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Henry Simpson
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theinternship.jpg
Art by Steve Cartwright 2018

The Internship

by Henry Simpson

 

At the beginning of May, the end of the semester was near, and I had not yet lined up a summer law internship. I asked some of my professors and law school office contacts to suggest some law firms I might approach. I got several leads, started cold-calling them, and seldom got past the receptionist. Every law student was seeking the same thing I was, and the competition was brutal. A guy like me, with no friend or relative who could influence hiring, stood little chance of scoring such a prize.

After weeks of futile effort, I scored my first interview at a large, general practice law firm in an old office building in downtown Los Angeles. By now, I’d been rejected by all the major firms, middling ones, those that had been recommended to me, and was working through those I’d looked up in the yellow pages. What this one had going for it was that, as a general practice firm, it promised to do some criminal law.

I told the receptionist I was seeking a summer law internship. To my amazement, she called someone on the intercom, and a moment later a balding, thirtyish man in a threadbare suit but no tie came out, looked me over, and wordlessly summoned me to follow him back to his office. It was a cramped space, metal desk piled high with papers and single window view of another building. “Sit,” he said, dropping into his swivel chair. “Hand me your dossier.”

I handed him my folder.

He opened the folder, peered over his glasses down, shuffled the papers, nodded, sniffed, shuffled the papers some more, read on. He looked up, straightened his glasses. “You did well in college, good grades in law school. These letters of recommendation are nice. Did you write them yourself?

No, sir.

They look familiar, like boilerplate. I think the professors keep recycling them. Do you have any actual legal experience?

None. That’s why I’m here. I’m looking for a summer internship.

He nodded. Yeah, you’ll need it. You work at this club, Bunga West?

Yes, sir. I work weekends as night manager.

“Do you know who Silvio Berlusconi is?”

“An Italian media magnate. Why . . .”

What do you manage?

Security.

Private cops?

Mostly bouncers.

Do you have a criminal record?

A few misdemeanors.

Which ones?

Traffic tickets, marijuana possession.

He nodded. “You look familiar. Were you in court recently?

A drunk complained I beat him up, filed a complaint. Judge Peel dismissed the complaint.

Assault and battery?

Yes, sir. I can explain what happened if you’re interested.

I’m sure you can. Sorry, Mr. Costa. I know about Bunga West. It’s owned and operated by professional criminals. With your background, and the fact you work there, you have no chance in this law office or any others I can think of off the top of my head. You might have better luck in one with lower hiring standards. He closed the folder and pushed it across his desk like something repellant.

I sat in my car for a while, thinking. I was not angry, not even upset. For weeks I’d been trying to get my foot through the door and failed. When I finally did, the answer that came back was “No!” No was better than an evasion or maybe. It was at least a definite answer. Ironically, it came from a man who never shook my hand or even introduced himself. I did not actually know his name. At least he had been honest with me. I was grateful to him for that.

What now?

Another week of door knocking? I laughed. What reason had I to believe I’d have any better luck now?

My one remaining option was Moe Klein, the Carbone Family mouthpiece who had defended me on that Assault and Battery charge.

I punched in Moe’s phone number

“Hey, Joey,” he answered after one ring. “Are you in jail?” He snickered.

No, Moe. I’m not in trouble, nothing like that.

What’s up? He sounded serious, almost distressed.

Well . . . uh . . . I just, uh . . . I just finished my first year of law school and I’m looking for a summer internship with a law firm. I thought yours might be a possibility.

After a long silence, “Is that so . . . how’d you do in school?

Top of my class.

You like the law?

Yes, so far I do. I hesitated. I like it very much.

Listen, Joey. As if breaking bad news, “Fact is, we seldom offer internships. We’re a small firm and in the past the interns we’ve had, well, it just didn’t work out for them or us. Basically, it’s more trouble for us than it’s worth.A painfully awkward silence followed.

Oh . . . Is that a no? If so, I’ll understand, no hard feelings.” Holding my tongue with imaginary tongs.

Another silence.

Let me think about it some, and I’ll talk to the partners, see what they say. Okay, kid?

“Sure. I’d appreciate that. You have my phone number. Call me back anytime. I mean, anytime.

One day passed, no call from Moe.

Two days passed, no call from Moe.

Three days passed, no call from Moe. It was now Wednesday, and I was getting antsy, wondering if he would ever call. How long would it take for him to meet with his two partners, have a short meeting, and decide the fate of Joe Costa? I was tempted it to call him but decided to hold off for two more days. Five working days was a reasonable amount of time I had learned somewhere, probably in one of those otherwise useless business classes I took as an undergraduate.

As it happened, Moe called me on the fourth day, a Thursday, told me to bring my resume, curriculum vita, work samples, and anything else that I thought would impress him and his partners on Friday morning at 9 a.m.

Moe’s office was on the third floor of a modern office building in downtown Los Angeles. I took the elevator and got off in a reception area with a matronly woman sitting behind a desk. I signed the guest register and walked down a hallway to the open door of Moe’s office. So intent that he did not notice me, Moe was standing, holding a golf club poised to hit a ball across the thick carpet to a putting cup on the other side of his office. I waited, admiring his spacious office, large desk, genuine oil paintings, and view of treetops and office buildings. Moe hit the ball, which, having a mind of its own, meandered in an arc underneath his desk like an errant mouse. I laughed softly.

