the chilliad: hour one
Updated: Sep 12, 2019
“listen, man,” homer says, “i dunno what you want me to tell you. like, i wasn’t even there.”
the cop who smells like bear claw donuts and watering hose plastic slaps his hands flat on the table, toying with the corner of something papery; maybe a folder, or a photo. the cop whose uniform swishes like lycra when he walks--and, though this is just a guess, is probably wearing knock-off ray ban pilot sunglasses that he hasn’t taken off once in his life--leans against the two-way mirror so hard that the buttons on the shoulder of his uniform click against the glass.
“kid, i admire your desire to keep your friends out of trouble,” Donut Mouth says. “but a real house really burned down. people could have died.”
“look at it from our point of view,” Ray Ban suggests. “because from our point of view, it looks like a prank war got out of control and ended in arson. you don’t want arson on your record.”
homer, who has been in this police station since three-thirty in the goddamn morning and is more hungover than he has ever been in his entire fucking life, leans back in his chair and folds his arms over his chest.
“oh, you want me to look at it from your point of view,” he drawls. “nice. real fucking nice.”
the embarrassed pause is enough for homer to gather his wits a little: if he pushes past the pounding in his head he can kind of remember how he got here. he knows that the cops were right; there was definitely a fire, and it was almost definitely the greek alpha sig’s fault, although if you really go all the way back it’s not like they were unprovoked.
he sips at the coffee they’d given him a little while ago. it’s almost cold, but it helps quiet the pounding in his brain. pancakes would have helped more, but he doesn’t think the police station have those on the menu, and even if they do, it isn’t like they’re going to be any good if the quality of their coffee is any indication.
he tries to figure out how long he’s been here, in realtime not drunk time. probably an hour at least. so--that’s one down, and they can only keep him for twenty-four, right?
yeah. he’s pretty sure. so all he has to do is make it twenty-four hours without telling them who actually started the fire but also without being, like, a hostile witness, or whatever. he doesn’t actually know that much about the law, but he remembers that one brooklyn nine nine episode where jake arrested someone too early and they had to find something to charge him with in one day
homer is fairly confident that he can’t get charged with anything he’s done lately, but he does definitely smell like weed, so.
love, justice, and homer all are blind, but none of them are stupid, so he rubs at his eyes and says, “okay. fine. i’ll tell you what i know, but like, most of this is just what i heard. it’s not gonna hold up in court. i mean, i didn’t see anything.”
“obviously,” says Ray Ban.
“what do you mean, ‘obviously’? that’s fucking ableist, man.”
“that’s not what i--”
“roy,” Donut Mouth interrupts, tone a warning. “go on, son.”
“okay,” homer says. he takes a deep breath. “so like--okay, what you have to understand is we’re deep in this war, right? i mean, this has been going on since like, the first toga party of the year, when this transfer kid, paris, hooked up with helen during rush.”
“and she is?”
“manny atreus’ girlfriend. or--ex-girlfriend, i guess. she’s alpha delta chi.”
“so manny atreus burned down the trojan house because ... his girlfriend cheated on him in paris?”
“what? no. i never said he burned it down, i said the prank war started because his girlfriend cheated on him, and not in paris, with paris.”
“someone’s parents named them paris?”
“i don’t fucking know, man, i didn’t name him. that’s just what he’s called. maybe it’s a family name.”
“my dude, i’m called homer. you think i’m judging people on the weird shit their parents named them?”
Donut Mouth coughs into his hand. “fair point.”
“okay. so: manny said we had to go to war, for like, honor or something, and honestly at first it sounded kind of fun, so we just kind of went with it. but ...”
he trails off. august seems like such a long time ago. a whole lifetime. maybe more than one.
homer’s head hurts. he’s so hungover he thinks he can smell beer in his sweat. he can definitely smell weed. it’s going to be a long, long, long day.
