the chilliad: hour five
both Ray Ban and Donut Mouth are quiet for a long moment. homer takes the opportunity to stretch a little, and to feel the hands on his watch. he wonders what is happening to the rest of them—he knows he wasn’t the only one who got booked.
the stupid part of all this is that homer really hadn’t done anything wrong. he hadn’t even shown up until after the fire, because calliope was teaching him guitar. they were going to start a band. homer was going to write the lyrics and she was going to sing them. thalia and cleo even said they’d join. homer and the muses. it was going to be dope.
“i am just struggling to understand why we never got reports of public disturbance,” Ray Ban mutters. “they fucked that whole café, man.”
homer shrugs. “delphi’s no snitch,” he says. “anyway, she and saph and manny cleaned it up.”
“of course manny helped. he made the mess, didn’t he?”
“well, so did paris, and he didn’t help.”
“yeah, so like, you kind of see why everybody wants to beat him up all the time.”
Donut Mouth gives a long sigh. “all right,” he says. “so—what happened after they fought at the oracle?”
“well, word kind of spread to the administration about the whole thing, and they got called in for a disciplinary hearing. i don’t know if they were really in danger of getting kicked out or not but that’s definitely what they told manny, so he was pretty freaked out. i kind of thought he had nothing to worry about, because the head of the disciplinary committee was an alpha sig when he was in undergrad, but—”
“hold up, hold up,” Ray Ban interrupts. “if nobody snitched, how did the disciplinary committee find out?”
homer rolls his eyes. “haven’t you ever heard of twitter?”
folks, pals, and readers alike:
many updates this week because, to quote kanye, my life is dope and i do dope shit. i know everyone is always like, “SENIORS RULE” but tbh i was kind of like, w/e about being a senior bc seniority means next year i have to uhhhhh get a job, and wtf kind of job is a disaster like me gonna get? two days ago i tried to make fresh orange juice and i somehow managed to break the burner on the house stove. i didn’t even — you don’t even need the oven to make orange juice?
(don’t worry, i live with athena metis, the goddess of being the best at everything, and she fixed it. i don’t want to embarrass her bc she’s extremely modest (lol) but it was vERY sexy, plaid shirt all rolled up to her elbows. it’s extremely lucky that she hasn’t settled down with a nice boo bc when she does there will be no one to fix my stove. :( i’m going to finally have to learn how to live competently as an adult, which: no thank you!!!!!! what’s that, chief? a hard pass??? a hard pass.)
a n y w a y, did y’all hear that paris got his ass HANDED TO HIM by manny atreus this week? i was there, it is true what they’re saying. please see below a brief collection of the most iconic dunks:
also, if you haven’t seen, whoever runs @ParisTheCoward is like, a deeply mean person but also VERY funny. sorry, paris, but to be fair you did throw like 6 mugs at manny’s head and then my beautiful moonlight girlf-in-the-making had to sweep up all the glass, so. kinda brought it on urself, buddy.
obvi i love the true light of my life, helen spartowski, & value her opinions, but even i gotta admit it was embarrassing behavior, on paris’s part. at least manford stuck around to clean up.
he’s actually like, really sensitive?
ok, that’s all the news. also i wrote this:
god must be real and she must love us,
to have given us you. across the counter,
learning forward with a smile to ask what kind of milk we want
with a voice so sweet i forget to ask for sugar.
the way you laugh, it’s
my whole heart lighting up. i think you can hear it beating.
i take one look at your face and i’m
helpless to say anything. i can’t even breathe.
my tongue is heavy in my mouth, silent.
my skin is on fire, buzzing, everywhere you look.
i can’t see straight. i can’t see at all.
there’s a drumming in my ears; my own stupid heart.
you ask again what i want and i
can only stand there, trembling.
i feel brand-new, and clumsy. i say:
“sugar.” i say, “please, give me something sweet.”
ugh, right??? love is unbearable.
am i Team Manny Atreus actually???
it’s called “31” bc that’s literally the number of drafts i went through about this GLINT OF STARSHINE but none of them were able to capture the fact that the only explanation for her existence is that there’s at least 1 god and she loves me.
anyway not to BRAG but YA GIRL GOT KISSED BYE
“full offense, saff, but what the fuck?” helen asked as soon as sappho picked up the phone. she kicked her feet up onto darius’s lap; he rolled his eyes, but engaged the lock on his wheelchair so that he’d be a stable footrest for her, which was why darius was the best. they were supposed to be actually working on the campaign today, but as per usual they’d all been distracted immediately and hadn’t even begun yet.
not for nothing but sappho was pretty sure they would never manage to leave the village they’d started in, which was a shame because her character would kick ass in battle, nun or no.
