The Harvest by Amy Hempel [part two]

The lawyer was the one who used the word. But I won't get around to that until a couple of paragraphs.

We were having the looks discussion — how important are they. Crucial is what I had said.

I think looks are crucial.

But this guy was a lawyer. He sat in an aqua vinyl chair drawn up to my bed. What he meant by looks was how much my loss of them was worth in a court of law.

I could tell that the lawyer liked to say court of law. He told me he had taken the bar three times before he had passed. He said that his friends had given him handsomely embossed business cards, but where these lovely cards were supposed to say Attorney-at-Law, his cards said Attorney-at-Last.

He had already covered loss of earnings, that I could not now become an airline stewardess. That I had never considered becoming one was immaterial, he said, legally.

"There's another thing," he said. "We have to talk here about marriageability."

The tendency was to say marriage-a-what? although I knew what he meant the first time I heard it.

I was eighteen years old. I said, "First, don't we talk about dateability?"

The man of a week was already gone, the accident driving him back to his wife.

"Do you think looks are important?" I asked the man before he left.

"Not at first," he said.
Originally published in The Quarterly, and then in Amy Hempel's short story collection, At the Gates of the Animal Kingdom.

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