A Country for Old Men

By on Apr 22, 2018 in Fiction

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“Oh, I like the guy, but I’m terrified of the thought of him becoming vice president.” His voice lowered, and I could see him turn on the pedantic mode that he never stepped out of for very long. “See, the Nineties, they were like a modern version of the Twenties. We had just emerged from war – the Cold War, in our case. The economy’s been growing like never in history. All of the associates in my office are day trading and living in houses that are bigger than they can afford. The partners are all speculating in real estate. All of the crises of the past decade – Lewinsky, Kuwait, Kosovo, Y2K– they’ve really been trivial, at least as far as this country has been concerned. But it can’t possibly stay like this forever. I think we’re getting to the end of the Twenties and the next decade is going to be the modern version of the Thirties. I think we’re actually seeing the leading edge of it now with the dot-com bust. Things are going to get worse, regardless of who’s president, and when it does, I don’t want a guy named Joe Lieberman who wears a yarmulke in the White House.”

“He’s just the running mate,” Hayley objected. “If Gore gets elected, Lieberman’s whole job will be going to state funerals.”

“Don’t you see? Just the fact that he’s there will be enough. If the shit hits the fan” — this is the only time I have ever heard Jacob use profanity, by the way — “half the country will blame it on him.

“And what would actually happen? Do you think there would be pogroms because of Joe Lieberman being the vice president?”

“Look, anti-Semitism is always one recession away from coming back into vogue, and the odds of this flaring up are greater with a Gore/Lieberman ticket, than with a waspy Republican administration —– who would also be more supportive of Israel, by the way.”

It was bizarre and discomfiting to hear someone of my generation speaking in this way: here he was, eating Pad Thai just like us, and yet expressing “But is it good for the Jews?” opinions that even my grandparents would have found embarrassing.

After the main course, Hayley went to the bathroom, leaving me and Jacob uncomfortably alone at the table. He cleared his throat theatrically and looked over at me.

“Nathan, what exactly have you been doing for Morty Silverberg?”

“I beg your pardon?” I immediately cursed myself for that response. Nobody ever begs someone’s pardon unless they’re guilty of something.

“Someone in our real estate practice was researching the permits on a couple properties in northern Palm Beach County. Your name showed up on one of the filings. Several filings actually.”

Several filings? I knew about Datura Partners, but were there more? Was Himmelfarb setting me up? Or was Jacob bluffing? “It’s none of your business whether I’m doing something for Silverberg or not.”

“Does Hayley know about this?”

“Also, none of your business.”

“So you haven’t told her yet either. Why all the secrecy?”

“There’s no secrecy,” I was going from nervous to annoyed. “I don’t tell everyone about everything I do. I haven’t done anything illegal or unethical. None of this is any of your business.”

“You know Silverberg’s still involved in a bunch of lawsuits over properties around the state, right? If the other side ever tried to hire Donovan & Woods as counsel, they’d be conflicted out because of the work you’re doing for Silverberg on the side, even if it’s informal. That’s the kind of thing that could get you fired. Listen, Nathan, here’s what your problem is. You’re smart enough to get into this game, but not smart enough to see the whole picture. You’ll always do fine while things are going smoothly, but then when things go south, you’ll realize that the really smart guys have already feathered their nests and gotten out, and you’ll be left holding the bag. A guy like you is always going to be subject to the influence of someone smarter than you, whether you realize it or not, and you shouldn’t let it be Silverberg.”

I was about to respond when Haley returned, forcing us to break of our conversation. We regarded each other silently over our Thai iced teas. When the check came, Jacob insisted on paying it.

The ride back was initially quiet. I put on the radio, found some bland late-period alt rock, and settled into the two-hour drive that awaited, trying to distract myself from the awkward and vaguely threatening encounter with Jacob.

“Do you think we should move to Miami?”

I immediately silenced the alt rock.


“Whenever I come here, I think it would be fun to live here. There’s just so much more going on here than in Palm Beach.”

“I have to say, I’m surprised to hear you saying that. Moving to West Palm was your idea originally.”

“You sound like you’re against it. I’m surprised you’re not more into it. You originally wanted to move there.”

“Well, once you had convinced me to move to Florida, I had leaned towards Miami. You said you didn’t want to because you had more friends in Palm Beach, and the beaches in Miami were too crowded, and that I’d have a hard time professionally here because I don’t speak Spanish.”

“You did a semester in Spain.”

“Right, well, I don’t think I’d make a major life decision based on the fact that I spent four months getting drunk in Barcelona with a bunch of other Americans and Australians.”

“Jacob thinks he could get you a job with his firm. He told me. He also does a lot of pro bono work with non-profits — you know, 501(c)(3) applications and that whole thing — and thinks he could get me a job down here, too.”

“How does someone who’s been in Miami for three years think he can get everybody jobs down here? When did he tell you this anyway?”

“When we talked the other day.”

“How often do you talk?”

“Not that often. I had gotten home early, and you were working late that night. I gave him a call, and he mentioned this to me. Anyway, what do you care when I talk to my cousin?”

I was seething. Of course, if this had been a few months ago, I would have been happy enough to move to Miami. But Jacob wasn’t offering to get me a job then. It was only now that he knew I had something in the works in Palm Beach, something I wasn’t telling Hayley or anyone else about. Also, I was annoyed to hear that Jacob was “doing a lot of pro bono.” Little golden Jacob giving back to the community, puffing up his résumé as if he were still applying to Yale.

“Look, I don’t care when you talk to Jacob, but I don’t need him to start trying to get me a job. I already have a job. I want to play things out a little bit more before I start trying to move somewhere.”

“I know, but don’t you think that it’s a good opportunity? His firm is the top rated in Florida, right?”

“For some practice areas, I think.”

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Aaron Sokoloff is an attorney in San Diego. His short story "The Red Panda" was published in Wild Violet in July 2017. He was the editor of The Brown Jug humor magazine, and his ranking of the entire Pink Floyd discography was published in Nerve.com under his pen name, "Aaron Sokolof." He wasn't just trying to be controversial by listing Atom Heart Mother at #3; that is actually his opinion. He is currently working on a biography of his brother entitled Other Peoples' Cars: The Life and Times of G-ron Sokoloff.


  1. You are so very talented. You must have very talented and amazing parents.

  2. I know for a fact that he does.

  3. I knew it was a fungal ear infection.