jurisdiction.

He had sued a federal district court judge, Judge Gary Ropes, for writing an extremely terse and altogether too strident ruling regarding his friend and former lawyer Harvey Shinblock. In his thinking, Ropes had violated the United States Constitution when he ruled against Shinblock.

Alan Spinkter had lost every one of those cases. That may have had something to do with the fact that Harvey was his longtime attorney.

Harvey Shinblock had always possessed a highly colorful and creative sense of the Arizona Revised Statutes and the United States Code. That was the kind of verve and panache that Spinker liked. Unfortunately, judges – and the State Bar – did not share his opinion.

Since Shinblock had been disbarred, Spinkter’s litigious nature had deflated like a pierced balloon. The legislator had found it far more difficult to locate an attorney of Shinblock’s talent and proclivity for “experimental law,” as Harvey had called it. So Spinkter had retreated on the law front, focusing instead on getting media coverage the old fashioned way – by getting invited as often as possible to big dollar events where the reporters were likely to attend. Some of his special favorites were fetes where he was told the media would be given food and libations – in those situations, he even wore a pressed flannel shirt and bola tie, knowing that the lushes with pens would be all over it like ink on paper.

The week before, Spinkter had sat on a planter outside the criminal courts building with his good friend Harvey Shinblock. Whenever the Lege was in session, Spinkter like to drive east a few blocks to have a hot dog at Harvey’s stand.

“How goes it at the asylum?” Harvey asked.

“Pretty good, I guess, but I’ve been swamped with committee meetings and constituent courtesy calls.”

Shinblock laughed.

“Boo hoo, Alan. Last time I heard, wasn’t that the job of a legislator?”

Spinkter smiled. Harvey had worked as a lawyer for most of his life. So by training and experience, Shinblock had not the slightest clue how laws are made.

“Very funny, Harvey. But really, I was really thinking about a little lawsuit action.”

“Don’t look at me,” said Harvey, bunning a brat for a customer. “I’m out of that game.”

“I know, I know,” said Spinkter. “I was just thinking out loud.”

But Shinblock enjoyed his old life too much to shut up. For the next hour, over two dogs and a brat, Spinkter mentioned every idea he had for lawsuit targets: Transportation Commissioner, Mine Inspector, Pioneer Historical Cemetery caretaker. They discussed the pros and cons of each, but Harvey was unimpressed.

“Where is your spunk, man, your fire?” asked Harvey. “This doesn’t sound like the Spinkter I used to know.”

Alan knew his friend was right. But engaging in these conversations on a boiling sidewalk had taken the wind out of his sails. This was nothing like the old days, when they would sit in his office or, even better, at Toms Tavern, for hours, drinking and talking legal strategy – and billing the taxpayers for the lawyers’ time. In contrast, this was just shooting the bull.

“Hey, I’ve got a question,” Harvey asked. “Why haven’t you ever aimed to go after the biggest target in town?”

“Jerry Colangelo?” Alan asked. “But I like the Phoenix Suns.”

“No, you moron. Sometimes I wonder how you ever got elected. What I mean is the Governor herself.”

Of course, thought Spinkter. It was always right there, sitting in front of him. It was always Hattie, and he was just blind to it. Now THAT would get the TV cameras.

“But for what?” Spinkter asked in a rush.

“Oh, come on,” Shinblock said with derision. “That’s the easy part. There’s always something to cook up. Put on your thinking cap, man.”

So that’s what Alan Spinkter had done. And as he sat on his back porch now and constructed a plan, he thought back on the path he had traveled.

Spinkter had been a salesman of vacuum cleaners for twenty years before growing interested in politics. He had a successful business in Northern Arizona, but when his legislator left office suddenly (something about missing office supplies, he had heard), his county chamber of commerce drafted him to fill the remaining portion of the term. Much to his surprise, using the same motto that he had emblazoned on his panel van – “No One Sucks Like Spinkter” – he won handily.

Like a majority of the state House of Representatives, Spinkter (“no H,” he always reminded reporters, “NO H!”) was a dyed in the very blue wool Democrat. The House Dems did their best to carry their standard forward, but for years they had labored under a highly popular Republican Governor. It was in the darkest days of their wandering in the desert that Spinkter had been blessed with an amazing opportunity.

