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Have you read this week's epistle from Jules?

Episode 121

Kumar Tells All

The year is 2027. Kumar Juvaswami is sitting on his patio with his son Mukesh, watching the summer sun set and occasionally swatting away a marauding mosquito.

"I can remember it like it was yesterday," Kumar says. Over the top of his son's head he can see into the house, where his wife is busily working at her computer station.

"You were a Speechie, right?" Kesh asks.

"I started out doing HI. But at the Moly that day, I was doing Duo."

"How come?"

"It was a strange thing. There were these two guys, William and David, who I always thought were attached at the hip, but at the beginning of their senior year they had a big falling out, and they didn't want to be a team anymore. I think it had something to do with one of them being gay, but maybe not. It's not like anyone cared one way or the other. Except maybe them."

"Speaking of teams, Rose doesn't want to be a team with me any more," Kesh says despondently.

"She may come around after the summer."

Kesh shakes his head. "I think she's going to take up LD."

Father and son both shiver at the thought.

"Anyhow," Kumar continues, "the day went pretty normally, at least at the beginning. The whole Nighten Day Speech team was there because we thought it was going to be our last tournament."

"This was when you were running out of money and the budget was going to get cut?"

"Exactly. We didn't know what was in store at that point."

"They didn't cancel the team after all?"

"I'll get to that later. Let me finish with the Blessed Moly first."

"What kind of name is that, the Blessed Moly?"

"They were Catholics, son. They worshipped unusual things."

"Like molies?"

"Like molies. Anyhow, the day went pretty normally, and the whole team was there, and David and I, well, I thought we were excellent. I really believed that I'd finally earn my first trophy."

"You'd never taken tin before?"

"Not even once. And I was already a junior by then."

"You must have been awfully dedicated. And awfully lousy."

Kumar glares at his son. "Kesh, let me tell the story."

"Lay on, MacDad."

"So," Kumar continues, "the tournament is over, and we're all sitting in the auditorium, and the trophies are on the stage, and everybody's waiting for the awards ceremony. And we're waiting, and we're waiting, and we're waiting, and nothing's happening. It's, like, six o'clock by now, and there's absolutely no movement. Our coach, Mr. Jutmoll, is getting antsy, and he gets up to go into the tab room to see what's happening, when suddenly some guy comes out in a black suit and asks for Sister Levi."

"Who was she?"

"Sister Levi al-Chaim. The original Speech battle-ax. She was unbelievably old. Rumor had it that she was present at the Resurrection, and that's why she had become a nun. She had seen it all with her own eyes."

"So the guy in the suit calls her..."

"Right. And she gets up and follows him to the tab room. Now first of all, you've got to envision the way she walked, like maybe a half a yard in an hour. We're all sitting there, and we realize there's a problem, and she's the one who's going to have to solve it, and it takes her maybe three weeks to plod her way out of the auditorium to the tab room in the office. It hurt just to watch her."

"But she did go to the tab room."

"Eventually. And we're all still sitting there in the auditorium, and still nothing's happening. And it's getting later and later, as late as any Speech tournament has ever run. Finally Mr. Jutmoll can't take it anymore, and he does what he was going to do in the first place, which is go to the tab room."

"I don't see what's such a big deal about going to the tab room," Kesh says.

"That's because you never saw an Alida Devans tab room."

"Who's Alida Devans?"

"The Big A, was what some people called her. She was the tallest woman I've ever seen in my life, and built like a brick outhouse. She had the dominant gene for mean, and the mean gene for domination. She was... murder."

"And she was running tab?"

"The way Dzershinski ran the KGB. You knew it was going on, but it was behind closed doors, and you didn't want to be a part of it. Even Sister Levi steered clear of Alida Devans's tab rooms. But now she had been called into it, and she disappeared without a trace."

"So what happened to Mr. Jutmoll?"

"Well, he went to the tab room, and he knocked, and knocked, and knocked, and they just ignored him. But he could hear them in there. And they were arguing. They were shouting. Afterwards he could swear he heard them throwing things at each other."


"Sister Levi and Alida Devans."


"Well," Kumar says, "that was the thing. That was why they had called Sister Levi in there. It seems that one of her Duo teams had been caught cheating."

"One of the nun's teams?"

"One of the nun's teams."

"That's outrageous."

"That's forensics. The thing was, it wasn't really cheating, it was just a sort of accidental bending of the rules. Her team, which I remember distinctly, their names were Hannah and Hughes and they were phenomenal, the best Duo I've ever seen, had used a line from a character that they weren't allowed to use. They had to stick to two characters, but they had borrowed one line from another character."

"What was the line?"

"'What a putz.'"

"Excuse me, Dad."

"Not you, son. The line. 'What a putz.' That was the line they had slipped into their piece that they really shouldn't have. One of Alida Devans's teams caught them at it."

"Her team knew that the other team was cheating? How?"

"Because Ms. Devans prepped them, of course. It was all a set up. There was no question about it."

"And that's what they were arguing about in the tab room?"

"Exactly. Eventually they let Mr. Jutmoll in, and they explained it to him. Of course, the thing was, they had Sister Levi dead to rights. They had the text. Hannah and Hughes had broken the rules. They would have come in first, but now they had to forfeit. Completely. They came in dead last."

"That's terrible."

