Thanks so much to xoxoxo for her fabulous beta skills.
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“Dude, I know you’re in there. You better open up.”
Rap. Rap. Rap.
“Duuude. This is NOT the way to start out hell week.”
“Alright, be that way. It’s your funeral, Halpert.”
Jim Halpert sighed as the bright green envelope flew under his dorm room door and skittered across the cold, tiled floor. Heaving himself off his bed, where he had lain silently moments before, Jim retrieved his first assignment of Hell Week, the last seven days of a six-week journey to become a Xi Chi brother.
Back in August, joining a fraternity had seemed like a good idea. Throughout high school, Jim had toed the line between jock and geek. As a result, he had had numerous buddies, but not a lot of close friends. He was okay with his choices, figuring he had plenty of time to make lifelong friends in college, far away from Scranton, Pennsylvania.
His dreams of getting out of northeast Pennsylvania were shattered, along with his ankle, when he landed the wrong way during basketball practice. A few months later, instead of playing point guard in the state championship game before countless NCAA scouts, he was instead preparing for his role as lead defense attorney in Commonwealth vs Leigh Walker at the mock trial state championships.
So when he arrived at Bloomsburg University, instead of Michigan State, in the summer of 1998, he resolved to find a true home in this new place. His easygoing nature made him a natural people person, but without basketball or mock trial to lean on, he assumed that rushing a fraternity would be the easiest way to meet people. He wasn’t sure he bought into the whole “brotherhood for life” thing, but figured college was a time to try new experiences, and hey, free beer.
After attending a few rush parties, the guys from Xi Chi took the most interest in him and ultimately offered him a bid. Since it seemed like the next step in his quest for a decent social life, Jim agreed to pledge. The ensuing five weeks had been hellish, to say the least. Being at the beck and call of his “brothers,” not able to speak his mind or crack a joke was bad enough. Being forced to participate in poorly planned and executed pranks was almost more than he could tolerate. He longed for the days when locating and returning with an Intercourse or Blue Balls road sign was the worst (if not most juvenile) thing he was asked to do.
Recently, the practical jokes had become more mean-spirited, making Jim very uncomfortable. His reticence to pull these stunts earned him the derisive nickname “Boy Scout” among the brothers.For the last few days, he had done the barest minimum of his pledge duties, using illness and mounting school work as transparent excuses to get out of clogging the washing machines in the laundromat or stealing warmed over, crusty pretzels from the Uni-Mart. Daily, he debated whether quitting would mean the end, or the beginning, of his college social life.
But it was Hell Week now. Time to put up or shut up, as the saying goes. Pledge Master Rick, looking smug in his pink Polo shirt, perfectly styled dark hair and burgeoning beer belly, had ominously promised the pledges) that the pranks they were going to mastermind would escalate. With a pointed look at Jim, he warned that those who faltered would be expelled from the fraternity, never to be welcome again. Resignedly, Jim opened the neon envelope.