Who is to say there is no higher power? The world vibrated to the frequency of Fenno’s soul. As the final week of OCI began, a rain cloud of enormous dimensions had enveloped the Boston area, and now that dread process transpired against a near constant October drizzle. It was forecast to last for an entire week.
Like always, tonight Fenno was at the Charles, that infamous brothel of promise and virtue. The reception room reverberated with meaningless, nervous chatter. 2Ls whom Fenno had respected just moments ago now gazed cravenly at partners, their eyes communicating infinite attention and admiration as if these corpulent, middle-aged men would soon begin to vomit forth ambrosia.
Fenno herself was supposedly engaged in a tete-a-tete with one of these sages, a benign but thoroughly boring and sober partner in the DC office. Free of the lubricating effects of alcohol, he talked easily and fluently of matters so narrow that not even his mother could have feigned to give a shit. As she listened, Fenno found that she couldn’t stop herself from imagining the man’s funeral in elaborate detail – especially the way his eulogist would laboriously search for words to raise this decent man above the level of banality. The odor of death filled her nostrils.
At least the interviews earlier that week hadn’t been quite so depressing.Wachtell had been a lark. Fenno was frankly surprised that there existed such a graphic symbol of overweening greed. But she gratefully accepted the chance to speak truth to power.
As soon as the interview had started, the partner took a glance at Fenno’s transcript. The tone of condescension was rich and practiced: “Soooo. . .why do you want to work at Wachtell?” He adjusted himself in his chair, settling his paunch and relaxing his jowls.
Fenno frowned and took a look at her watch. “Shouldn’t you be the one telling me why I should waste my time considering this sordid little boiler room set-up of yours?”
The partner’s leg fidgeted. “Sorry?”
“Do your homework, kid; it’s right there on the resume. I’m the shit.”
“. . .Maybe you’ve got an updated copy that reflects that fact? I’ve got here: ‘subciter, Harvard International Law Journal.'”
“Take another look, son.” Pause. “Now, who’s your daddy?”
“. . .”
“Oh, just shut up and go get me some coffee, will you? Remember, cream, no sugar, and if you fuck up – no call back!”
Different, but not better had been the undead partner from Pornold and Fortas, a man who had seemingly taken his firm’s enormous prestige as an excuse to inwardly die. Fenno tried to rouse him, but to no avail.
“Vault says you’re going downhill. Buffalo Creek was thirty years ago; Gideon is ancient history. You barely got any Harvard people last year to accept your callbacks. And, to repeat – Vault says you suck.”
“Does Vault really say that? Perhaps you should take a look at Chamber and Partners. We’re very good at antitrust.”
“Yeah, whatever. Your soi-disant liberal attitude is a sham. Your pro bono practice is a Potemkin village, an excuse for making filthy love to the cigarette companies. And I think you suck.”
“Perhaps you’d be more interested in our NY office.”
The partner from Burlington Coat Factory LLP, on the other hand, actually was dead. Fenno entered the suite to find him limp in his chair, lips blue, rigor mortis in full effect. She sat down opposite him and griped for twenty minutes about the firm’s gender hiring policy, occasionally taking the opportunity to kick him in the shin. When the knock on the door came, she deposited a transcript on the table, took one of the displayed business cards, and ushered the next applicant in: “He’ll be ready for you in just a minute.” The call-back offer came two days later, with gushing reviews.
Nike, Gimp, Ruttger Hauer LLP had been an entirely different experience. A loud whistling sound came as the partner read Fenno’s transcript. “Whooo! You’re way smarter than me! Why would you want to come work for us?!”
“Yep, I know what you mean. Money’s nice. You can buy stuff with it. . .and shit. . .”
“. . .”
“You know, Nike Gimp is a younger firm, which is important, I think. It means we’re real go-getters, that we’ve really got our eye on the. . .Say, did you get to try some of those chocolate-covered pretzels out in the suite? They’re awesome.”
“Yeah, they’re pretty good.”
“Aren’t they? I think so, too. After this interview I’m going to go get one with M&Ms on it. . .”
“Yeah. Pretty sweet, huh?”
Outside the scene had merely grown stranger. And worse. An associate approached Fenno. “So, who did you interview with?”
“Umm. . .Bob?”
“You mean Bill? Bill’s a great guy.”
“Uh, yeah, right. Bill.” In a nervous tic, Fenno bit into one of the M&M-encrusted pretzels. The pretzel seemed to explode and scatter the M&Ms like buckshot, lodging one of them nicely in the cataract of the associate’s eye. He howled in pain.
“I’m so sorry!”
“Don’t worry, don’t worry. . .it’s why they make ophthalmologists, right? But say, would you like to come to dinner with us this evening?”
Fenno thought a second. “Not really.”
“Oh, well, you know, we’re also having a reception this Thursday!”
This time the response was immediate. “Probably not.”
“Well, that’s cool. No problem; just remember, Nike, Gimp, Ruttger Hauer – the gateway to the world!”
“. . .”
With a start, Fenno returned to herself. The partner was still there; the babble still deafening; the pageant of death still in full swing. Desperate, she gulped down her drink and then seized the partner’s head in her hands. She kissed him hard on the lips, tasting his acrid breath mix with her own youthful exhalation. Drawing back for a second she looked him straight in the eyes. “Do you see that we’re all dying here?” she asked. She noticed a dim flicker of recognition behind his hexagonal spectacles – the last remnant of his embattled life? – and then she was gone. Gone off into a cold drizzle that she already assumed would last forever.