“Hey Fenno, it’s Jonas.”
Fenno looked at his clock alarm.
“Jonas, Christ, it’s like 3:30 a.m.,” Fenno said.
“Yeah, sorry, we had gallon-of-milk-and-a-hogshead-of-cheese-night at the Inn,” Jonas explained. “Holy dairy product overload.”
“Sure, I can understand that,” Fenno lied. “What do you want?”
“Hey, you were at Ames tonight, right?” Jonas asked.
“Yeah. Why?” Fenno answered.
“Do you think you could interview the Gunther team for The RECORD?”
“Oh, I don’t know Jonas,” Fenno replied.
“C’mon. It doesn’t have to be that long. Just a thousand words,” Jonas implored.
“All right. Fine. Last favor.”
“Last favor,” Jonas agreed.
Fenno woke to the Allman Brothers’ “Whipping Post” playing on his alarm. He was exhausted. Why can’t I be deaf? Fenno said to God. God smiled mischievously and walked out to get coffee and a newspaper.
Ever the faithful columnist, Fenno showered, dressed, and headed to campus to interview the team. Fenno tried to recall how things had developed. Let’s see, he thought….
First, Kelly Smith read something from a piece of paper. Then Rick Coe walked in and made some incredibly loud remarks. A bunch of Law Review kids talked to two old white men and a black lady in bathrobes for a little over an hour. Rick picked up his loud remarks where he’d left off from before. The bathrobed visitors walked away. People applauded the Law Review kids for talking. More Law Review kids came up to the talking Law Review kids. They talked. Kelly came back to the microphone and said something that made everyone sit down. Rick made yet more incredibly loud remarks. These loud remarks made the bathrobe clique come back. They sat down and congratulated themselves for coming. Something, something, and Greg Lipper won Ames.
That’s what you get for believing that intramural football really means anything, Fenno thought. What’s next: Men aren’t really from Mars and women aren’t really from Venus? Fenno made a note to give God a good talking to when they met for drinks at Westside Lounge that night.
Fenno figured that maybe if that’s all that had happened in the Ames Competition, it wasn’t much worth doing the interview. But he knew he at least owed the teams the courtesy of telling them so in person. He knocked on the door of Gannett House. The door creaked open slowly and ominously. Bert Huang stood in the hallway. “Come in, Fenno,” Bert said. “We’ve been expecting you.” He began to cackle softly.
Fenno interrupted Bert before the latter could throw his head back to cackle any louder. “Hi, Bert. Thanks. Um, I’m not really doing the Halloween or monster-movie theme anymore.”
“Oh.” A look of disappointment flashed across Bert’s face and as quickly disappeared. “Well, come in anyway.” Fenno entered and followed him up the stairs.
Fenno ascended to the second floor where he encountered the Gunther team still whoopin’ and hollerin’. They were wet from spraying white grape juice all over each other. From the look of things, Fenno could tell that there had been many pats on the butt throughout the course of the night. The butt-patting had started during the obligatory “good game, good game,” low-fiving session between the teams at the end of the Competition. Butt-patting can quickly get out of hand. This was another reason to skip the interview.
Fenno cleared his throat: “Congratulations, you guys. I just wanted to let you know that because I was at the Competition last night, it won’t be necessary to do any lengthy wrap-up here. So if Erin Bernstein, the staff photographer, could just take a picture of a file cabinet real quick, the story should be all wrapped up. Don’t want to take any time away from your celebrating.” (Erin found her subject. “I want to take a picture of the file cabinet from the side, with the third drawer open.” She raised her camera. “No, closed.” “What’s the caption?” asked Fenno. “Does it matter?” Erin answered.)
Josh Solomon spoke up for the team: “Thanks, Fenno, we appreciate that.” Or maybe Josh didn’t speak for all of them after all, as halfway down the stairs, Fenno felt a hand on his elbow. It was Louis Tompros. Norina Edelman stood next to him. “Fenno, you don’t have the whole story,” Louis started, speaking quickly and in hushed tones. “Our Ames case, Morales v. Gallows, was just the byproduct of a much larger project, two years in the making.” Fenno became a little more interested. “Okay,” he said. “I’ll write that in for you.” Fenno turned back around to go.
“No, no, no, you don’t understand,” Norina sputtered. “The Ames competition was just an outgrowth of our initial conception of a language called ‘Amesish.’ It’s spoken by people called Amesh.”
