FENNO: Freedom Vanilla


Fenno stared for a second at her inbox. She blinked. “Is Old Europe Still Relevant?” the Flashmod announcement asked her. Now, Fenno knew she was no Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich (of the Edison, New Jersey Marzano-Lesneviches), but what logical reasoning skills she did possess told her that lurking somewhere in that question was its own answer. Though she didn’t “have time” to attend the Federalist Society-sponsored debate, she thought it might be interesting to get a sense of what that question could mean.

To that end, Fenno made her way down to the Hark on Tuesday about midday, on the hunt for Federalists. A lucky predator, she quickly discovered Austin Bramwell and Katie Biber enjoying cheeseburgers and freedom fries with ketchup (no mustard, of course) at one of the little round tables in the Harkbox Café. “Hey, Fenno,” Katie saluted. “What a blessing to see you today!”

“Hi, Katie. Hi, Austin,” Fenno replied. “Glad I caught you guys here. I have a question for you.”

“Proceed with your inquiry,” Austin permitted her. He pronounced the second “i” like “eye.” William F. Buckley’s got nuthin’ on this guy, Fenno said to herself.

“Well, I was just wondering what was up with the European relevance question,” Fenno began. “For starters, what exactly is ‘Old Europe’?”

“That’s easy,” Katie smiled. “‘Old Europe’ is the part that’s not relevant.”

“I see,” Fenno said. “And ‘New Europe’?”

Katie turned to Austin. The two exchanged a meaningful look. “Well, that’s a much more interesting topic,” Katie answered.

Austin began to quote something in Latin, which presently had Katie slapping her knee and guffawing. Fenno began to feel somewhat inadequate and uni-lingual. She waved a sulky farewell and slipped out of the Café.

On her way to class in Pound, Fenno ran into Dean Richardson on her way to lunch. Fenno stopped her to ask if she’d gotten any sense of how the anti-European sentiment was playing with the foreign students.

“Oh, they’re just fine,” Suzanne laughed. “Like the rest of the students here, they became accustomed to being made fun of while growing up as little foreign nerds. Of course, they weren’t foreign then, so maybe it wasn’t quite as bad.”

“But how are the French L.L.M.s taking it?” Fenno asked. “It must be especially hard on them.”

“You mean the ‘Freedom L.L.M.s’?” Dean Richardson corrected her.

“Sure,” Fenno said.

“They’re in great shape. We’ve constructed a soundproofed, armored bunker for them where they are able to watch taped episodes of The O’Reilly Factor around the clock,” Suzanne explained. “They’re quite happy, really. Sometimes I bring them milk and cookies in the evening before I head home. I can hear them almost singing, ‘Fair and balanced, fair and balanced,’ over and over to the tune of ‘Frère Jacques.’ It’s so cute.”

Fenno didn’t think “cute” was the right word. But since she couldn’t remember anything from crim or torts, she figured it must be all right. She thanked Richardson for her time and went to class.

That evening, Fenno attended the town hall meeting with President Summers in Austin North. Security was tight. The place was swarming with men wearing black suits and earpieces. She thought she overheard them whispering code words like “Mass. Hall has landed” and “I’ll have two pepperoni, thanks” into their lapels. The air was thick with apprehension as Summers took his seat. Here to address student concerns, Summers was at his most responsive and caring.

For example, fielding a terrific question from 3L Kathy Hart about the poor provision of daycare services for students with small children, Summers quickly identified the problem and provided a solution: “Having never been a child myself,” he began, “I have not had the chance to consider this matter with the proper amount of sympathy. Can’t you just stick them in the fridge until you get home?” Responding to a chorus of nervous laughter from at least one corner of the assembly, a stone-faced Summers added, “No, really.”

After the meeting, Fenno was fortunate enough to catch a word with the president before he stepped into his limousine for the long ride back to the Yard.

“President Summers,” Fenno started, “conventional wisdom has it that your order of preference for selecting a Dean places academic achievement and credentials above, say, leadership ability, charisma, and concern for student life. Is this an accurate assessment of your priorities?”

Summers looked around to see if someone else could answer the question. Finding himself without assistance, Summers shifted from one foot to the other. He looked at Fenno. He blanched. He blinked twice, stared at his feet, and began reciting pi. In Greek. Stumbling somewhere around the twentieth digit, he took an index card out of his pocket and picked up where’d he’d left off. When he’d apparently run out of digits written on the card, he bent over and bit Fenno’s ear. Fenno shrieked. Summers jumped into the car, which narrowly missed a group of students congregating on the sidewalk in front of the Austin steps. Turning, it headed for them again. Missing a second time, the car, tires squealing, lurched around the corner and out of the parking lot.

Waiting at the UHS emergency room to get her ear bandaged, Fenno picked up a copy of last week’s RECORD. She noted with some degree of alarm that HLS students were protesting for war. This didn’t seem to make a lot of sense to Fenno. She wasn’t sure it was a good use of one’s time to protest for something that was going to happen anyway.

Given a clean bill of health, some extra gauze and Tylenol with codeine, Fenno walked cautiously back through the yard, steering well clear of Massachusetts Hall, which seemed to be bathed in a sort of red light and to smell of brimstone. Escaping Harvard Yard, Fenno passed the steps of Langdell, where Michael Scoville was once again standing and singing. Approaching him, Fenno recognized the tune, but not the words.

“Watcha singin’, Mike?” Fenno asked.

“‘Give War a Chance,’” Scoville replied. “Pretty catchy, isn’t it?”

“Sure is,” Fenno answered.

Safe at home, Fenno called her boyfriend to see if he would come over to comfort her in her time of physical and emotional unease. He said he’d pick up a movie and be right over.

Half an hour later, Fenno answered the door.

“Hey sweetie,” said Boyfriend. “I’m sorry you had such a rough day.”

“I’ll be all right,” Fenno lied.

“Here, I got you some ice cream and a movie.” He put the bag down on the kitchen counter, got out spoons and bowls and opened the lid on the pint of scream.

“What kind of ice cream is it?” Fenno asked as she tried to peer over his shoulder at it. “Is it vanilla?” Fenno asked hopefully.

“Not just regular vanilla,” Boyfriend answered. “It’s Freedom Vanilla.”

“Great,” Fenno said, sighing. “What movie did you get?”

The Seventh Sign,” he answered. Fenno reached for her bottle of fortified Tylenol.

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