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We walked up to the Pikes, who we suspected had stolen our tent pole after an altercation with one of our pledge brothers, and began looking for signs of authority. Our eyes rested on a guy sitting on the tailgate of a truck, watching the tailgate play out. We walked up and Mike, our president, introduced us. The other guy identified himself as the Pike pledge trainer.
“We’re missing a pole from our tent,” Mike said. “We heard you guys might have taken it.”
“Haven’t seen it. Have you checked the woods?” the Pike said, with a smirk that exposed the chaw resting in his lip.
“Fuckin’ douchebag,” Mike said under his breath as we started off towards the woods. “PCP go grab some more goats. It’s gonna be a long day for y’all.”
I ran off to the tent to grab some excess pledge bros as Mike walked toward the tree line and began to survey the land. I explained the situation to them, and pulled an unlucky few bastards from the tailgate to help in our quest.
We arrived at the tree line and began our search. We lined up and spread ourselves out at arms length, and began to sweep a small swath of the woods about 30 yards wide. We began our search like a lumberjack would begin to chop down a large tree with a small axe.
We started at the tree line closest to the Pike tailgate tent, and began to fan out on each side after the first sweep. We must have repeated that procedure 40 times. After the better part of two hours, the only things we had come across were used condoms, Bojangles bags, beer cans, liquor bottles, and the occasional Frisbee.
We were ready to give up. We were sweaty, tired, and smellier than a cyclist’s asshole after a summer commute to the library. Then, as I began to call off the search, my foot kicked something that went CLANK.
I looked down. As my eyes rested on what I had kicked, an intense feeling of victory rushed over my entire body.
“I FOUND IT MOTHERFUCKERRRRRRS!”
There was the pole, lying at my feet. The fucking holy grail of the tailgate. The thorn in the side of the lion for the last six hours. My ticket to redemption was there at my feet. I raised it above my head like a Tusken raider, as my pledge brothers shouted in similar fashion.
After a little celebration, we ran back to the tent like we had just discovered a pirate cave full of gold. I walked up to the leg with the missing piece, and as my pledge bros lifted the other legs of the tent, I fastened the pole underneath the last leg.
Cheers went round, and we passed around a few fifths of fireball and sank into the couches under the tent.
Our R&R was soon interrupted by a stern shank of a voice.
“What the fuck do y’all retards think you’re doing?” I recognized the lazy southern drawl of our pledge trainer immediately.
“Fuck man, can’t we chill for a minute?” I replied.
“No. You’re a fuckin’ goat. So get off your welfare-suckin’ asses and start cleaning up the grounds.”
We trudged off to grab trash bags and set off on our task, picking up beer cans and dumping them in our charity recycle trailer.
The day dragged on, and the crowds thinned inevitably, as the tailgaters began the trek to Williams Bryce Stadium to watch the evening game. The sun began to set, and the sky became streaked with pastel hues. It was another Saturday night down South. As the brothers all left for the game, my pledge class and I sat down in couches under the tent to guard our stuff, turned on the game on radio, and began to reflect on the day.
“Today was some crazy shit,” I said to my pledge brother Dylan.
“Yeah man. Honestly. I thought we were going to get wrecked. Up downs and picking up beer cans are standard-issue hazing. I thought it was gonna be an all day event,” Dylan said.
“I think we lucked out,” I said, as I popped the top on a Busch Light. “Cheers to no more fuck ups with this tailgate.”
“Cheers,” they all said as we clinked cans.
We sat and drank and reminisced on the day’s events for what seemed like hours, until it was dark. Slowly but surely, the partiers from the game began to trickle back in the main gates of the tailgate lot. Soon it was filled with people, coming back to celebrate the win by pounding drinks till they inevitably black out.
A few hours of this, and everyone was shitfaced. All of the brothers were so drunk that they were harmless. I had wandered off with a girl named Allison from my dorm, and was gaming her up for a pity beej in the huge clearing of gravel that the fraternity tents encircle. We stumbled around, talking about the absurd stories of the day, and eventually stopped near a group of Pike brothers that were loudly laughing near their bar, and a cluster of couches. Oddly enough, the bar and cluster of couches had been set outside the tent.
I stopped listening to Allison, and trained my ear on their conversation.
One older Pike was loudly laughing about something relating to last week. It was hard to pick up, but two words I distinctly heard were “tent” and “pole”. I kept listening, and I overheard the brother’s narration about how he had some of his pledges steal our tent pole. The circle of brothers began cracking up hysterically when he got to the part about our little search party, and how stupid we looked celebrating our find.
It was at about this point that something inside me snapped. I think it was the thin thread of sanity I was hanging on to for the past two weeks. I looked around with a blur of red haze distorting my vision – some sort of possession had overtaken me. I calmly walked away from Allison, and began walking toward the Pike bar in some sort of dreamlike daze. I reached the bar with the couches clustered around, and stared at it for what was only a few seconds, but seemed like an hour. The large “Pi Kappa Alpha” letters gleamed in the moonlight.
I licked my lips as a sort of psychotic ambition tingled across my body..
To be continued…