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The Poison Ivy League Part 21-A Fateful Partnership

May 3, 2011

The graduating class of 2003 had scattered, some, like Livia, to graduate school, and others, like Marcus, to New York’s business world. A betting pool, however, still united their interests. The league learned that they’d staged an auction at the end of the summer, bidding on competitors still on the circuit, paying a little for some and a lot for others. Every star of the previous season had his or her own private roster. The “team” with the most TOTY and SOTY (Speaker of the Year) points at the end of the year would win the pool for its captain. Thanks to this stunt, all of the circuit’s major players were numerically ranked against each other before the season even began in earnest. Kimel was bought by Cassius from MIT for 25 dollars. Sulla A didn’t fetch a much higher price, valued at 30 (though Kimel felt every cent). Fabius turned out to be worth more money than Messalina, which Kimel imagined both of them noticed and marked well.

Staging this slave auction wasn’t exactly nice of the graduates, but it’s doubtful that they cared if they hurt anyone’s feelings. They were a small clique of very successful, very competitive people united by their dominance at argumentation. Kimel’s impression of them was chiefly formed by their behavior in debate rounds. For the most part, he’d walk past them when they returned to APDA to judge, exchange a few words, overhear them talking about money and status, pray that they’d give him high speaker points, and then move on. Only conversations with Germanicus, now a graduate student in philosophy, went a little bit deeper. Kimel and he laughed sometimes at their memories of APDA’s ups and downs, and Germanicus fleshed out the characters of his classmates in his stories.

Other dinos presided over smaller tournaments. Tiresias, blind but always good-humored, comes to mind. He never found much success on APDA, but he must have loved the activity, God help him, for its social ambience. He persevered for a long time as a judge, carefully watching round after round and offering unwanted advice on their ambiguities. Top competitors began to complain that someone who couldn’t see and couldn’t take notes should rethink participation. Given a low judging ranking at a large tournament, he eventually made his exit with a pointed letter addressed to the online APDA forum. Kimel felt sorry for him.

On the heels of the announcement of the APDA-auction, Kimel debated with Porus at Wesleyan. Sulla A’s lapdog and he broke to quarter-finals and lost to the wholesome Tertius from Yale, Josephus’s friend. Kimel thought the round could have gone either way; luck just wasn’t on their side. The Sullas eventually won the tournament over a team from Bates. This was their first final round together and their first victory. Porus stared at Sulla during his speeches like a spurned lover who is still fascinated by his former idol. They must have been close to each other once, Kimel thought to himself, before Porus became known as a second-rate debater compared to the more dominant people in his class and participated less and less when he was denied the partners of his choice. Rufus, round-faced and stout, was on his way out too.

Sulla A and B were beginning to cement themselves into a permanent alliance now. The other sophomores still debated promiscuously with each other. Now, it was inevitable that the Sullas would have an edge over them when their notoriety as a combined force spread on the circuit. They still had a long way to go, however. Some of Sulla A’s cases were better than others. There was one that said dog meat should be legalized and another that necrophilia should be put on the books! In celebration of their achievement at Wesleyan, the Sullas are hereby christened as Harvard B. Harvard A was, for now, Fabius and Scipio.

Now that Sulla A was Kimel’s roommate, Kimel began to see just how hard a worker he was at debate. He’d spend several nights a week planning out his strategy with Sulla B, writing up new cases and matching them to the weaknesses of different teams, anticipating arguments against each independent point, and generally rehearsing their voices. He put meticulous care into the activity, restlessly driven to improve himself. The only other thing to which he showed as much passion and loyalty was the college newspaper, at least after Metella began dating with Lucan from Princeton.

Sulla A was always a driven person, but he sometimes bit off more than he could chew. He once took an upper-level Latin class with Kimel for which he was in no way prepared. But he suffered through the course to the bitter end for the sport of it. For many nights, Kimel tutored him in Livy and Tacitus by lamplight.

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