It was a little after two in the morning and we were up to no good. A few of us were early to arrive at boarding school and very few staff and faculty were present to ride herd over us. The headmaster was about, as was the school secretary and the athletic director, but aside from a groundskeeper, that was it. As to students, there were eight of us and we chose our dorm rooms from the creme of the crop. The school used a first come first served method for assigning rooms. The top of the list were the third floor singles, the bottom were the first floor quads. The quads were ample sized, but four people shared the room. The houseparents were also housed on the first floor, and the farther away from them, we all thought, the better.
The hall lights usually lit in the dorm were shut off. The only light came from the flashlights a couple of us carried as we made our way to the new kid’s room. We’d seen him come into the dorm carrying a duffle bag earlier. None of us recognized him and so obviously he was a new kid. While we agreed that he should have the right to choose a prime room since he arrived early, in no way did we believe that he should be exempt from a little new kid hazing. We arrived at his door a snickering mass, and carefully opened it. We could hear his deep and even breathing as he slept comfortably in his bunk. He was in a sleeping bag, but we assumed, at least I did, that he just hadn’t felt like unpacking his blankets and sheets. While the school would launder them, as our clothes, we had to provide our own bedding. Taking station around him, a few of us spread lighter fluid over the top of his bedside stand and in a circle around his bed. Lighter fluid, we’d learned, would burn brightly for some seconds before exhausting itself and leaving no damage. Of course, one had to make sure the flames weren’t beneath something flammable because it would certainly ignite it. So we were careful to make sure no curtains, clothes or bedding were in jeopardy. The fluid was lit.
“FIRE!” we yelled. “Hurry, hurry! You have to evacuate!” we shouted. The new guy was instantly awake and wide eyed in the face of flames mere inches from his face and bunk. He virtually levitated out of the bed, leaping right over the circle of us. He stood there for a few seconds, panting. The lighter fluid, was exhausted and only a few little pools of flame were flickering a dim blue. The last of them petered out.
“You bastards!” he growled. “That scared the crap out of me.” We laughed and told him that he should have seen the expression on his face as we patted him on the back. He took it very well and as far as we were concerned, he’d paid his new guy dues and we considered him a part of our pack. A few handshakes and shoulder chucks, we bid him good night and made our way back to our rooms congratulating ourselves on the great prank we’d pulled.
The following morning we all, save the new kid, awoke to find ourselves well and truly roped into our beds. None of us could so much as waggle a wrist. We could flex our toes or fingers, but other than that, we were bound up tighter than a rusted bridge bolt. Each of us had to credit the new guy, this was a pretty good prank. Payback was, of course, just as venerated a tradition as new guy hazing so none of us were very annoyed. Each in our rooms up on the third floor, we waited for the new kid to come unwrap us. By the time an hour went by we were beginning to lose our humor. When the evening call to supper came and went we were fit to be tied, which, of course, we were. Our anger seethed as another night came and went with no release.
Pure anger turned to worry. How long was the new kid going to leave us like this. Would we have to wait a few days to be discovered and rescued? And how humiliating would that be! A second day came and went. We called out to each other, and with our voices raised, could have conversations. We passed the time discussing how we would eviscerate the little bastard when we were finally released. Our second night of captivity came, and more frightened than angry, we fell asleep promising ourselves that we’d forget the whole thing if only the new guy would come set us free.
The next morning I was wakened by a nudge. I opened my eyes to find one of the custodians looking at me. “Is this some new game?” he asked me. I said that no, it wasn’t and would he please untie me? He did, us talking as he unwound the turn after turn of hemp rope that bound me. I explained about us playing a prank on the new kid and how he’d gotten his revenge. “Ah,” he said. “So this is your comeuppance?” I had to allow that it was. I was stiff and aching and found it difficult to sit up, no less stand. My legs were asleep and so were my arms. I flopped my arms and legs, reminding myself of a fish on dry land as I worked my circulation back into action. I finally stood and went off to help my friends get loose. After we got ourselves collected, we went off in search of the new kid. All thoughts of forgiveness expired on our attaining freedom, and now we were looking for a bit of payback payback.
We went up to the main building where the dining hall was. It was breakfast time and all of us were starved. We also expected to find our quarry there as well. We all ate a big breakfast of eggs, bacon, toast and grapefruit halves, but the new kid never showed up. We returned to the dorm and sought him out in his room. No one there. Not only that, there was no sign that anyone lived in there. We performed a room to room search through the dorm but didn’t find the kid. We looked everywhere, touring the schools classroom buildings, the sports field and locker room, the pool area and the grounds. No matter where we looked, we couldn’t find him.
We were returning to the dorm when we passed the groundskeeper. He was loading some things into a pickup truck. “You boys have yourselves a good year.” he said to us, smiling.
“Are you leaving the school?” asked Mike Perlman, one of us seniors.
“Yep, I only work the summer, taking care of the big projects. Me and my boy just got done reseeding your ball field. Time to get going to the next job.” he said, climbing into his truck. He drove down the drive that led from the main house, past the dorm and out the main gate. He stopped next to the dorm and we saw the object of our search step into view and hop into the truck. They drove off out the gate and were gone.
“Man. We been had.” said Don Fiducci. We all nodded in agreement. As more and more students showed up and the dorm filled up, we were invited by other returning students to join in hazing new kids.