Ross Writing Contest For Legal Short Fiction

Read the 2022 winner of the Ross Writing Contest for Legal Short Fiction: 'Dope Fiend'

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10 coin from Alcoholics Anonymous

Image by Lorenza Ochoa/Shutterstock.

Editor's Note: The following short story by Frank H. Toub, a 3L at Belmont University College of Law in Nashville, Tennessee, was the 2022 winner of the ABA Journal's annual Ross Writing Contest for Legal Short Fiction.

Thomas hadn’t expected to be alive when the town’s time capsule was opened. In fact, he knew it was an accomplishment many would have bet against. He thrust his hands into his pockets and mentally noted the familiar feeling of his cellphone, car keys and a coin. One day at a time. He watched the mayor pull the capsule from the ground as the August sun beat down on him. It was a hot day, and the air felt thick. As Thomas lined up to retrieve his contribution to the time capsule, he felt nervous—the flutter of a butterfly’s wings in his stomach.

As the line inched forward toward the 2029 decennial time capsule, the 10th in the town’s hundred-year history, Thomas suddenly became acutely aware of the humidity. Somewhere in the distance, a car alarm sounded. He absentmindedly rubbed his hands on the corduroy of his pants, and for just a moment, Thomas was back in the parking lot of the Davidson County Courthouse 10 years earlier.

* * *

Thomas opened the door to his Tesla, and the humidity hit him like the stale air of a boys’ locker room. It feels like breathing soup, he thought. While eating soup may have calmed his stomach, the idea of breathing it somehow made it ache worse. He stepped out into the parking lot, grabbed his briefcase and pressed the lock key on the fob. The alarm blared. Honk. Honk. Honk. “Dang it!” Thomas lurched. Lock button, hit the lock button, he thought. After what felt like ages, he found the lock button and silenced the alarm. As he shoved his keys into his pocket, his fingers briefly rubbed the ridges of the corduroy on his pants.

Sweat had already formed on his brow as he reached the cool lobby of the courthouse. Relief from the humidity had come too late, and Thomas felt his stomach rising. He made a beeline to the restroom, and had barely made it into a stall before retching. Finally—some relief. His stomach felt settled, at least for now. He washed his hands, rinsed his mouth, splashed some water on his face, and stepped back out into the lobby, and moved toward the courtroom.

As Thomas approached Courtroom 2-G, he saw Amanda, an assistant Davidson County prosecutor, sitting outside on the bench. Thomas was not surprised that she’d already arrived because she made a habit of being early. After spending five years in the Army, she often told Thomas, “Arriving less than 15 minutes early means you’re late.” He was often late.

“You’re late,” Amanda said without looking up from her phone. Thomas attempted a response, but even surprised himself when all that came out of his mouth amounted to a guttural grunt. “And you look like hell.” Amanda and Thomas had known one another for over a decade. The two had attended law school together, and while the two were friendly in school, they were never quite friends. However, they’d practiced together at the county prosecutor’s office upon graduation and had become friends then, getting to know one another quite well.

“You sound like hell too,” she continued. “Are you feeling OK, Tom?”

Growing up, Thomas’s parents had been adamant that his family call him Thomas rather than Tom—something about an ancient ancestor. His grandfather steadfastly refused for no other reason than to be a curmudgeon, and Thomas grew up resenting the shortened version of his name. Amanda knew that and, naturally, almost exclusively called him Tom to tease him.

“Mmmmm, never better,” Thomas responded. “Just have a killer headache.”

“Well, I’ll go as easy on you as I ethically can,” Amanda joked.

“No need, this hearing’ll be quick enough. We just have to get through the plea.”

“You’re sure he’ll take the deal?”

“Mmmmm. I told him it’s the best he’ll get.”

“You’re not wrong.” Amanda finally looked up from her phone. “But you didn’t exactly ask for a sweetheart deal.”

“He’s a dope head who’s three strikes are up. He can’t expect to avoid confinement forever.”

“A defense attorney calling his client a dope head. Put that on a billboard on I-440, I’m sure it’ll grow your clientele.” Amanda chuckled to herself. “Are you sure you’re up for this hearing? You sound awful, look worse, and stink like hell. Your dope head is already locked up, and asking for a continuance because you’re physically ill won’t change anything.” Amanda was right. But this was a routine plea, and Thomas just had to be present.