“i dunno,” he admits. “i guess things just got--a little out of hand.”
the thing you have to understand is that helen isn’t a cheater. like--okay. yes. she did, technically, in this instance, cheat. but not necessarily on purpose. that is, yes, she meant to hook up with paris, it wasn’t like non-consensual, but in her defense, manny had dragged her out to another fucking toga party, where she had to really stand there and watch him play beer pong for eighty-two miserable hours, and he never shelled out for good beer so she was stuck drinking natty fucking light all night, and manny was extremely irritating when he was drunk because he got all ... needy.
like, the thing helen liked about manny was that he was basically just a big dumb puppy dog that loved her unconditionally and left her alone when she told him to. but when he got drunk he hung all over her and was constantly parading her in front of all his frat bros. when he drank wild turkey he was prone to calling her m’lady, and helen had fully locked him out of her room for a week the last time, that’s how much she hated that shit.
so you can see how, maybe, in the right light, after several rounds of flip cup using the golden apple rum that dité had brought back from her trip home to barbados, helen might see something appealing in the specific way that paris wore his skinny jeans.
he wasn't--paris wasn’t, like, hot or anything, not the way that manny was objectively hot, but manny also spent the first three hours of every day at the gym and unironically said things like, “if you’re gonna be a man at night, you gotta be a man in the morning.” but he had a certain 8th grade Hot Topic charm to him. he had side bangs, and helen’s not proud of being kind of into them, but she couldn’t help it. she liked idiots who tried too hard. she found it charming.
anyway, dité was the one who’s really at fault, because dité was an enabler, and when she saw that paris was doing that guy thing where he hung around and tried to give them tips on how to improve at a game they were obviously better at than him, she was like, “helen, do it, it’ll be funny.”
and in helen's defense it had seemed funny. at the time. like, paris was a sophomore, he wore earrings that looked like rhino horns, and he almost definitely dyed his hair to make it black, which helen knew because he was hector’s little brother and hector looked like he’d just stepped out of an IKEA ad. plus, his name was alexander and he insisted on being called paris, for reasons helen had not yet been able to discern.
when she’d asked hector about it, months ago, he’d just shrugged and been like, “he’s my little bro, and i love the guy, but everything he does is, like, super embarrassing.”
on the other hand, helen was dating manny, and she was--look, it’s not ego to say she was the hottest person in that whole house. it’s not even ego to say that it’s possible she was the hottest person on campus. helen was a ten, that’s all, she just was, but even if she wasn’t, she was the weed dealer for half the frats and all the sororities, and she was going to graduate with honors at least, and it had just seemed like hooking up with paris would be really fucking funny!
of course, then manny had walked in on them, and he had not thought it was funny, and he had been so upset that helen hadn’t been able to bring herself to admit that she was honestly hooking up with paris as kind of a joke, but also kind of not a joke because--well. she wasn’t not into it. paris had a certain je ne sais quois, and more importantly, he was very interested in making sure helen was having a good time, if you caught helen's drift, which, for all of manny’s attentiveness, he was not always as diligent, is all helen was saying.
anyway, admittedly it wasn’t the best move, but helen was pretty drunk on rum and pretty irritated with manny’s whole deal that night, so. instead of being like, “calm down,” she was like, “yeahhhhhhh. i loooove paris now, you fucking idiot.”
manny had collapsed against the door, jaw dropping in surprise, and paris was like, “wait, really?”
which is when helen realized that neither of them had caught the sarcasm in her voice, and paris was lit up like a kid at christmas, and he was a skinny idiot but she didn’t want to like ... hurt his feelings, or whatever, and anyway she found it highkey insulting that manny would BELIEVE her when she said she was in love with a kid who looked like he was cosplaying a fifth member of imagine dragons, so she just sort of ... went with it.
“oh my god,” dité said after manny had stormed out. “oh my fucking god. this is going to be so bad. i didn’t realize it was going to be this funny and this bad when i told you to do it.”
helen pinched the bridge of her nose. “please do not talk to me for many days,” she said.
