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Book & Snake
Excerpt from The Siege

Book and Snake

Photo credit is Scott Meacham

The building on the edge of campus could be mistaken for a mausoleum erected beyond the boundary of the cemetery across the street.
     It's not.
     Some assume it is a mock courtroom for the nearby law school.
     It's not that either.
     Although the structure's ionic columns might suggest the imperial, like a treasury, or evoke the divine, like a temple, the word "tomb" is the tag attached by the community. The building puts out no mat and welcomes no stranger—the classic style was chosen not to invite attention, but rather to feel as familiar to passersby as the profile of the elm tree that shades the marble steps leading up from the street.
     The scale is deceptive. The neighboring edifices are large and imposing, with Gothic flourishes or neo-classical grandeur. In comparison, the tomb feels more stout and diminutive that it actually is.
     The building's unadorned back is the only face—a calculated snub—that it reveals to the college. The sides are rectangular planes of marble blocks staggered in a brick pattern from ground to roof. There are no windows. In front, paired entry doors are recessed below a shallow gable at the top of eight stairs. That portal, trimmed in stone, framed by columns, overlooks the ancient plots of a graveyard that counts among its ghosts the remains of Eli Whitney and Noah Webster.
     An iron fence, the posts smithed in the form of slithering serpents, separates the building from the public sidewalks on the adjacent streets.
     The architecture is symbolic. The few decorative elements are symbolic. The site is symbolic. What happens inside the building is, at least occasionally, symbolic.
     This fine spring day, though, the crowds gathering behind the hastily established police lines aren't gawking because of any symbolism.
     The curious are gathering because of the rumors of what is going down—that some students might be locked inside the mysterious building.

The spectators don't know it yet, but the reality is they are there because the building is a damn fort.

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