The Lawyer's Lawyer - By James Sheehan


Oakville, Florida, December 30, 1991

Can I have a Budweiser?” the young man shouted at the bartender. He had to shout because the place was packed and everybody was crowded around the bar jostling and yelling above the din for beer, the only commodity being sold, the wine having run out hours ago.

“No Budweiser,” the bartender said. “All we’ve got is Lone Star and it’s not that cold. We’re selling it too fast.”

“Shit, man. What’s that about?”

“It’s about three bucks and you’ve got three seconds to make a decision. Otherwise, this beer is going to the guy behind you. One, two—”

“All right, all right. Here’s the money.”

The bartender took the bills, placed them in the cash drawer, opened another beer, and found another customer. There were three men behind the bar, the oldest guys in the place, all performing the same function. They had experience tending bar, but it was rusty experience. Two of the men at least owned bars. The third, Jack Tobin, was a very successful lawyer from Miami.

The havoc continued until seven thirty when it died abruptly. A couple of young women lingered at the bar flirting with the older men, who still looked good despite their age. Basketball was their sport and they played regularly to stay fit, although Jack did triathlons as well.

At about eleven thirty, the revelry ignited again. College kids descended on the place like locusts. At least the Lone Star was cold this time around.

The Gator Bowl was in Oakville that year because a new stadium was being built in Jacksonville. Jack Tobin’s close friend Ron had chosen to open his new bar, The Swamp, on that day. Ron called on Jack and another friend, Pete, who owned a college bar in Blacksburg, Virginia, to help him. The three men had been friends for over twenty years.

By 2 a.m., when they finally closed the doors, they were beyond exhaustion. Sitting at a large round table, each one pulled up an extra chair to rest his legs on while drinking the beer they had been serving all night, Lone Star.

“This stuff isn’t bad,” Jack said, taking a sip. “I never had it before. Never even knew it existed.”

“Me neither,” Ron said. “Until the local distributor showed me the sheet with all the beers he was carrying and the prices. This stuff is cheap—a good bang for your buck. I needed a lot of beer tonight so I needed cheap.”

“So what do you think of our boy’s bartending debut tonight?” Pete asked, pointing at Jack.

“Him?” Ron said. “He doesn’t have a prayer. He’s too polite. The house is caving in and he’s having conversations with people. Me—if I don’t see three dollars in your hand, you’re not getting a beer. Nothing to discuss. Case closed.”

Pete laughed. “Looks like you’re going to have to go back to making millions as a big-time Miami lawyer, Jack.” Jack had started his own firm in Miami twenty years earlier. It now had a hundred lawyers.

“Not for long,” Jack replied. “I’m going fishing soon. Five years, max.”

“Retiring?” Pete asked. “At your age?”

“Yeah,” Ron cut in. “Jack’s planning on moving to some rinky-dink, hole-in-the-wall town called Bass Creek, down by the Okalatchee near the big lake. He fancies himself a fisherman. You’ll be bored stiff in a year, Jack. Are you going to find yourself a toothless old woman to hang out with?”

They were all laughing now, letting go of the exhaustion from the evening’s work. Jack was the foil for the moment and he relished the role. Nothing like old friends to keep you grounded.

“Maybe I’ll get along without a woman,” Jack said. His third wife, Renee, had divorced him less than three months before. “Maybe I’ll find peace in solitude.”

“Shoot him now, Ronnie. He’s finished,” Pete said. When they were younger, Pete had been the ladies’ man of the group. He was of eastern European descent with a handsome face, piercing brown eyes, and thick dark hair.

“No, he’s not,” Ronnie objected. “He’s just taking a break from women. You would too if you’d been married to the princesses he’s been with. Sorry, Jack, but you haven’t chosen well, at least not up to this point.”

“I’m sorry I haven’t lived up to the expectations of such an esteemed pair as you two. If I meet another woman, I’ll be sure to run her by you guys.”

“That’s a good idea,” Ron continued. “But I’ve got a better one, Jackie boy. Move up here. I’ll introduce you to some beautiful women.”

“Thanks, Ronnie, but