the chilliad: hour 6
Updated: Mar 3, 2021
“that’s when things really took a turn,” homer muses, tapping his fingers against his cheek. “like—when they turned nasty.”
he felt donut push another cup of coffee into the hand still on the table, and he took a grateful sip. all this caffeine and sugar was doing wonders to revive him.
“they weren’t nasty before?”
“well, the nastiness was isolated, you know? but now it started to bleed out. i think we all began to feel, like ... i dunno, man. like there were real stakes.”
the thing about meetings of the young socialists club was that most people only went to them because there was always an abundance of free pizza and weed, and the agenda usually consisted of everybody talking shit about university administration and competing to see who would be fucked the most by their student loans. athena herself couldn’t think about having to make loan payments without spiraling into a panic, which was why athena was going to be a hedge fund manager so she could hire an accountant who would do it for her. in theory, she supposed she agreed with socialists about, like, how being a billionaire should probably be classified as a war crime.
but in practice, athena wanted very much to be a billionaire, so you see her problem.
“i’m just saying, it would be dope,” athena said, blowing a halo of smoke above hera’s head to make her look like a stoner angel. hera always insisted she came so that she could understand the minds of her future campaign rivals, which was why she never allowed herself to be noted on the roll call. she couldn’t have young socialist in her political history; it would be career suicide for a future senator of south carolina. “come on. you’ll be my secret weapon.”
hera raised her eyebrows. “what makes you think i’m any good?”
“well, for one thing, i happen to know you have a conceal-and-carry license,” athena told her, voice dry. “and i was there last year when that coyote got into the yard and you shot it from the attic window using only a rubber band and a bottle of nail polish.”
“necessity is the father of invention,” hera sniffed. “the answer is no. i will be in the stands, dressed like a sexy baseball pitcher, selling extraordinary amounts of popcorn to freshmen because they want an excuse to talk to me. it’s our biggest fundraiser of the year. we make a lot of money for scholarships.”
“we wouldn’t have to make money for scholarships if education was free,” pointed out dio. he had his head in athena’s lap, and they were operating on a one-bite-for-me-one-bite-for-you pizza consumption system. “not to, you know, distract from your very important sorority social events planning, here at this meeting about socialism.”
athena patted his forehead like he was a disgruntled puppy. “shh, the grownups are talking,” she told him. “also, you know very well people only come to these things because it’s basically free therapy.”
“all therapy could be free if we — ”
“dude,” athena interrupted. “i really need you to understand that you don’t need to give me a stump speech. you have my vote.”
“gonna be hard to own a penthouse under socialism,” hera said dryly.
“no one will need a penthouse under socialism,” said dio.
“all the same, i’d like one,” athena told him. “that’s what luxury is. stuff you have that you don’t need. let’s have socialism where everybody gets a penthouse.”
dio pinched the bridge of his nose. “that is against the nature of penthouses,” he told her, and then reached up to pull her hand, and the pizza she held in it, to his mouth. around a bite of cheese and pepperoni he continued, “they’re at the top, you see, of other houses. which are therefore not pent.”
“pent means top?”
“pent means slope.”
“so why can’t everyone just have a sloped house?”
“do you want a sloped house?”
“i want a house with floor to ceiling windows that lets me look down on the little people and comes with an infinity pool. and a fountain. for champagne.”
“okay, so you can see why maybe that doesn’t quite fit with the egalitarian underpinnings of socialist discourse.”
“blech,” said hera.
athena and dio both looked at her. dio raised his eyebrows. “blech, equality?”
“equality is fine. but anyone trying to take away my right to have a champagne fountain is getting one between the eyes.”
athena beamed. “you see?” she cried. “this is why we should play. we’d clean house.”
