“Swensen. Swensen, tell Fischbein that joke.”
“Yes,” Mr. Fischbein said, exaggerating his interest in his usual condescending fashion. “Please, tell me your precious joke.”
“Guy goes to Boston,” Mr. Swensen said, a grin spreading on his face. “Walks out the trains station into the first bar he sees, hungry for seafood.”
Mr. Fischbein shook his head and grimaced with impatience.
“And he asks the bartender, Hey, Barkeep, where can I get scrod in this town?”
There is a flutter of laughter.
“Bartender gets this look on his face. He glances up and down the bar, and says, ‘Buster, I have been asked that question in many ways, but never in the plu-perfect subjunctive.’”
Mr. Fischbein spit out his coffee.
“You see,” Mr. Fischbein coughed. “This is what I mean.”
He coughed again.
“Rascals,” he said as he pulled his handkerchief out to wipe his mouth.
“Dolts. Unprofessional —” he stopped himself. After a beat, he stamped his foot and wagged a finger at none of them in particular.
“There is no such thing as the plu-perfect subjunctive!”
All the reporters broke into laughter. A few of them exchanged money.