Saturday, June 2, 2018

Men of the Skull Chapter 45: Silent

Spring 1987 was my second semester at Penn State, and, in many ways, the most consequential.  It was the semester where I would earn the respect of enough of the brothers to be allowed to live in the house the following fall.  I had my first serious adult relationship.  And I buckled down on my school work after the 1.8 I earned the previous semester.

There were events like the last true Phi Psi 500, Sailor's Ball, and Skull's awesome end of the year Toga Party.

Most of the "Spring '87" part of the book concerns things like the romance, which I'll skip (as enough people don't read them) so that's why the chapter number didn't follow sequentially from the last one.

In this chapter, I'm introduced to another of the Pledge "events."  This one is actually a calm one (aside from the verbal abuse.)  I was present for three "Silents," and each one was... stranger... than the one previous.  I wrote about each one in the book.


Chapter 45: Silent

Sunday, February 1, 1987 42 City Homeless Die in 2 Years

            Maybe twenty of us met in the clubroom.  Double D called us to order.
            “All right, you fucks!  Tonight is ‘Silent.’  Everyone know what to do?”
            I didn’t dare say anything.
            “OK.  LPC set it up.  Pluto is coming through the door.”
            As some of the guys started pulling the club room furniture back toward the fireplace (and away from the foyer), I walked over to Double D.
            “I didn’t wanna disrupt your speech, but I have no clue what’s going on here” I said.
            “You remember what I told you?”  Double D said.
            “Yeah.  Sit back, watch, and keep my mouth shut.”
            “Right.  That’s all you need to know for this.  Especially ‘keep your mouth shut.’  LPC is cleaning that side of the room.  Lights’ll be off and the brothers will lay there on the floor until the cue is given.  Then the Hood will react.  If you have to go to the head, go now.  You’ll be on the floor maybe fifteen, twenty minutes and you can’t make ANY fucking noise.”
            I nodded and went to the bathroom back by the kitchen.
From the January 30, 1987 Collegian

            So there we were laying in the dark.  Double D asked if we were ready.  The pledges were waiting upstairs wherever the pledges waited.  We all signaled ready, so he put his foot on the siren and cranked it, causing it to wail horribly through the house.  The clunking and thundering of the pledges running down to the foyer started.
            I don’t know who said it, but suddenly I heard “And nobody fuckin’ farts!”
            That struck me as so funny.  I started giggling to myself like an eight year old.  I couldn’t fucking stop!  I curled up into a ball shaking with laughter, trying like hell to remain silent.
            Somewhere out of my sight the pledges fell into line.  Probably looked at each other and counted off as usual.
            “One!”  “Two!”  “Three!”  “Four!”  “Five!”  “Six!”  “Seven!”  “Eight!”  “Nine!”
            Then: “Nine!”  “Eight”  “Seven!”  “Six!”  “Five!”  “Four!”  “Three!”  “Two!”  “One!”
            Then they counted inside out, and outside in to their invisible audience.
            Then nothing.  Silence.
Feet shifted.  They knew it was a test.  Someone had to be watching.  Didn’t they?

Old Main’s bell rang its usual Big Ben chimes, then a BONG for every hour.
The door opened slowly (a brother with a black rope pulled it open from the little side room) and there stood a robed figure with a horrible scarred ugly face!  (It was Pluto wearing a rubber mask.)
From the January 30, 1987 Collegian

He stared at the pledges for a moment, then grunted something almost quietly.
The pledges stood silently.  I guess they were trying to figure this out.
Pluto grunted again: louder and angrier. 
“Grrh Grrh Gree Gruh!”
A minute passed.
“Grih Grih Gruh Gruh!!”
More time.  Pluto started stomping his feet and waving his arms like the prospector in Blazing Saddles.
“Griz Gris Grel Gree!”
More time.
“Giz Gris Gell Greek!”
The pledges figured it out:  “Is this Hell Week?”
“SIR YES SIR!” they all shouted.
The Hood jumped to its feet as one and flooded into the foyer.
“WHAT THE FUCK?”  “YOU’RE NOT WORTHY OF HELL WEEK!”  “WHAT’S YOUR FUCKING PROBLEM!?!?!”  “GRAPEFRUITS ARE GOOD FOR YOU!” the brothers screamed into the pledges faces.  Meanwhile, the front door quickly but quietly closed.  Within a minute, Pluto stripped off the costume, sneaked in the back door, and was heaping abuse on the pledges as well.
I stood in the back, in the dark, as the usual pledge meeting kicked into high gear.
Mouth shut.

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