“i’m not playing paintball with you, it’s pedestrian,” hera told her flatly. “end of.”
athena sighed. “this is why people don’t like us. they think we’re snobs.”
from her lap, dio snorted. “to be fair you did just call them the little people,” he pointed out, and then, without warning, sat straight up, eyes wide. athena waited him out; this happened to dio, sometimes. he’d be going along just fine and then it was like he’d been suddenly struck by some magic idea that transformed him. she liked this about him; it was like being friends with a magic eight ball except instead of predicting the future it gave you ideas about free-market economics. “athena. that’s brilliant.”
“thank you, i know,” she told him with the confidence of someone who had absolutely no idea what he was talking about.
“honestly, i can’t believe i didn’t think of it before.”
athena nodded, sagely. “me either, to be frank,” she said. “i’ve been trying to tell you this whole time.”
“i mean — it’s wrong to weaponize class warfare, but if we do it that way they can’t trace it directly back to us.”
“exactly,” said athena. “that’s my point, precisely.”
dio gave her a big, smacking kiss on the cheek. “and you’re sure you’re okay with it? it might fuck some things up. no last words?”
athena took a bite of pizza. “last words are for fools who haven’t said enough,” she told him. he kissed her again and then got to his feet and dashed out of the room. athena didn’t know who he thought was going to clean up all the empty pizza boxes, but that wasn’t her business.
hera took a delicate bite of a single slice of pepperoni that she’d plucked from an untouched slice. “quoting marx to the marxist. nice.”
athena shoved the rest of her slice into her mouth. “was that marx?” she asked. “i read it in a fortune cookie i got last week. sounds dope though, right?”
hera laughed. she leaned over and plucked a piece of pepperoni from the pizza in athena’s hand, taking a delicate bite. she made a considering face, then put the rest of it into her mouth. you really could taste all five spices. what she didn’t know, of course, because she had consistently refused to partake of the pizza itself, was that there was a sixth spice, a mystery flavor no one on campus could pinpoint, which was baked not into the pepperoni but into the cheese; and it was this sixth spice that made all the difference. this sixth spice which elevated the ’za above all its competitors. this sixth spice, which —
“okay, that’s enough about the pizza,” says donut.
homer groans, dropping his head against the table. “i’m hungry,” he whines. “and i’m about to have a serious sugar crash. who eats donuts as a hangover cure? you guys are animals.”
ray ban sighs. “if i get you a breakfast sandwich, will you focus?”
with his face still pointed toward the ground, homer smiles. “like a teenaged overachiever on adderall,” he promises.
there is the sound of a chair scraping across the floor, and the door opens and closes. homer keeps his head against the metal of the table. it’s cool. it feels good. he has a headache, and also, he has kind of talked himself into wanting pizza. god. pizza would be so clutch right now. all that grease and bread and cheese. he wonders whether ray ban is going to mcdonalds for his breakfast sandwich. they’re pretty good, but homer really prefers hardees, if he’s honest. he doesn’t know if this stupid state has hardees. probably ray ban was just going to go to a fucking panera bread or something.
“well, while we’re waiting,” donut prods, “might as well keep going.”
homer rolls his head back and forth. “can’t,” he grumbles. “too weak from hunger. i’m seeing spots.”
“that’s the alcohol leaving your bloodstream,” donut tells him dryly. “now talk.”
homer sighs. “look, it’ll be better if i show you,” he says. “give me my phone.”
“so you can text your accomplices?”
“no, so i can show you The Post. look, you can watch me do it over my shoulder, but i do not give you permission to search my phone. surely that’s a right i have.”
“the rules on phone searches are kind of nebulous, actually,” donut says. “but i am very uninterested in seeing your nudes or any of the nudes you have accumulated.”
homer lifts his head, perking up. “you think i’m cool enough for girls to send me nudes?” he asks, touched. “i mean, putting aside the fact that, once again i must remind you, i am blind, and can’t see them?”
donut pats his hand reassuringly. “sure i do, kid.” with a sigh, he gets up and leaves homer alone in the interrogation room for a couple of minutes; when he comes back, he slides something across the table. homer’s phone. he could weep, but he’s a grown up, so he doesn’t. instead, he lifts it to unlock with his face. the beautiful, familiar voice of apple’s voiceover lady says: “Messages. Twitter. Mail. Instagram.” he double-taps. “Dictate.”