“Mmmm. I’m going to make sure he’s prepared to plea. I’ll see you in there.” Thomas rose, maybe a bit too quickly, and suddenly unsteady on his feet, grabbed the wall for stability. He walked further down the hall and disappeared into the room labeled “Holding Area.” Inside, Thomas saw his client—Dope Fiend. To the unknowing eye, Dope Fiend was an unremarkable 22-year-old. He did, however, enjoy going to electronic dance concerts and taking ecstasy. Unfortunately for Dope Fiend, he also had a habit of getting caught.

Dope Fiend. I have to stop calling him Dope Fiend. What the hell is his name? Thomas realized he should have taken a moment to collect himself before walking through the door. Damon. Dameon. That’s it. Well, one of them, anyway. Fifty-fifty odds weren’t terrible. “Hiya, Damon,” Thomas guessed.

“Hiya, Tim,” Dameon chided him. “How do you still not know my freaking name?”

Bad luck, Thomas thought.

“Well, I have a lot of clients, Dameon, and another client must be named Damon,” Thomas lied. Thomas sat down across from Dope Fiend. “OK, let’s just talk through this one last time.”

“I have a question first.”

“What’s up?”

“Are you drunk right now or just hungover?”

Thomas knew he couldn’t answer honestly. “Excuse me?”

“I can smell your breath from across the table, man. You’re either drunk right now or had a rough night.”

empty pint glass on a wooden barImage from Shutterstock.

Those two are not necessarily mutually exclusive, Thomas thought. “Must be my mouthwash or something,” he replied. “Let’s talk about the plea deal.”

“Yeah, I wanted to ask about that too. My cousin said his friend had the same charges and got a deal for six months. I want that kind of deal.”

“Your case is different, Dameon. I can’t speak to your cousin’s friend’s case, but you’re not getting a better deal.”

“Why not? You’re too drunk to get me a better deal?”

“Dameon, I know the prosecutor, and you’re not getting a better deal—she’s made it abundantly clear.”

“Well, I invited my cousin’s friend’s attorney to the hearing today, and he thinks he can get me a better deal.”

Thomas sighed. “Then, Dameon, fire me and hire him. I used to work in the prosecutor’s office, and I have tried six cases to verdict with this prosecutor. You aren’t getting a better deal. And unless you want to withdraw from the plea agreement, you need to answer the judge’s questions like we discussed on Tuesday. If you have any questions, just tell him you’d like to talk with me for a moment. Got it?”

“Sure, I got it,” Dameon snarled.

“I’ll see you in the courtroom.” Thomas rose from his chair, more slowly this time, and left the holding area. He walked toward Courtroom 2-G. As he approached the doors, he marveled at the wooden paneling on the walls. The courtroom entrance looked intimidating, like a monster that swallowed everyone who entered. The weight of the wooden doors made it feel as though not even they wanted you to enter. Thomas pushed on the door as he approached, but it didn’t budge, and he found himself face-first with the tiny window, as though spying on what was happening inside. Happy to have not actually walked into the door, Thomas backed up and pulled, overcoming the weight and gaining entrance to the courtroom.

“Morning Don,” Thomas greeted the courtroom security officer. He approached Amanda, who met him near the counsels’ tables.

“Do you have the plea agreement for Mr. Forsyth’s signature?” Thomas asked, hoping to get it signed before Dameon could change his mind.

Amanda looked deep into Thomas’s eyes. He could almost feel her observing the bloodshot veins. “Thomas … I’m going to tell Judge Potter that the state is withdrawing from the tentative plea agreement today. We can discuss a deal further next week.”

“What? You’re what? Why?” Thomas asked, genuinely confused. Dameon was being brought in by the sheriffs. At the same time, Thomas saw a man in an expensive looking suit slip into the courtroom.

Amanda finally broke eye contact, looked down at the floor, and practically whispered, “Get some help, Thomas.”

Thomas turned, and saw Dameon was now seated by his side. Thomas sat. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost,” Dameon said.

Judge Potter’s courtroom deputy entered the courtroom and called out, “All rise,” as Judge Potter entered the courtroom.

“Thank you, be seated,” he said as he approached the bench. Sitting down, he continued, “We’re here today on the matter of State v. Forsyth for possession of a controlled substance without a prescription, to wit, ecstasy. It appears from the filings that the parties have reached a plea agreement and that Mr. Forsyth intends to plead guilty today, is that correct?”

Amanda rose. “Your honor, the state apologizes, but the tentative plea agreement in this case has recently fallen apart, and the state would request a continuance of one week to attempt to resolve the matter.”

