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RAY SIPS A LOW QUITTER/Amy Knox Brown IT'S BAR DAY MINUS 4, early afternoon. Elise stands in the bathroom , vomiting. Afterwards she washes her face, brushes her teeth and walks, resting one hand against the wall, back into the den where she's studying with Daren. Under her feet, the carpet feels rougher than usual. "Are you okay?" he asks. "Yeah," she says. "Maybe Ijust drank too much coffee." The room is dim and messy—drawn shades, piles of books and outlines on the floor, highlighters scattered like discarded shotgun shells. A pale film of cigarette smoke hovers near the ceiling. "All right," Elise says, settling into a nest of pillows arranged in one corner. "Now a bilateral contract consists of mutual promises, while a unilateral k consists of a promise on one side and performance on the other, correct?" "Correct," Daren says. He's still looking at her with concern. "Do you want to take a break? We could go for a walk or something." "I'm fine," Elise says. She picks up a cup of cold coffee sitting by the pillows and takes a sip. The liquid sloshes dangerously in her stomach for a second, then settles. "What's res ipsa loquitur?" Daren says. "Latin for 'the thing speaks for itself'." "Describe the function of res ipsa in tort law." "Don't you sound like a lawyer," Elise says. "Don't I," Daren says. "Res ipsa," Elise says, "has to do with a presumption of negligence, whether an accident was someone's fault." "Right," Daren says. "You know Toby and I came up with a kind of joke about res ipsa—the whole thing sounds like 'Ray sips a low quitter .' Like a drink some guy named Ray might have." "A low quitter," Elise says. "That's funny." She knows why he's changed the subject: he's married, and Elise and Daren are sleeping together . Fault is not something he wants to think about. Outside, shouts of the neighborhood children rise in the air and the drone of insects, tires on asphalt, fill the hot afternoon. Elise and Daren move together on the bed; she's on top, looking over her shoulder at The Missouri Review · 63 the mirror he set against the back of the closed door, watching him slide in and out between her spread legs as she raises and lowers herself above him. She looks down at him, into his huge pupils. "We're very bad," she says. "Yeah," he says. His hands press against her hips, holding her down as his back arches, his eyes close. "Very bad," he whispers. Sometimes, staring in the bathroom mirror when she wakes or before she goes to bed at night, she recites a scrap from the litany of law she and Daren have been trying to cram into their brains. "The duty of care a landowner owes to trespassers is—" "The elements of adverse possession require that the claimant's possession be hostile, exclusive, for the length of time required statutorily—" Other times she carries on a conversation with her reflection. This reminds Elise of her mother, ironing; Elise would watch her mother waving the bottle of starch and muttering aloud, "So I said, 'What difference does it make? I mean, really , who cares?'" "What are you doing?" Elise asked once. "Thinking out loud," her mother said. Today, after she'd thrown up, Elise looked at herself in the mirror. I should be studying harder and not sitting around drinking and screwing a married man. She watched her lips form the words screwing and married man. She tries not to think about these two facts, afraid that in the finite space of her brain there's only room for the duties, elements and statutes she has to memorize for the bar. Yesterday, Daren's wife called, looking for him. He'd gone to the liquor store on 27th Street to get a bottle of wine. "Sally," Elise said, "he's out at the library, running off some old exams, then I think he was going over to Toby's." She tried to combine the facts she knew of Sally—blonde, short, impatient—into a...


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