“User For The Birds,” he says, then waits for it to load. He hands the phone over.
homer puts his head back down on the table. “read it and weep,” he instructs. “i’m napping until my man ray ban gets back with my breakfast sandwich.”
THE NEW EMPERORS: GREEK LIFE AT COLLEGE
There is a pox upon our house, and its name is αδελφότητα. For those of you who don’t speak Greek — and why should you? Why is our educational system so enraptured with old Greeks and so negligent of Eastern philosophies? The answer is racism and a pervading attitude of Western exceptionalism. But that’s neither here nor there. — αδελφότητα means “brotherhood.” It means “fraternity.” But of course, what it really means is “closed ranks of spoiled rich kids who think their made-up games matter more than the quality of everyone else’s experience.”
The Greek system at this school claims to be accepting and open to everyone, but is it? No. How can it be, with membership dues that costs as much as what some of us pay on rent? How can it be, when the time demands necessarily cut out those among us who must work while in school to make ends meet? How can it be, when its requirements for entry seem to include a certain type of appearance, a certain type of wardrobe, a certain type of attitude toward life — the kind of attitude one might cultivate when one has grown up summering on an island somewhere?
This is to say nothing of the way the Greek system abuses our campus facilities with its out-of-control drinking and partying, its monopolizing of local public spaces, and its culture of brutal hazing and quasi-sadistic drinking rituals which seek only to re-establish the same hierarchies of old: king at the top, peons at the bottom. This is to say nothing of the harmful and unfeminist sexual dynamics at play, where no matter where you are on the gender identity spectrum you are encouraged to treat the objects of your desire as just that: objects.
It was the Greeks who destroyed our dining hall with their stupid prank war, the Greeks who book out Argos Park every weekend for their stupid socials, the Greeks who look down on the rest of the student body from their perch on top of a mountain of red solo cups.
Who will topple it?
dité shoved her phone under athena’s nose without comment, which was rude, first of all, and secondly was proof that dité did not respect athena’s interim lacrosse team. was a girl not allowed to have anything sacred?
“babe, you gotta wait til half time,” she said placidly, knocking dité’s hand away. “it’s possible that i won’t have to sub back in but i’m not gonna risk it.”
dité sat with obvious disgust on the metal bench beside athena, gingerly removing a sweat towel. “who the fuck is this ‘for the birds’ asshole?” she asked. “and don’t tell me you don’t know. you already liked the post.”
athena watched as ares noticed dité’s presence for the first time. he sent her a beaming smile and waved, distracted long enough to get absolutely annihilated by one of the guys from the other team. athena couldn’t remember his name. she thought he maybe studied marketing. she pinched the bridge of her nose; this was why she never invited any of the girls to her matches. she could handle their presence just fine, but athena had practice. you just couldn’t expect boys to have her kind of poise.
“of course i know who it is,” she said, rolling her eyes. “and i don’t know why your panties are all in a bunch over this. it’s just a dumb instagram post.”
from her peripheral vision, she could see dité leveling her with a glare. “don’t pretend to be dumb,” she snapped. “you know as well as i do that the administration has been hoping for a reason to kick the greek system off campus for years. if this ... birdman manages to get people riled up enough, it could pose a real threat to the manner of living in which i have become accustomed.”
athena broke into a laugh, finally looking over. she gave dité a fond hair ruffle, something she knew she got away with only because in dité’s heart, athena was her secret favorite. “they’re not going to kick us off campus because some undergraduate has a bee in his bonnet about not getting chosen at rush,” she promised soothingly. “it’s just some unhinged diatribe. he doesn’t accuse us of anything.”
“he said we treat people like objects!”
athena gave her a Look. “babe. probably not the strongest argument, coming from you.”
“what’s that supposed to mean?”
