The following is a non-chronological, non-linear recounting of various fraternity rivalry stories. None of it is in order, and no two consecutive stories will ever be from the same rivalry, because like a fraternity rivalry, there isn’t much point in attempting to make sense of any of this. To paraphrase the poem The Charge of The Light Brigade, “Theirs is not to reason why FUCK THOSE GUYS!”
Once, a few years back, on a quiet and cool October weeknight in Columbia, Missouri, I sat, unassuming, in my fraternity’s TV room with two of my brothers. Planted on the middle couch of three with my laptop open, I silently cursed the laptop’s slow processing speed, as well as my present company. My brothers had affected said processing speed by going on what must have been a horrifying journey through the bowels of the internet to find a picture of male genitalia thats pubic hair was as lush as its sores were plentiful. The extent of their search, I estimated based on the incessant amount of spyware that I was forced to deal with, as well as the graphic pop up ads and random website redirections, would have made a Thai gimp wrangler blush.
My fraternity brothers had taken great care to find a crotch shot that was as dated as its subject was mangled and unkempt. When I had returned earlier from the bathroom, I was greeted with a desktop background that resembled a wet, furry rainforest intruding upon a dry, crooked fleshy isthmus dotted with rotting swamps. This was a relatively standard fraternity house reminder not to leave your laptop open in public. As brothers, we did each other little services like these all the time.
I sat there and frantically closed popup windows that were at best embarrassing and at worst possibly illegal. After all, I had no way of knowing if anyone in the ad “Altar Boys Finally Turn 18!” was actually 18 years old. While I played the worst game of whack-a-mole ever conceived and thought how I’d have given anything for a simple meatspin, an otherwise silent room, save for the television, my continuous clicking, and a few, “You guys are seriously fucking assholes,” was suddenly and startlingly disturbed.
A tall glass window to our left, one of three, exploded with a crash. Shards flew throughout the room, hitting us before we ever had a chance to take cover. Within the blink of an eye the room was covered in broken glass.
A moment passed as the three of us took stock of what had happened.
“What the FUCK,” exclaimed one of my brothers.
My fraternity brothers had taken great care to find a crotch shot that was as dated as its subject was mangled and unkempt.
On the floor near the window lay a half empty bottle of A-1 Steak Sauce. Why A-1 Steak Sauce? The explanation was likely no more complex than that it was the closest thing to the guy who threw it through our window when he made the impromptu decision to throw something through our window. Though there is some humorous, albeit unintentional, symbolism in the fact that the thrower used an actual condiment to spice up his otherwise boring night, the use of A-1 garnered no thought process further than, “Drunk, angry, grab this, throw there, FUCK YOU.” There wasn’t an intended message with the A-1 bottle like there would be with, say, a brick that reads “FUCK [Insert Letters]” in Sharpie, or a baseball signed, “You guys are fags, go die – Ozzie Smith.” Still, the A-1 bottle, being a completely random object thrown through a random window at a random time on a random night, had a pretty clear meaning, if not an actual intended message, that being: there isn’t a second of the day that we don’t fucking hate you. Fuck you.
We didn’t catch the guy who threw the steak sauce. He was already booking it back to his house as soon as the bottle left his hand. Of course, we knew where he had come from, so we sighed and informed our president of what happened. He went to have a “chat” with the other fraternity’s president as the rest of us went back to what we were doing. There was no discussion about revenge, because there was no discussion needed. These things don’t exactly take planning, as the fraternity who had just victimized us demonstrated perfectly. We knew we’d have to respond, and, in due time, we did. It was a window for a window. It was business as usual.
The scrape of the loosely gripped metal spoon in my hand against the bottom of a serving dish, at which I clumsily jabbed to collect my lunch in a hangover stupor, sent a splitting pain through already throbbing head. This was the usual result of Thursday night during which $10 bought me a downright irresponsible amount of drinks and few hours of indescribable fun, followed by many hours more of immeasurable pain. I shoveled Fried Friday goodness onto a styrofoam plate separated into three sections, whose purposes this lunchtime would be pizza rolls, pizza rolls, and pizza rolls, respectively. A fraternity brother approached me as I finished off the summit of my Totino’s mountain.
