“Come on, Pebbles!”

          “Hurry up, you chubby fuck!”

          “You get to ride with us tonight!”

          “Don’t worry. We’re gonna treat you real good!”

          “Are you ready to use that condom in your pocket?”

          “Maybe I should use it on you!”

          “Get in the car!”

          “Get your ass in there!”

          “Put this blindfold on!”


          “Tighter, you fucking bitch!”

          “This is it Pebbles! This is the night it happens!”

          “Are you ready to prove to us you want to be here?”

          “Are you ready for the Night of the Bull?”

          We all grunted and mooed like cows.

          “Creed Speak, you piece of shit!”

          The Night of the Bull was always the worst night of hazing. Blindfolded pledges were driven out to the woods and force-marched through bushes, shrubbery, and a small creek with water up to their waists. Dirt was kicked on them and branches were used to scratch and strike them. If a pledge let go of the pledge’s shoulders in front of him, he was cursed at and cruelly abused by drunk brothers. The force march was periodically halted so that blindfolds could be removed and a brief ceremony could take place in which the pledges were taught the secrets of Upsilon. During these rituals, the Executive Officers wore red and white priestly-looking robes as they solemnly read from the sacred texts of the fraternity. After the final ceremony, the blindfolded pledges were herded together near a large bonfire. It was time to face the bull.

          The Pledge Marshall stepped forward to command his pledges. By all accounts, Slackjaw was not a threatening guy. He stood at about 5ft 9, had short brown hair, a pronounced chin, and a squirmy way of talking. His build was average and his personality tame. The fact that he was not intimidating reduced the authority of his position, but that didn’t really matter tonight. A mouse could have played his role and would still have been menacing.

“Alright, pledges!” he yelled. “I want you to pull out the condoms you have in your front pockets!”

          His voice was followed by the terrifying noise of a large bull mooing in agitation. Hooves sounded on metal and the animal grunted in frustration.

          “Shut that bitch up!” screamed a brother.

          “Settle him down!” yelled another. “Settle him the fuck down!”

          “Are you ready?” the Pledge Marshall hollered at the pledges. “Are you ready to prove you’ll do anything to join Upsilon? Are you read to fuck a bull?”

The bull mooed louder in agitation and his hooves clanged on the metal surface again. I watched the blindfolded pledges and some of them flinched in fear.

          “Drop your pants!” yelled the Pledge Marshall. “Drop your pants and start jerking your little dicks right now to get them hard!”

Blake and I continued to stomp on the flatbed of Mitchell’s truck. My combat boots were particularly effective at simulating the sound of hooves stomping on metal. Mitchell sat in the front seat of the truck and was controlling the stereo. Loud grunting and mooing sounds continued to drone from the audio speakers. It was all an act and we were the starring actors.

          “Look at Curtis jacking his little dick!” Blake said to me with a giggle.

          “Look at Zach!” I exclaimed. “Asians really do have tiny fucking cocks!”

          About half the pledge class had dropped their pants and were manually stimulating themselves or trying to put condoms on their limp dicks. Those that did not stood like statues with hands behind their backs. Some did this defiantly, as if to say, I don’t care what you do to me now. You showed me the rituals and the ceremonies, so Hell Week is over, right?

 Not even close. They had two more days of Hell Week left and tonight was going to be the worst they had seen yet.

          “You fucking bitches!” a brother suddenly screamed.

          “You fucked up!” yelled another. “You fucked up bad!”

          “You’re the worst fucking pledge class I’ve ever seen!”

Cursing brothers descended upon the blindfolded pledges like a pack of wolves. Many of the young men tried to pull their pants up and were prevented from doing so by brothers who dragged them off into the night.

          “Fuck you, pledge!” brothers were yelling. “Fuck you!”

          “You fucking suck! You fucking suck!”

          “You screwed up, man! You fucking messed up!”

Some of the pledges were yelled at for failing to drop their pants.

          “What the hell, Curtis? Don’t you want to be a brother of Upsilon?”

          “I thought you had heart, bitch! I thought you had fucking heart!”

“You’re supposed to be willing to do anything!”