“uh, that you helped unravel a three-year truce between the trojans and the alpha sigs for no reason at all except that you were bored at a party?”
dité snorted, knocking athena’s shoulder with her own. this was how athena knew she was right, about being the favorite: dité wouldn’t even let ares touch her until he’d showered after a game, and here she was voluntarily letting athena sweat all over her dior top.
“bitch, please. you know as well as i do that helen never does anything she doesn’t want to do. she just likes to blame it on me because she can’t stand it when people yell at her, and sappho has spoiled her.”
athena conceded this point with a nod of her head. helen did delight in misbehaving but hated being held responsible for the consequences, while dité loved watching the consequences unfold and couldn’t have cared less what most people thought about her, so theirs was a friendship that worked out nicely for the both of them. personally, athena thought they were both wasting their energy creating drama with boys when they could have been absolutely cleaning the floor with everybody in debate club or something, but whatever. it wasn’t her life.
“maybe. but you enable her.”
dité examined her nails with an air of studied disinterest. “my feminism isn’t any less valid than yours just because it includes a heavy dose of misanthropy,” she said primly.
“i mean. explicitly, it does,” athena told her, laughing. “but that’s not the point. don’t act like this is about feminism when we both know it’s about you not wanting the administration to cancel next week’s paintball game.”
“fine, then you don’t act like you don’t care one way or the other, i know you’re planning to disguise yourself as a pledge and play.”
athena grinned. “well yeah, obviously. unlike you bitches, i’m not afraid of a little paint.”
“i’m not afraid of paint,” dité grumbled. “i just think the whole exercise is stupid, and boys take it seriously out of some misplaced sense of masculine showboating. also, paintballs fucking hurt, i don’t know why nobody ever talks about the fact that paintballs hurt when they hit you. anyway, i don’t care about paintball but i do care about living out my high school cheerleader fantasy in front of a crowd of thousands, and nobody, especially not some nameless socialist influencer-wannabe, is going to take that from me. this is my last one!”
the whistle blew, signaling the end of the period, and athena took the opportunity to turn and take dité’s face in her gloved hands. dité made a face, but let her. “i promise you, the paintball game will proceed as planned,” she said. “okay? i’ll talk to the birdman.”
ares flung his arms around both girls, beaming. “babe! you came!”
dité shoved him off. “ew, don’t touch me, you’re sweaty and gross,” she scolded. “you know the rule.”
he pouted, gesturing accusingly at athena. “you let her touch you!”
“that’s different,” dité told him, unrepentant. “she’s athena.”
“yeah. i’m athena, bay-beeee,” athena sing-songed, shaking off her gloves to throw up two peace signs, giving her head a firm enough nod that her sunglasses fell down onto her nose. dité rolled her eyes, but she didn’t argue, and she stayed for the rest of the game.
“i just don’t think it’s a coincidence,” darius said flatly to chrys, who was sitting on his lap in his motorized chair, “that every time i try to book the park for a trojan function it is already booked out.”
chrys gave a soft sigh and patted his cheek. “i really don’t think there’s some, like, Big Park conspiracy,” she assured him. “who even would be orchestrating it? the notoriously powerful parks and recreation department?”
darius gave her a dark look. “don’t bite the hand that provides you a free lap,” he scolded. “come on. you are doing this for our friendship.”
“two days ago at D&D you tried to sacrifice me to a golem,” chrys pointed out. “where was your friendship then?”
“but did you die?” darius returned. “no. you didn’t. and we escaped. so it all worked out.”
“hmmm,” said chrys, unimpressed.
“okay, go over the plan for me again,” darius said, gesturing until chrys, sappho, and emi lined up in front of him.
emi gave him a look so flat, the earth’s circumference probably shrunk. “go into office building, steal the event sign up folder, go home. it’s not exactly operation acoustic kitty.”
sappho’s head jerked over so fast that she winced, rubbing at the muscle. “if you think we aren’t gonna get into whatever the fuck operation acoustic kitty was as soon as this is over, you’ve got another think coming,” she said. “also, ow. why do necks do that.”
chrys reached over and gave the offending muscle a gentle squeeze. “they’re called neck burners and it’s because you’ve pinched the brachial plexus. you should do more upper body workouts. it’ll help.”
