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Have you read this week's epistle from Jules?

Episode 116

Ora Pro Speechibus

What makes the dawn come up like thunder?

Or, Comes the dawn.

Or, Dawn, go away I'm no good for you.


> The point is, it is Friday morning, the Friday before the Blessed Moly. As usual, Sister Levi al-Chaim is the first person to awake among the vast northeastern forensics community. It is four thirty-three -- before the coming of the dawn, in truth -- when her old and tired knees find their accustomed place on the prie deux. The leather cushioning is worn, molded to the pressure she has applied with her daily supplications to the Almighty over the years; it is like the rock-hewn stairs of Notre Dame, eroded by the pressure of a billion steps over a millennium.

Religion is like that: it brings out the long-term metaphors.

As always at this time in the morning, Sister Levi's prayers are not specific. They are rather the ritual offering of soft whispers, rote worship to reestablish contact with Him. The specific prayers will come later, when she will ask God to bless her Speechies, and all Speechies, and give them the grace to be enlightened competitors who will use the Moly to learn and to grow in God's spirit. She will not suggest that her Speechies win and some other Speechies lose. She will not suggest that since the Blessed Moly is a Catholic Forensic League event, held at a Catholic school, that a Catholic team should win over the infidels from Lodestone or Behemoth. Sister Levi can remember back to when the CFL really was C, when the round was entirely girls in their plaid-tartan-and-white-blouse school uniforms, the boys in their blazers and chinos and those skinny ties that used to be the fashion, all of them little ladies and gentlemen with blond hair and blue eyes, or at least what the memory holds as blond hair and blue eyes, although presumably the Italians from the Corpus Christi team, for example, had at least one brown eye to identify itself. Nowadays the CFL is half Hindu, there are Moslem girls wearing head scarves performing Original Oratories on Nato interventions, there is an army of Asians from countries that still boil missionaries in oil (except for the Mormons, who are welcome everywhere because no one has figured them out yet)--

Sister Levi shakes her head. These are not the thoughts that should be invading her morning prayers like barbarians at the gates of Rome.




Expletive Deleted

Alida Devans, all formidable six feet of her, wakes up a little later, when the autumn sun truly is breaking through her windows. Unlike her chief forensics opponent, she does not begin her day with a prayer but with a curse.

"@$#%@$#," she mutters. Or words to that effect. It is her usual greeting to another day.

Like Sister Levi, nearly her first thought this morning before the Blessed Moly is of her team, and especially of her Duo team, Mollie and Maria. She grimaces. Mollie. A straight-A student and she's dumber than a fish in an olive tree. But she is a good actress. Not as strong as Maria, but not that many are. Yet the two of them have been plagued by the team of Hannah and Hughes since their first pairing as freshmen. No matter how good Mollie and Maria get, Hannah and Hughes get better.

It is not fair.


But things will be different tomorrow. They will practice all day today, they will stay after school, and then tomorrow they will do their best, and when it counts, they will file their protest against their Hebrides High rivals.

Vengeance truly is a dish best served cold, Alida thinks, as she swings around in her bed and sits up.


These Precious Days

Tarnish Jutmoll shuffles into his kitchen and starts up the coffee machine, immediately followed by the flicking on of the radio. Living alone has not inured him to silence, and he prefers the low volume combination of avuncular local news announcers and mindless pop music to an aural vacuum. Also, spending so much time with Amnea lately has begun to spoil his morning rituals. For that matter, it has spoiled his afternoon and night rituals too. And he's enjoyed every minute of it.

As the coffee machine gurgles and drips, he looks out the kitchen window. The leaves are all turned, yellow and rose and orange replacing the normal washes of green. In a few weeks they will have fallen, leaving the brown skeletons of the trees behind. The holiday season will begin...

The holiday season. Tarnish never has given the holidays much thought, but that will be different this year, with Amnea and Chesney.

And Chesney. Can't forget Chesney. Tarnish is used to dealing with teenagers, but always ex officio and never on private grounds. Dealing with Chesney is different. The expectations are different, and the ramifications of those dealings are more far-reaching. Chesney already has a father, so that is not the issue, but Amnea is the boy's mother, and Chesney is well aware of the nature of her relationship with Tarnish, the first man since his father to be intimate with her.

At least she'll be there tomorrow at the Moly, Tarnish thinks. He will enjoy showing her a Speech tournament. Not that he expects her to start speech at Bisonette, at least not at this early stage of her coaching career, but she should get a sense of the whole of forensics, of the world beyond LD. This will be a good opportunity. And then they will be together at Algren next week, Tarnish's final tournament. Or at least his final tournament with Nighten Day School. After that, he will just be a friend, helping Amnea run her Monadnock.

On the outside looking in. That will be a new experience for him, too. Devote your life to an activity, and have that activity taken away from you in the blink of an eye. All because of finances, as Ashley Ambrose puts it in her Original Oratory.


The end of forensics at Nighten Day School.


Harvard, on the Other Hand, Costs as Much as the Prom

Bob Cratch's first stop when he reaches school in the morning is the administration office, where the sign-up sheet for the Algren tournament has been hanging since Monday. The closing for submissions is this morning, and Bob has come to officially make the Quilty team's entry.