Judge Potter looked up from the papers in front of him, “Fallen apart? How do you mean?” he asked.

“Well, your honor,” Amanda started, but Thomas quickly rose to his feet and interrupted.

“Your honor, my client is prepared to plead as outlined in the agreement. Under the terms, he will plead guilty in exchange for the one-year sentence, suspended for home confinement.”

“Your honor, the state is reconsidering the lesser charge of possession without a prescription in favor of prosecuting the charge as possession with intent to distribute based upon the results of the chemist’s testing.” Amanda glared at Thomas. “The preliminary results from the chemist, which the state received this morning, indicate that the strength of the ecstasy possessed by Mr. Forsyth in this case was so high that an individual couldn’t have taken it without cutting it with another substance, indicating that Mr. Forsyth may have been intending to sell the ecstasy at the concert.”

After Amanda finished, Judge Potter sighed. “Ms. Turner, the state already proposed the agreement to Mr. Forsyth. It would seem inappropriate to allow the state to renege on its proposal. So long as Mr. Forsyth is prepared to plead guilty, as Mr. Bedford indicated, I would reject the state’s request for a continuance.”

“Mr. Forsyth is prepared, your honor,” Thomas reassured Judge Potter.

“Let’s get on with it then. Mr. Forsyth, you do intend to plead guilty today?”

For Thomas, the world seemed to stand still. Dope Fiend rose, seemingly in slow motion, to address the court, “Uh, actually, your honor, sir, I was trying to discuss a new deal with my attorney this morning.”

“Oh, for Pete’s sake. You all have five minutes. Mr. Bedford, figure this out. Court is in recess.” Everyone in the courtroom rose as Judge Potter exited. Thomas remained stone-faced until the judge was out of the courtroom. However, once the door to the his chambers had closed, he sat down close, and addressed Dope Fiend.

“What the hell was that?”

“I told you, I want that deal like my cousin’s friend.”

“You’re not getting it!” Thomas snapped. His head throbbed.

“If you won’t try, I want an attorney who will. I have rights, you know,” Dameon protested. “Like the right to a lawyer who isn’t drunk.”

“I have rights, you know,” Thomas mocked. “You want to get another attorney who will try to get your little deal? Be my guest. I got you the best deal you’re going to get.” Thomas rose from his seat and glared at Amanda, before walking out of the courtroom to go to the restroom. He again splashed water on his face. As he dried it, he looked in the mirror. He did look like hell. As he reentered the courtroom, he saw the man in the expensive suit leaning over the bar and talking to Dope Fiend. “Who are you?”

“I’m Mr. Forsyth’s new attorney, I just took him on as a client,” the man answered.

Thomas looked from Dope Fiend to the man in the expensive suit, and back to Dope Fiend. He addressed Dope Fiend, “You know the court may not allow you to fire me.”

“Whatever man, he tells me you have to at least try and get the deal I want,” Dameon answered. “As far as I’m concerned, he’s my attorney now.”

Thomas looked over at Amanda who was staring. She raised her eyebrows in an, “is everything OK?” kind of way. Thomas shook his head the tiniest bit and mouthed, “I’m sorry.” His head was killing him.

“All rise,” the courtroom deputy announced.

“OK, we are again here in the matter of State v. Forsyth. We left off with Mr. Forsyth and whether he would be pleading subject to the State’s proposed agreement today.”

“Your honor, I would like to make a motion to withdraw from representing Mr. Forsyth,” Thomas stated. “It seems the two of us have reached a point where there are sufficient professional disagreements between us that I may no longer competently represent his interests in this matter.”

Judge Potter put his palm to his forehead. “Mr. Bedford, you were instructed to figure this out, not abandon your client in the middle of his case.”

“Your honor, my client has informed me he no longer wishes to receive my advice and would prefer to be represented by that gentleman,” Thomas said as he pointed toward the man in the expensive suit.

“Mr. Forsyth, if you do indeed wish to, and do so fire Mr. Bedford, the court will appoint you an attorney if you are unable to secure counsel in a timely manner and desire representation in this matter,” Judge Potter explained. “Understanding that—do you still wish to have Mr. Bedford withdraw from representing you in this matter?”

Dope Fiend rose. “I do, your honor, sir. I want an attorney who will listen to me.”

Judge Potter nodded. “So be it. Ms. Turner, anything to add?”

“No, your honor. The state has no objection.”

Judge Potter repeated, “So be it. In that event, I will continue the case for two weeks so that Ms. Turner can make any modifications to the plea offer, and Mr. Forsyth can get new counsel. If there is nothing else, the court will recess.”