“but i don’t do any workouts.”
chrys noted dryly, “well, watson, i think i may have a deduction to make.”
“can we focus,” said emi. “saff’s out of shape. this isn’t news.”
“fuck off. i’m — lissom,” sappho grumbled. “anyway, the point is, we’ve got this. in and out.”
“no one can find out it was us,” darius emphasized. “no one.”
chrys patted his shoulder reassuringly and then gave his ear a little tug. “we’ve got this, bubbeleh. don’t be such a worrywart. it’ll give your handsome face wrinkles.”
beside them, emi snorted and pulled her hair up into a bun at the top of her head. “are we gonna stand around flirting or are we going under-fucking-cover?”
“i could flirt some more,” darius answered cheerfully, and chrys laughed, kissing his cheek before hopping off his lap and giving a determined little shake of her shoulders. she was getting into the character that she’d decided to be for this adventure: chrysanthemum bodely, an art student whose long-term boyfriend had been cheating on her with a lacrosse player, which chrysanthemum suspected but couldn’t prove, and was really messed up about.
“it’s barely undercover, i really am a member of the young socialists club,” sappho said. “i’m a poet. poets love a revolution.”
“poets love to starve to death waiting in line for bread,” emi said dryly. “poets love wasting away from tuberculosis because they were sent to prison for dissident writing.”
sappho glared at her. “okay, social democracy is a perfectly valid political system that works great in many countries,” she pointed out. “it’s called welfare capitalism, bitch. read a book while you’re in school.”
“if by ‘many countries’ you mean ‘literally just scandinavia,’” returned emi.
“you are such a fucking business major,” sappho hissed. “it’s honestly — ”
“guys,” chrys interrupted. “can we chill on the, like, discourse for a second? just while we commit crimes? maybe we can table the decommodification of labor for when we’re not in the middle of a con?”
sappho and emi turned as one to glare at her, and darius reached up to gently tug chrys’s hand. “no, this is good,” he whispered. “we should use this.” he pushed forward, ushering them inside.
to reserve the park, you had to fill out a request with the parks and rec department, which was just one small office in a tiny building situated on the edge of campus. they were still operating like it was 2001, not yet digitized except that they made scans of all the events and saved them to the community webpage in deference to transparency laws. but there was a big folder, always on the edge of the admin’s desk, where all the event requests went before they were scanned.
“hi,” said chrys, smiling at the older, white-haired gentleman behind the desk, the way she thought chrysanthemum would do it. “i was wondering if i could reserve the park for a fundraiser?”
the man gave her a bored blink, then reached over to drag an unfilled sheet of paper toward her. “fill this out. we’ll get back to you in a week.”
chrys cut a glance to darius. “um, okay,” she said. “can you walk me through it?”
the parks employee looked at her, then down at the paper, then back up at her. “name, contact info, description of event. that’s about the whole of it.”
“right,” said chrys. the events folder sat by his right hand. there was no way they could grab it unless they moved him away from the desk somehow.
behind her, darius said, “i mean, when you think about it saff, emi’s like, technically a member of the ruling class,” to which emi snapped, “what the FUCK, darry,” while sappho shouted with laughter.
“oh my god you are! you absolutely fucking are, of course you are, your family’s like — generational wealth, i’ll bet you’re against the estate tax — ”
“well why should the government get what my family spent our blood and sweat — ”
“oh please it’s like, a glorified deli, you’re not exactly — ”
the admin’s eyes were getting wide as their voices rose, and he held both his hands up in a calming gesture. “hey, hey, let’s keep our voices down,” he said, which chrys thought was a sweetly useless gesture because once sappho and emi got started there were very few things that could stop them. you really just had to ride it out.
