Investigating the Cunningham Fire: Part 2 of 3

It has been three weeks now since the Cunningham Fire. It has been three weeks since we all woke up to the smell of smoke in our otherwise-beautiful borough and to the fire moose going off as if its life depended on the Cunningham Fire being extinguished. Every time that I walk past the ashy and burned plot, I have a renewed surge of motivation for investigating the terrible blaze that has now affected the lives of so many.

Since my last investigation update, I have experienced many setbacks — too many for me to believe that their rapid succession was mere coincidence. I returned from the brink of death after the Swat Plague left me sickly and bedridden for days. I fought tooth and nail to survive a Micro midterm. I waved at someone in Sharples who turned out to not be the person I thought they were. I tried to catch a 900 CP Oddish on Pokémon Go, but it ran away from me after it escaped my first Pokeball. After I finished going through the five stages of grief for my Oddish that got away, I wondered: were these adversities just normal human experiences? Or was someone actively trying to sabotage my investigation?

But the adversities don’t stop there. On top of it all, it has been difficult to find new information implicating the frisbee team in this heinous arson. After my first round of interrogations that have since been called “overly-intrusive” and “why are you doing this,” I was banned from interacting with most of my former suspects and calling the Swarthmore College Whistleblower Hotline. But I’m not a weenie (most of the time). When the world turns its back on me, I fight back.

I had to rethink my investigation strategy. This time, instead of prodding into people’s personal lives in the dead of the night, I decided to go undercover as a frisbee player. To perfect my disguise, I spent hours camped out in Mertz second kitchen, watching over Mertz Field with a pair of binoculars. (Since the fire, the frisbee team has had to relocate their practices to Mertz Field.) I carefully studied the attire and the rapport of the Earthworms, perfecting my costume and mannerisms before eventually mustering up the courage to attend one of their practices. To make sure that nobody knew my real identity, I adopted the pseudonym of “Eggs” as a frisbee nickname.

And during the practice, as I carefully eavesdropped on every conversation I could overhear, a thought occurred to me. In these past three weeks, I had only been observing the team as an outsider. Even now, disguised as one of their own, I knew that I wasn’t really “in” on any of the team’s friendships or their culture. In fact, given my legal requirement to leave most of the frisbee team alone, I was most certainly was not “in.” But despite my ridiculous disguise and moniker of “Eggs,” I had never even made an effort to truly behave as one of their own. And to behave as a true frisbee player, I had to think like a frisbee player first.

Suddenly, it came to me. Everything made sense.

A frisbee was a plastic disc. An anagram of plastic disc is “last disc pic.” I asked a member of the team to show me their most recent team photo, and there, in the center, was a player wearing an “Earthworms Frisbee” shirt. After a little more of rubbing my brain cells together and trying to come up with a solution, I cracked the code.

“Earthworms Frisbee,” (and naturally “Warmothers Frisbee”) in turn, are anagrams of “Swarthmore Be Fires.”

Of course! The frisbee team was an elaborate front for Swarthmore’s secret, elusive, and exclusive arson club, and Cunningham Field was only their latest target. I pieced together all of the evidence I had, and the more I randomly jumped to conclusions, the more my new theory made sense.

Barring the infamous Willets and AP fires of Spring 2019, the last well-known Swarthmore fires happened in 1982 and 1983, when two of the former Mary Lyon buildings and Carnegie Library burned down, respectively. After such notorious projects that must have taken years of planning and scheming to execute, the Arson Club must have been afraid of getting found out. They needed a cover, an excuse to exist, a way to avoid suspicions for their heinous crimes.

Coincidentally (or NON-coincidentally), the ultimate frisbee team also emerged in the early 1980s. Although it is difficult to pinpoint its exact date of founding, it must have been around the same time as these massive, building-consuming fires demolished buildings of brick and stone. The Arson Club didn’t go underground — it came back up, in the form of a group dedicated to throwing around the old plasticskin around Cunningham Field.

As to why Earthworms and Warmothers, AKA “Swarthmore Be Fires” decided to set alight their own home turf, one can only guess. I suspect that perhaps they did it to avoid suspicion — after all, who would so sorely inconvenience themselves on purpose?

Every day that passes, I can taste the inevitability of my next breakthrough. I can hardly sleep at night with the anticipation of not knowing where the following day’s investigation will bring me. Two weeks from now, in the final installment of my harrowing tale, I expect to bring you the definitive answers to the mystery of the Cunningham Fire.


Anatole Shukla '22 is a senior from Fort Wayne, IN. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of The Phoenix.

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