The Prefect Crime

A FORMER PROFESSOR of mine who specializes in English labor history (read: likes to talk about "the working class") raised his eyebrows last spring when I told him I was a prefect. In English boarding schools, he told me, prefects are older kids with the permission to whip the hell out of the younger kids.

I don't do that I do have my own special torture (urging the "fundamentally hellish" Science B-15 upon them). And I have one other quirk.

I want the Yard Plate.

The Plate is an inauspicious-looking platter that rests in semi-obscurity outside the Union reading room. One wouldn't think that a hunt for this plate would cook the veins of a junior prefect.

But it is quite a Hunt. Rain wiped out the original hunt when I was a first-year living in Grays West, but I've been through the last two with Stoughton South and Canaday F.


IN STOUGHTON last year, my entryway started off the Hunt with a cheer composed for the occasion. "Stoughton, Stoughton, Stoughton," they called out from the steps. "Everyone else is a "shithead."

The inspiring cheer notwithstanding, we lost out on having our names engraved on a bit of Harvard history. We lost the Hunt by a distance that is immeasurably small. A distance that I have only evoked once--to explain to my roommates how close I was to going to Brown. "You know," I asked them, "when you hold your thumb and index finger really close together, and you peek through the crack, and pretty soon it looks like they're touching, but they're not really?"

That's how close.

In fact, we were sprinting side by side with the other entryway behind Widener towards the Lamont garden. Their prefect knew the Crimson Key guy, identified and approached him and commenced with the celebration.

I, the lowly sophomore, did not know the Crimson Key guy. I screamed out our clue and waited for an answer. I let out a small squeak--I was too crushed for a full moan of agony.

I'VE LIVED with that agony for more than a year now. But this was another year. Another entryway. Another chance. I'm losing my shit, I know. But I was a man on a mission.

This year's group seemed pretty amenable to my proposal that we take The Plate. We got the first clue--Even when you find this clue you will still find yourself in the middle of a question. Easy, Canaday.

And then The lab with no weights or meaures--the language lab. Then a clue for Widener. Another for Phillips Brooks House. No problem.

Finally, a stumper. This is the only one left in the yard once you've hauled in all of your belongings. The answer, I now know, was University Hall. (That's U Hall to you, silly).

Before long, word got around that Grays Middle had taken the Plate. I hesitated to believe it (ignoring potentially false cries of victory is among the first rules of Hunting). But when the frantic frosh stopped sprinting through the Yard. I knew I had lost again. At least this time it was a clean loss. I was ready to take it like a man, go out for ice-cream, you know, maybe talk a little about Science B-15.

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