“what the fuck what?” sappho returned cheerfully. “are you jealous i finally got delphi to kiss me? because you had your chance. it’s too late now.”
“you’re TEAM MANNY ATREUS?” helen cried, not taking the bait, which indicated she really was upset. there were few things that helen loved talking about more than how much most people loved and adored her, sappho especially. “i can’t believe you put a link to the Coward twitter in a fucking NEWSLETTER.”
“it’s funny, melon.”
“it’s not funny! who runs it?”
“you think if i knew who ran it i wouldn’t have also put that in the newsletter, just for the drama?”
it was hard to be the most beautiful person in any room. sappho knew this, because she had watched helen stand in line at the DMV and turn down dates from five different people, with steadily decreasing patience. but it meant that she was constantly needing reassurance that sappho did actually love her, helen, as a person, which was fine because sappho loved nothing more than to express her feelings at a very high volume.
still: “babe, you know that i am, in fact, team helen melon. i don’t care if both paris and manny drive off a cliff, i’m just saying that if i had to choose between the two of them, i dunno, i’m feeling kind of swayed by manny’s tears.”
helen was quiet for a second, then said, “he really cried?”
“oh my god, like a fountain,” sappho laughed. “i had to kick him out of the café because he was ruining the vibe i was trying to lay down with delphi.”
“clearly he didn’t ruin it,” helen said slyly, a grin in her voice. “bow-chicka-wow-wow.”
sappho grinned. the rest of the group began to trickle in from the kitchen, hands full of snacks and beer. AC and PK had come with bree, trailing along kind of awkwardly behind her; it was cute. AC was wearing a muscle tee that said BRO DO U EVEN LIFT? with a picture of disney’s mulan carrying buckets of water in her shoulders. sappho had always had kind of a low-grade crush on PK, the kind that meant nothing and was just a pleasant way to daydream during the only class they’d ever shared together, which was in underwater basket-weaving, for an art credit. “don’t be mad,” she cajoled helen. “team melonhead, ride or die.”
“don’t call me melonhead,” scolded helen, but the annoyance in her voice was obviously put on, and sappho had been forgiven. “and leave my love life out of your newsletters.”
“i will not, your love life is the most interesting thing happening on this campus,” sappho laughed. “but i will keep Paris the Coward to retweets only.”
“you’re a fucking menace,” helen sighed, then made a kissy sound and hung up.
emi kicked sappho’s feet off darius’s lap and replaced them with her own. “was that Heavyweight Champion Helen Spartowski?” she asked, a little meanly. “i heard she threw down with manny after paris ran away.”
sappho rolled her eyes. “yeah, she did,” she lied. “one-punch KO. you should have seen it. it would have had you shaking in your timberlands.”
she had never quite been able to get at what was at the heart of emi’s irritation with not just greek life but helen in particular — she thought maybe it had something to do with the increasingly impenetrable relationship between emi and olly, who had come to school attached at the hip and now only saw each other at parties and, presumably, at home. but chrys was kind of dating olly hunter and emi didn’t seem to have a problem with her, so who knew. emi was a mystery.
“she should come to dukes up, then,” emi grinned. “show off a little.”
“i am not allowing helen to join athena’s fucking fight club,” sappho laughed. “fuck off.”
“now that would be a fight worth watching,” heff mused, shouldering his way passed AC with a kind of friendly bullying. “i think you’d be surprised. helen is absolutely the type to fight dirty.”
“there’s no such thing as a clean fight,” emi answered, grinning kind of gleefully.
“anyway at dukes’ the only rule is—”
“don’t call the cops,” everyone chimed in at once.
