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Have you read this week's epistle from Jules?

Episode 134

Would You Prefer a Novena?

When the elders gather they often speak of the Great Tournament that happened long ago, when Coyote walked the earth, and the People lived in the golden valley.

     The Great Tournament.

     The one that started on time.

     Some of the elders consider the Great Tournament one of the great forensics legends. Others think of it as one of the great forensics myths. Which raises the question of the difference between a myth and a legend. The clearest example, in a nutshell: my sexual prowess is a legend; your sexual prowess is a myth.

     'Nuff said.

     In any case, the Algren-on-the-Beach tournament will not start on time, and the spiritual electricity is at its highest possible wattage in the Algren cafeteria. All the students suited up and twirling their pens, all the coaches are looking at their watches and musing about the legendary Great Tournament, all the parent judges are staring at their blank legal pads wondering why their children didn't take up field hockey or curling. The clock above the scoreboard ("Let's Go Algren Anabaptists" -- the team nickname does lack a little of the savoir faire of your average Braves or Bulldogs) reads three thirteen.

     Thirteen minutes late. It is not like Nip Sazo to be thirteen minutes late. Not even Sazo can start a tournament on time, but thirteen minutes is way past his usual. As the veterans begin to wonder if perhaps Nip has run off with the school nurse, suddenly the cafeteria door bursts open, and Nip Sazo, with his carrot-top hair and his lively green eyes, storms into the room. He is carrying a clipboard and wearing his silver Algren-on-the-Beach-and-down-the-Alley bowling-team shirt, the tails untucked in his fire-engine red polyester pants. Beside him is Tilde Hyphen-Emdash, who has changed from her regular go-to-school jeans and shirt that she wore at registration into full Goth regalia, making her look like an extra on the Bride of Dracula movie set. She matches Sazo stride for stride as they march up the stairs to a small stage at the back of the room. Behind them, a small contingent of what can only be novice runners nervously shuttles their chubby, sweaty bodies in the wake of their coach and captain.

     The festivities will now commence.

     "Good afternoon, everyone," Sazo begins, speaking into the microphone that has been set up for him.

     The microphone isn't working.

     Sazo looks at Tilde, Tilde looks at a novice, and the novice hightails it up the stairs and backstage. The cafeteria is silent -- the students and coaches know that the tournament is about to happen, and they don't want to miss anything germane in Sazo's introduction -- until the sound of massive blocks of concrete falling to the ground is heard, followed by the roar of an ocean wave, followed by a high-pitched blast of electronic feedback.

     The mike is on. The novice has come through.

     "Good afternoon, everyone," Sazo begins again, "and welcome to Algren-on-the-Beach, where the strikes are far from spare and the spares are within striking distance, and where all your gutter balls lazarus out into the sweet spot."

     "This man is definitely into bowling," Frick Tarleton says softly to his brother.

     "Definitely into bowling in a very big way," Frank replies, similarly soft.

     "The shirt makes the man, of course."

     "Of course. I haven't seen a shirt like that since the Greater Podunk Open."

     "The Greater Podunk Open was a great tournament."

     "The epitome."

     "The tops."

     "The Eiffel Tower."

     "Tyrone Power."

     "Mickey Mouse!"

     "Ssshhhhh!" Jasmine hushes them. She does not want to miss anything.

     But there is not much to miss, as Sazo intones the Litany of the Debate Tournament.

     "This is our twenty-fifth annual tournament," he begins.

     "Oh, Lord, let me get me a COC limb," the assembled multitude replies.

     Call: "We've got forty-nine students from fifty-one states."

     Response: "Oh, Lord, let me get me a COC limb."

     Call: "The teachers' desks are a sacred institution."

     Response: "Oh, Lord, let me get me a COC limb."

     "The mess you make you will have to clean up."

     "Oh, Lord, let me get me a COC limb."

     "Eight minutes of prep for the Policy teams."

     "Oh, Lord, let me get me a COC limb."

     "And four is the score for the LD horde."

     "Oh, Lord, let me get me a COC limb."

     "The first two rounds are randomly paired."

     "Oh, Lord, let me get me a COC limb."

     "Skems under the door so don't be scared."

     "Oh, Lord, let me get me a COC limb."

     "Dinner in the caf, don't lose your ticket."

     "Oh, Lord, let me get me a COC limb."

     "The third round next could be a sticky wicket."

     "Oh, Lord, let me get me a COC limb."

     "Housing meets here, and don't get lost."

     "Oh, Lord, let me get me a COC limb."

     "If you go AWOL it will definitely cost."

     "Oh, Lord, let me get me a COC limb."

     "The Algren school is a smoke free zone."

     "Oh, Lord, let me get me a COC limb."

     "Get caught with a butt and you're on your own."

     "Oh, Lord, let me get me a COC limb."

     "Back tomorrow at eight, or you forfeit your round."

     "Oh, Lord, let me get me a COC limb."

     "Break to doubles all divisions, earn tin by the pound."

     "Oh, Lord, let me get me a COC limb."

     "The runners have skems and the ballots are ready."

     "Oh, Lord, let me get me a COC limb."

     "So when I give the word, you can come and geddy."


     "Hey, you can't rhyme everything. Let the tournament begin!"