“Joe caught a possum,” he said, bemused.
“Yeah, there was a possum in the basement last night, we don’t know how it got in, but Joe trapped it in a cooler.”
I started to throw pizza rolls into my mouth, not considering that our kitchen was in our basement, and that the possum may have very well decided to take a nap in the serving dish that now held my beloved pizza rolls, or perhaps have filthy, greasy possum sex with a possum lady friend in it. I had not considered those possibilities, but even if I had, the hangover was of such proportions, and the deep fried pizza rolls so delicious, that I would have taken my chances.
“What’d he do with it?”
“He threw it in [house redacted].”
That was a conversation I had with a random brother on a random Friday. I can’t even remember which year of school that happened. A possum had somehow wandered into our house, and one of our woodsier brothers trapped the possum in a cooler that was almost certainly later used to store beer or jungle juice without so much as a casual hose down to rinse out the marsupial urine and feces, along with whatever else a possum excretes from its anal glands when it’s pissed off and frightened for its life. Some sort of cheesy discharge, I assume. I’d like to apologize to anyone who came down with Hill Cough, Rabies, Mud Fever, or Appalachian AIDS after one of our mixers.
After trapping the possum, drinking a few pints of whiskey and a dozen or so beers, that brother, simply because it seemed like the most prudent method of disposal, walked down the street, opened the front door of a rival fraternity house, tossed inside what I imagine was an extremely agitated possum, and strolled home to continue his evening.
Often times it takes a few seconds to realize when danger is heading towards you, even though that danger is readily apparent. You’re stuck in a “deer in headlights” type moment, attempting to process what is obvious, but still somehow cannot be comprehended. Fraternity rivalries are littered with incomprehensible moments.
When a full can of Diet Coke hung high in the air above Greek Town, glinting in the sunshine of the first warm spring day that year had seen, everyone on our roof deck was frozen, helpless but to foolishly marvel at a projectile we all knew was about to come hurtling down violently towards us.
We watched the can’s graceful rise, and admired it as it hung so still in the air at its peak. Then, as the can fluttered and turned downwards in its descent back towards Earth, towards us, we too came crashing back into reality, and hastily dove downward for cover, so as not to have our skulls crushed in by a fifty cent beverage.
With a loud crack and a deep thud, the Diet Coke can, which had been fired out of a water balloon launcher by a rival fraternity from across the street, impacted powerfully against the deck, narrowly missing three brothers, myself included, and splitting a wooden plank.
“HOLY FUCKING SHIT!” one of my brothers exclaimed.
The rest of us were speechless. We had all just survived attempted murder by soda can.
Diet soda sprayed all over as the ten or so brothers on the roof deck pulled themselves up. Had that can connected with any of its intended targets, someone at the fraternity house across the street would have been getting cuffed for assault or manslaughter. As one of the three people that can missed by about a foot, I can still recall what it felt like as it whizzed past me and shattered the wood beneath my feet. It felt fucking terrifying, in case you were wondering.
Had that can connected with any of its intended targets, someone at the fraternity house across the street would have been getting cuffed for assault or manslaughter.
“Go get the pool balls NOW,” someone ordered a frightened pledge.
We had a water balloon launcher of our own, and had been exchanging fire with our rival fraternity for the better part of an hour, much to the amusement of what had become hundreds of onlookers from other fraternities and sororities, sitting on their front lawns, enjoying both the first beautiful day of the year as well the sight of two fraternities damaging each other’s property and attempting to maim their rival’s members.
The situation had started innocently enough. Our rival was out on their back deck shooting water balloons at passersby, mostly girls. One balloon landed perilously close to a pledge brother of mine, and when he got inside the house he was furious, because…really just because. We grabbed our water balloon launcher, filled balloons as quickly as we could, and ran up to our roof.
