Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Farmhouse, Part 6

In order to keep us alive enough to move furniture, scrub pots and detail their cars, the brothers fed us soup. If we performed our tasks well enough, they promised to even heat it for us. The younger brothers, especially the ones who had pledged immediately before us, were the cruelest and most sadistic. But they supervised us in shifts, and sometimes we were left in the care of older, mellower members.

Warren and Abbas were seniors and the oddest and most unlikely roommates. Their night with us was a respite from hell.
Warren, blond and balding, possessed the enthusiasm and outlook of a cruise-ship activity director. A cheerleader and font of optimism, Warren dressed for fraternity parties as if he were headed to a picnic at the beach – T-shirts, flip-flops and those really tight, small bathing trunks they wore in the 1950s.
Abbas came from a wealthy family in Iran, then ruled by the Shah. He had been educated in proper English boarding schools and spoke with a patrician British accent. He dressed impeccably and as if he were a member of the royal family. He enjoyed fast cars and the company of fast women and was similar to Warren only in his sweet and affable nature.

Warren and Abbas amused themselves by quizzing us in the Greek alphabet and fraternity facts and trivia. Correct answers earned us bits of food and hours of uninterrupted sleep. We had been reduced to dog-like behavior. We would never forget their relative kindness to us.

When the shift changed, the hell resumed. One night, we were given smoked oysters for supper, but we had to place them in our underwear and do calisthenics before we were allowed to eat them.

Time was blurred. We seemed never to be more than semi-conscious. I became alarmed one day when I discovered that my urine had turned dark brown.
“This is such crap!” we muttered among ourselves and considered walking out of the farmhouse and out of fraternity life forever. But the fear of being labeled as cowards kept us there, along with the fact that we had been kidnapped and were being held captive. But we could have quit at any time, and we were taunted with this often.
On about the seventh day, I found myself telling the Pledge Master an outrageous lie: that I suffered from epilepsy and without my medication, more sleep or food, I was likely to experience seizures. I did not have epilepsy, and even as I spoke I wondered how this ridiculous lie could be tumbling from my lips.
The Pledge Master told me to quit the bullshit and get back to work. He could not tell me what I needed to hear – that Hell Night, the conclusion of our ordeal, was just a few hours away.

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