Others were berated for dropping their pants.

          “You sick fuck! Do you think we want pledges who have sex with farm animals?”

          “You fucking idiot! Did you really think we wanted you to fuck a bull in the ass?”

          Others were yelled at for the failure of the pledge class to act like a cohesive unit.

“Unity, bitch! Unity! You’re supposed to act like a member of a brotherhood. We don’t want loners!”

          Yelled at, cursed at, and berated, the pledges were all shoved and dragged back to the cars. Pebbles was forced to ride in Moody’s SUV so that my roommates and I could ruthlessly haze him. He sat in-between Blake and me in the backseat, Backstreet was riding shotgun, and Moody was driving the vehicle. Sadistic heavy metal music blasted from the speakers as we all hazed the blindfolded pledge with venomous words of cruelty.        

“What the fuck is wrong with you, Pebbles? Don’t you get it yet?”

          “You don’t belong here!”

          “You don’t deserve to be in our fraternity!”

          “Do you fucking understand me? You’re not wanted!”

          “YOU’RE NOT WANTED!”

          “Creed Speak!”

          We were drunk, we were emotional, and we believed the ends justified the means. The pledge did not belong in the fraternity we were trying to build because his presence among us would inhibit our brotherhood from achieving social status ascension. If we were ever going to stop Pebbles from becoming an Upsilon brother, then it was now or never. Now or never.

          “We don’t want you here!”

          “You don’t belong! You don’t fucking belong!”

          “Why the fuck would we want you wearing our letters!”

          Overwhelmed with raw emotion, Blake suddenly threatened, “I fucking hate you, Pebbles! I fucking hate you! I’ll kill your family!”

          Blake was an adopted child, so this was probably the cruelest thing he could think of saying to someone. It was enough. The pudgy-faced pledge ripped off his blindfold and started squealing like a stuck pig.

“Stop! Stop! Stop!” he cried out with tears in his eyes. “Let met out of the car! Let me out! Stop the fucking car! Now! Now! Now!”

          Moody pulled the white SUV to the side of the road and Blake climbed out of the vehicle. Pebbles scrambled out behind him and staggered away, his upper-body violently convulsing with the sobbing spasms of a broken man.

          We did it! We fucking did it!

          Now all we had to do was figure out how to get him back into the car. It took some coddling, but Pebbles eventually returned to the vehicle because he realized we were in the middle of nowhere, and because of his blindfold, the young man had absolutely no idea how to get back home.

Blake slid over to the middle seat next to me and Pebbles reluctantly climbed back in the SUV. The vehicle pulled back onto the road and we resumed our journey home. No one spoke a word until Backstreet turned around to face the tormented pledge.

          “Are you quitting?” he asked.

          Pebbles stared out the window, refusing to make eye contact with any of the assholes in the car who had treated him with such degrading contempt. But he nodded his head and replied with a sullen whisper of a voice.

          “Yes,” he said, “I’m quitting.”

          We rode the rest of the way home in silence. There was no need to haze the pledge anymore. Our mission was a success.

          The ambiance of the Upsilon House was extremely antagonistic to pledges when we arrived. A few of the young men were lying in the gravel parking lot where brothers cursed and kicked rocks on them. Others had been sent under the courtyard deck to play Cockroach. This meant they were forced to slither around the crawlspace and stick little twigs up through the cracks of the wooden deck floor as they called out in high-pitched voices, “Don’t step on me! I’m a little cockroach!” Brothers would stomp and spray the hose wherever the twigs appeared. Thirty yards away, pledges were defending the fire pit from assault by brothers who were trying to put it out with water. Other brothers furiously warned the pledges that if the fire burned out, they would be blackballed from the fraternity. In addition to these hazing activities, a handful of pledges were being subjected to grueling calisthenics in the basement.

          Cruelty can spread like fire among men. Within seconds, the contagious atmosphere of hazing sucked in Blake and Backstreet. As Moody and I led Pebbles through the courtyard, my roommates followed closely on his heels.

          “You’re fucking worthless!” Blake yelled.

          “That’s right!” Backstreet screamed. “Quit, bitch!”

