Fenno: Election night

BY

Everyone could tell Katie Biber was psyched. Wicked psyched. And everyone knew why: the New Hampshire governor’s race had gone Republican. Who would’ve thunk it, thought Fenno: people in New Hampshire choosing a Republican governor. Just goes to show that anything can happen in the United States, and even more so in New Hampshire, that bastion of political unpredictability.

The GOP election night party was in full swing, and Fenno knew it was the place to be. There would be trivia. Trivia! And it wasn’t even Wednesday. It wasn’t even the Forest CafĂ©. It was the Hark. The Hark!

The Fox News Channel was blaring fair and balanced coverage of a fantasy election from 1952 while Brit “Droopy Dog” Hume spoke personally to every member of the gathering individually. Fenno guzzled another Ashcroft Amber and waited for the next satirically pregnant moment. At least here at the GOP election bash Fenno could be sure any satirically pregnant moment would be brought to full satirical term. Fenno was giddy with anticipation. He bent eagerly if a bit woozily over his trivia answer card.

“Who was the first Republican leader to ascend bodily into heaven?” shouted Mark DeLaquil through a cheerleader’s bullhorn. “Bid even numbers between 0 and 20.”

Fenno bid 4 and scribbled Ronald Reagan. He walked up to the bar and turned in his card. Droopy Dog delivered the answer over the television (apparently a game with national participation) after liberating an inland sea of phlegm: “Jesus.”

“Jesus was a woman!” exclaimed Lea Sevcik. The room fell silent. “The Alliance of Independent Feminists has provisionally adopted this position to retain credibility in criticizing NOW,” she added by way of explanation.

The room breathed a sigh of collective understanding. During this moment of relative quiet, Fenno detected a low rumbling sound coming from the north. He ran up the steps and into the Hark’s main floor, where he was nearly run over by three eleven-year-olds on bicycles joyriding through Gropius. Shrugging this off as merely a symptom of an energized electorate, Fenno emerged onto Everett Street. The light rain that had just begun to fall reflected what appeared to be very powerful headlights all along the street. In this scattered glow several large green banners were visible hanging from the street lamps. Each of them read “Nader 2004,” but in a nearly illegible scrawl. The sound he’d heard inside was now clearly that of groaning metal and rubber. He looked up.

Sure enough, there was Clifford Ginn wearing a battle helmet and sitting in the gun turret of a tank. “Cliff!” called Fenno. “What are you doing with that thing?” “I knew this was a winner back in ’88,” Ginn replied. “People just weren’t ready for it. And I’m also showing everyone that I’m tough on the environment. Can’t stop now, Fenno. Have to see if this thing really can defeat genetically modified food.”

There was a slight pause. “Ow, dammit!” Cliff yelled.

“What’s the matter?” Fenno asked, concerned.

“I cut my hand on the gear shift,” Cliff complained. “There aren’t any warning labels on this deathtrap of a product. You’d think the Army had never heard of consumer safety. Gotta call Ralph,” as he pulled out a genetically modified cell phone. Cliff and his helmet and his tank continued their lumbering and irrelevant journey towards Oxford Street.

Fenno circled around the Hark and passed Hauser. He heard another far-off song. Fenno followed the sound. There on the steps of Langdell was a tall, thin figure of a man singing a full-throated rendition of “Proud to Be an American.” But as Fenno got closer, he thought it couldn’t actually be a man. It was wearing shorts and socks pulled up to the knees and a baseball cap and… a yellow scarf. Yes, that’s it! Fenno said to himself: It’s Michael Scoville engaged in some sort of election night ritual.

“Hey Fenno,” Mike saluted between verses. “Don’t you just love democracy?”

“Sure,” said Fenno.

“Isn’t it just so invigorating, you know, the freedom of it all?”

“Sure,” said Fenno again.

“Doesn’t it make you proud?”

“Sure,” replied Fenno, finding the rhythm of this conversation.

Scoville continued: “Doesn’t democracy make you want to stand out here in the dark and sing at the top of your lungs and hope that someone might hear you but think that you don’t think anyone’s listening, so as to erase the mutual embarrassment that singing out loud in public almost always occasions, while still giving others the benefit of your extraordinary voice?”

“Um, sometimes,” Fenno replied.

“Doesn’t democracy make you horny?” Mike asked.

“Um, no not really.”

“Me neither.”

Fenno: “You said ‘hungry,’ right.”

“Yes.”

“No, it doesn’t make me hungry,” Fenno answered.

“Me neither,” agreed Mike. “I was an Eagle Scout,” he added.

“I know,” said Fenno. “Everybody knows.” Mike looked up at the sky and began singing “Blackbird.”

It was getting late. Fenno looked at his watch: just after 2 a.m. He headed toward Mass. Ave. As he passed by the north basement door of Hastings he heard the distinct and terrible sounds of wailing and screaming and much gnashing of teeth. There was no doubting its source: CR-CL had just learned the terrible news. Elena Goldstein rushed out the door, looking at Fenno in wild-eyed panic. She had evidently been trying to rend her garments and pull out her hair. “Leave this place! You must leave this place. It’s not safe here anymore. For any of us!” Fenno could take a hint. He disconsolately made his way to the Law School Democrats post-election party in the hope of finding comfort among his peers.

Once inside the party, Fenno made his way to the keg to try a Larry Tribe Lager. Instead of Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow,” the Cure’s “Pictures of You” was wafting through the apartment. Even the donkeys on the signs looked depressed. He walked into the living room, where he recognized Greg Lipper sitting on the floor in front of the TV. He held a joystick in his hand as if he were playing a video game. But when Fenno looked at the screen, all he saw were a few paragraphs of text.

“Hey Greg,” Fenno said in greeting, “whatcha doin’?”

“Oh hi Fenno,” Lipper grumbled. “I’m playing this great game I just bought for Nintendo Gamecube. I guess you can try it, but you probably won’t be any good.”

Fenno wasn’t the type to shrink from a challenge. “Okay, but what is it?”

“Don’t you know?” asked Lipper. “It’s Ultimate Legal Writing Championship II: Quest for the Quill Pen.” He grew more animated, which Fenno thought was a good sign. Lipper continued: “Here, it’s really fantastic. If you press circle, x, circle, down-right, down-left three times really fast you get the complete text of Justice Holmes’s exquisite dissent in Lochner v. New York!” Lipper fiddled with the joystick for a few seconds and then stared in awe at the screen as he read aloud, shrieking with delight, “‘General propositions do not decide concrete cases!’ Oh, I almost can’t handle it. It’s like that feeling you get climbing the rope in gym class….&#82
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“That’s really neat, Greg,” Fenno said out loud. My God, thought Fenno to himself, those intramural football players were right. Greg Lipper will lose Ames.

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