Last night, my friend Hanna invited me to a punch event at the Quabot Club Dining Society, the inbred offspring of Quincy House and Cabot House.
Hanna told me I was one of a mere 6,700 undergraduates to be punched for all 66 inter-house dining societies at the exact same time. I will never forget seeing 66 unopened automated emails from Dean Katherine O’Dair personally inviting me and the lucky few members of the [fas-all-announce] email list to attend.
A few notable club names came to my attention: Wunster, Kirkerett, and Pfurrier to name a few. But my father, my father’s father, and his father before him were all members of the Quabot Club. Unless the diamond-encrusted portrait of my great-grandfather hanging on the ceiling above my bed is lying to me, I do believe my time has come as well.
Hanna showed up at my door, and a look of horror engulfed her face. “What the hell are you wearing?” she yelled, grabbing my shirt. It’s Chaucer Night, so Hanna had suggested we wear period clothing to meet the occasion.
In a last-ditch effort to fit in, I had cut a triangle hole in the neck of a Kohl’s t-shirt to make what loosely resembled a medieval tunic. This was a mistake, as my shirt was a breathable, 70 percent polyester blend not readily available in the 14th century. We were already late, so Hanna insisted we get going.
We arrived at the Quabot Club and knocked on the front door. “Radix malorum est cupiditas,” said a voice on the other side.
“Greed is the root of all evils,” Hanna translated without hesitation. The door opened.
“How did you know that?” I asked.
“‘Pardoner’s Tale.’ Child’s play,” she responded, smugly. Behind us in line, a potted plant made a slight rustling noise in the breeze and, still, miraculously made it inside.
The Quabot Club smelled distinctly of incense and bubonic plague. The room was dark, illumined by only a few candles. The DJ was playing Hanna’s favorite mixtape, “Slow Jamz 1387-1400.” Everyone was eating HUDS specialties: Red Spice Chicken, non-trademarked Toasty O’s, and that warm, watery residue left over when the person in front of you maxes out the hot chocolate machine.
Hanna and I came across one kid wearing a long, blue robe and a hood that covered everything except for his mouth. “I like your costume. Are you supposed to be the Reeve or something?” I asked.
“I am the Man of Law, you daft plebeian,” the mouth responded. “The Reeve’s surcoat is red.” The mouth smirked. “I hope you’re aware that only 100 percent of people make it in,” it said, sneering. “I guess you can say it’s… in our blood.” I turned white with terror.
Hanna took me aside and clasped my shoulders. The look in her piercing eyes said it all. “Just… just please try not to say anything,” Hanna pleaded. “Or if you do, at least use iambic pentameter. I’m trying to look good here.” I was taken aback. My 10th grade knowledge of “The Canterbury Tales” had never been more important.
Suddenly, the candles dimmed and a podium appeared at the front of the room. A man wearing a fake white beard approached the microphone and began to speak. “It is an honor to be your featured speaker for this week’s meeting of the Quabot Club,” he said. I immediately recognized the man as none other than Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana and turned to tell Hanna. Deeply insulted, she instructed me to refer to Khurana only as Geoffrey Chaucer for the rest of the meeting.
“Tonight, I see we have a new addition to the Quabot Club,” said Dean of the Co-Geoffrey Chaucer, pointing in my direction. The room filled with gasps. “Not to worry, my friends. As is longstanding Quabot Club tradition, all new inductees must read from ‘The Canterbury Tales’ to prove their worth. Or not. Whatever.”
I stepped up to the podium and Chaucer slapped down a massive, dusty manuscript of his very own magnum opus in front of me. He flipped open to the Pardoner’s Tale. Hanna winked at me from the back of the room, and I immediately understood. I began reading in my head until I felt Chaucer’s warm, inviting hand wrap around my shoulder. “No, no. Out loud. So everyone can enjoy.” Without looking, I recited, “Radix malorum est cupiditas. Greed is the root of all evils.” My reading was met with thunderous applause from the crowd below—everyone except for the Man of Law, who crossed his arms and pouted in disapproval.
“My boy,” Chaucer said, caressing my cheek. “Thank you for that wonderful rendition. But I must ask—what have you learned from your experience?” I wasn’t really sure how to answer that question. “I guess… I guess I don’t really know what to say,” I responded. “I feel… in a way… transformed.”
The music stopped in a record scratch. Geoffrey Chaucer removed his hand from my face, and a single tear rolled down his cheek. Hanna ran up to the podium and wrapped her arms around me. “You did it! I can’t believe you did it,” she exclaimed, tears welling in her eyes. Everyone knelt on the floor and bowed their heads in my direction, humming in unison.
Chaucer placed his hand on my shoulder and whispered in my ear, “You were transformed by your experience. That’s all I ever really wanted.” He began to back away from me.
Then, all at once, he vanished into a flock of white doves, fluttering to the ceiling. I’m not exactly sure what happened, but I felt a quiver in my heart as I walked home from the Quabot Club that night. All was well.