Fenno walked down into the basement of Ames and opened the door to go into the newsroom. The door blew a wave of hot, stuffy air into his face.
Ken Walczak and Justin Dillon were in the hallway, hands clasped. Dillon was stroking Ken’s brown hair and gazing deeply into his limpid eyes.
“You’re such a good writer! I love the way that you can review something as low-brow as a Britney Spears movie and also show both your coolness and your erudite intellectual side!” Dillon told Ken, bringing his palm down to caress Ken’s cheek.
“No, Justin, I love the way you write. You’re so witty, like that time you introduced the word ‘nessoned’ into the Harvard lexicon. Only a real genius could come up with something so amazing,” Ken moaned softly.
“Seriously, Ken, you’re undoubtedly the second-best writer at this paper,” Dillon responded.
“Second! What the hell! You pompous, arrogant ass. You may be good, but you’ll never reach my level,” Ken said pulling his head back.
Fenno had seen enough. Trying to escape from the quarrel, Fenno dove into the first door — the Business Office.
Liza Brann was trying to pry the RECORD checkbook out of Jason Blackstone’s hands, pushing against his broad, longhorn chest with her tiny foot.
“No!!” Jason yelled, twisting his body away. “This has to stop somewhere! Every time you buy food for the office, we end up with at least four bags of those gourmet potato chips, V8 and a basket of cherry tomatoes. Don’t you know what Cheetos are?”
“Yeah, well … what kind of weirdo doesn’t like rice, anyway?” Liza screamed, trying to gouge out Jason’s eyes. “Haven’t you noticed that all of the restaurants listed in Dining In serve rice? How can you expect us to order non-ricey foods week after week?!?”
Fenno sighed. Liza and Jason had always been the only organized, relaxed people in the RECORD office. He backed slowly out of the office and turned to walk into the newsroom.
Sarah McGonigle was standing in the back corner of the newsroom, gripping Erin Bernstein by the lime-green butterfly collar and forcing her face into the photo scanner.
“Look, everyone else has done it,” Sarah said. “It’s art! It’s painless! Stop whining and submit!”
As the light of the scanner blinded Erin’s one semi-good eye, she struggled briefly and then relaxed.
“Fenno, it’s good that you’re here,” a voice behind Fenno said.
Fenno turned around to see Meredith McKee, the editor of the RECORD. “Do you have anything done yet? We’ve been waiting for you all night!”
Fenno gulped. “Uh, well, I have the basic framework done. … It’s looking to be one of my better columns … I promise I kept the necrophilia jokes to a minimum.” Fenno stammered.
“Your Jedi mind tricks won’t work on me. I need a finished product in 15 minutes! And it better be appropriate this time. Look, Fenno, the problem is that Mark Byers and I think that the paper needs to take into consideration the feelings of the people who appear in your column. Byers thinks, and of course I agree, that we should be a positive force at the school,” the grizzled editor said.
“I thought you were still seeing Mark Weber,” Fenno stammered.
“Weber? He’s old news, I’m into Byers now. One Mark is usually as good as any other, but not this time,” McKee said as she crammed a cheese stick down her throat and unloaded the rest into her laundry bag.
“Why are you telling me this? Why don’t you just cut out all of the funny parts after I’m gone like you always do?” Fenno asked.
Meredith pondered that thought.
She might have said something else, but if she did Fenno didn’t hear. He was distracted by the image of a woman in a G-string on the production computer.
“It’s not porn!” Jonas Blank was yelling at Vijaya Palaniswamy. “It’s totally related to the story I wrote about Gloria Steinem’s speech. It was about empowering women and this photo shows them empowered in all of their glory! I wrote an article about this in FHM. Believe me, I know about this stuff. Some of my best friends are women. Of course, some of them are also in Puffy McDonald’s ‘stable’ … “
“That doesn’t matter, the point is … .” VJ’s voice trailed off into an incoherent mumbling that vaguely resembled the way parents in Peanuts cartoons spoke.
Nilufer Shaikh walked in with a swish. “Hi! Have you received the photographs I took this week?”
Jonas put the porn down and turned to answer Nilufer.
“Oh, yeah,” he said. “They’re great! I love the stuff you did for my Steinem article. I already took the doubles for my private collection.”
Mike Wiser stumbled in, clueless and half-sober. “Um, guys? I have a question. I made a quick run to the liquor store for a case of Old Speckled Hen, and I was wondering how I could get reimbursed. Is this Nilufer’s department?”
Nilufer calmly picked Mike up over her head, spun him around like a professional wrestler and planted him headfirst into a nearby trash can.
Trevor Gardner popped his head up from the iMac he was working at and chuckled, his only discernable movement in the last five hours.
Fenno reached over to Wiser’s stationary legs poking out of the trash can and removed his new tennis shoes. To himself, Fenno remarked, “These are good running shoes. With all the running I do, these could come in handy.”
A heavy pounding at the office door shook the small, poorly lit room. Owen Alterman stopped checking his email to answer the door. When he peered around the door, he was impaled by the outstretched hand of the Robot-Dean Clark. The many enemies of the RECORD were wielding the Robot as a medieval battering ram. Only the Harvard Law RECORD, with its offensive op-ed pieces and hysterical letters to the editor could actually bring together the Israelis and Palestinians, Pro-Lifers and Pro-Choicers, professors and student groups, into one group unified to destroy their common enemy, the RECORD.
To make good his escape, Fenno pointed to his left and yelled, “Look, Kelly Hartline!!” He bolted for the door and tried to block the shrill screams that jack-hammered through his head like the thought of Kiwi Camara reproducing. As Fenno increased the distance between him and the now burning office, the sounds grew more quiet and the only sound Fenno could hear was his new running shoes rhythmically slapping the pavement and his pounding heartbeat. Fenno was now alone with his thoughts, and the friggin’ cold Boston air.