Everyone rose as Judge Potter exited a final time. “Good luck, Dameon,” Thomas said, as he packed his briefcase. “I hope you get the deal you’re looking for, but I wouldn’t count on it.” Thomas walked over to Amanda. “Should’ve let him plea,” he said smugly.

“Leave me alone,” she said. “And learn when to be grateful.” Amanda walked off silently.

Thomas followed closely behind, but was stopped by the man in the expensive suit at as he reached the exit. “Hey—Tom, I wanted to give you my card.” His outstretched hand held a business card between his pointer and middle fingers. “Once I get a formal engagement in place with Mr. Forsyth, we’ll request his file.” Thomas, without a word, took it.

When he reached his car, he read the business card in his hand. “Craig Garner. Attorney-at-Law. We Garner Every Advantage for Our Clients!” Good luck Craig, Dope Fiend is your problem now, Thomas thought as he threw the business card onto the passenger seat of his car. By now, Thomas’ head felt clearer, his stomach had calmed, and suddenly, he had the afternoon free. Thomas checked his phone. No notifications, no emails, no missed calls. Searching for something, he called his assistant, but she confirmed that he had no messages, and nothing on his schedule for the rest of the day.

Thomas started his Tesla and instinctively began driving toward Rusty’s Saloon.

Thomas liked Rusty’s. He liked the way the dim lighting of the bar seemed to cloak his presence. He liked that its divey atmosphere matched how he often felt. Today was no different.

Thomas scanned as he entered, noting the place was pretty dead. “Hey Thomas. Be with you in a sec.” Thomas sat down at the far end of the bar. The bartender returned. “So is today a whiskey day or a tequila day?” the man behind the bar asked.

“Tequila day, Ian.” Thomas answered.

“Great, two Patróns coming right up.” Ian said.

Although Judge Potter hadn’t picked up on it, it was deeply embarrassing to Thomas that Amanda, his friend, thought he was so unable to represent his client competently that she was willing to risk Judge Potter’s ire by withdrawing from the state’s proposed plea agreement without notice. Thunk, a shot glass hit the bar. Maybe even more embarrassing to Thomas was being fired by a dope fiend during a hearing. Thunk, another shot glass hit the bar.

By the time the clock struck midnight, Thomas had lost count of the thunks. Ian walked over to Thomas who was, at this point, the bar’s lone patron. “Thomas, I’m closing you out. We’ve been closed for an hour, and I’m heading home.” Thomas grunted in response, and did his best to sign the bill, but the lines on the receipt would not stay still, so it looked much more like a toddler’s scribble. He rose, and stumbled to his car. As he unlocked it, he thought, Thank god for Tesla’s autopilot.

Thomas’s Tesla silently glided off into the night. He reached the highway momentarily, which was another reason why he liked Rusty’s. After merging onto the highway, he turned on autopilot, and planned to relax for the ride home. Tired from the day and eager to put it behind him, Thomas briefly closed his eyes.

Thomas awoke to a siren and blue lights flashing behind him. In the moments that followed, he quickly realized the gravity of the situation he created. He could be facing disciplinary action, the loss of his law license, arrest, and criminal charges. He had failed in his duty to Dameon and had let Amanda become embroiled in his recklessness. All of this seemed to hit him at once, unlike the highway dividers he’d so far avoided. I need help, thought Thomas.

As the Tennessee State Trooper’s vehicle blew past Thomas, he was confused. He took the upcoming exit and parked in a truck stop where he thought he could sleep off the tequila. Thomas was restless and couldn’t sleep. He kept replaying the day’s events over and over in his mind. After a few short minutes, he opened his eyes. I need a drink, he thought. He exited his car and surveyed the parking lot. Some trucks idled on the far side of the parking lot where their drivers were almost surely resting. Some gas pumps, barren this late at night. Thomas’s eyes settled on the neon sign that read “Open” on the storefront’s window. His eyes having found nothing to deter him, Thomas walked into the truck stop.

Although he couldn’t get tequila, the truck stop had plenty of beer. Thomas bought a six pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon, and walked out to his car. He set the PBR on his passenger seat as he climbed back in. Rather than opening the six pack, Thomas stared at the box. He stared for what felt like hours, though surely it was only a few seconds, and felt like the box was staring back at him—like the abyss that was sure to swallow him if he gazed too hard.