“ — taxes? like, oh i don’t know, schools and roads, not to ment — ”
“ —sted one viral tumblr post and suddenly you’re, what, karl fucki — ”
“get ’er,” said darius, cheerful. he was edging his wheelchair toward the edge of the desk.
the admin raised his voice to be heard. “girls, if you don’t quiet down i’m going to have to ask you to — ”
“I’M NOT SAYING I DON’T CARE ABOUT FUNDING PUBLIC EDUCATION,” emi hollered, and sappho yelled back: “JUST FUCKING ADMIT YOU’RE A LIBERTARIAN,” and the parks admin finally lost his calm and shouted, “RIGHT, THAT’S IT, LET’S GO,” and came out from behind the desk to escort them out.
the door slammed shut. chrys and darius looked at each other, and then chrys quickly hopped over the desk to grab the folder. she flicked it open and started flipping through it; darius hissed, “just shove the whole thing in your backpack!”
“he’ll notice it’s fucking missing,” she hissed back. “do you want to get caught?”
“he’s coming back!”
“then distract him,” she snapped. “you’re the one who said no one could know anything happened!”
darius made a frustrated, wordless sound and spun his chair around, zooming toward the door, where the admin was indeed coming up the steps. chrys held her phone up and took a video of each page, as quickly as possible but slow enough that they could pause and read them each later, not looking up. better to do it once properly then go through all of this for nothing.
“fuck!” darius shouted, from outside, and chrys heard the admin give a worried shout. she finished videoing and replaced the folder, hurrying out to the stoop, where darius’ chair was turned over. emi, sappho, and the admin were squatting next to him, busily trying to set it right.
chrys blinked. “what happened?” she asked.
“please go away,” the admin said. his eyes were pinched. “fucking college kids.”
“sorry,” offered chrys. “guess that’s gonna be a no on my event application, huh?”
“i will approve literally any event you want to have if you just go away,” the admin said, and chrys answered, “thank you, i’ll remember that for later,” before sitting back on darius’ lap and letting emi push them both down the path.
sappho leaned in. “did you get it?” she asked out of the corner of her mouth.
“i got it,” chrys confirmed. “what did you do to your chair?”
darius winced. “i think i ripped one of the wires when i knocked it over,” he admitted. “my dad’s gonna be pissed. these things are expensive.”
“and you called me a member of the gentry,” emi muttered. “fucking incredible. those chairs are like ten grand a pop.”
“i am the only person in this friend group here with loans and a scholarship,” chrys said, before they could get started again. “so how about all three of you shut up about who belongs to which part of the one percent? all y’all are rich.”
emi, sappho, and darius all gave her abashed looks. she held up her phone and gave it a wave. “now. who wants to fuck up some alpha sig event planning?”
ray ban clears his throat. homer pauses to let him speak, because ray ban had brought him the world’s most wonderful gift: a warm and delicious egg sandwich, so satisfying that homer had cried, a little, upon biting into it. “so what you’re saying is that three of your friends stole from a government department in order to ... spy on a bunch of young socialists?”
“it’s wasn’t the socialists they cared about, socialism is a red herring,” homer tells him, exasperated. he cannot believe he has to explain this to people who are supposed to, like, detect things about crimes. “it was just that it was the young socialists booking everything out, and who runs the young socialists but dio mendez, who happens to be an alpha sig. obviously he was doing it on purpose.”
“obviously,” says donut mouth, dry as dirt.
homer nods, because he believes in positive reinforcement. “right. so that’s when they started the meme propaganda campaign, to discredit them.”
“to discredit the socialists?”
“to discredit ForTheBirds,” homer says. “you gotta let go of the socialism thing, man. the medium is not the message.”
ray ban gives a dubious hum and says, “it just feels like you’ve talked a lot about socialism lately.”
“well, maybe some of us studied public policy and then a global pandemic hit so we are stuck at home without a full-time job, slowly going insane,” homer snaps.