“you’re a goddess,” paris told dité, voice thick with gratitude. “the best one. the prettiest. the most smart.”
“okay, simple plan. cool your jets,” dité told him. “this is going to get real bad for you.”
“can we go?” helen asked. “i need to lie down for a thousand years. and probably throw up. oh my god, did we just break up? did he break up with me? because that’s. really not how i always pictured this going.”
paris took her hand and patted it. “you have me,” he promised her. “i’m going to take care of you.”
“definitely,” helen amended. “i am definitely going to throw up.”
“how do you know all this?” Ray Ban asks, his voice hitting a high note of suspicion at the end. “i thought you said you weren’t there.”
“i hear things,” homer says, shrugging. “people kind of forget that being blind doesn’t make you mute. and also, i’ve been living with the muses for the last couple of months because there was asbestos in the apartment, and those bitches know everything about everybody.”
“you’ve been living with the who in the what?”
“oh, sorry. calliope, cleo, and talia. they’re sisters. their parents own this piece of land that they converted into, like, an artist colony, kind of? anyway it’s like, pretty close to campus and i have my own car--it's self-driving, thanks elon--so they’re letting me stay there for free in exchange for getting to use it. they’ve got a bunch of other sisters but i’ve never met them. i think there’s like nine of them, it’s crazy. maybe they’re mormon, i dunno.”
“why would the muse sisters know about helen?”
“uh, because they’re all in the same sorority, and dité can’t keep her mouth shut? she’s worse than sappho, and sappho’s pretty bad because she always writes everything on her fucking blog.”
Donut Mouth smacks his lips together. homer thinks he can hear him rubbing his hand over his forehead. “what’s this blog called?”
“what, are you going to use it for like, evidence?”
“maybe. just give us the name, son.”
whatever. it’s not homer’s job to keep saph’s blog out of public record. “it’s called Bi Disastrous. i think it’s like ... bi disastrous dot com. i don’t actually go to the site a lot, i just get the newsletter.”
“and helen cheating on manny was in the newsletter?”
“what? no. all her newsletters are like ... ‘i met a woman. she was so beautiful that i positively manifested a puddle of tar and hurled myself into it. now my lover and i are bound together in tar for the rest of eternity. none of Y’ALL have girlfriends covered in tar.’”
the scratch of the pen that had been taking notes stops. “what,” says Donut Mouth, voice dull.
“look, i’m just telling the story as it was told to me,” homer says.
“you what,” sappho said, looking from dité to helen to paris and back again. “you what?”
helen waved a vague hand and pushed her way into the house, flinging herself onto the couch. “i don’t want to talk about it, i’m too overwhelmed,” she said. “can you get me an orange soda?”
“no,” sappho said at the same time that paris said, “yes! of course. immediately,” and leapt toward the door to her right.
“that’s the bathroom,” dité told him. “kitchen’s over there.”
“right,” said paris, and went.
“that guy?” sappho hissed, when he was gone. “you finally have a gay crisis and it’s with that guy?”
helen didn’t raise her head. “paris isn’t a lesbian, saph.”
“there’s some real soft feminine energy in that man, helen,” sappho snapped. “sure, technically, you’re right, he is not a lesbian, but you are clearly interested in those high femme vibes. this is a branch out.”
“i’m not branching out. i promised you that if i branched out, you would be my branch. i swore on the alpha handbook. that’s sacred.”
sappho hummed suspiciously. “fine. we’ll put that aside for now. so i say again: you w h a t !!!”
“i thought it was going to be funny,” dité said. “and you know what? i was right.”
“ares is gonna be mad at you when he finds out you were involved,” sappho pointed out.
“what are you talking about? ares loves this kind of shit. it’ll be like a birthday gift to him.” she paused. “heff might be mad, but whatever, he got thrown out of his frat ages ago, so what does he care. anyway, he likes when ares gets all ...” she shimmied her shoulders a little, wiggling her eyebrows.
sappho slapped her hand over her eyes. “please do not talk about your boyfriends’ sex life to me,” she ordered. “you know that heff and i play dungeon and dragons together. i can’t take him seriously as my cleric if all i can think about is y’all three boning.”