     With that, the students rise out of their chairs and rush the stage, where the novices are standing with piles of schematics in their hands, hoping that the debaters converging on them will not strip them down to the bones.

     "I think she's punk," Frank Tarleton says. He and his brother have remained behind, knowing that one of their teammates will bring back a skem and that therefore fighting the crowd is pointless.

     "She's definitely Goth," Frick replies. "First of all, she's wearing a dress. Punks don't wear dresses."

     "Goths do wear dresses?"

     "Goths do wear dresses. And ankle high boots with three inch heels."

     "Ankle high boots with three inch heels would not be good for strolling around Stonehenge."

     "You could see her strolling around Stonehenge, though?"

     "Definitely strolling around Stonehenge."

     "Then she's a Goth. If you could see her strolling around the lower east side of Manhattan, she's a punk."

     "Like Buglaroni's girlfriend."

     "Buglaroni's girlfriend is a punk. But she's not Buglaroni's girlfriend anymore."

     "She doesn't look like a punk anymore, either."

     "She doesn't look like a Goth though."

     "Not like a Goth."

     "Like what, then?"

     "A Visigoth? A Gaul? A Mongol?"

     "You've obviously pinned her as a barbarian of some sort."

     "I don't have her pinned as a barbarian at all."

     "But you're associating her with barbarians."

     "Are yuppie lawyers barbarians?" Frank asks.

     "Definitely," Frick answers.

     "Then she's a barbarian," Frank declares.

     At which point Buglaroni returns to their table with a schematic, and the twins jump up and look for their names, their rooms, and their immediate future.

Thank God for Pets Dot Com

     The course of true love, and first rounds, never runs smooth.

     In the second-floor library of Algren-on-the-Beach, Nip Sazo is sitting at the computer terminal, while Tilde Hyphen-Emdash stands beside him, reading from the published schematic.

     "Debussy La Mer didn't show up for his round."

     "I gave him a ballot," Nip says, looking up at her. "I handed it to him myself."

     "He never got to the room where the round was."

     "When I saw him he was standing right in front of the room."

     "He never walked into it."

     Nip shakes his head. "This always happens." He makes an entry on the computer. "We'll change it by hand. Who did you send in his place?"

     "Fowler Susage."

     "Right." He types in the name. "What else?"

     "The round between FarnsworthCD and ToulouseJO didn't happen. Toulouse isn't here, so we ran the B flight. Which means we need to give Farnsworth a bye."

     "What happened to Toulouse?"

     "He didn't come to the tournament."

     "Dan Ryan checked him in. He paid for him. He got him a meal ticket."

     Tilde shrugs. "He didn't come."

     Sazo makes the change on the computer. "Anything else?"

     "These two rounds were switched." She hands Nip the sheet to show him the names of the debaters who, rather than hit their designated opponents, for some reason decided to hit each other instead, with the collusion of both their judges.

     "Where did this round take place?" Nip asks.

     "Room 2331."

     "There is no room 2331. Who was the judge?"

     "Someone named Myra Moon."

     Nip's fingers tighten on the sheet. "Myra Moon."

     "That's what the runner said."

     "Myra Moon is definitely not in the computer. Myra Moon hasn't been on the debate circuit for years. Is she still around?"

     "Room 2331 was empty when I checked it."

     "There is no room 2331."

     "Then I guess that answers that."

     Nip sighs and makes the entry into the computer. "She didn't say what school she was judging for, did she?"

     "Not that I know of."

     "All right. Then I'll enter her as independent. You're sure she's not here anymore?"


     "Then we'll keep this to ourselves. Maybe Tarnish won't notice. Anything else?"

     "That's it."

     "That's all?"

     "That's all the changes."

     He pulls his chair back from the desk. "Then that's only one ferret."

     "Only one."

     "That's the usual."

     "I hate to see you kill a poor defenseless animal."

     "It has to be done, Tilde. I told you. The tab room gods demand it."

     "What if we don't?"

     "Don't even think such a thing," he says sharply. "If you want a tournament to run, you've got to feed the demands of the gods. Get a runner to bring in the cage from the cafeteria."

     "Couldn't we kill something else instead? A spider, maybe? Or a mouse?"

     "You cavil at the nature of the animal, but not the nature of the action?"

     She straightens. "Kant would not do this," she says, playing her forensics trump card.

     "Kant never had to run a debate tournament. Bring me the sacrificial ferret. Now!"

     There is nothing for it. Tilde turns in the direction of the ballot table, to find a runner to perform the deed, while Sazo settles back in his chair.

     If it takes the letting of the blood of furry mammals to run a tournament, Nip Sazo is willing to let the blood of furry mammals. That is why he is one of the best tabmasters in the debate universe.

     And that is why furry mammals the world wide fear and respect him.


Is Tilde a bona fide Goth, or merely a Goth wannabe?

Does Peter Singer know about Nip Sazo?

Does Nip Sazo know about Peter Singer?

Anyone want another burger?

Is Nostrum really back for a while, or are we going to go off into another hissy fit?

Find out few if any of the answers in our next episode:"If brains were pants, you'd have your hands in your pockets."

Go to the next episode Dec 22, 1999.