“Do you have anything to say for yourself?”
Johnny’s eyes swept across the faces of the five Standards Board members who sat in front of him, settling on each one just long enough to ensure that his look of disgust was properly conveyed.
“Yeah. This is bullshit.”
Silence fell over the chapter room, the Board members sharing glances among themselves as they waited for Johnny to continue his defense, but Johnny just crossed his arms in protest. After a long, uncomfortable minute of quiet, the chair of the Standards Board panel rose to speak.
“Look, Johnny, we have reason and evidence to believe that you are the one responsible for dusting the composites last night. You were passed out on Areola Beach this morning. Multiple brothers saw you with the composites in hand last night and you yourself cannot, with complete certainty, say you didn’t do it because you were blacked out drunk.”
“That’s a lie,” Johnny hissed. “I didn’t dust those fucking composites. I know I didn’t. I would never disrespect the members of this fraternity pictured in those frames by throwing them into the courtyard. Doesn’t matter how drunk I was.”
“Well, you’re a psychopath, so who actually knows what you’re capable of?”
Johnny turned his neck toward the voice at the end of the panel who had uttered the statement aloud. “The fuck is your problem with me, Mark?”
Mark bolted upright in his seat, incredulousness pouring across his features. “My problem with you? You slept with my sister, you fucking chode!”
“What?” Johnny squinted in confusion as he combed his memory. “No I didn’t.”
“Yes you did!” Mark screamed. “Crush party, Fall ’14. Alicia Anderson?”
Johnny pursed his lips, clearly failing to recall the details of the specific coitus Mark was referring to.
Mark’s anger intensified as he realized Johnny’s genuine bewilderment.
“You called her Chimichanga,” Mark seethed.
A flicker of recognition flashed across Johnny’s face. “Oh,” he replied.
Johnny returned his gaze to the chair of the Board.
“I love this fraternity. I would rather be strung up by my sack than do anything to damage its history or its possessions. I didn’t dust those composites, just like I didn’t break all the dinner plates or put the fire extinguisher in the dryer while it was on. If you can’t see that I’m innocent, then you are all blind.”
The Chair sighed as he raised the gavel that marked his authority.
“Given the evidence we have and your inability to provide an alibi or alternative timeline of events, this Board has no choice but to hold you responsible for the destruction of fraternity property. Where this wrongdoing would normally only result in a fine, the board must take your recent history of destruction of fraternity property into account.”
Johnny’s hands slowly closed into fists as he waited for the verdict, defiant rage coursing through his bloodstream.
“Therefore, this Board sees fit to bar you from participating in any fraternity sanctioned functions for the rest of the semester. While we understand the magnitude of this ruling with your impending graduation, we feel it is a necessary deterrent to your further obliteration of fraternal artifacts. If you are found to have disobeyed this ban and attend an event against our direction, you will be suspended from the fraternity permanently. Do you understand our ruling as it has been laid out?
The sound of the gavel striking the wood of the desk echoed throughout the chapter room.
Theodore Jackson Hartford was a chapter legend. A former pledge class president and the current leader of the fraternity, he was the type of individual who was always shrouded in a thick fog of fantastic deeds and stories that may or may not hold truth. According to one fable, he convinced the police not to arrest him for possession even though he was actively smoking a blunt. Another tale involved him successfully bedding the university president’s wife as a sophomore. The claims surrounding him were so grandiose, there was even a rumor he convinced the state senate to pass a bill for the purpose of keeping the bars open for an extra hour. TJ Hartford was a Greek icon, and was quite possibly the last ally Johnny Gauge had.
Johnny almost blew the door off its hinges as he exploded into his pledge brother’s room.
“Hey, Gauge,” TJ greeted him. “Didn’t go well I assume?”
Johnny walked up to the bar in the corner of the suite and removed the bottle of WhistlePig TJ liked to keep for special occasions from the cabinet. He ripped the cork out and took three swigs before answering.
“They gave me the death penalty, Teej. Those fucking pickle dicks barred me from every social event we have left.”
TJ raised his eyebrows in surprise. “Holy shit,” he replied. “They gave you the SMU football treatment for dusting a few composites?”
Johnny shook his head. “Assholes said this was cumulative counting that other shit I didn’t do. Those motherfuckers have it out for me man.”
Johnny put the bottle of whiskey down on the bar and turned to face TJ. “Is there anything you can do about this?
It was TJ’s turn to shake his head. “The Standards Board doesn’t answer to me. This is out of my hands, Johnny. Especially if you can’t remember whether or not you actually did the shit they’re saying you did.”
Johnny sighed and looked at the ground. In truth, he couldn’t remember what he had done last night or the other nights the stuff he stood accused of doing occurred. It was a few weeks to graduation and he had been hitting the bottle hard to try and soak up the last bit of college life he had left. However, he knew he hadn’t dusted those composites or blown up the washing machine, he didn’t do that type of shit. Someone was trying to frame him.
“This crap doesn’t fit me, TJ, and if you can’t help me, I’ll have to handle this myself,” Johnny muttered as he turned to leave TJ’s room.
TJ moved between Johnny and the door. “I know better than to ask what you’re going to do, but whatever it is, I can’t cover for you with the Standards Board looking to chop your balls off. I’ve gotten you out of a lot of fucked up shit, Gauge, but I won’t be able to help you out of trouble this time. Maybe don’t beat the piss out of somebody this once, huh? Maybe show a little tact?”
