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Swine Fever

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After giving a talk on administrative law at American University Washington College of Law on April 24, Justice [Antonin] Scalia took a few questions. One was from a student who wanted to know what she had to do to become "outrageously successful" without "connections and elite degrees."

"By and large," he said, "I'm going to be picking [Supreme Court clerks] from the law schools that basically are the hardest to get into. They admit the best and the brightest, and they may not teach very well, but you can't make a sow's ear out of a silk purse."

--The Times


It's a short hop up the 405 from Palos Verdes to Dr. Weintraub's office. I've always wanted an excuse to do something about this childhood dogbite. Weintraub did wonders on my snout back in college, so why not this? I've got a summer before third year starts, and I've been hearing "prosciutto ear" since I was in second grade. I'm not showing up for another semester like this. And on top of it now -- oh, the looks I've been getting on the Strand since I got back from my Puerto Vallarta spring break.

"Where'd your father say you're in school now?" Weintraub says.

"UCLA law," I say. "Can you do it?" I ask. "Can you fix this ear?"

"Does a Prius get 50 miles to the gallon on the highway? Was Babe: Pig in the City an underappreciated masterpiece?"

I stare at him. He stares back.

"I can," he says through his blue mask.

He knocks me out.


Things are awful when I look in my vanity. The new Liberty Fabrics pouch by APC is resplendent as when it arrived in the mail last week, but the ligature's all wrong against my head. It looks like someone wrapped bacon around the thing with twine, and the sutures are weeping.

I call Dr. Weintraub's office.

"Sorry, hon, doc's out today," the receptionist says.

"I look like a first course at Chez Panisse," I say.

"It'll get better with time," she says. "He's out with the flu."

I say I'm sorry and hang up as fast as I can.


Healed just like the receptionist said it would, and ooh! if my new ear doesn't go with these Anthropologie pants. Just wait till those first-years see me come fall! I'm thinking tomorrow I might get back out for my daily walk up to Santa Monica if my parents don't give me too much trouble.

"I'm hemorrhaging money between law school and plastic surgery," my father says. "And I'm telling you you can't go out like that."

I go anyway. Somewhere between the Hermosa Pier and Venice Beach I feel like I'm going to tripe on the inside -- if you think people look at you funny after a little outbreak of H2N1, try heading out before your surgery's properly healed.

"Your father told you to stay in," Mom says. "And just look at this! Sunburned all around the wound, and how many times do I have to tell you not to leave the house without lipstick? It's shade and SPF 200 for you until you start up again in September, missy."


I call Dad for help on this famous torts case about these minks who lost their fur from the stress of a nearby construction project. It's set precedents nationally, our professor said.

"Know of it?" he says. "I defended it! It was a tough one. Turns out the plaintiff and I grew up on the farm together. Came into the courtroom looking like roadkill. It got rough -- when you were a baby I woke up one day and someone had left collard greens and redeye gravy on our doorstep. Ugly stuff."

"Did you win?" I say.

"How do you think I'm paying for all that surgery?" he says.

I get an A in torts.


Scalia turned us down for the graduation keynote address, so we're stuck with Alito. I guess I'd work for him, too. He gives a talk the night before, and I know there'll be a Q & A. I get in line behind the microphone, but there are like a dozen students ahead of me, two girls I recognize from Civ Pro, a couple guys from Con Law. Alito's answering questions. He's really taking his time. He takes a couple tough ones on Federal bailouts, porkbarrel spending, and gets way too into a question about Diane Wood's first year on the bench. Then the line's moving.

It's my turn.

"Justice Alito," I say. My voice is a little hoarse. I clear my throat. "Justice Alito, sir, with another seat soon to open, and with President Obama having taken a woman, could you see a pig on the bench?"

I swipe my bifurcated hoof across some hair on my forehead, turn my good ear stage-ward, and await my answer.