“May I speak to Stanley?”
I have known Stan for decades and to my knowledge nobody has ever called him by that name.
He was in the kitchen, focused on a sizzling pan of Italian sausage, so I answered his door when the knock came. Now a little man in a worn-out suit and a faded bow-tie wanted to talk to Stanley.
“Is that Mr. Simms?” Stan called from the kitchen.
The little man indicated it was.
“Well, let him in.”
At that… the little guy side-stepped me quicker than a mongoose and scampered straight into the kitchen. As he rounded the center island, Mr. Simms slipped a document from his jacket pocket and slapped Stan with it.
“You’ve been served,” he said, as he beat a hasty retreat for the exit.
“Catch you at The Pit on Thursday?” Stan called after him.
“Wouldn’t miss it,” Simms replied and slammed the door.
My bewilderment begged for an answer.
“Oh, he’s my process server,” Stan explained.
“Your process server?”
“Yeah, I’m 90% of his business,” he said, “but hey, I’m kinda busy here, would you file that summons for me?”
“Where do I file it?”
“Under summons, of course.”
Sure enough, in Stan’s home office, I found a file drawer marked SUMMONS.
There were other drawers labeled:
ORDERS TO SHOW CAUSE
“Good Grief!” I exclaimed after opening the drawer, “you have summons going all the way back to 1971.”
“You’re in the wrong cabinet,” he shouted from the kitchen. “Look on the north wall.”
Sure enough, there on the north wall was another set of cabinets similarly marked.
I couldn’t believe it. No, strike that, I could believe it. Out of pure frustration, I asked a question to which I already knew the answer. “Why can’t you simply play by the rules?”
Stan took offense. “I always play by the rules,” he insisted, “and every document in those cabinets testifies to that fact.”
It made perfect Stan-sense.
The guy has been in trouble with the law since third grade. You see, fish have water, birds have air, worms have loam and Stan…. Well, he has legal jeopardy; it is the medium through which he navigates life.
“How much trouble are you in this time?”
“I might have to call Sid.”
“Naw, he’s a guy I met back in the early 70’s while subcontracting in Cam Ranh Bay Vietnam.”
“I never knew you were there.”
“There is a lot you don’t know. Anyway, Sid worked undercover for the Shore Patrol.”
“Yeah, his job was to catch contractors who were ripping off the Navy.”
“The thing is, everyone was ripping off Uncle Sam, but Sid had orders to catch exactly one corrupt contractor a month. Any more than that and shipping would slow down. Any less meant nothing would get through. The object was not to stop corruption; it was to manage it so that the port ran smoothly.
It was kind of like fishing for tuna. If you catch too many, you will be up to your eyeballs in mackerel, if you catch too few, you’ll wipe out the school. The trick is to catch just the right ones.”
“Sid caught the wrong tuna.”
“Let’s just say he never made that mistake again.”
“And you are telling me this because?”
“Oh,” Stan said, “Sid is a senior investigator for The Federal Office of the Inspector General. He helps me out because I help him out. You might say, I’m a tuna spotter.”
I just shook my head in wonder.
“Come by The Pit next Thursday,” Stan said, “Simms will be there.”
“I am amazed you stay on such friendly terms with him.”
“Why not?” Stan exclaimed, “he buys my drinks. It beats having to track me down.”