“You mean ‘Amish,’” Fenno corrected her. “With the buggies.”
“No ‘Amesh,’” Norina returned.
“Is this conversation spoken or written?” Fenno asked.
“It’s of no importance,” Louis cut in. “To continue, we developed a whole language, which grew into a system of social connections; a constitution, government, political parties, a revenue-collection system; public primary and secondary schools; a state university system complete with honor codes, rules for tenure, financial aid, public grants; banking regulations; building codes; antidiscrimination laws. This housing case was inevitable. Ames is real.” Louis’s eyes lit up with a greenish glint. “Oh, and, and, you should read the follow-up we wrote for those interested in learning even more about the land of Ames: the Amesmarillion.”
“Of course, then you’ll want to read Unfinished Briefs,” Norina added. “It explains how the Amesh first came to Ames, but were thwarted by the Dark Lord and —”
“I get it, I get it,” Fenno said. “I’ll work that in. Thanks. I think I should leave now.”
Fleeing Gannett House, Fenno ran into the Austin basement en route to his locker. There at the iMacs was Gloves Girl and Bald Austin Basement Study Guy. They were wearing gloves and hairlessly studying in an awkwardly public location (HSAPL), respectively. They didn’t notice Fenno.
“I’m not too worried about finals,” Gloves Girl was saying. “I’m part Vulcan.”
“Really?” answered Bald Austin Basement Study Guy. “So am I.”
“That is optimal for exam preparation, to be Vulcan,” said Gloves Girl.
“I’m also part Romulan,” Study Guy added. Gloves Girl seemed to be intrigued by that.
“That might be suboptimal,” she said. “Who do you think would win in a fight between Worf and Commander Riker?”
“I’m not sure. That’s a really good question,” Study Guy replied, furrowing his brow meaningfully.
“Why do you study down here?” Gloves Girl asked.
“It gives me a sense of knowing that I’m studying while being seen studying by others, who clearly must appreciate the fact that it’s me, here, studying,” was Study Guy’s answer. Fenno moved on.
That night, Fenno crawled into bed and promptly slipped into a coma when —
“Hey Fenno, it’s Jonas.”
Fenno looked at his clock alarm.
“Jonas, it’s four in the morning,” Fenno said.
“Yeah, sorry, we had g
allon-of-milk-and-a-hogshead-of-cheese night at the Inn,” Jonas explained. “Holy dairy product overload.”
“I thought that was last night.”
“It’s every night.”
“Fine, what is it?” Fenno demanded.
“Listen, I just had this crazy idea I wanted to run by you.”
“Okay.” Fenno prepared to fall back asleep.
“I wanted to see if maybe you could write ‘Fenno’ next semester,” said Jonas. “The person who’s doing it now might not be able to do it next semester. Something about third-year pro bono requirement.”
“Jonas, there is no third-year pro bono requirement.”
“Then why do all the 3Ls keep offering to water my plants, do my laundry, walk my girlfriend home from school, and smiling at me and wishing me good luck?” Jonas asked.
“Because they’re bored to death, Jonas. They’re probably smiling at the person behind you. Maybe they’re just surprised to see you awake during the day, and wishing you luck curing your vampire kick. As for the girlfriend thing, you’ll just have to figure that one out on your own.” Fenno began counting to 100 to try to fall back to sleep.
“Well what to do you think about writing ‘Fenno’?” Jonas asked again. “I mean it makes perfect sense: You’re Fenno, and no one would ever think that Fenno was writing ‘Fenno.’ It would be too obvious. It’s brilliant.”
“Don’t you think that would be a little weird?” Fenno answered. “I mean, not just for The RECORD, but like, for my sanity.” Fenno tensed up a bit as he imagined the walls of his room closing in on him like an existential trash compactor.
“Jonas, I’m not Luke Skywalker or Chewbacca,” Fenno blurted.
“What?” Jonas rejoined.
“Sorry, I was starting to drift off,” Fenno said.
“Jonas, first of all, this conversation is really creepy. You’re starting to worry me. Fenno is not a real person. Second —”
“I know, I know, I just thought. . . Wait. Who is this?”
Fenno hung up.
The phone rang again.
“What?” Fenno yelled.
“Well, could you at least write the ‘Letters from Berkeley’ column?”
“That makes no sense.” Fenno hung up again, fell asleep, did not dream.