I wrote the following paper in 1969 for a college English course.
Hope you enjoy the story.
Counsel for the Defense
It wasn’t a unique gathering. From all outward appearances it was only a friendly gathering of three members of each of two families for an evening of conversation. It was more, though.
Mrs. Martin, a rather outspoken woman was expounding on the historical events that had come to pass in our small town during the week. Mr. Martin sat quietly pulling easily on his pipe. He seemed to be off by himself even though he sat between Mrs. Martin and my mother. The smile my mother had painted on as the Martins drove up the drive was holding up well.
Ordinarily Mom would not sit and listen to gossip, but she had other things on her mind and was waiting for us to discuss the real issue. My father sat calmly sipping scotch and water breaking his own silence occasionally to toss in a quip that would silence Mrs. Martin for a second — but only a second, mind you. Ross Martin, a long-time friend, and I carried on a light conversation of our own.
Both of us were anxious. If this did not work, we would both be condemned to institutionalized living. Ross’s arguments had been in vain. He now hoped that I could convince my parents and in turn have my parents convert his. I was invoking all the gods I had ever read about to intervene in our favor. This confrontation was long in coming.
Tempers had flared several times during the past year, but an actual discussion of the problem was always put off until the proper time. The proper time was about to arrive. Should Ross and I be allowed to live off-campus at school was the question at hand. The alternatives we had been offered were dormitories or a fraternity. A rather simple issue except that Ross and I have had a series of interesting experiences.
By the end of our first year at college we had pledged a fraternity and before the end of the quarter subsequently de-pledged. We moved into a house with three other students and had a series of problems involving bills, studies, parties, and dogs. The other three fellows wanted to party, eat well, and raise dogs, but forego paying their share of the expenses or clean up after the dog. That was all topped off by the landlord who decided to keep our deposits when we moved out of the house. We were physically and legally unable to retrieve our money and that was a very tender spot for all of us.
Spring quarter we moved into a small trailer, which worked out fine for about two weeks and then Ross was involved in an accident which kept him out of school for the remainder of the quarter. This left me with a large share of the burden of the expenses as well as having to learn to cope with the deafening affects of silence. All this left our parents with a great deal of ammunition. One battle had already been lost. Mrs. Martin had already decided against us, but they wanted to make sure Ross would be happy. They had two daughters, but Ross was their only son.
Dad and I had already discussed the issue several times — all fruitless. In fact a couple times he had given me a definite “No!” But my seven brothers and sisters and I have a little understanding about our father. The first time he says “no”, he probably didn’t understand the situation. The second time he says “no” you probably didn’t present your case properly. The third time – forget it – he meant it the first time. This would be the third try. I had to do it right. We couldn’t have it put off again. Class would start in three weeks and we had to give the landlord a definite answer by the end of the week. I was ready. I had been preparing for this final showdown for several days.
Mr. Martin and my father are both successful businessmen. For them financial figures talk. With this in mind, my main appeal had to be to the pocket. Our housing expenses off-campus would be comparable to if not lower than if we were to live in a dormitory or a fraternity. Also, in a residence meal expense is set so if you miss a meal, you are out of luck. By buying and preparing our own meals, we would pay only for what we ate. And by not being required to participate in residence functions I would be left with more time to devote to my job. This would give me more money to use to cover my expenses. I had even resorted to using statistics, comparing the different costs for the different residences against living off-campus.
After exhausting the discussion of factual material I planned to move to an appeal to the independent spirits of my parents. Over the years I had picked up several examples of the independent nature showing in them when they were young and I planned to play them to the hilt. Also, I could give them many examples of the disadvantages of living in dormitories or fraternities. Most of which they had heard me tell before, but it would be more effective used all at once.
Dad rose from his chair and went into the kitchen. He returned in a few minutes with fresh drinks for himself and Mr. Martin. He sat down and I almost breathed a sigh of relief when he said, “Well, boys, I think it’s about time we got down to the matter at hand …”
K. Brian Jacobson
December 19, 1969
– The author received an “A” for the story.
– He and his friend moved to off-campus housing.