Rummaging through my mailbox last week, I almost missed an envelope wedged between a Victoria’s Secret catalog and my new edition of Gambling Debt Monthly (this month: “Never Mess With the Russians”). The return address listed none other than Stephen Joel Trachtenberg. Inside, on yellow polka-dotted stationery, was a beautifully handwritten note. It read as follows:
Dear Ben, I was browsing through some old Hardy Boys books and thought of you. I must see you before you graduate, and I want to do something memorable. Let’s go fishing, just the two of us. A little baseball on the radio, a six-pack and one last chance to shoot the breeze. What do you say, old chum? Your Buddy, Stephen Joel Trachtenberg
After all we’d been through together, I couldn’t resist a final jaunt into the wild. I scrawled Trachtenberg an affirmative reply and arranged a date. At the appointed time, he barreled down my street at the helm of his cherry red Testarossa and stopped on a dime in front of my door. “I paid for this baby with the money saved by cutting funding for that ridiculous dorm newspaper program!” Trachtenberg shouted exuberantly, sticking his head out the window like a golden retriever. “Hop in to the anti-intellectual mobile!”
Three hours later, Trachtenberg and I were on a small fishing boat somewhere in West Virginia, sipping on Belgian imports and munching on delicious turkey sandwiches. We reminisced for a while, and I apologized for my minimal column output of the past year, but Trachtenberg waved me off. “You’re lazy and I’m greedy,” he laughed. “We’re just a couple of deadly sinners, aren’t we? Two peas in a pod!
“Too peas in a pod!” he repeated as he reached into a burlap sack nestled in the corner of the boat and grabbed two sticks of dynamite, the color of which matched his Ferrari. I shot him a disapproving look and shook my head like a schoolmarm. “What, you’ve never heard of dynamite fishing?” asked Trachtenberg. “I have,” I replied. “I just thought the tranquility of fishing was part of its appeal, plus the timeless satisfaction of eating your catch.” Trachtenberg ruminated for a moment. “Nah, I like it when I throw in the dynamite and all the fish get killed, and then I pay someone to cook ’em for me.”
“You know,” he started as an explosion caused fish to rain down on the boat, “I remember when you were just an impressionable freshman smoking pot in your dorm room, hoping to God that University Police didn’t knock on your door and kick you out.” He chuckled. I’m gonna let you in on a little secret, Hart. I used to drop so much acid at Yale that they called me Stephen Joel Triptenberg. But in the ’70s and ’80s, I really got into Machiavelli. You know, the whole “It’s better to be feared than loved” bit. Well, that’s why GW arrests peaceful protesters, kicks freshmen out of their dorms for absurd reasons and all the rest of it. Sometimes I wonder how I got here … Draconian policies were so not my bag back in the ’60s. I don’t agree with what my administration does sometimes, but ‘The Prince’ tells me it’s the way I have to do it. I like to think that if Machiavelli were alive today, he’d be a college president.”
Trachtenberg stared plaintively at the water and verdant shoreline for a few seconds. Then his head snapped up and he assumed his usual confident tone. “Oh, how did we get onto this subject? Let me tell you about this new dorm we’ve got planned for 2009. We’re going to tear down the Pan-American Health Organization and charge $1,300 a month for a penthouse with breathtaking views, plus your own personal concubine.”
Absentmindedly grabbing a fish that was still flopping around, Trachtenberg bit into it and chewed the bloody scales thoughtfully. “Of course, we’re going to be depending heavily on people like you to contribute your hard-earned money to GW in the future.” He kept a straight face for about five seconds before we both broke up laughing and gave each other high-fives to celebrate his hilarity.
“You’re such a kidder sometimes!” I exclaimed. “But seriously, it’s getting dark. We should probably head back to Washington. I didn’t catch any fish, but I had a fun time, Stephen. And if I ever tease you, it’s mostly because it’s easy.”
“I know, Ben. I know.”
A week later, I received another envelope from GW. Inside was a $100 bill for “Fishing Trip Fee” that had been due the day before. I couldn’t help but smile at the gall of Trachtenberg. As I grinned and recalled all the memories of the past four years, something possessed me to jump into the air. With my hands reaching for the sky, I froze in mid-air and the words “A Ben Hart Production,” suspended in black block letters, appeared in front of me. Then I rode off into the sunset on a white steed. And that’s the end of that chapter.
-The writer, a senior, is a Hatchet humor columnist.
This article appeared in the April 29, 2004 issue of the Hatchet.