His books packed neatly into boxes, Angus quietly closed the door of his office behind him. He was a little tired. It had been a long day. Old friends and people he hadn’t spoken to in ages had been stopping by to shake his hand and wish him well.

Now Angus tucked his worn leather briefcase into the trunk of his car and climbed behind the wheel. Time for a new adventure. He smiled. And drove.

. . . And drove and drove, for some days, stopping only when he had to. One warm September afternoon he arrived in a small Southern town. It seemed as good a place as any to grab a bite to eat and a newspaper. The townsfolk were friendly. Men tipped their hats to him as he walked by, and the coffee at the little restaurant he found was good and hot.

After his meal, Angus thought he’d walk around a bit and stretch his legs. As he started he heard a school bell ring and suddenly the street was filled with children rushing home. Angus noticed a girl walking along slowly, kicking a rock down the street. At least he thought she was a girl. She had close-cropped hair and looked a little rough around the edges. Still, it was clear something was wrong. So he called out hello and waved.

The girl kept walking, looking down at her feet. Angus thought she hadn’t heard him, so he called again, louder this time, and added, “I beg your pardon. I’m afraid I’m lost. Might you know the way to Mobile?” He didn’t paste on a phony smile or do any of the silly things grown-ups do talking to children. Angus knew better than to condescend to anyone.

The girl – and he could see her face now, and was sure it was a girl – looked up at him and blinked hard, whether due to the sun overhead or tears he wasn’t sure. She shielded her eyes with her hand but it was still so bright and hot that she squinted. So did he, as a matter of fact.

“I’m sorry, mister, I sure don’t,” she said. And now it was obvious, because he could see two tear trails on her cheek. Just two though. She wasn’t a crybaby.

“Is there anything wrong?” he asked. “Can I do something to help?”

She looked doubtful. “You know Miss Caroline Fisher? My teacher?”

“No, I’m afraid I don’t. I’m not from around here,” said Angus.

The girl gave him a hard look. “Well, I c’n tell that,” she said. “You don’t talk like us ’round here. But I never met Miss Caroline afore today either, so how’s I to know whether you know her or not?”

It was a valid point. Angus nodded.

“Anyway,” she said, “Miss Caroline says Atticus ain’t to teach me reading no more. When he ain’t never taught me anyways. I been reading for as long as I c’n remember.” Her face scrunched up just a little then, but she quickly regained her composure.

“Miss Caroline says I’m to tell Atticus not to teach me no more. And that he taught me wrong anyways. And I don’t want to tell him so.”

Angus thought he’d like a word with Miss Caroline sometime. But he also knew that the Miss Carolines never had any real power or say, once you got out of school and into the world. You could even feel sorry for all the Miss Carolines if the mood caught you right.

So he asked, “Who’s Atticus?”

“He’s my father.”

“I see,” he said. Angus thought for a bit. The girl waited in companionable silence.

“The first piece of advice I’m going to give you,” he said, “is to follow me over here, under the shade of this tree. There we are. Much better, don’t you think?”

She nodded very seriously.

“If you’re going to be giving advice on a hot day, you might just as well do it in the shade. Now. About the situation with your fa- with Atticus. Do you think he’ll be angry with you?”


“With Miss Caroline?”

“No. Atticus don’t really get too angry.”

Angus thought he might like Atticus very much. It was a shame he couldn’t meet him.

“So what is it exactly you’re worried about, then?”

“I just don’t . . . I don’t want to say he done taught me wrong. It might hurt his feelings.”

Angus thought he liked this girl too. And that Atticus had done a fine job of teaching her, reading or not.

“Here is what I would suggest,” he said. “Go on home. Get yourself a little something to eat. Like standing in the shade instead of the sun, it’s better to do things when you’re not hungry than when you are. And when Atticus gets home, wait till he’s eaten supper, too, and had a rest. And then just tell him. I’m sure he’ll understand.”

The girl looked hopeful at first, then quickly doubtful.

“And how’n you know that, mister? You know Atticus?”

“I don’t,” said Angus, smiling. “But I know some like him, I think. And I believe he will understand.”

The girl nodded, and hugged her books close to her chest, and said, “I’d best be gettin’ home then.”

“Yes, I guess you’d better,” said Angus. He tipped his hat to her. “It has been a pleasure.”

And off she went. Angus walked on, hands in his pockets, whistling a little song.

. . .To be continued . . .

(with apologies to Miss Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, for borrowing Scout and Atticus here)

If you’re a lawyer who reads the ABA Journal, you know Angus.

I met him about twenty years ago, when my dad, who knew I was thinking about law school, gave me a subscription to the ABA Journal for Christmas one year.  It wasn’t the convertible I was hoping for, but ultimately I got a lot more mileage out of it.  (You like what I did there?)

This month Angus and his progenitor, Jim McElhaney, say good-bye after twenty-five years.  Wow.  That means I got in practically on the ground floor.

I have been wanting to pay tribute to Angus in my own small way, and because it seems to me that Angus has never had much of a life outside the little room from which he issues his wise words, I thought I would take him on a vacation.  In honor of his retirement, you see.  But Angus is a fictional character, and under the laws of physics and Strunk & White he can only travel to fictional locales.

I’m having fun with this.  I hope you do too.  And Professor McElhaney, if by some miracle of the Interwebs you ever get to read these, thanks.  It’s been twenty-five really good years.

Look for my first post tomorrow, wherein Angus will pay a visit to some fictional characters you will no doubt recognize.  More posts will follow for the rest of September.

Beannachd leat, Angus.