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Boston Weather: 34.0°F | A Few Clouds

Nerdy Conspiracy Endangers Cambridge

Column by Anders Hove
Opinion Editor

I don't know too many Cantabridgians with better taste in restaurants than my underworld Serbian friend, Radovan Icic. When he recommended I take my friend Fly D___ to the Glasnost Cafe in Harvard Square, I jumped at the chance. After a brief search in the rain, we arrived at the small cafe, which is tucked incongruously in the basement of a blocky red brick building on Cambridge Street.

As I folded up my umbrella, Fly D___ glanced apprehensively around the restaurant. Two black-tied waiters were flitting gracefully among tables where suave, middle-aged men and elegant-looking women sat holding subdued conversations in Russian and English. One of the waiters glanced at us dismissively, muttering something under his breath.

"I'm sorry, but if you have no reservations, I'm afraid we have no --" he began to say.

I felt a sudden pang of embarrassment. "Oh," I said sadly, "Radovan didn't say anything about --"

Suddenly the waiter's face lit up. "Friends of Radovan! Please, right this way."

We followed the waiter to a small table at which two elderly gentlemen were seated. Looking closer, I recognized the men as Radovan's brothers, Milovan and Ratko. I introduced the brothers to Fly D___. Unfazed, Milovan and Ratko seemed pleasantly surprised at our unexpected arrival.

Fly D___ is not the sort of woman to dwell on social pleasantries, particularly in the presence of food. After grabbing a plate from a nearby table, she began helping herself to a steaming mound of cabbage, and then ladled out a large serving of beetroot soup. As Ratko poured two fresh glasses of kvass, Milovan gestured toward a large loaf of bread at the center of the table, indicating that I should help myself as well. I did.

As usual, Milovan and Ratko were less interested in food than in subversive activities and conspiracy. While Fly D___ and Ihappily gorged ourselves, they discussed the latest news on a municipal election in Albania, and whether the Islamic Jihad would claim responsibility for the recent shootings in Charlestown. While I was entranced by the conversation, I felt strangely distracted. I heard a scratching noise from below me, and noticed that Fly D___ had stopped eating.

"Whoa! My chair just moved. This is weird," she said nervously.

On the floor there was a small metal grate or vent of some kind. From below it, two bloodshot eyes stared at us with a look of horror. A thin finger tugged on a wire that ran up through the grate. Who could this be?

Ratko dropped his fork and let out a long sigh. "This place used to be so fashionable. Its recent infestation has become intolerable," said he with a look of indignation.

"What's the deal?" inquired Fly D_<.>/P__

"I suppose you haven't heard about Glasnost Cafe's little problem with the members of the Student Information Processing Board," said Ratko. "The place is crawling with them. It's downright unsanitary."

"What are they doing here?"I asked.

Ratko gently fingered his blond mustache. "Somebody told me they are trying to control the restaurant by making all of its appliances operable over the Internet. They have only to lay down the cables, and then the Glasnost Cafe's functions can be performed remotely from a computer cluster."

At that moment, a chef stumbled out the swinging kitchen doors, grabbing a nearby waiter by the arm.

"I can't stand it anymore!" he shrieked. "There are two SIPB people making out in the crawl-space above the grease pit -- I'm sure of it!"

"Oh," I said, withdrawing the hand I had unwittingly let rest on Fly D___'s thigh.

"I have had enough on this nonsense," blurted the elder Milovan, his habitually pale face suddenly flush with pink. He stood abruptly, gesturing sternly to some tough looking men across the room. "Let us call in our old friends from the NKVD -- they know how to handle exterminations. It is time we fought these wretched wreckers with blood and iron!"

Five of the muscle-bound men leapt to their feet, shoving their chairs aside. "Please clear the area," said one in a low, firm voice. Ratko, Fly D___ and I obeyed, joining the crowd of onlookers across the street.

We had barely stepped onto the curb when five black sedans pulled up in front of the cafe. Several men of military bearing bounded out of the cars and into the building, buckets of soap and water in their hands.

Ratko smiled."The NKVD have lost none of their lan after all these years in exile. They knew exactly what it would take to wash those creatures away."

"Ugh!" exclaimed Fly D___, pointing to a low cluster of black forms near the back door of the cafe. "They're running away."

The creatures were crawling down the gutter and into a nearby storm drain. I could hear high, squeaky voices crying out in panic. "I have to fix my zwgc," said one. "Let's write some code," squealed another.

Milovan now stood in the entrance of the cafe, waving us back inside. "I think that's the end of them," he said as we drew near. He appeared ten years younger; the wrinkles were gone from his face, and his eyes glowed.

"In my day, fighting in the mountains with the Partisans, the enemy was real and human. I can't deal with these new people. How can you fight a nerd?" As Milovan spoke the color drained from his cheeks, and he resumed the appearance of a tired, elderly gentleman. From his pocket he produced a small book, and placed it in my hand.

"Chairman SIPB's Little Greasy Book," I read on the cover, then opened to the first page. "Rule number one: A good man dedicated to the cause and to his brothers will scorn all bathing." I broke off reading.

"Go on," said Fly D_<.>/P__

"All the other pages are blank," I said.

The night air was permeated with a fetid odor. Some of the huddled patrons were overcome, fainting or retching in the gutters. Others had already disappeared into side-streets.

Fly D___ looked disgusted. "I'm going to go eat at a real restaurant." I watched forlornly as she walked away into the night.