Fenno and the Case of the Missing Vending Machines


Fenno woke up to screaming.

This, unfortunately, was not an infrequent occurrence. He really needed to move out of Gropius one of these days.

And like so many of the times that he was forced to scrabble his way out of a sound sleep due to the howling of his dorm mates, the banging of the nearby construction, or his own dry cleaning vapor induced choking, Fenno realized he had bloodshot eyes, a splitting headache, and no idea what time of the day or night it might be.

He glanced over. His clock flashed “12:00, 12:00, 12:00.” That was helpful.Instead, he threw on a bathrobe, grabbed a towel (maybe he’d take a shower, he thought vaguely) and stumbled blearily out to the hallway. The bright florescent lights didn’t do much to clue him in. The screaming, however, had only intensified, and he thought he picked up an undertone of sobbing.

An LLM emerged from the kitchen, eating something.

“What’s the hell is going on?” Fenno asked him, feeling his head throbbing from the commotion.

“1L grades just came out,” the LLM told him. “Apparently there is no longer something called a ‘queue’ in order to view them and many of your 1Ls are finding the shock of seeing their grades without a lead time rather . . . traumatic.”

“Huh,” Fenno said. “I guess the Law of Unintended Consequences applies to the Registrar’s Office the same as anyone else. Wait, do you smell something burning?”

The LLM shrugged and retreated back into the kitchen. A moment later, the fire alarm blared, and Fenno made for the exits before (a) his headache could intensify any further, and (b) before the 1Ls could filter into the hallway.

He emerged into the icy gloom of the Boston winter and hurried across the snow tunnel toward the Hark, shivering as he hit the “wheelchair accessible” button and waited for the doors to open. Stupid Hark doors. Didn’t they realize it was cold out here?

The Hark was brightly lit with a few silent students scattered around highlighting and tabbing casebooks in complicated color schemes. In the distance, Fenno could hear the Gropius fire alarm blaring, and he strolled upstairs, only to find metal grating blocking the door and a lone worker mopping the floors.

Well, Fenno thought, that answers the time question. Resigned, he slung his towel over his shoulder and headed down to the tunnels for a snack. By the time he rounded the corner under Austen Hall, he realized two things: first, all the vending machines were flat out missing; second, he heard groaning from the woman’s restroom nearby.

Fenno pondered. On the one hand, he was desperately in need a of a delicious, sugary snack, and he wasn’t going to find it in the Austin Hall woman’s restroom. And really, the last thing he needed was to walk in on some Law Reviewer flagellating herself over Kagan’s just-released Admin Law grades. On the other hand, he had to admit he was kind of curious.

He pushed open the door, then found himself gaping.

“Martha Nussbaum? What are you doing tied up in the women’s bathroom in the middle of the night?”

She shot him a strange look. “You don’t turn Harvard down. Elena stashed me in here and muttered something about ‘Stanford’ and ‘U.S. News’.”

“Huh, but where’s your paramour?”

She glared. “Cass? Playing squash. Can you untie me already?”

Fenno ran through his usual mental list of how he could turn this situation to his own advantage, and was forced to concede he probably couldn’t, at least in a way that wasn’t actually extortionate instead of merely extorionatesque. He shrugged, and begin to untie her.

“Come on, the easiest way out is through the tunnels.”

She followed him as he wound back toward the Hark. With a shock he realized that the tunnels were crowded with people. What kind of new conspiracy was this?

Fenno ran smack into Dean Kagan. Nussbaum screamed and lunged at her, and Fenno struggled to hold her back.

“What are you doing here in the middle of the night, Dean Kagan?” he exclaimed, all the while blocking Nussbaum as best he could.

“It’s 2 PM, Fenno. You’re probably confused because the Hark closed so that they can pretend they serve different things for dinner than for lunch.”

Dean Kagan smiled and smoothly stepped behind Fenno, placing a friendly but firm arm around Nussbaum’s shoulders.

“Martha, now, why don’t you come with me. I believe Noah and Jeannie have a nice cocktail reception they want to invite you to. You know, they resisted at first, too. Once.”

Nussbaum cast him a desperate glance, and, shoulders slumped, walked off with Dean Kagan. Fenno shrugged. 2 PM? Why was he even awake? He adjusted his towel and strolled through the tunnels, back towards Gropius.

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