The Record Short Story Contest: Watching the Volleyball Game


~ The First Annual Record Short Story Contest Winners ~

Congratulations to our Winner: William Langer. William’s story, “Love and Torts,” will appear next week.

2nd place goes to Gregory Dworkowitz for “Watching the Volleyball Game” and an anonymous submission, “Conflict of Laws.”

The metal rim of the chair felt cool against the back of my thighs, moist with sweat from the short walk in the hot sun.

I placed the small pile of paper I was carrying on the table beside me and breathed in. I looked at the papers-my last exam of my first year-and at my watch.

I still had time.

The volleyball players bounced across the warm sand. The boys still took off their shirts and the girls still pretended not to notice. I smiled as the thought of senior year of high school flashed quickly through my mind. One side huddled briefly, trying to figure out how to erase the deficit. I didn’t recognize the players, but I knew they were third-years from the bar review books scattered near the makeshift court. A young woman accepted the high fives of her teammates, beaming over her spike. They looked happy.

I had finished typing twenty minutes before, realizing that my work was done.

As I stared out at the game from the shade, I chatted with a friend from another section whom I hadn’t seen in weeks, perhaps months. The friend had finished yesterday, and was ready to head home for a week before moving on to D.C. for the summer. It turned out that this friend was from upstate New York, two towns east of an apple orchard I had once visited years before with my parents; his wife was five months pregnant. We spoke until the conversation slowed. “I really should go turn in this exam-you know, finish 1L,” I said. He agreed. The chair was sublime, and I didn’t get up to say goodbye, extended my hand while seated instead.

When my friend walked away, I stayed where I was. I was watching the line of the sun creep slowly away from my toes, and I could smell the charcoal of a nearby grill, and hamburgers. I breathed in deeply, perhaps for the first time in months as well.

A professor of mine was seated to my right, also in the shade, with his son. The boy looked to be nine. I wondered whether I would say hello to my professor when I passed them by in a few minutes, on my way to turn in my exam. The professor seemed to enjoy class, but as he chatted quietly with his son, I realized I’d never seen him before like this. I decided against saying hello.

I looked at the papers, not proud but curious. How had I written for seven straight hours? How did I remember all those cases? I recalled walking to the classroom this morning, mumbling pleasantries at classmates, trying hard to focus on the music from my iPod. That was me standing in line, I reasoned, my eyes straight ahead, ID at the ready. But I wasn’t sure.

I had pictured this moment nine months ago, promising myself that, no matter what, one day I would be here; one day I would be done with my first year. It seemed silly to have once cared so much, to have once been afraid. Just this morning those papers had felt like a foe, but looking at them now, they didn’t seem so bad.

I closed my eyes, knowing that in a moment I’d have to get up and hand the papers in. But I didn’t want to go. It was 4:15 on my last day of 1L, and for the first time all year, I wished that this moment were not here; I wished that I had more time. The breeze was soft, and the bright sunshine flitted off the sunglasses of a woman as she looked up from a book on evidence. I looked at the inside of my left arm, and knew I wanted to be tan.I glanced again at my watch. “Five more minutes” I thought, looking at the papers, my spring not yet over, my summer not yet begun.

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