Johnny smiled as he moved around TJ and opened the door.
“Come on, Teej. You know me,” Johnny shot back. “Tact is one of my best qualities.”
Johnny’s plan was simple: He assumed that whoever was framing him would jump at the opportunity to have him expelled from the fraternity. Trusting that belief, he was going to take part in the next social event, which as luck would have it, was being hosted at the house that evening.
Armed with his bubba keg, Johnny spent the night partying. He acted hammered, ensuring every single member of the brotherhood in attendance saw him, carefully setting his trap. As the night wound down, Johnny found his way onto Areola Beach, sprawled out on one of the benches and shut his eyes.
It wasn’t long before he heard voices. “I saw him go out here, and he looked absolutely destroyed.”
Johnny didn’t recognize the voice, but heard the doors to Areola Beach swing open.
“See, there he is right there. The guy is passed out drunk, just like last night.”
Johnny felt someone shake his arm and pat him on the head. He remained stock still, his entire plan relying on whoever was there with him believing he was passed out.
“This moron is gone; a jet engine couldn’t wake him up.”
“Good. What an idiot. It hasn’t even been twelve hours and the asshole couldn’t help himself. Sam, go get the statue from Blue room. It’s time for Mr. Gauge to leave.”
Johnny knew that voice. He opened his eyes slightly to see Mark and two others standing above him. Johnny hadn’t bothered learning the pledges’s names in many years, but he recognized the faces of both the other kids as being Mark’s little brothers.
Johnny remained still, waiting for Sam to return with the statue. He knew exactly which one they were referring to. Donated by a famous brother from the ’90s nicknamed Curly Fries, it was a hand carved fertility statue Curly Fries had bought from a strip club in Vegas. Legend had it that if you high-fived the statue after sex, it would guarantee you more sex in the coming days. It was a fraternity treasure.
Sam returned with the statue and handed it to Mark. “We toss this thing and the brotherhood finds Gauge here in the morning, it’s game over for that fucker.”
Johnny slowly sat up, groaning as he did so to garner the attention of the three men.
Mark walked toward Johnny. “You’re dreaming, you drunk dipshit,” Mark said. “Why don’t you lay your stupid ass back down?”
Johnny raised the bubba keg and flung its contents into Mark’s face. What the fuck?” Mark exclaimed as he the liquid dribbled into his eyes and mouth.
Suddenly, his face changed from annoyed to fearful.
“There’s no alcohol in that,” Mark whispered.
Mark slowly backed away, a stunned look plastered on his features.
“You know what I promised my grandmother on her deathbed, Mark?” Johnny asked as he swung his legs off the bench and stood up.
Mark continued walking backwards from Johnny. “I promised her that I would never act drunk to get attention.” Johnny’s face descended into a terrifying scowl. “You have caused me to break that covenant.”
Mark stood next to his little brothers, his confidence renewed with the realization that they outnumbered Johnny.
“I don’t care, Gauge. You’re old blood, you fucking asshole, a relic from an era that should be long dead. You know my sister still asks about you? You’ve gotten away with too much shit for one person. For fuck’s sake, you tazed somebody and no one did anything!”
Johnny cocked his head as he surveyed Mark and the guys standing behind him. “Have you ever met Curly Fries, Mark?” Johnny asked as he pointed at the statue in Mark’s hand.
“What? No,” Mark replied.
“Well, I have. I drove him to a strip club by the airport one game day back when pledges were still allowed to do safe ride. Good guy, taught me a lot of things about life.”
Johnny’s right hand disappeared into his pocket. “You know what the most important thing he taught me was?”
Mark stared at Johnny in disbelief.
“To speak softly and carry a big dick.” Johnny removed his right hand from his pocket, revealing a black cylinder.
One of Mark’s little brothers spoke up from behind him. “You mean a big stick, right?”
Johnny flicked his wrist so the black cylinder in his hand extended into a series of smaller cylinders, revealing the baton for what it truly was.
“No,” Johnny replied flatly.
Johnny coiled his body inward, tensing his muscles. “May God find it in his heart to have mercy upon you, because you will receive none from me,” he said. With that, Johnny raised his weapon above his head and charged.
Johnny leaned back in his chair, letting the soft plastic of the ice pack mold to the shape of his eye.
He heard his door open and someone slide into the seat in front of him.
“I convinced them not to press assault charges,” TJ said.
Johnny returned his chair to an upright position and set the ice pack on the desk, revealing a black and blue splotch that encompassed the right side of his orbital socket.
“Real men don’t press charges.”
TJ shook his head. “Tact, huh? I’d hate to see what your definition of indiscretion is.”
TJ put his legs up on Johnny’s desk. “The Standards Board is pretty embarrassed about this entire thing, especially because one of their own was involved in framing you. They’ve agreed to reinstate you in full, but they think the ass beating you gave Mark and his boys was sufficient punishment, so they’re not doing anything to them, either.
Johnny smiled. “Eh, they all deserve a nice warm nap in a car fire.”
TJ laughed and stood to leave.
“Hey, Teej,” Johnny said as TJ looked over his shoulder.
“Tell Mark- His sister…woof.”.
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