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Opinion Editor's Arrest Result of Fascist Conspiracy

Column by Anders Hove
Opinion Editor

Someone must have been telling lies about me, for yesterday morning I was arrested without having done anything wrong.

My interrogators, Tuck and Nipp, refused at first to tell me what I had been arrested for. Lying in bed wearing only my DNA-patterned pajama bottoms, I was in no position to insist upon my rights. After dressing in my closet, however, I confronted the two men (plain-clothesmen, apparently), and demanded to hear the charge against me.

Nipp spoke first. "We are only lowly officials. We can't tell you anything. It is enough that you have been arrested." Tuck nodded politely as he pocketed a few of my pumpkin muffins.

"So aren't you going to clap me in irons and haul me off to the jail?" I asked. Tuck and Nipp abruptly shook their heads.

"Oh no. You will be allowed to go about your normal business. You will be notified of the progress on your case," replied Tuck. Nipp cut himself a large hunk of my cornbread, then reconsidered, unceremoniously dumping the entire pan into a large pocket of his black great coat. Before I could object, both he and Tuck abruptly shuffled out the door, leaving me alone to consider my strange "arrest."

What had I done wrong? I could think of nothing. There was only one thing to do: I had to stop by the Balkan Subversive & Revolutionary Bookstore and get to the bottom of this.

Finding the bookstore was difficult this time; a lot of vines and weeds had grown up around the cellar entrance, and the flickering neon sign was either broken or disconnected. Upon opening the thick oak door and peeping sheepishly inside, however, I knew I'd come to the right place. Tall stacks of yellowing, dust-covered volumes lined both sides of the aisles. Thin, tattered newspapers crammed every cranny. Cobwebs dangled from the dim light fixture, draping their splindly threads across centuries of literary strata. A loud, yet muffled mechanical noise emanated from behind the stacks of books; with every breathe I inhaled a clod of steam-soaked soot. Or maybe it was ash or dust - impossible to tell in that light.

"Is that you, Hove?" intoned a severe, crackly voice. I looked closer, and saw a bent figure emerge from behind a wrought iron railing. The vague form poked through the massive tome-heaps, slowly wending its way into the light. I could make out his creased features, twisted lip, and soot-caked hair. His contorted physiognomy wrinkled and throbbed as he talked in his thick, Serbo-Croatian accent. This was surely my old friend from the underground, Radovan Icic.

"You have been arrested, have you not?" he croaked.

"How did you know?"

"It's my trade to know. These people are not very dangerous, once you get to know them." Radovan reached his gnarled hand into a stack of books, pulling a thick, black volume from the center of the heap. He glanced at the title, then placed it gingerly in my hands.

"General Laws of the International Fraternity Protection Force,' by Neal D____, edited by Jimmy Hoffa," I read.

"Go on, open it," urged Radovan.

I opened. Two tired, drunk-looking flies staggered off the book's pages, desperately flopping themselves onto the floor. The paper reeked of stale beer. I turned randomly to a chapter entitled, "On Covering Up Botched Jobs."

"Occasionally, mistakes are made. As we discussed in the previous chapter, many of our members find it necessary to serve vast quantities of alcohol to under-aged women. The point of this, of course, is to inebriate them, thus facilitating their use as sex objects. Unfortunately, the success rate has never been perfected. Some women will escape, alternately getting mauled by drunk drivers, and themselves plowing drunkenly through crowds of innocents.

"There is no way to prevent these incidents without compromising the livelihood of our organization. The purpose of the Protection Force, therefore, is to cover up for fraternal organizations whose activities are responsible for the bloodshed. Though most of our members may not join in (and may even abhor) the activities of the few, the few must be protected to save the many.

"Our mission is clear: Under no circumstances should one of our members admit that alcohol is served by fraternal organizations. Indeed, we should have as little knowledge of what happens at these parties as possible. Their continued survival depends upon our ignorance, or, failing that, ingenious stonewalling."

Closing the book, I looked up at Radovan, who wore a huge, yellowed grin. "But Rado, everyone knows what happens at frat parties. What good is it to cover up?"

"As always, Hove, you've forgotten the administrators," he grunted. "They know nothing of MIT life, and they've staked the entire housing system on the good reputation of all fraternities, including the several miscreant ones among them. If one falls, they all fall."

"And my arrest?" I asked. "What does that have to do with all this?"

"It's this column you've just written," he cackled. "Surely you don't think Neal D___ is above covering things up before they've even happened. Publicity is everything."

"Ironic," said I.

Radovan frowned, "The important thing now is to get you off. Let's see about this charge..."

Anders Hove will return to the Balkan Subversive & Revolutionary Bookstore next week.