Moe turned to face me. How d’ya like that? I hate this game. Never could get the hang of it. Do you golf?

I don’t even watch it on TV.

He waved me in, pointed at a chair, retired his club against a filing cabinet, and sat behind his desk. What’ve you got to impress me?

I handed him my folder.

He opened, read fast, nodding, paused as something caught his interest, read on, digesting my entire file in a minute. Lawyers read fast. He looked up. You managed a rock band?

For two years, but it seemed much longer.

What’s your father do?

Military. He’s still on active duty.

Mother?

Teaches elementary school.

Divorced?

No, they’re still together.

Lucky you. Maybe that’s why you’re like that.

Like what?

Normal, no separation trauma from childhood. Normal is abnormal these days.

I’ve always felt normal.

Are you mocking me?

“No harm intended.”

“What kind of law do you think I practice?

Criminal law, unless the sign downstairs is wrong.”

And your great ambition is to be, what, a criminal defense lawyer?

Yes, most definitely.

Why?

Everyone deserves representation.

You heard that on TV or in a movie.

Probably did, but I believe it.

How about rapists? Wife beaters? Sadists? Loan sharks? Pedophiles?

Everyone.”

Do you have a criminal mind?

Yes, I do, think like a criminal, I mean. I believe that would be an asset in the defense business.

You must like contention, arguments . . . winning?

I’m a bouncer. That’s what bouncers do.

Do you have any legal experience?

I’ve been a defendant, played prosecutor and defense in law school role-plays, negotiated contracts, resolved disputes, and taken the law into my own hands.

That’s good. Creative to say the least. I’m willing to give you a chance. Brother Al, for whatever it’s worth, says you don’t get rattled handling difficult situations with drunks, violent types, or nut cases.

Did he actually tell you that?

Moe smirked. Do you think I’d lie about my own brother?

If it served your purpose.

“Do you believe brother Al told me you have a smart mouth?”

“You’ve got me there. From now on I’ll trust everything you say.”

Moe laughed. “In my business, working with people is more important than knowing law books. Leading that security crew is a good test of what you’re made of. How’s Dino like his new job?” Dino, the son of one of the club owners, was a fuckup I promoted to a job with an impressive title and no duties that might permit him to do any harm.

He’s doing well.

He held up my file. May I keep this?

Sure, I made that copy for you.

He stood. I’ll talk to the partners and get back to you one way or the other early next week.

Moe phoned on Monday. How’re you doing this morning?

I’m doing fine. What’s up?

Sorry to tell you this. I’m afraid I have some bad news for you. I talked to the partners, we had a big meeting in fact, and I showed them your file. I told them I wanted to hire you. They argued we don’t usually hire interns, wouldn’t know how to use them, and they outvoted me, so it’s a no go. I’m real sorry, kid.

Shit, Moe. You gave me that excuse last week and now you’re acting like you’ve had a revolution in thought over there at Kern, Brough, and Klein. Don’t lie to me.

After a long silence, I know, and I’m truly sorry. I never should’ve raised your hopes as I did. That was my error.

Tell me the truth. If you don’t, I’ll never trust you again.

Okay, here’s what it boils down to. I work for John Carbone. So do you. You’ve been doing odd jobs for Mario. You can’t work for me and for John and for Mario at the same time. Too many jobs. If I offer you an internship, Mario’ll be unhappy. If he’s unhappy, John will be unhappy. If John’s unhappy, he’ll shit on me, beside which he’ll figure out you’re not gonna work for him forever and he’ll be pissed off at you. Trust me, Joey, I’m doing you a favor.

Thank you for being honest. End of call. Convoluted logic, but he was right.

I went grocery shopping to take my mind off my miseries. Finished, I carried the groceries out to my car, got in, and sat back in my seat. I felt terrible. The entire legal establishment had rejected me. Even Moe Klein had failed me.

I put the key in the ignition, turned it, and heard the Porsche roar. I loved that sound and loved the car. The Porsche was the one good thing I had to show for my disastrous foray into show business. I’d bought it at the high point of that crazy time, and it was still with me. I would never let it go. I absolutely adored it. After that time, I had another low point, but recovered. And since last September I’d been making headway, getting better. Strangely, the car gave me hope now. I backed out of the parking space, and drove.

Approaching Santa Monica, I was feeling better. I understood now that it was not in my nature to be defeated. It sometimes happened, these little setbacks, but as long as I was alive and striving, life would get better. I knew this now with certainty.

Ah, blue skies, perfect beaches, fine surf, beautiful girls—what more could I ask for? So, I’d lost the opportunity to work gratis all summer in an office.

But what had I gained?

I parked in my slot, carried my groceries into the apartment, put them away, downed a cold beer, changed into faded surf shorts, went outside, grabbed one of Walt’s longboards, and walked to the ocean.






Henry Simpson is the author of several novels, two short story collections, many book reviews, and occasional pieces in literary journals. His most recent novel is Golden Girl (Newgame, 2017).

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