“there’s a paris/eiffel tower joke in here somewhere,” dité said. “i just--give me a second. i have to find it.”
“is all this relevant?” Donut Mouth asks. “it just seems like a lot of backstory.”
homer frowns. “do you want to know what i know, or not?” he asks.
“there’s a storytelling process, man. i can’t just jump around. if you want me to tell it all and not forget any of it, you’ve really gotta let me do my thing.”
“let him tell the story, rick,” Ray Ban says.
“yeah rick,” homer echoes.
Donut Mouth’s chair squeaks as he slumps back into it. “fine,” he says. “you were saying something about the eiffel tower?”
by the time paris returned with the can of slice, helen was sitting upright and feeling a lot less drunk. things were looking up, a little; after all, maybe this was a good thing. she and manny had been in a bit of a rough patch, anyway--they’d been dating since freshman year, and things had gotten a little stale. maybe this was the sign she needed that they weren’t meant to be, and that she should, like, really take some time to focus on herself. she hadn’t been single since the very first day she sprouted boobs so like, maybe it was time to just really get to know helen.
“i love you,” paris said, smiling dopily as she sipped the soda he’d brought her.
“oh ... kay,” said helen, and awkwardly reached over to pat his head. “that’s very nice, thank you.”
well. okay. she would get to know helen, but she couldn’t just kick paris out on the street. he was so excited, and--look, despite everything, she really was into the skinny jeans.
“we can date,” she decided, and took his chin in her hands, between her thumb and forefinger. “but not forever. okay? do you understand? i want to be really clear about this up front. it’s gonna be for like, a little while.”
paris leaned into her touch. “as long as you’ll have me, i’ll be right here,” he said, and helen hated herself for being, like, kind of moved.
“high femme vibes,” sappho muttered.
manny called aggy first, because all the boys in alpha sig were his brothers but aggy was, like, his actual brother, and the person manny trusted more than anybody else, except maybe odysseus, but odysseus has been practically married to penelope since they were in like, the fifth grade or something, so what does he know about sexual betrayal?
“bro, slow down,” aggy said, once he’d found the park bench manny had called him from. “i can’t understand what you’re saying.”
“helen,” manny hissed. “i walked in. paris! i mean -- p a r i s! of all fucking -- what, she’s into that now? she’s into little ... tiny ... skinny -- bangs! BANGS? are BANGS back??? when did BANGS COME BACK?”
“i feel like i’m missing some stuff, still,” aggy said, soothingly. “try from the beginning. helen is going to paris?”
“SHE ALREADY WENT APPARENTLY!!!!” manny shouted.
“helen’s in paris? already? i like, just saw her inside.”
manny took some deep breaths. it was not getting through to aggy, what had just happened, the magnitude of what has just happened, which was the complete and utter collapse of manny’s whole entire life. “at the party. i walked in. on helen. and paris. together. SEXUALLY.”
aggy blinked. “who?”
“who is paris?”
“that kid!! that fuckin -- hipster nail-biter from troy!”
“his name is paris?”
“I GUESS. I DON’T KNOW. THAT’S WHAT THEY CALL HIM. CAN WE FOCUS.”
aggy was quiet. he scratched the underside of his chin, which was stubbled; manny hadn’t been able to grow stubble once in his life. his facial hair mostly came in soft and patchy, when it came at all.
after a long minute, aggy put his hand on manny’s shoulder. “okay,” he said. “okay, bud. i know what we have to do.”
manny waited. “win her back?” he guessed. “love letters? chocolates? poetry? fuck, i can’t write poetry. can odysseus write poetry for me?”
“no, those are bad ideas,” aggy said. “mine’s good.”
aggy’s smile spread so widely that it dimpled his cheeks. “we’re going to war, bro,” he said.