          “We don’t want you!”

          “Get the fuck out of my fraternity!”

          “You’re a fucking loser, Pebbles! You’re a fucking piece of shit loser!”

          Moody mumbled to me in a disapproving tone. “This shit is getting out of hand. I don’t want anything more to do with this.”

          My friend did not follow me into the basement, and once inside, I also stood back from the hazing. I felt guilty and ashamed of what we were doing. Things were spinning out of control and I was to blame more than anyone else because it was I who had been the main architect of the exclusionary policies that the younger brothers were trying to enforce. For the first time, I began to question what we were doing and what we were trying to accomplish. More importantly, I began to question what moral cost I was willing to pay in order to achieve our goal of making Upsilon the best fraternity of campus.

          Pebbles entered the basement and headed towards the library. His face looked ghostly pale, as if he was returning from a battlefield rather than the ceremonial hazing session of a college fraternity. I felt pity for the young man and wanted to end his suffering, but with the wolf pack of Blake and Backstreet right on his tail, no mercy was in sight.

          My roommates were in an uncontrollable rage. When the pledge entered the library to gather his belongings, Backstreet and Blake ripped away his two bags and hurled them out into the main chamber. The bags hit the wall and fell to the ground with thuds.

          “GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE!!!” Backstreet screamed in the pledge’s face.

          Blake chased after one of the bags and kicked it towards the door. With extreme hatred in his black eyes, he whirled around to face the stunned pledge and pointed towards the door.

          “GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY HOUSE!!!” he screamed.

          Pebbles furiously swept up his bags and marched out the door, fully prepared to leave the fraternity and its asshole brothers behind him forever. Midway through the courtyard, the pledge suddenly came to a halt.

I don’t know why he stopped. Maybe Pebbles realized he had come way too far to quit or perhaps he dug deep within himself and found a source of pride that refused to let assholes like us bully him out of the fraternity.

          When my roommates saw Pebbles standing still, they nearly charged out the basement door, but Bishop had already approached the pledge.

“Pebbles,” he asked, “are you okay?”

The teary-eyed young man stared uneasily at the brother and did not reply.

“Pebbles, I’m not gonna haze you. That’s not who I am. I just want to know if you’re okay.”

My roommates and I watched them together, unable to hear their words, but it was clear even from a distance that the President of Upsilon was nurturing the young pledge with kind words of encouragement.

The guilt I was feeling vanished and my anger instantly returned. I remembered that this battle of wills being waged with Pebbles was part of a much larger war of ideology being fought against the older brothers. And in every war, innocents must always suffer.

Lewis joined the conversation and took Pebbles somewhere inside the house to shelter him from the hazing. Meanwhile, Bishop entered the basement to talk to us.

          “Listen up, guys,” he said. “I don’t want Pebbles to be hazed anymore tonight. I’m calling an end to all of this. Tonight’s activities are over.”

          “Fuck that and fuck you!” Blake cursed.

          He kicked open the basement door and stormed out into the courtyard. Backstreet and I followed our roommate, equally incensed by the intervention of the two brothers. Time and time again, meddling older brothers obstructed the progress we were working so hard to achieve.

          The president hurriedly chased after us and spoke with a degree of politeness that only a natural pacifist could muster in this type of heated situation.

          “Blake,” he asked, “can I please talk to you guys? Can you come down to my apartment?”

          “Yo, I ain’t got shit to say to you,” Blake snarled.

          “There’s nothing to talk about,” Backstreet agreed.

          Our president turned to me with pleading brown eyes and said, “Bryce? Please. This is important.”

          I looked at my roommates and sighed. “Alright. Fine. Let’s get this over with.”

          With sullen expressions on our faces, we followed Bishop into his fraternity house apartment and sat down on the living room couches. The muscular shoulders of my roommates were rapidly moving up and down as they huffed and puffed from the visceral display of cruelty I had just witnessed. Bishop also noticed their heavy breathing.

          After a few seconds of hesitation, he asked, “Not that this matters…and I’m not saying your behavior tonight was affected by it…but are the three of you on steroids?”

          “Fuck you,” Blake replied with a sneer.