"Good morning, Mrs. Jay," he says to the school secretary.

"Good morning, Robert." She is a mature woman who has seen a million kids come and go, and she has always known their names by the time they are sophomores and she can recognize every one of them twenty years later on line at the A&P.

Bob Cratch, as always, has a bit of a military look about him, like a young marine on shore leave, with his close-cropped hair and imposing stature. He is wearing a green-and-red flannel shirt over a Beaver College tee shirt and khaki cargo pants. He takes the sign-up sheet from the bulletin board.

"You need a desk, Robert?" the secretary asks.

He nods. "The usual."

"No problem." She reaches into her desk draw for a key, rises, and walks through the warren of the office, leading Bob Cratch behind her. They reach a door that she unlocks, then pushes open. She flips on the inner light. "Voila!"

"Thanks," Bob Cratch says, entering the office.

"Just lock it up when you're done," the secretary says, handing him the key.

He nods, and walks behind the desk as she returns to her post. This spare office has been made available to him since the beginning. He is not quite sure whose it is, or if it is anyone's at all, but merely a spare cog in the administrative wheel. Someday when they hire an assistant assistant to the assistant principal, this will probably be his location.

Bob Cratch lays the sign-up sheet on the desk in front of him, looking it over as he opens his backpack and pulls out the debate folder. Inside the folder is the registration for the Algren-on-the-Beach tournament next weekend. Bob Cratch lays the registration form next to the sign-up list.

Debate registration can be very easy, or very complicated. Most high schools simply ask you for lists of names of your competitors and your judges, and in cases where there is housing, as with Algren, they ask for a list of the housees by gender. At the edge of the lists are the costs, roughly twenty-five dollars a head for the whole shebang, about the same cost as a movie, large popcorn, large Coke, and pizza on the way home, so in a way debating for two days is the financial equivalent of staying home and hanging out for one day, which makes it quite a bargain.

Bob Cratch counts up the number of entrants. Four varsity LD, four junior varsity LD, including the novice, Melvish, for a total of eight. According to the rules at Algren, that means that Quilty will have to provide two judges, a ratio of one to four. Melvish has indicated that his father is available to go with them, so that covers half the obligation, plus the need for a chaperone, and the invitation indicates that they can hire a second judge from the tournament for a hundred dollars, so Bob Cratch adds that expense to the total. The form must be faxed to Algren by noon, but that is no problem, as there is a fax machine in this spare office, warmed up and ready to go. Bob Cratch plugs the number into the machine, places the registration in the feeder and hits the send button. After the requisite squeals and squeaks, the form rolls through the machine, and the deed is done.

Quilty Prep is signed up and ready for the Algren-on-the Beach tournament.

Bob Cratch packs up his backpack, straightens the chair behind the desk, turns off the light and leaves the office, locking it behind him.

Another job well done.


Where Do You Want to Go Today?

Haircut Puente will not be going to school today. He does not have much of a work load, and he's already been accepted into MIT, so why go through the hassle? Besides, he does have a web site to maintain. Without Haircut, there is no Come rain or come shine, he has to have his Weekly Analyst e-mail ready by Monday, plus there's just the joy of breaking code and adding it to his software library, the Mother Loadin' Zone. And there is a new thought of philosophy he wishes to add.

On the Internet, no one can hear the sound of you paying for your web site. All measurements are in results, not expectations. Le ROI est d'etat: the Return On Investment is the state of your sites value, not its cost.

Oh, yeah. After he spends the morning doing business, he might spend a little time after lunch doing research on the Policy topic. Haircut is curious about the 'net's ability to provide him with usable evidence. He knows that he is capable of researching; hell, he's probably among the best cyber-researchers in the known universe. In Matrix terms, if Haircut were Neo, there'd be no question that he was the One. No, the question is not Haircut's abilities, but the ability of the 'net to provide the material. He does not want to track down cyberevidence, that is, evidence that only exists on the 'net, and which thereby becomes subject to a peculiar measure of evidentiary reliability. He is seeking basic facts and quotes from the normal sources of books and magazines and newspapers, much of which might normally come from a high-priced source as Lexis/Nexis, which is a wonderfully large database but hardly the stuff of a hacker's fantasies. Haircut wants to find it for himself. Haircut wants to become Lexis/Nexis.

With a quart-sized cup of coffee in his hand, Haircut plops down behind his desk. His computer is always on; the only thing he has to do is log into the Internet. His phone bills are astronomical, but the small amount of banner advertising he accepts on is more than enough to cover the cost, and keep his hardware state-of-the-art.

He clicks on the log-on icon. After the requisite squeals and squeaks, he is connected.



Will Sister Levi's Speechies bring Catholicism back to the activity?

Will Alida Devans's Speechies further the cause of heathenism?

What will Tarnish Jutmoll do after his forensics career ends?

Will Melvish's father be a good judge?

Will Haircut become one with Lexis/Nexis?

We'd even sit through another six-hour CFL awards ceremony to skip our next episode: "Dyspepsia, the Choice of a New Generation."

Go to the next episode due June 9, 1999.