by Mike Clark
The Sasquatch and its lawyer sat across the table, a pitcher of ice water and four glasses between us. The lawyer was dressed in a dark suit with a light blue blouse and had a golden cross with a pearl embedded on her lapel. Her raven hair was pulled back and she tapped on the IPad held in her perfectly manicured hands.
The Sasquatch squatted impassively on the floor, hulking over the proceedings. Its body was covered with reddish-brown fur, and its smell was that of a vacant cattle pen. I got a mental image of the Sasquatch showering in a car wash, slowly walking through the giant mops and spraying nozzles, then shaking itself dry at the exit. Its eyes were thick, black and calm. Somewhere between those of a chimpanzee and a bored bartender tending a sparse happy hour bar clientele.
I’d brought along Max, from Distribution. Max wasn’t that bright, but he’d played offensive line at Youngstown State and still benched 400 pounds. The Sasquatch could have plucked Max like a chicken, if it felt so inclined.
“Thank you for agreeing to meet with my client on such short notice,” said the lawyer, named Jenny. “We wish to discuss the matter of your network’s defaming my client in its news reports of August 12, August 13, August 14 and possibly other air dates.” She clicked through her menu. “The on-air staff used the terms ‘Abominable Snowman’, ‘Bigfoot’ and several other potentially derogatory phrases in describing my client.”
The Sasquatch made no sound. Max’s chair squeaked.
“Such potentially hurtful phrases have caused my client mental anguish, stress and physical discomfort,” continued the lawyer. “We’ve asked for this meeting to discuss what steps your network will take to rectify the damages done to my client.”
We’d run the first sightings of the Sasquatch making its way through a lumberjacks’ base camp in the Klamath mountain region of Northern California. Some decent cellphone video of husky, flannel-shirted men running like lemmings while the Sasquatch casually picked over the leftovers from the chow wagon. It was a slow week in August, and the network mannequins hired to barf up the “news” on air had little else to work with. Bigfoot beat out the U.S. border refugee crisis handily. How were we to know that this ambling giant would hire a lawyer to assuage its hurt feelings?
“What ‘damages’ can you show that airing these videos have done to your…client?” I asked. The Sasquatch remained impassive. This was more surreal then the time I had to argue with the Moonies’ lawyer over whether or not their latest mass wedding should have gotten a group discount at a Las Vegas marriage chapel. Max was shrinking in his chair beside me.
“I have filed depositions detailing the stress that the accusations of being a ‘monster running amok’ have done to my client.”
“And what sources did you use to determine that your…client has been defamed?” I asked.
“I will provide the documents in question,” she replied. The Sasquatch remained immobile. The peacefulness in those dark eyes…
“You and your, ah, client do realize that the network’s airing of the videos in question was done before there was reasonable cause to assume your client was…sentient.” I didn’t know another way to phrase that. “And that airing of said videos can be reasonably assumed to have news value.”
“Does that ‘news value’ encompass derogatory slurs against a native people of this country?” replied the lawyer. “Does that ‘news value’ include declaring a living being a ‘monster’, for simply trying to provide food for himself?”
I noted she referred to the Sasquatch as masculine.
“Well, there is the matter of compensation for the loggers’ supplies, then,” I said. “Your client ran up a pretty big grocery bill at that lumber camp.”
“My client was driven to extreme measures in order to survive,” said the lawyer. “We can provide documentation on the environmental degradation of his natural foraging habitat, the effects of global warming on his food supply, and the disturbances to his mental health and wellbeing caused by the logging operation.”
“So, are you saying that “global warming” drove your client to trash a logging camp?” I asked. “Our network can’t be held to blame for such forces as yet scientifically undefined.”
“Your network can be held responsible for promoting a negative viewpoint of my client’s right to exist.” A glint of sunlight broke through the clouds outside our seventh story window, casting the Sasquatch in a copper glow.
“Come on,” I said. “The network wasn’t rallying a mob to show up with pitchforks and Tiki torches…”
“…was following its public charter by airing a newsworthy event,” I said. “You must admit, your client makes an unusual presence. AND, might not the resulting publicity about your client, sparked by the network’s coverage, actually be a positive factor? Might we not be able to say that your client has developed a ‘fan base’ that will help generate a positive awareness of the issues that…he… may be facing?”
Max nodded his head in agreement, on cue. He was good at that.
“That’s a stretch,” said the lawyer.
“I can understand that your client may feel excessive media exposure might be detrimental to his chosen lifestyle and privacy,” I said.
The Sasquatch sat; gargantuan hands neatly folded. He was following our conversation, I could tell.
“Might there not be a way for us to reach an agreement that would allow for your client to preserve his…rustic lifestyle, while satisfying the public’s desire to become more familiar with him in his natural environment?” The Sasquatch exhaled, ruddy hairs gently moving below his huge nose. “For a reasonable fee?’
“My client is not interested in starring on a reality TV show …”
“No, no, no…” I was thinking and talking fast, a dangerous combination. Max was dead weight beside me, and I briefly wondered if he or the Sasquatch had more brains.
“My client is tired of being taken advantage of…”
“May we hear your client state that himself?” I asked, looking directly at the mountainous being. The calm black eyes reflected back at me, without malice or intent.
What was he thinking?
“If we could offer a guarantee of privacy, coupled with the prospect of financial security, would your client agree to a very limited and professionally monitored schedule of, say… personal appearances?” I said. “Every American citizen has the right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” I addressed the behemoth directly. “You were born here, right?”
“My client has lived in the current United States for a very long time.”
The Sasquatch remained quiet.
“We won’t ask to see his birth certificate. Now, our network can guarantee that your client will not be molested or harassed, will be amply supplied with quality foodstuffs, and will have the same opportunities of enjoyment and freedom as any other citizen.”
If Legal would sign off on any of this…
“He’ll be able to live his life as he sees fit, AND strike a blow for the preservation of his natural habitat. It’ll be a win-win situation.”
Then the Sasquatch stood erect, in a smooth, organic motion. Good Lord, he must have been ten feet tall, and as wide as a truck. His bronze hair cascaded over his powerful body. A wild, untamed presence observing our civilized rules… for now.
The Sasquatch stepped away from the conference table, and strode over the creaking floor to the wide, tall, window. Outside, a distant airplane was coursing across thin high clouds above the skyline of the city. The Sasquatch stood before the thick pane glass, seemingly drinking in the urban landscape and the blue sky beyond. He spread his long thick arms wide, and let out a breath of air in a locomotive rush. Then he turned and looked at us.
“Perhaps you’ve been misinterpreting our position,” said the lawyer. “My client isn’t interested in going back to the forest where the videos your network aired were taken.”
She smiled, for the first time. “He’ll be making his home right here. Now, let’s discuss that prospect of financial security…”
Mike Clark’s stories have been published in Liquid Imagination, Mystery Weekly Magazine, and Gypsum Sound Tales anthologies Colp and Thuggish Itch. His short story “Thin Skinned” appeared in the January 2020 issue of Galaxy’s Edge Magazine. He lives in Charlotte, North Carolina and works in industrial automation and CNC tool machining, while spending as much time as he can outdoors. He was born in Los Angeles and grew up in Sharpsville, PA, a small town that’s grown smaller with age. He’s worked as a radio news reporter, an aerospace systems subcontractor and a butcher’s assistant. Baseball is his sports addiction.