“that’s messed up, man,” interrupts Ray Ban.
“we perform a public service,” agrees Donut Mouth.
homer shrugs. “the american public’s loss of faith in the police is way beyond my paygrade,” he says.
bree shook her head, clucking her tongue. she was settled comfortably between AC and PK, who were bickering behind her head over who got to sit on a beanbag and who would have to sit on the floor.
“not to be, like, a real early childhood education major about this,” she said primly, popping a piece of the caramel popcorn that darius had brought, “but everyone is bullying paris and i think it’s mean.”
PK gave her a look that was so fond and soft that sappho laughed a little; AC looked affronted. “dude, he like, fucked up the café and then just left. it’s bad fucking sportsmanship.”
“i thought you didn’t care because you quit the fraternity,” darius said, raising his eyebrows.
“i don’t,” snapped AC. “i don’t care, why would i care? it’s all bullshit.”
“i care a little,” said PK.
AC glared at him, and PK made a face back. “i just care about ... like ... ”
“the sportsmanship,” PK supplied.
AC nodded. “exactly,” he said. “i am worried about the community, bro.”
emi snorted, flicking a chip at him. “yeah, you’re a real pillar of the neighborhood,” she said dryly.
“hey, i have a crazy idea,” cleo piped up cheerfully. “what if we actually, you know, played D&D? that is, you might remember, why we are here.”
“i’m not leaving this town until one of the elves succumbs to my charms,” insisted sappho. “i think i’m close. i’ve just got to get lucky on a few rolls.” she should have leaned heavier on charm and less heavy on stealth when building her character, but during their last campaign she’d nearly gotten them all killed every time they’d had to do anything requiring secrecy.
cleo pinched the bridge of her nose. “i built a really fucking beautiful world for you assholes,” she grumbled. “there’s jellyfish in the clouds! you can fly in some places! but sure. let’s — fuck, i don’t know, go to a local elf bar that i’ll have to make up on the fly and you can fail to seduce the barmaid. ace and peeks, you can play as Paris the Coward, a two-headed dwarf who is in the tavern when you enter.”
there was a glint, suddenly, in AC’s eye. sappho leaned in and pointed a finger at him. “who runs it?” she asked. “i know you know.”
he gave her a very flat look. “who do you think runs it?” he asked dryly. “he’s got two thumbs, hates everybody, and is a real asshole, but like, that whole fucking house would die for him, probably.”
sappho sighed. “this is exactly why i don’t fuck with that dude. he never wants to play until suddenly you find out he’s been pulling the strings all along, sneaky fucker. no wonder athena likes playing chess with him.”
“sneaky fucker would be a baller punk band name,” mused chrys. “guys, let’s form a band call it sneaky fucker.”
“ANYWAY, YOU FIND THE TAVERN ALMOST COMPLETELY EMPTY, EXCEPTING ONE ELF BARMAID AND AFOREMENTIONED DWARF,” shouts cleo, before taking a long, furious swig of natty light. “enter the tavern or i swear to god i am kicking all of you out of my house.”
heff grinned. “okay, okay,” he said. “i go up to the barmaid, introduce myself, and try to get her to sleep with me before saff has a chance.”
sappho sits up. “what?!” she cries. “wait—”
cleo gives her a very grim look. “heff, roll for charm,” she commands.
it wasn’t that helen was worried, exactly. she had no reason to be worried. the holdfasts had donated, like, a whole building to the school two years ago; paris wasn’t going anywhere. and it’s — and who cared, ultimately, what happened to manny? he wasn’t helen’s boyfriend anymore. he wasn’t her boyfriend and also, therefore, not her problem. so she didn’t really give a shit what happened to him.
of course she didn’t. it would be stupid, if she did, and helen wasn’t stupid, so she didn’t, and that was that on that, never mind the looks sappho kept giving her every time she brought him up.
“yeah, okay,” laughed dité, not exactly unkindly but with her usual lack of inflection when she felt it was obvious that someone was lying to her. “heff, pass me my smoothie.”