A crowd of brothers quickly gathered to watch us return fire. A pledge was placed at the top of the roof, the most dangerous position, to spot our rounds and warn us when the other fraternity fired back. He manned his post like a champion. We were firing blind because of the roof in front of us, though that handicap was a fair trade because of the extra cover the it provided. Landing a shot onto our roof deck was a difficult proposition that, of all the times our rival attempted, they achieved with their deadliest projectile.
At first the exchange was in relative good fun, at least considering what our usual interactions entailed. The two fraternities fired water balloons at each other and laughed. However, as is always the case when fraternities are involved, the situation escalated.
I stood on the right side of our water balloon launcher, my left arm held as high as it could reach. Another brother stood on the left, mirroring my form. Behind us, a third brother crouched, one hand on the sling as he pulled it back an appropriate distance, the other hand cupping the payload within. We had been shooting balloons for ten minutes with no great effect other than a splashdown or two on our rival’s deck, the area from where they were firing.
They just wanted to watch someone get hurt. We were celebrating an accomplishment; they were celebrating the slaking of their sick, though understandable, lust for pain.
Carefully, the brother adjusted the sling to the left, then down slightly. He paused, then released. As with every other shot fired from both houses, the onlookers stood in silence and waited for the release. Once the balloon was in the air, their necks craned quickly to follow it, like a crowd watching a tee shot. The manner was repeated with this particular shot. What changed, however, was the reaction.
After every release there was a three second pause that was thick with anticipation. Until this shot that anticipation ultimately ended with ooohs and ahhhs, reactions to targets missed or nearly hit. At the end of this balloon’s flight, the hundreds that comprised our Greek Town audience erupted in cheers, laughter, and shocked gasps.
We had no idea what just happened as the front lawns around us raucously celebrated. We leaned over the railing of our roof deck and shouted down to another fraternity across the street, whose lawn was full of onlookers.
“What happened? What happened?”
“You just hit some kid in the FUCKING FACE!”
We began to celebrate the miracle shot with our neighbors. To be fair, the houses around us would have celebrated anyone on either side getting hit in the face. They just wanted to watch someone get hurt. We were celebrating an accomplishment; they were celebrating the slaking of their sick, though understandable, lust for pain.
The celebration would not last. A few moments later we heard an odd thud against the front of our house, and then another. The spotter pledge informed us that our rivals were no longer firing water balloons. Instead, they had started shooting food. Obviously we had no choice but to respond in kind. We ran down to the kitchen and grabbed anything that could be shot from a water balloon launcher. Eggs, huge industry sized blocks of butter, snack packs, fruit, and plastic cylindrical Kool-Aid containers comprised most of our newfound arsenal.
The two fraternities exchanged volleys of foodstuffs that would appall Red Cross workers and give Ugandans more cause to raise their fists toward the sky and scream, “Hasa diga Eebowai!” To more egregiously waste food than we were wasting, you would have to be an arsonist who specifically targets Cheesecake Factory restaurants during a dinner rush at which Vince Young is in attendance.
The front of our house was stained with food. The other fraternity’s parking lot, and the cars parked in it, all of which surrounded the deck from which they were firing, had become littered with the contents of our kitchen. The no man’s land in between the houses looked like a Sysco truck had overturned in it.
Then came the soda can. Things had gone too far, to be sure, but no one was willing to back down. At the same time the pledge who had been ordered to retrieve a set of pool balls from the first floor returned to the roof deck, across the street our rivals were loading a baseball into their water balloon launcher. We were trying to kill each other. Thankfully for the futures of everyone involved, the salvo ended before our deadliest shots could be fired. A police officer had pulled up in between the two houses, and every member, as well as everyone in Greek Town, did their best innocent “whistle and walk away,” as if there was nothing to see there. Of course, there was something to see there, specifically the hundreds of dollars worth of food that was strewn across sixty yards of real estate, the broken fraternity house windows and cracked car windshields, and of course the guilty looks on everyone’s faces.
It was just another day in Greek Town, and another random chapter of a fraternity rivalry.