Monday was a good day, typical of good days in its variety. I was on the phone with another lawyer trying to settle a whiplash. His unlicensed truck driver ran into the rear of my man’s ear with a 50,000-pound cement truck. This case will settle.

Another client called. She was ostensibly concerned about her disability case. She talked about her distress because the Veterans Administration Hospital is, yet again, releasing her psychotic husband. I listened and made the noises humans make for one another, rather as horses stand head to tail in the summer pasture, their tails whisking away one another’s flies.

On another matter, I billed and got $1,450, also the mark of a good day. Disraeli said of the race horse owner Danebury, “He valued the acquisition of money on the turf, because there it was the test of success. He counted his thousands after a great race as a victorious general counts his cannon and his prisoners.” We entrepreneurs eat what we kill. There are no Mondays, but there are no Fridays, either.

In the afternoon I showed a house which is tied up in a receivership to potential renters. They are black, have eight children and grandchildren. She gets Aid to Dependent Children. He started to tell me what he earns and does not report. I said, “Stop.” She said, “Oh, there’s a live-in rule, it’s all right if he’s not really my husband.” I said I thought that was not the right rule and rented them the house.

At five I changed into riding clothes and drove to the stable. The fields of soy beans are beginning to ripen; each oak has one branch and one branch only of yellow leaves. At the stable, I walked down to the outdoor jumping arena down below the hill and just west of the little creek. I set a course of two and a half to three foot jumps. I walked back up the hill to the stable and groomed and tacked up Spot Market. By the time I was up on his back, the sun had gone behind the steep hill above the arena, but there was still light to jump.

We warmed up, circling the jumps in each direction a few times at the walk, then trot, then canter. Then we took the jumps one at a time, then two at a time, then three at a time. Then we went over them all. Market changing lead between three and four. After that we jumped them in the opposite direction. Horses like variety, too. It is bad to make them jump the same jumps over and over. I was very happy with him.

We walked up and down the darkening hills to cool down. A solitary heron flew north above the trees lining the creek. When Market was cool, we went back to the barn. We got there just as Jayne came down from the dressage arena on Whip. As Jayne got off her horse, she saw the feral tomcat lurking in the thistles down along the pond. He laid open Cleopatra, the young barn cat, with his claws while she was nursing her first litter. Jayne took Cleo to the vet who sewed her up. Cleo lived but was changed. She had been a great hunter and very friendly. Now she lives in the cobwebby rafters. When I see her slip down for kibble or water I think of the dead, risen by miracle in an old Tuscan painting, right yet wrong, back in the world but lost in it because of their experience.

We took the horses into the barn. Jayne cross-tied Whip in the aisle and told me to cross-tie Spot Market. When she saw that both horses were cross-tied, she took the rifle which she had brought down from the house and went outside. After stalking and waiting a few minutes, she killed the torn. Market jerked slightly when he heard the single shot. Whip, standing in the cross-ties and playing with them, whinnied.

In the 19th book of the Odyssey, Penelope uncovers the trick by which she held the suitors at bay while Odysseus roamed the world having adventures. Each day she worked weaving a burial shroud for Laertes, father of Odysseus. Though she told the suitors that she would marry one of them when she finished her work, each night she untied each day’s work, and so the work was never finished. When I look at all my files, and I think of the clients and of the lives they have, often unwillingly, touched, I think that we lawyers reverse Penelope’s trick. By day we attempt to untangle the evil tapestry spun each night by the flock of welfare recipients, a tapestry planned by Congress and, of course, by the hireling shepherds at the apex of the various social programs.

We pay people we should pay not to have children to have children. Many of the people we pay to have children are children. We pay them with money we tax away from people who should have children. Each payday for working families money is taken away; each month the Mother’s Day checks go out into the poor communities. The gain and loss flows like water over a plowed field, carrying away, at first, imperceptibly, the topsoil, then cutting a little ditch, and then a creek, and then a river.

Someday, it is finished. The desert retakes North Africa, and 1,800 years later, a man writes a book on the decline and fall of an empire.

I am inside the system. I read their presentence investigation reports. I see the inside of their homes. The mother, white or black, is always on welfare. There is always money for cigarettes, always money for cable television, always money for drugs. The kids are always beaten—or worse.

I, too, am like the risen dead in the old paintings. When I tell what I have seen, my friends with both feet, both eyes, both ears, safely in the middle-class world, turn away. And why not? If I am wrong, I am lying to my friends, and, if I am right, the tapestry is a burial shroud. Thus, I am becoming like most people inside the system, in that my friends are, increasingly, inside the system.