Thomas pulled out his cellphone and called the only person he could think of.

car keysImage from Shutterstock.

Working for the county prosecutor, Amanda was used to getting late-night calls. “Amanda Turner,” she answered as though she’d been awake and expecting a call, though it was moments before she was sound asleep.

“Amanda. Can you come get me?” Thomas asked without identifying himself. “I need help, or something bad might happen.”

Amanda immediately recognized the slightly slurred speech from earlier in the day. “Thomas, what do you mean? Where are you?”

“I’m at the Exxon off Exit 61 on 65 South,” Thomas said.

“Are you driving? Don’t move. Stay there, I can be there in 20 minutes. Can you do that?”

“I think so.” Thomas hung up without another word, and continued to eye up the PBR box. Twenty minutes ago, he was having a “revelation” about how much he’d screwed up his life and others, and here he was, not even an hour later, in what felt like a battle of wills against a six pack of PBR.

Thomas’ mood shifted from shame to disgust as he considered how his instinctual reaction to almost being pulled over was to drink more. Convinced he might imminently lose his staring contest, Thomas blinked. He got out of his car, and began pacing around the few neighboring parking spaces until Amanda arrived. Thomas sat down in the passenger seat of her SUV. Neither said a word. Amanda began driving. Thomas wasn’t even sure where they were going.

The two arrived at Amanda’s home without a word. When they went inside Amanda finally broke the silence. “You can sleep here,” she said as she prepared the couch with some blankets.

Thomas had only grown even more ashamed on the ride to Amanda’s house, and in a voice hardly more than a whisper managed a curt, “Thank you.”

Thomas didn’t sleep; once again the day’s events churned in his mind. Unsure of how to occupy his mind, he considered how he would advise Dameon Forsyth if he were in his position and Thomas was representing him.

He got out his phone and typed TLAP into the search bar, which brought up the Tennessee Lawyers Assistance Program. He was able to get an appointment booked for two days’ time, which felt a world away. Unsure of where else to turn, he typed “AA meeting” into Google and immediately found a smattering of meetings occurring the next day.

When Amanda woke up, Thomas wasn’t sure if he’d ever actually fallen asleep. However, still ashamed, he found it difficult to look her in the eyes. “Amanda, I need help,” he said once more. “I made an appointment with TLAP, but I they can’t see me until tomorrow. Can I stay here until then?”

“Thomas …” Amanda started.

“I’ll stay out of your hair. In fact, I found an AA meeting just over a mile away that I can walk to so I have something to do.”

Amanda looked up from the floor, “Thomas, you don’t need to walk. Of course, you can stay here, and so long as you’re getting help, I’ll take you.”

“I can’t ask you to do that, you’ve already done so much for me.”

“You’re not asking, I’m offering,” she reassured him.

“Well, thank you for everything.” Thomas mumbled, still embarrassed to be in the situation. “The meeting is at 9:30.”

“Well, then we’d better get going. Let me grab my keys.”

The two sat in silence on the quick trip from Amanda’s house to First United Methodist Church. They arrived at 9:32. “Do you want me to come in?” Amanda offered.

“No, thank you.” Thomas took a deep breath, exited the car, and entered the church. Thomas saw a sign directing him to the left into a small multipurpose room with a circle of chairs. The meeting had already started, and Thomas stood a few feet behind the circle, unwilling to disturb the speaker by intruding. He considered leaving.

The man speaking paused and looked directly at Thomas. “Why don’t you join us?” he asked. “We have a seat right here for you,” he said pointing at an empty chair.

“Oh, thank you,” Thomas said, graciously accepting the seat. “I’m Thomas,” he offered.

“Hi, Thomas,” the group responded disjointedly. Thomas listened but did not speak again during the meeting. At the end, Thomas rose from his seat and turned to leave.

“Thomas,” a voice called out. “Thomas, wait a moment.” Thomas turned to see the man who invited him into the circle following him. “Thomas, I’ve been where you’ve been, and I’ve been where you’re going. I’m glad you joined us today.”

“Oh, well thanks for inviting me in,” Thomas said, and again began to turn to leave.

“I have something I want to show you.” The man reached into his pocket and pulled out a silver coin that read, “24 Hours Recovery.”

“I can smell and see that you haven’t earned this yet, and I don’t begrudge that. But, I hope that this time tomorrow I can give you this coin to mark the beginning of your sobriety journey.”

Thomas feigned a smile, thanked the man and left.