“co-vid what?” asks donut mouth. “i thought you were a poet.”
“huh?” homer asks, blinking. “i don’t know. maybe i’m still drunk. i think i’m dissociating. you should send me to a hospital.”
“nice try,” says ray ban. “now, what were you saying about a propaganda campaign?”
homer nudges his phone toward them. “it’s in the photo folder called ‘memes,’” he says. “it’s all really bad. i think darius did it, like, on his phone. or in kidpix.”
“you’re too young to know about kidpix,” donut mouth reminds him.
“i’ve been on the internet,” homer snaps. “i don’t have to have played with kidpix to know what it was. don’t make me think of another joke, i’m too tired. i’ve been telling this story for eighty-four years.”
“wow,” says ray ban. “wow, these are. not well made.”
homer shrugs. “graphic design is not emi’s passion,” he acknowledges.
athena hummed, taking a long sip of the iced coffee that dio had brought her. she was scrolling through the anti-ForTheBirds memes that they’d pulled up while he paced behind her, biting his thumbnail; out of deference for their friendship, athena refrained from calling him names about it. boys were anxious creatures; athena knew this.
a thrill went through her. athena lived for this shit. it was like chess, except it had real-life consequences. she loved a good set of high stakes.
“what is that face,” said hera flatly, appearing behind her in a long dressing gown and ignoring dio completely. athena tolled her eyes; only hera would wear an honest-to-god dressing gown and make it look normal. “that’s a scheming face. why are you scheming.”
“none of your questions ever sound like questions,” athena informed her cheerfully. “and i’m not scheming. i’m plotting.”
“those are synonyms.”
“they are not. scheming is what you do when you want to instigate problems. plotting is what you do when you want to achieve a specific goal, using nefarious means.”
hera dropped herself into athena’s velvet lotus chair, legs hooked elegantly over one side. “that’s definitely not correct,” she said.
athena shrugged. “it’s true in my heart,” she returned. “anyway, look at this. they’ve done a propaganda campaign. against me! ... well. against my work, anyway. dio was also involved.”
dio and hera exchanged very dry looks.
“so you two are the birdman,” hera deduced. “does dité know?”
athena wrinkled her nose: dité did not know. it was in everybody’s best interest, probably, that dité did not find out, particularly if all this meant she wasn’t able to dress up like a sexy cheerleader.
she held out her hand and beckoned at dio. “give me your phone,” she said. “listen: a bunch of people are going to go to the young socialists meeting tonight to protest the FTB stuff. so what we’re going to do is beat them at their own game — but hera has a point, which is if we let dité find out, she will absolutely beat both our asses. so you give me your phone and let me do some internet meme magic, and you take mine to the meeting. i’ve got deets’ location in find my friends. if she shows up, you gotta cut your losses.”
dio’s brow furrowed. “cut my losses?” he repeated. “athena. it’s a war.”
“well you’ll have to either cede or kill her and i’m gonna be honest bud, i don’t think you’ve got the cajones to kill her.”
hera snorted and she pushed herself up in the lotus chair so that she was on her knees in the seat, peering over the high back at where dio was standing. “please take on dité,” she pleaded. “it would be so funny for me.”
“she’s not that bad,” dio said, rolling his eyes. “she studies chemistry and she’s kind of mean. most of you are kind of mean.”
athena and hera exchanged a look which said boys know nothing. athena held up her hands in a gesture of surrender. “fine, don’t take my phone. risk it. let me know how that goes for you.”
dio hesitated for a moment, then, with a grumpy face, snatched the phone from her hand. “whatever,” he said. “i’m not scared of dité.”
hera slid back into the chair and plucked athena’s coffee from her hand, taking a long sip. her hair tumbled smoothly over her shoulder as she flicked it. “i’m not scared of fire but i don’t pour gasoline all over my house,” she said serenely. “still, do what you want. it’s your life.”
“you don’t even like dité,” dio pointed out, and athena gave a long, tired sigh.
