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The Poison Ivy League Part 55-Magic Rites

May 3, 2011

After the Mt. Holyoke Tournament (which Kimel sardonically branded the best he ever attended to that college’s newspaper), the members of Harvard A arranged a pagan rite to ensure their victory in the TOTY race. Vespasian, Jason, Scott, and Kimel gathered together in the large apartment on DeWolfe street. Rose petals and tom-toms were distributed, then Venetian and African masks. With so much done, the procession of four marched to the sound of music to a bridge spanning the Charles, where the flowers were scattered over the water. Kimel intoned prayers in Latin, English, and Hebrew. Addressing the spirit of the river, he cried,

“Oh spirit of the river—bring us victory over our enemies!”

Then, however, some Judeo-Christian scruple impelled him to add,

“Let our triumph be one/won among gentlemen—for there is a thin line between friends and foes in our current world.”

With the rite concluded and immortalized on video-tape, the four ambled back to Scott and Kimel’s apartment. More friends arrived and the evening assumed a festive atmosphere. To finish off the night in proper style, a handful of adventurers smoked Diviner’s Sage, which was legal in those days. While it induced some to laugh hysterically and others to temporarily lose their wits, it seemed to have no effect on Kimel, beyond inspiring him to jump on his bed and then hide behind an oversized lamp.

At the end of the evening, Scott, Kimel, Jason, and Sulla C made plans to take a trip to Amsterdam. Sulla B was their only fellow Mario Tennis aficionado to pass on the prospect. In a few days time, everything was arranged. Their flight was scheduled to leave in three weeks, directly following the conclusion of the Yale tournament.

The next competition for Kimel and Jason was Bates, a small contest so out of the way that Lepidus, Antony, Crassus, and Pompey left its results to the fates, competing instead at Duke, its southern counterpart. Kimel, Arianna, and Jason arrived one day early to participate in a demonstration round against members of the Bates team, winning over enough of the crowd for the match to be declared a draw.

The three were presently led to a well-furnished guesthouse meant for visiting big-shots. Since there were only two bedrooms, Arianna was given one to herself, and Kimel and Jason were left to share a king-size bed between them. Harvard A promptly joked about the last time necessity compelled Kimel to share a bed with a teammate—two years beforehand, when in the middle of the night, Sulla A turned in his sleep with the cry “Final round!” inadvertently hitting Kimel squarely in the face. (He had yet to reach a final round in those days). This time, Kimel was allowed to sleep more soundly. In the morning, however, a cleaning woman burst into the room thinking it empty, screamed when she saw two men side by side, and slammed the door. This provided more fodder for laughter. The remainder of the morning was spent stealing junk food and soft drinks from the amply-stocked cabinets.

The tournament itself proved disappointing. Though Jason won a third place speaker award and Kimel a second (Sulla A was first), both Harvard A and B faltered in quarter-finals. For his part, Kimel was defeated by Alex from Amherst, avenging his previous loss in high style. Amherst considered punishing Harvard by running the case that gerrymandering should be reformed in a duplication of their semi-final round at Columbia, but then decided against it. Ultimately, Josephus won the tournament, a well-deserved victory, and his first in ages.

Kimel and Jason were, of course, bitterly disappointed. Now only three weekends remained until Nationals. As the god of the Charles River would have it, though, the TOTY scramble would in fact end before that. Only one more weekend would count, which, as the next chapter of this remarkable history will show, proved to be more than ample time to reveal several characters’ true colors.

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