"I know it's terrible. But that wasn't the worst part. Anyhow, it feels like it's about five in the morning when the tabbers finally come forth and they have the awards ceremony. And here's where it got really strange. Alida Devans walked up on the stage, and she was about to begin the ceremony, and she looked around, and Sister Levi is standing by the trophies, like she's going to hand them out or something."

"Nothing unusual about that," Kesh suggests.

"Not normally, no, but you've got to remember, these two women were just fighting each other like Romulan renegades. Devans is gloating that her team is going to take first place in Duo, and the last thing she wants is Sister Levi hogging even one minute of her place in the sun on the stage."

"So what happened?"

"What happened was, Alida Devans goes over to Sister Levi and says something to her, we couldn't hear what it was, something probably like get off the stage, and Sister Levi ignores her. I mean, after all, this is the Catholic Forensic League, and Sister Levi is a hell of a lot more Catholic than any Alida Devans, so she thinks she has a God-given right to be up there."

"So she wouldn't budge?"

"Not an inch. And at this point, neither will Devans. The two old battle-axes are standing there, staring at each other, glaring into each other's eyes with absolute hatred, and then, well, they started moving."

"What do you mean, they started moving?"

"It's hard to explain, but it's sort of as if there's some sort of kinetic power in Sister Levi's eyes. She starts moving forward and Alida Devans, their eyes still locked, starts moving backwards. The nun is, like, moving Devans backwards with the sheer force of mental will."

"Like that scene in Star Wars Eleven," Kesh says.

"Exactly. The nun is moving forward, the other woman is moving backwards, away from the trophies, slowly, step by step, inch by inch, toward the edge of the stage. And then the next thing you know, Alida Devans, with a blood-curdling scream, falls off the edge of the stage into the front row."


"Yes. She literally topples backwards into the laps of a couple of her own poor Dec girls from Brooklyn Behemoth. And when she does, she falls just right, and she actually manages to break her arm. So she's lying in the front row, completely askew, drastically if not mortally wounded, and Sister Levi is standing up above her like a demented vision in her black habit, a grim smile on her face that would fright Beelzebub himself."

"Shades of Darth Maul. So what did she do?"

"What did she do? She took over the awards ceremony. Without another word she walked over to the microphone and began reading out the OI finalists and calling them to the stage."

"What about Alida Devans?"

"They just hustled her out of the school. Her two assistant tabbers, these two guys in black suits, gathered around her and led her out of the auditorium, and that was the end of her for the day."

"Did she ever come back?"

"Of course she came back. But not for the Moly. For Alida Devans, the Blessed Moly was over, and Sister Levi al-Chaim had triumphed. Alida's team might have won that one Duo, but Sister Levi had gotten her revenge. And that was the day that was forever after referred to as the Night of the Toppling Debate God."

Kesh shakes his head. "That's amazing. These coaches take this stuff way too seriously."

"They always did, and they always will. Thank God the kids aren't as bad about it."

"But that was the night you took your first tin, wasn't it?"

"It certainly was. David and I came in third, I'm happy to say, which meant that the forfeit had no effect on us, we would have placed in the top six anyhow."

"Did anyone else on your team win?"

"Ashley Ambrose. Did I ever mention her? She was our Original Orator. She had a piece on finances, about supporting forensics teams, which of course was very near and dear to our hearts, what with our funding being withdrawn and everything. She came in first that day. It was the most amazing thing I've ever seen. She broke down in tears, and you would have thought she had just won Miss America or something. She couldn't stop crying. You just wanted to hit her over the head with a salami, except there weren't any salamis around."

"No one else from the team won?"

Kumar shakes his head. "There was this one girl, Cartier, who usually won, but she busted out at the Moly. Which was really a shame because if I remember correctly she had this middle-aged boyfriend that was there with her that day. And our two Extempers, Mark and Noah, just didn't hack it that day either."

"And that was the end of the Speech team."

"No, it wasn't. I told you that."

"But up till now you've been saying that all anyone knew was that the team was running out of money."

"That's true."

"So what happened?"

"Well, obviously, we managed to survive. The team went on."

"But how?"

Kumar slaps the back of his neck. "These damned mosquitoes are killing me. Let's go inside."

"Aren't you going to tell me about the team and the money."

"Not until after the summer, my son."

"Why not?"

"Because Nostrum is going on hiatus, Mukesh. But it will be back next Fall, and all will be revealed at that time."

"I hate when Nostrum goes on hiatus."

"We all hate it, son. But that's just the way it has to be."

The two of them rise from their seats. The last of the dusk has disappeared.

And as father and son return to the bug-free environs of their family home, we bid a fond farewell to another season of Nostrum, where only a few questions remain unanswered:

What will happen to Tarnish, Amnea, Chesney, Jasmine, Had, Camelia, Buglaroni, "The Whale," Griot, Trat and Ellie, Cartier, Tara, Haircut, Seth, Quilty Prep, Algren-On-The-Beach, the Combat of Conquerors, Gloria, Disney, Wolf, Binko, Starbuck, Grandma, Sister Levi, Invoice, Lisa, and others too numerous to mention?

How the hell do we know? We only write this stuff.

Go to the next episode due after summer vacation, September 8, 1999, unless we get our act together early enough to start plugging along on September 1.