“god, you truly just like, don’t get women,” she said, and then kicked him out of the house.
nas pomme had not anticipated joining a frat when he went to college. heff wasn’t in a frat, and nas thought that heff was basically the coolest person on the planet. when nas was still a kid, heff had been the only one to take him seriously, and pay attention to him even though dité was in the room, being beautiful.
heff would say things like, “deets, quiet, nas is telling me something,” when she talked over him.
heff had a limp and was kind of weird-looking and people were mean to him for it, but he’d always treated nas like — well, like nas was smart and interesting, like it wasn’t stupid to like comics, and like he was worth having around even aside from being dité’s favorite person in the world.
nas loved his sister, and he didn’t particularly like the way most people treated her, either. but it sucked that everyone only ever wanted to hang out with him to get to her.
anyway, heff wasn’t like that, and that’s why nas would die for him, probably.
he hadn’t planned on joining a frat, because they’d kicked heff out, but then he’d gotten to school, and he’d met some of the other guys, like olly and and gilly and darry, and then one day he’d been doing tricks on his hoverboard outside the caf and priam luwian had looked up and said, “sweet moves, kid,” and nas had said, “thanks, do you know my sister?” and priam said, “i don’t give a fuck who your sister is,” and that was that.
the trojans weren’t a real frat anyway, he reasoned. so it wasn’t really rushing. nas had dreams of a better, more equitable greek system, but in the meantime he got to do a bunch of cool stuff. and now that he was philanthropy chair he was in charge of their charity work, which was dope because no one else paid much attention to it so he basically just did whatever he wanted.
last year he’d gotten everyone to dress up as superheroes and go visit sick kids in a hospital. he’d picked miles morales.
(“isn’t that your halloween costume?” olly had asked. “like, every year?”
“if it ain’t broke don’t fucking fix it,” nas had said, “now put your hulk gloves on and stop fucking around.”)
all this is to say that nas really liked being a trojan. he was probably a pacifist at heart, but he really believed that anything you did you had to put your duty to your responsibilities over your personal preferences, so if they were gonna have a prank war, as far as nas was concerned he was gonna do whatever he could to ensure they would win it.
“i just don’t think it’ll work, bud,” darius had said dubiously when nas first offered, looking at nas’s hoverboard with such a sceptical face that nas was a little insulted. “there’s no way there’s enough horsepower on that thing.”
nas had frowned. “you’d be surprised,” he’d said. “i once pulled a whole red wagon full of books the six blocks to my house from the library.”
darius did that think that darius sometimes did, where instead of expressing an emotion he looked up at the sky and glared at it for a few seconds. eventually he had said, “well that’s — fuck off, dude, that’s the cutest shit.”
“you fuck off,” nas had said back, grinning, because he knew he’d won, and darius was going let him pull his wheelchair to the anti-ForTheBirds protest with the hoverboard like a boss as fuck chariot. his electric was still being fixed and nas saw no reason why he should have to haul himself around when there were other solutions.
nas liked solutions. he believed in confronting challenges directly, honestly, and with hard work, which was why, with two jump ropes tied on one end to darius’s chair and on the other around nas’ waist, he said, “game on, asshole,” when dio mendez spotted them in the crowd and challenged them to a winner-takes-all round of cornhole.
“this just feels like maybe the stakes are, uh, unnecessarily high,” said the kid on dio’s team, who nas recognized as an alpha and with whom he’d had lit 101 freshman year. macallister, or something. he was always hanging around odysseus.
the stakes were these: if the trojans won, dio had to cancel the rest of his park events so that the trojans could have them and convince ForTheBirds, whoever he was, to issue retraction of his articles; if dio won, nas had to hand over his hoverboard and darius had to quit the school paper.
to be honest, the thing about the hoverboard felt a little vindictive, but also, it was a dope hoverboard. nas understood why someone might want to win it for free in a game of cornhole.
and unfortunately, it was looking more and more like dio ... might indeed win it.