“get it yourself,” heff answered blandly, but kissed her ankle anyway from his position on the floor. heff and dité had come to college already a couple, and helen had never once seen him give in to one of dité’s whims. she suspected that was a large part of the reason dité loved him, which ... helen supposed she understood, from like, an intellectual point of view?
but honestly, what was the point of being beautiful if it didn’t, like, get you stuff? it was a useless gift otherwise.
dité groaned and rolled over. “areeeeees,” she whined. “hand me my smoooooothie.”
“your friend is having a crisis and all you can think about is your fruit juice,” tutted ares, shaking his head cheerfully. “babe, you’re brutal.” but he handed her the smoothie anyway, dropping a hand to ruffle heff’s hair.
heff grinned up at him and said, “you’re such a sucker.” ares made a blowjob gesture, leering down at him, and both dité and heff laughed.
“leave me out of your sex stuff, please,” interjected helen, primly. “it’s house rules. it’s on the door.” she pointed to the sign, which did indeed say NO BRINGING HELEN INTO YOUR WEIRD SEX STUFF, at number four.
dité heaved a long sigh. “look, it’s fine. nobody’s getting kicked out.”
“but it’s zeke,” helen pointed out. “zeke hates the trojans. he’s hated them ever since the, uh. incident.”
“you mean that time he had sex with a freshman at a trojan barbecue and hera walked in on them and broke up with him and like, lowkey tried to ruin his life forever?” dité clarified, raising her eyebrows.
ares snorted, tipping back in dité’s desk chair. “wasn’t she, like, really into swans?” he asked, and helen spit out a laugh, remembering.
“oh my god, the fucking birder,” she giggled. “i totally forgot. i can’t fucking believe — what was her name?”
dité was smirking down at her phone. “leda,” she said, and flipped it around to show the instagram in question. “oh no, guys, i found her. she’s still into birds, poor thing. oh my god it says here she’s interning for audubon. that’s adorable, in a really sad way.”
“leave the birder alone. maybe she’ll meet a nice nerd who can love her for who she is,” said heff, with a kind of dubious optimism. “anyone would better than zeke, who is the worst person i have ever met, and i’m dating the two of you.”
ares threw a pillow at heff’s head, but seemed otherwise unconcerned with the besmirchment of his good name. he tucked his arms behind his head and recalled thoughtfully, “he came running out of the room with his boxers around his ankles, only to find that she had spray-painted I’M A SLUT FOR SWANS onto his car door. she’s got a warrior’s spirit, our hera. ah, that was a good party.”
“you can just say she’s vindictive,” helen told him. “it’s okay. you’re among friends.”
“this is a safe space,” agreed dité.
ares raised an eyebrow. “this is absolutely not a safe space. y’all think i don’t know you’re going to tell her literally everything i say?” he asked. “y’all think i don’t know there’s a group chat where you guys roast all of us on the regular?”
“if i could just get, like, a little reassurance,” helen said, neither confirming nor denying this extremely true fact. she swung her eyes to look at heff, widening them just a little. he never gave into dité but he gave into helen, sometimes, because at his heart he was a big soft marshmallow man, and he hated when anybody got upset. “just ... like, if maybe someone could talk to him. someone he would listen to.”
heff gave her a look that let her know he saw through her. “i’m not talking to hera for you,” he said. “as if i made it this far in my life by getting involved in sorority politics?”
“i think you made it this far in life because you’re so smart, and funny, and handsome, and most of all because you’re so generous and kind to your friends when they are in need,” said helen, batting her eyes at him.
“this is why people hate you,” heff told her. “this is exactly why.”
“people don’t hate me, people love me. i’m very beautiful and i sell weed for like, extremely discounted prices.”
“yeah, but gets her supply for free,” said dité, like a traitor.
heff sat up, staring at her with an appalled expression. “you get it for free and you still make me pay for it?” he asked, putting his hand to his heart.
helen shrugged. “there can be only limited justice under late stage global capitalism,” she told him. “a girl’s gotta eat. come on, heff. do it for me. for our friendship.”
heff rolled his head back and looked at dité. “was this your fault?” he asked. “tell me the truth.”
