FENNO: Flying above Harvard


Fenno was quietly enjoying a Venti Nonfat Tazo Chai at Starbucks one afternoon. She was minding her own business, not looking at anyone for too long, sitting in an overstuffed chair next to an undergrad chemistry major playing with his molecule erector set. She was just starting a new chapter of Richard Hofstadter’s Anti-Intellectualism in American Life when she felt it: her ears were burning. She looked up quickly at Chemistry Boy. He looked at his molecules. Her ears really hurt, like they were thawing out after a long walk in February. She glanced around to see if anyone had recognized her, but being anonymous, fictional, and almost invisible, she knew that was impossible. Something was up, but not in here, she decided. Fenno put down Hofstadter without bookmarking the page (Who cares? she thought, only dorks bookmark pages in books), took a longish sip from her cup of chai, gathered her things into her bag, and walked through the door onto Massachusetts Avenue.

There was a decent wind blowing. Fenno snuck into 1600 Mass. Ave. on the heels of another student and rode the elevator to the roof. With a leap and a shout and a flick of the wrist, she was airborne, high above campus beneath a technicolor umbrella. Soaring over the Everett Street garage, she saw several faculty members loitering in the backs of pickup trucks, drinking beer and smoking cigarettes. That explains faculty resistance to renovating the campus, Fenno thought to herself. In one corner of the lot, Professors David Rosenberg and Terry Fisher were kicking the bejesus out of Professors Zittrain and Kaplow. In another, Professors Barron, Jolls and Coates were playing hopscotch while Viscusi kept score. From his movements, Professor Herwitz appeared to be kibitzing behind Viscusi about his score-keeping, although all Fenno could hear was intermittent ejaculations of “earned surplus” and “capital hop, that one!”

Fenno’s spying on faculty recess was to be short-lived, however. She wasn’t the only one floating through the clouds today. “Hello Fenno,” called an airy voice from all around her. Fenno, startled by the interruption, looked about. She saw no one. “Up here, Fenno dear,” the hypnotic voice advised. Fenno tilted her umbrella just enough to see Colleen Chen perched atop an enormous curly ash blonde wig. Fenno’s face must have betrayed a degree of skepticism at what Colleen was wearing, because the latter cast her eyes down rapidly, spread her arms out at shoulder height in a “ta-da!” pose and announced, “Fun-lovin’ socialite.”

“Oh, yes, of course,” said Fenno, “what else could it have been?”

“Anything to make my ass look juicy,” Colleen added. “What are you doing up here?”

“I should ask you the same thing,” Fenno answered.

“Well, I’m on a short break from Berkeley, and you know there’s nothing like a transcontinental astral tour to open up the causal vision. My third chakra was just screaming at me to make the trip. Besides, my cat urged me to go in no uncertain terms.”

“By hitting you in the nose?” Fenno guessed.

“No, he told me to go.”

“You speak cat?” Fenno replied, incredulous.

“Yes,” said Colleen, “so do you.” Fenno tried to return her attention to the garage. “Remember, Fenno, you’re not just a drop in the ocean if you’re skinny-dipping in that ocean with a Belgian monk. Want a Skittle?”

“No thanks,” said Fenno, “I have sort of a headache.”

“Oh, sorry Fenno. You know, all you have to do is let your life force flow out to balance where balance is needed.”

“That reminds me, I also have to go to the bathroom,” Fenno responded.

“A spoonful of sugar,” began Colleen.

“Um, I think that’s my line,” Fenno said, cutting her off.

“Ah yes, well, then just grow your soul,” Colleen encouraged. Fenno replied by making the quite revolutionary gesture of smiling for no reason.

Fenno waved goodbye and blew over to Gropius. She began her descent through an air duct in Ames. Her ears grew hotter as she lost altitude. On reaching The RECORD’s office in the basement, she saw Jonathan Skrmetti half asleep over a computer. He was finishing his column about reverence to deceased politicians while listening to the Dead Kennedys. Fenno looked over his shoulder to read, “Aristotle recognized that the end of politics is to allow human beings to flourish. I won’t dwell on this (for fear of being Fennoed) . . .” Oh no, thought Fenno, he’s drummed out the Greeks. And they’re all dead.

Fenno decided to make her presence known. “Ahem,” Fenno declared as she drew her umbrella closed.

“Hi Fenno,” Jonathan answered, half turning around.

“You hurt my ears,” said Fenno.

“I didn’t mean to,” Jonathan apologized. “I just thought that since you hate big words and intellectual stuff, you’d be sure to get upset with me, so I wanted to cover myself in advance.”

“Jonathan, Jonathan, Jonathan” Fenno clucked, disapprovingly. “It’s not that you used a big word. In this case, the word’s not big enough. You should have used‘supercalifragilistic-Aristotledocious.’”

“But that’s not a word,” Jonathan objected.

“I beg your pardon,” Fenno reproved. “Even just the sound of it can make you seem precocious.” Jonathan stared at Fenno in dismay as she affixed a “Fenno Wuz Here” sticker to his head. “Now give me one of your teeth,” Fenno demanded.

Fenno left Jonathan a tad confused and her umbrella in the office (she’d have to come back here next Wednesday morning anyway) and ran up the stairs to Jarvis Field. Pulling out her cell phone, she made the call she’d been putting off to accept her post-graduation offer. Just as she closed the phone, she ran into Aaron Lamb and Lena Salaymeh.

“Calling your life partner, Fenno?” asked Lena.

“Oh hey,” Fenno said. “No, I was just calling my firm to accept my job offer.”

“Where are you working?” Aaron asked.

“Ducktail, Campbell, Chrysanthemu-men & Dogz,” Fenno answered.

“But they’re the staunchest defenders of the racist, patriarchal, homophobic status quo,” said Lena. “How can you abandon your identity as a member of an oppressed group just like that?”

“Well, they’re actually not that bad, and it’s not all that fun being oppressed,” Fenno replied. “Anyway, they tell me I’ll get to work on a lot of pro bono cases advancing the rights of pseudonymous, fictional, nearly-invisible, transgendered satirical columnists of major law school weeklies,” Fenno continued. “Who are capable of flight,” she added upon a second’s reflection.

“But Fenno,” Lena interjected, “think of the ontological torment of your friends and colleagues once you start working there.”

“Right,” said Fenno. “I understood everything up to ‘the’.”

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