“no,” said odysseus.
“not interested,” agreed achilles.
“i mean ... i could be in,” PK offered.
“no you couldn't,” achilles said. “you’re not getting involved in a prank war over some heterosexual bullshit.”
“who died and made you my dad?” PK snapped, annoyed, and then held up a hand when achilles opened his mouth to answer. “do not say you’re my daddy. do not do it.”
achilles’ mouth snapped shut.
manny looked at aggy. he’d never been great at convincing any of the boys to do anything; he preferred to kind of just do what he wanted and let them do what they wanted and when there was conflict he let them argue about it for a while before someone, usually odysseus, came to a unilateral decision and everyone else was too tired to protest.
“it’s not heterosexual bullshit,” aggy said. “it’s not even really about helen.”
“it’s not?” asked manny, for whom it was absolutely, 100% about helen.
“no,” aggy said, and shot manny a glare that he took to mean he should shut up. “it’s about honor. it’s about the trojans betraying the code. the code of brotherhood. you don’t report other frats for alcohol violations, you don’t hold competing toga parties, and you don’t steal their girls. also, that stupid fuck priam thinks he’s hot shit, and i hate him.”
“still feels kind of like heterosexual bullshit,” said achilles.
aggy nodded, holding out a hand in gesture toward PK. “sorry man,” he said. “you’re right. i misspoke: the third rule is that you don’t steal other greeks’ partners, regardless of gender or orientation.”
achilles nodded. “better,” he said, then sighed, rolling his head against the back of the couch to look at PK. “do you really want to go?” he asked.
PK smiled. “there hasn’t been a good prank war in forever,” he said. “c’mon, babe. it’ll be fun.”
odysseus closed his eyes. “i’m sick,” he said. “i’m too sick for a prank war. i think it’s ebola, probably.”
“sounds serious,” manny said, reaching out a hand to feel odysseus’ forehead. “dude, you’re warm. do you want some nyquil?”
“manny, you stupid fuck,” achilles said. “he’s lying. he doesn’t have fucking ebola.”
“i might,” odysseus argued. “you don’t know. it’s possible.”
“it’s like, really not,” PK said.
aggy stood. “look, if y’all are scared--”
achilles squared his shoulders. “who you calling scared?” he snapped at aggy, standing and jerking his head forward so that his sunglasses tipped down off the top of his head to cover his eyes. “you want to see who’s scared, bud? let's see which one of us skips leg day, huh?”
“babe,” drawled PK. he tugged the bottom of achilles’ muscle tee until he sat back down.
odysseus rolled his eyes. “i’m not scared, i’m tired. i am ten months from graduating. i have been the treasurer of this godforsaken fraternity for three years, and it has aged me eighty-two lifetimes. all i want to do this year is pass my classes, get my degree, marry my girlfriend, and move to a fucking farm somewhere that none of you can ever reach me again.”
“what, for three years you’re BMOC and now suddenly you think you’re some kind of academic?” aggy snapped.
“C’s get degrees, bitch,” odysseus said, and kicked out at aggy’s shin.
manny, who’d tried to stay silent, suddenly sniffed. all three heads turned toward him, and he looked away. it was embarrassing, but he was still pretty drunk, and it was hitting him anew that helen had -- that helen had --
“fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck,” odysseus groaned. “are you crying?”
“no,” said manny, who was.
odysseus rubbed his eyes with the his fists and sighed. “fine. fuck! fine. but only if nestor’s in. if nestor thinks it’s a bad idea, it’s a bad idea, and i’m out, i don’t give a shit how much you cry.”
“and that’s when they burned the house down?” Ray Ban asks.
homer runs his fingers over the face of his watch. another hour down, twenty-three to go.
“oh, no, all of that was months ago,” he says, and leans back in his chair, getting comfortable. “i haven’t even gotten to the good part yet.”
“you may be in paris but i’m in the eiffel tower,” dité said, snapping her fingers. “that’s it. that’s the joke.”