Fenno turned as she squeezed though the front door of the Charles Hotel, so her $3,000 suit wouldn’t touch a single particle of her environment. OCS had encouraged the suit as an “investment,” but Fenno didn’t feel as though she would be reaping a huge return on her threadbare Chanel in three years; in fact, she felt that at a student income of approximately zero, this suit actually represented a statistically impossible percentage of her net worth. She breathed her prepared mantra as she stalked though the lobby of the Charles to get her through her first interview: “Trust in OCS. Trust in OCS.”
Fenno filed into the elevator, smiling wanly at other faces she assumed to have come from the HLS campus. Their vaguely familiar faces were obscured by the finite spectrum of muted dark colors they all wore, and she felt part of a living woolen mass, which had decided collectively to interview today. Individual actors had their mandated movements, assigned from bids, that coalesced into a beautiful mosaic of tightly packed interview slots. The gilt elevator spit out regular groups of one or two foot soldiers at each floor, dispatching them to creamily decorated hallways and their lines of doors which held identical cells, designed for terror, torture and the path to employment.
Fenno thought of a recipe. “Ding. Take two dark suits and shuffle into the beige void. Close doors. Repeat.” Ding. Fenno cleared her throat, checked the elevator mirror for misplaced hairs, smoothed her shirt, clutched her briefcase, vocally trusted OCS, steeled herself for JAG, and walked out onto the plush carpet of the eighth floor.
As she approached 807, Fenno heard muted voices and realized that the previous interviewee had not yet been released. She checked her watch. This was the problem with late-in-the-day appointments: appointment drag. Fenno was the last JAG interviewee of the day, and the guy could take as much time as he wanted: certainly, a 2L wouldn’t have a burning schedule to stick to at 5:30pm, he’d think.
So here was Fenno, stuck fidgeting against the wall in new shoes that burned into her heels. With time to think. Why JAG? Her dad had been military, and seemed disappointed that she had chosen a more traditional liberal arts education and forsaken a family career for law. She wanted the thrill of immediate trial drama – nowhere more dramatic than from bases and bunkers and training exercises. Now that she had told her father she had bid on JAG and heard a pride in his voice she hadn’t heard since childhood, she was attached to the idea of making him happy with her again – his delinquent, liberal, strange, deviant daughter. And mostly, she wanted to do it, not because it was JAG, but because Fenno was Fenno. By all rights, she shouldn’t even be here. But that made her all the more determined to last through this interview, to last and to get it. She had bought the ridiculous suit, she had trusted in OCS, she was going to do this right.
The door opened, and a smiling rangy blond guy came out, who was so HLS. Fenno could practically smell his ROTC training, and her determination faltered for a second as she saw his obvious confidence. A deep voice finished a hearty laugh and emerged unseen from the room: “Great talking to you, Ron. We’ll be in touch.” Ron nodded casually at her and walked down to the elevator. This was it. Trust in OCS. Trust in OCS. Trust. Fenno knocked. “Please, come in, and shut the door behind you. I’m Officer Turow.”
“Fenno. Nice to meet you.” Inside the clean room was a bed, chairs, and a small table, where an officer sat in his crisp navy blues, upright. His eyes sparkled with a crazy clarity from across the room, and his mouth tightened into a thin smile line as he gestured Fenno to the chair across from him. His face had that latent redness that made Fenno think of closet alcoholics and men in need of anger management, but he was still rugged and good-looking in a career military sort of way.
“Welcome, Ms. Fenno. I’m pleased to be interviewing you on behalf of JAG.” He sounded sardonic. One eyebrow lifted. “To be perfectly frank, you’re not the typical applicant. Your academic history is, well, somewhat nongovernmental in nature, and your activities at school would imply a leftist bent. But the real issue…”
“Sir, I realize that my history is somewhat inconsistent, but I have been experimenting to find my place in the law. I am extremely proud of my clinical work at Harvard, which has shown me that being a criminal trial attorney is the best…”
“Look, I’m not interested in that crap. We’ve got bigger fish to fry than your HLS activities. Fenno, perhaps you’ve heard – what kind of name is Fenno anyway? Perhaps you’ve heard of our ‘don’t ask, don’t tell?’ policy…” Fenno gulped and nodded, whirling thoughts of her father racing through her head. “Well, in your case, we don’t exactly need to ask.” The Officer reached into his attaché, pulled out a manila file and dumped its contents onto the small table in between them.
Fenno stopped breathing as she caught a glimpse of the array. She gingerly reached out and picked up the first huge color photograph – a glossy print of Fenno making out with that hot Belgian LLM after last year’s Shaw Hall Crawl. Another showed Fenno, Birkenstocks in focus, at the Lambda rally. “Where…where did, how did you get these? I was really drunk. I am not…” Even Fenno could hear the panic in her voice. She would not be outed by the military. Her father would not find out about her failure. These things just did not happen, would not happen. Could not. She leafed though. A fuzzy picture, through imperfectly closed blinds, of two naked longhaired forms in her Story bed. “Just a friend,” Fenno stammered. She regained some of her composure and sat back, redfaced. “This is ridiculous! I have never slept with a woman. How dare you.”
“I was under the impression that you wanted to work for the military, Ms. Fenno. We have many resources at the law school, and their findings imply otherwise.”
“But I’m not gay.”
“You expect me to believe these are simple intoxicated indiscretions and coincidences? Where are the pictures of you and your boyfriends, exactly?” The Officer wore a triumphant smile.
“I’m very picky. But I am definitely not gay.” Fenno apologized to herself for saying the words. But she needed this job, had set her heart on it.
“Would you be willing to prove it?”