The Record Short Story Contest: Love and Torts

BY WILLIAM LANGER

This is the winning submission in The Record’s 2008 Short Story Contest.

Professor Sunshowitz’ torts class fell silent as he began lecture:

“Mr. Morgan…”

All eyes turned to Peter Morgan’s seat, which, to everyone’s astonishment, was empty.

THREE HOURS EARLIER

Peter arrived at the library happy about having gone out and socialized over the weekend. His contentment confirmed Joe’s contention that Peter was considerably overestimating the L in Peter’s BRejuvenated, Peter worked so diligently that he didn’t even notice the three LLMs at the table that didn’t stop talking. A 1L at the table addressed him,

“Would you mind watching my stuff?” She said. Peter obliged.

Peter read on, pondering the intricacies of the law. For instance, how undermining to the legal system was the dissent? It’s like when people graffiti their name on something and then someone writes “sucks” underneath. The LLMs continued talking.

Time passed.

Peter finished the torts reading, noticing that class was starting soon.

Where was this girl? Then another girl sat down. He recognized her – he’d met her Saturday. She was a 3L and her too cool for schoolness had made him feel na’ve and vulnerable. Still he was fascinated by her and what her 3L life must be like. They said hello and he began to think of more to say, when a message came up on his laptop.”DUDE, WHERE ARE YOU?” It was Joe, typing from torts class.

“Oh,” Peter typed, “long story.”

“Well you’re being cold-called,” Joe responded.

“Is Mr. Morgan aware that if he misses his turn on panel he gets a zero for class participation?” Sunshowitz said. Joe raised his hand.

“Professor, I have Mr. Morgan on instant-message. He says he can’t leave the library because some girl asked him to watch his stuff and never came back.”

“I hate when people do that,” said Sunshowitz. “I also hate how LLMs always talk the whole time.”

“He says there are three at his table talking right now,” said Joe.

“Well please tell Mr. Morgan that if he doesn’t participate he receives a zero. I trust you can relay my questioning to him and relay his answers to us.”

“What were the facts of Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad Co. v. American Cyanamid Co?” Joe typed. Peter desperately consulted his notes, typing furiously in the hope that his responses would meet Sunshowitz’s approval.

“What are you working on?” the 3L-girl asked.

“I can’t talk, I’m on call.” She seemed confused and Peter figured he had blown his chances, but he needed to focus.

Sunshowitz had moved from the case analysis to a hypothetical. Peter tried not to look stressed, and to not be distracted by the LLMs’ talking.

After Sunshowitz finished with Peter, the girl who’d left her things returned.”I am SO sorry,” she said. “I went to print some reading for class, and I started reading, and I just fell asleep. I was over there,” she said, pointing to an armchair 25 feet away.

“For three hours?” he said, and he and the 3L-girl looked at each other as if to say “outrageous!”

“It was CivPro,” she said. Peter and the 3L-girl looked at each other again as if to say “Yeah, that’s understandable.”

“It was a law review article on Erie doctrine,” she confessed.

“Oh, wow,” Peter said, “you’re lucky that didn’t kill you. Listen it’s no problem.”

“Really, I am so sorry. Anyway I have to go,” she said. After she left, the 3L-girl said,

“Three hours?”

“I’ve just been waiting here.” He wanted to say more but he didn’t know how to talk to a mature, worldly 3L and he feared he would lose her again, and would never be accepted into her exotic world of independent writing and “law-and” courses. Then she said,

“So what will you do with your new freedom?” He tried to speak but was paralyzed by her effortless communication abilities, presumably honed in upper level seminars and reading groups, and he said,”Probably read for property.” When he heard the words come out he knew it was over. It was a shame because she’d seemed so fascinating. He had read about the eggshell skull but he was beginning to think he had an eggshell heart. Then she said,

“Sure you don’t want to go get coffee?”

Then he said,

“Well, I could use a break.” And she smiled and he chuckled and the LLMs continued to converse as Peter and the 3L-girl packed up their stuff walked out of the library together.

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