* * *

Thomas realized he was white-knuckling the coin in his pocket, and the pain brought him back to the park and the slow-moving line. From behind him, he heard Amanda’s voice, “Hey, Tom!”

Thomas turned, and saw Amanda beaming at him. “You’re late,” he said smugly. “But really, you didn’t need to come to this little thing.”

“I wanted to, Tom. I’m proud of you and how far you’ve come from that night.” Amanda reassured him.

“Well, thanks, I’m glad you’re here.” Thomas sighed, “You know, I was just thinking about that night myself. Well, and the day.”

“Ah, the case of Dameon Forsyth, my white whale,” Amanda joked.

“That kid probably doesn’t know it, but I owe him a lot for being here today. If he hadn’t fired me, there’s no saying how long it would’ve taken for my actions to catch up with me,” Thomas trailed off.

“I still blame you for the sweetheart deal he ended up getting. So in some perverse way, you actually may have acted in his best interests,” Amanda laughed.

Thomas pursed his lips. It was true, Dameon Forsyth did wind up getting his sweetheart deal when his new lawyer, Craig Garner, took over his case. However, Thomas was still unable to forgive himself for how he treated Dameon, and still, so many years later, was unable to make light of it.

Amanda sensed Thomas’ unease and attempted to change the subject. “Anyway,” she started, allowing her voice to trail off.

“Amanda, I’ve never asked you. Why did you help me?”

“You may not remember, but I have probably told you about my uncle, the one who inspired me to go to law school. Ring any bells?” Amanda asked.

“Yeah, sure. Your Uncle Jim.”

“My Uncle Jim,” she affirmed. “When I was a sophomore in college, he hired me to ‘intern’ in his law office, so I could see what practicing law is really like. And a woman came in, and she was in a bad spot. Physical and emotional abuse type stuff. My uncle took her on as a client without hesitating. The thing was, the woman didn’t have a job. She had no money and clearly no ability to pay. So, I asked my uncle, ‘Why did you take her case? You’re not going to get anything out of it.’ And my Uncle Jim looked me in the eyes and said, ‘Amanda, if you can do something that costs little to you but has the potential to be valuable to someone else, you should do it every single time.’ And that night, I had no doubt that coming to get you would cost me a little bit of sleep but had the potential to be life-changing for you.” As Amanda finished her story, Thomas noticed her eyes had become watery. They stepped absentmindedly forward as the line moved.

“Well, I owe you a debt I can never repay, Amanda. And at the very least, a debt of gratitude.”

“No, you don’t,” she replied. “I think the debt has been paid. Think of all of the attorneys who you’ve helped navigate their own substance abuse issues and the associated ethics complaints over the past decade. Or consider the clients who you have gotten real help and back on their feet after they’ve come out of rehab? Tom—you may not have known my Uncle Jim’s philosophy by word, but you’ve been living it for the past decade.”

Thomas and Amanda were so deeply engaged in their conversation that they hadn’t realized they’d reached the front of the line. “Name?” a town employee asked.

“Oh, Thomas Bedford,” Thomas replied. “It’s just one item.”

The worker handed Thomas a small envelope with his name printed on the front. “So, what’d you put in there, anyway?” Amanda inquired.

Thomas upended the envelope, and out fell a small silver coin about the size of a poker chip. He held it up so she could clearly read the inscription, “24 Hours Recovery.”

24 hours coin in a woman's handImage by Lorenza Ochoa/Shutterstock.

“I put this in here 10 years ago today, after I left your house. I saw the sign about the time capsule when I stopped home to change for my TLAP appointment.” He continued, “I honestly wasn’t sure what was going to happen.” Thomas stopped, and took a moment to gather his thoughts. “But I sort of figured that if I wasn’t doing so well when the time capsule opened, maybe I’d see this as a sign that I needed to try again. And if I wasn’t here to take it, maybe it would end up in the exhibit at the museum and have been life-changing for others. You know, a kind of sign.”

“Yeah, a kind of a sign,” Amanda repeated seemingly absentmindedly.

The pair strolled back toward the parking lot making casual conversation. The heat somehow seemed more bearable to Thomas. He knew the future held uncertainty, but he was happy to be alive.

Serenity prayer

Frank Toub

Frank H. Toub is a 3L at Belmont University College of Law in Nashville, Tennessee. He is the submissions and transcripts editor for the Belmont Law Review and captain of the moot court team.

  • The Well-Being Toolkit for Lawyers and Legal Employers is at
  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is (800) 273-8255.
  • A directory of LAP programs by state is at
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