It had looked to all the pundits like the Governor was going to be in office for as long as she wanted. Though her policies were anathema to Spinkter and his cohorts, she was pretty popular among voters, who were pleased to see an efficient and bright technocrat at the helm. As time went on, more and more Dems decided not to stand for re-election, and they eventually saw the speakership as a powerless and thankless position.

Due to Spinkter’s seeming inability to feel pain or to be downtrodden by the intolerable situation, the speakership fell to him – which he accepted readily. Just a few months later, the Governor revealed that she had been named the Attorney General in the new presidential administration, and that the state secretary of state would fill the Gov’s unexpired term.

In a fell swoop, Alan Spinkter was the Speaker of the House, and the new Governor hailed from his own party. Speaker Spinkter was riding high.

Or so he thought.

Over the coming months, it turned out that the new Democratic Governor favored a large number of Republican policies, leaving the party’s policies in tatters. She came out in favor of a cut to all taxes, including the elimination of the income tax. She voiced support for decreased services, saying that if residents couldn’t dispose of their own trash or educate their own children, that was their problem. He and the other Democrats felt like their like trust had been violated.

Most troubling to Spinkter was the new Governor’s adamant opposition to same sex marriage. That was something Spinkter could not abide.

Alan Spinkter had gotten into office based on those old time liberal values that rural Arizona was known for. They liked taxes, they loved big government, and, most of all, they gave a big wet kiss to the idea of same sex unions. He was a cracker, but a blue one, and he was entirely beholden to his liberal causes and supporters. Arizona state politics has always been heavily influenced by the religious beliefs of its legislators, and for Spinkter, it was no different. As a longtime member of the liberal Church of the Holistic Association of the Popular Stance – CHAPS – he suddenly realized what he should do about this lawsuit. He would sue the Governor to require her to raise taxes. He also would ask a court to declare her veto of legislative bills invalid because the vetoes were “unjust, that’s why.”

Speaker Spinkter decided to call a press conference. But first, he had to call a lawyer.

Chapter 12.1: A Novelist Pauses

The “novelist,” as he mockingly called himself, sat dejected in his office at the Dedrick law firm. He had been toiling on his latest project for a few weeks now, but he thought he detected a serious snag, and he wondered if he could extricate himself.

He gazed out toward a veritable army of fax machines, all powered up and humming contentedly, but very few exercising their muscles for the job for which they were intended. And the staffer sighed – he knew that feeling.

The law firm he found himself in was odd, hierarchical, focused on masses of minutiae while insisting on productivity, archaic, self assured and reactive. In other words, it was largely like many other law firms around the United States, and maybe the world. He thought that the firm was bizarre in so many ways – and yet he knew that he had a good position, and that the people he worked with were almost all decent human beings.

And it was that combination – the bizarre with the good – that had started him on a risky path: writing a novel, beginning to end, on company time.

This venture – writing a novel – was one that many a lawyer mused on but few attempted. The legal profession may contain more than its fair share of members who insist to themselves that they “have a novel in them.” Many may, but the imperatives of work and family commitments preclude them from full participation in the noveling adventure. Instead, they write memos and briefs, bill their time, and hope to jump into the fiction some day.

This staffer had decided to try his hand at writing something different. He believed that the odd interactions occurring all around him daily would provide him killer content, which would make his task easier.

His original plan had been to write in the evening after work. That had worked for awhile, but he found that his eyelids began to feel leaden as the evening went on. Soon he had retreated to his pre-novel evenings, and the writing stopped altogether.

And that’s when he decided to try a little writing at work. Despite the managing partner’s high expectations, the workload in the newly launched law office had not risen dramatically. The staffer was able to complete his assigned tasks with relative ease, and still have time left over. Why not write a few words?

His initial sense of guilt faded quickly, and he made petty rapid progress. But now he had hit a wall.

The block was not a dearth of words moving the story along. Instead, he realized that he may have written himself into a tight spot. The story may be developing fine, but he may have revealed details in an order that would cause problems with the narrative later. You’d think someone trained as a lawyer would plan better, he thought.

Why not just rewrite? Well, he had been posting his story to a blog as he wrote, so he couldn’t rewrite, at least not yet. He had to find his way out of the dilemma another way.

But not tonight. Tonight, he would head home, pet the dog, open a box of wine, and watch a little PBS before tumbling into bed. Tomorrow was another day in the office, where he could do some work in the legal world – and even more in the fictive world.

CHAPTER 13 is next.