“what is ‘fault’?” mused dité, sounding pleased with herself, “given the tenets of critical realism, which posit that truth can, at best, be described only as contextually contingent and eminently revisable, i can say only that i was, to some degree, involved in the instigative portion of the event.”
heff sighed, long and loud. “i should have gone to at harvard,” he muttered, but nevertheless began the process of standing up. helen let out a soft whoop and helped him, pressing four quick kisses to his cheek. he flushed a little red, which she knew was half delight and half irritation at his own obviousness.
“now who’s the sucker, babe?” called ares, and heff just tossed the finger at him over his shoulder, not looking back.
heff was the best. she linked their arms together for the whole walk down the hall, but outside hera’s door she shifted so that he was in front, the main face in the peephole as she knocked.
there was a long silence, and then the door swung open.
“i’m not doing it,” said hera. she glared at helen. “and don’t think i don’t know why you brought heff with you.” she leveled him with an unimpressed look. “i’m very disappointed in you, heffner.”
helen held both her hands up, a gesture of surrender. it was true that heff was, out of everybody on the entire campus, hera’s favorite. helen didn’t know much, because why on earth would she care enough about that to dig into it, but dité had mentioned offhandedly (which was to say, in the kind of way that meant she knew a lot and cared a great deal but was pretending she didn’t) that they had taken a very weird child psychology class together once that had bound them together forever. helen’s pretty sure they had to do rebirthing exercises or something, because heff often jokingly called hera momra, and she knew he was in her phone as my tiny and terrible son.
so, normal stuff.
“i never said i wasn’t a cheater,” she pointed out.
“yeah, obviously. if you weren’t, none of us would be in the situation, would we?” hera snapped.
helen flinched. “okay, so, that was really mean, but i am going to take the high road and let it go,” she said slowly, and shoved heff a little further in front of her, half a shield and half an offering. she liked hera a lot, actually; helen had always liked people who were a little mean, and despite hera’s endless kind patience for the children she volunteered with, at her root she really was kind of vindictive.
hera let out a long sigh and pinched the bridge of her nose. “sorry,” she said. she did sound a little sorry. not, like, a lot sorry, but whatever. helen would take what she could get. “look, it’s none of my business. i absolutely refuse to get involved. i truly don’t care who gets kicked out and who doesn’t.”
“okay,” said helen, thinking quickly, “okay, yes, but. consider ... ”
hera raised an eyebrow at her. it was probably true that something appealing to her tender side, like “consider our friendship,” wouldn’t get far, because at the end of the day helen was best friends with dité and sappho, and while sappho was the best and most lovable person that helen knew, dité was admittedly a bit of an acquired taste that hera had not, in fact, acquired.
but what helen liked most about hera was that, above all, she was pragmatic, and she did what she had to do to get the things she wanted. this was why she was definitely going to be president one day, and why helen would probably vote for her despite knowing she’d almost certainly also be, like, lowkey a war criminal.
“consider — that if someone does get kicked out, it’s game over for the prank war,” helen said. “and if the prank war ends, troy gets reinstated as a frat next year.”
heff huffed out a laugh, shaking his head fondly. “i want it on the record that i agreed to come to this meeting only because i feel somewhat responsible for this whole situation, given that i accidentally let dité and helen over here go out unsupervised,” he said.
“heff,” hera scolded. “you know better.”
“i know, don’t yell at me, geez,” he muttered. it was incredible; he never quelled when dité yelled at him, and she was way meaner than hera was. “look, i also don’t care what happens. but it was priam luwian who lied to you about whether zeke was at his party, and priam luwian who invited Swan Girl, and priam luwian who—”
“okay, that’s enough,” hera interrupted sharply. she glared at both of them, chewing her lip and tapping her foot quickly against the wood. “maybe i’m over it. it’s been, like, a hundred years. what do i care anymore about some guy who helped some jerk i dated screw me over for an infant whose twitter bio bragged that she could do bird calls?”
neither helen nor heff said anything, just blinked at her in silence.
“because i am,” hera said. “i am over it.”
helen and heff nodded.
“i don’t care about zeke myrmidon,” hera told them. “he means absolutely nothing to me.”
helen and heff shook their heads, but like, supportively.
hera tapped her foot some more. she