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The Cherry Wood Heart

The black-and-white photograph accompanying Quetsch’s obituary might just as likely have been taken years before or after I worked for him. I never knew him as anything but old and can’t imagine him otherwise. Yet the fact that he could actually die seemed somehow impossible to me, as does so much about those days, not least being the fact that I ever practiced law.

He was seventy-seven then and I’d just turned twenty-five, the undistinguished graduate of an undistinguished law school. When he arrived to my interview fifteen minutes early, I was already waiting on the steps outside the office, a Queen Anne house with a wraparound veranda, porte-cochere, and an American flag that hung from a porch post. It was after hours, early autumn, and he’d come from home, dressed in a drab flannel shirt and what used to be called dungarees, looking more like a farmer than a lawyer. He unlocked the front door with an oversized key and ushered me into the library where we took our places at a long conference table. He began by asking me flat-out why I wanted this job and I told him that I’d become a lawyer because I wanted to solve problems.

I’d used this line before. “You don’t need to be a lawyer to solve problems,” he said. “There’ll always be plenty of those and always plenty of lawyers.” His smile evaporated. “But that wasn’t the question. I know you want a job. I asked why you want this job.” He glared at me as if I were an intransigent witness who was wasting both the court’s time and his, and so I told him the truth. I said, “I came here for a girl,” and then I told him about Liss.

{To read the rest of this story, please purchase Issue 39.2.}


Charles Haverty’s stories have appeared or are forthcoming in AGNI, The Gettysburg Review, Ecotone, Colorado Review, The Massachusetts Review, New Ohio Review, and elsewhere. He lives in Lexington, Massachusetts.