          Backstreet snorted and shook his head. “You would think that, wouldn’t you?”

          Blake and Backstreet resented Bishop for asking this question, but in his defense, the three of us clad in camouflage pants and black wife beaters were not very shy about flexing our muscles which along with our aggressive hostility did fit the juicer stereotype. But none of us were on steroids at this point in time and I was the only one in that room who had even touched juice before.

          I made eye contact with Bishop and said, “No, we’re not on steroids and I’m insulted that you’d even ask me that.”

          “Well, you’re all big guys…and tonight…” Bishop paused, searching for the courteous way to say that our actions personified the roid rage mentality.

          I spared him the trouble. “Look, man. You know we go to the gym every day, we supplement, and we eat right.”

          “Yeah, but you guys are all so muscular. And Bryce—you look like you’ve put on twenty pounds since the beginning of the semester.”

          “I probably have put on twenty pounds, but I was just putting back on size that I lost from breaking my hand this summer. Remember? I broke my hand on some kid’s skull.”

          For some reason, I thought it might serve to my advantage to remind Bishop that I was not disinclined to punching people in the face with whom I was quarreling, but the topic of violence reminded Bishop of something else that increased his suspicions.

          “What about the other night?” he asked. “When you and Blake were destroying the basement, what was that all about?”

          I exchanged a quick look with Blake and we shared an evil laugh. “Nah, man,” I said, “that was nothing…we were just really wasted that night.”

          Shifting uncomfortably in his seat, Bishop decided to try a more direct approach by asking, “Did one of you guys threaten to kill Pebbles’ family tonight?”

          “Hell no,” I immediately lied.

          “That’s total bullshit,” Backstreet declared.

          Blake did not respond. Leaning forward with his elbows resting on his knees, he sat quietly on the couch and attempted to exhibit the composure of an innocent man. He might as well have been twiddling his thumbs and whistling.

          Bishop did not appear convinced by our denial of the allegation, but at this point I didn’t give a shit because the alcohol I consumed earlier in the night was wearing off and my patience was running thin.        

          “Look, Bishop,” I said, “I know you’re a man of your principles and that you don’t personally agree with hazing or exclusionary policies. But what happened tonight was as much your fault as it was ours. We tried to get these guys out by blackballing them and then you went over our heads on a technicality to save Goldman.”

 “Yeah,” Blake said, “You should’ve known this was gonna fucking happen.”

          “But it’s not right,” Bishop replied with the fervent conviction of one who believed he held the moral high ground. “It’s not right to treat people this way.”

          “Not right for whom?” Backstreet asked. “It might not be right for them, but what we did tonight was for the good of the fraternity.”

          “But we shouldn’t have to compromise our principles.”

          “What principles?” I challenged. “The day I swore an oath of allegiance to this fraternity is the day I decided to place a higher value on my brothers than anyone outside our brotherhood. That’s the principle I’m trying to uphold and stand by.”

          We continued to argue our positions back and forth, but for both sides it was a hopeless effort. At the end of the day, when it boils down to it, there is no common ground between liberal idealists like Bishop who believe there exists some great universal humanity among men that necessitates all people be valued equally, and practical realists like us who believe that in order to survive and prosper in a competitive world, you must be willing to put the interest of your family, brotherhood, and nation before the interests of outsiders.

Unable to resolve our opposing worldviews, we agreed to disagree and my roommates and I left the apartment.

          Outside in the courtyard, it looked like things had calmed down. Most of the pledges were standing around the fire pit and several groups of brothers were scattered around the house, smoking cigarettes and quietly laughing.

          “Fucking asshole.” Blake mumbled as we strolled through the courtyard. “I hate that guy.”         

          I shrugged dismissively. “He’s just driven by a different concept of morality than we are.”

          “Fuck his morality. We’re the ones who have to be brothers with these kids when he’s long gone.”

          “Yeah,” Backstreet muttered. “He’s graduating in the spring. We’re stuck with these kids for the next three years.”
          I offered no reply as we exited the courtyard and walked of into the night. Blake was right. Bishop and his ideology were creating mistakes that we would inherit.

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