Days don’t come much nicer than that handful of warm but crackling spins in early fall. Warm enough that you don’t need a jacket, yet with enough of a cool bite that you don’t wind up dripping. The Hopewell Arboretum was never busier than on those few days, especially since they tended to coincide with the first few major assignments due at the university. Lovely fall days are never better than when they’ve got the pungent notes of procrastination mixed in.

Three pledges from Alpha Qoppa Nu had gone out to toss a pigskin around on the green. They needed time to unwind after a vicious schedule of housecleaning and hazing, for one. For another…well, the green was verdent not only with carefully kept grass but also sunbathers insulated from the world by a cocoon of polarized lenses and pearly earphones.

A pass went wide, and the youngest pledge–only 17 thanks to an awkwardly-placed birthday–saw his throw go wide, bounding off the green and into the rough.

“Go get it, Ralph!” cried his fellow Alpha. “You throw for it, you go for it!”

Ralph complied with a sigh. His given name was Lawrence, or Larry to his old classmates at Deerton High. There had been an…incident…at his first Alpha mixer, though, involving a hose and spirits strong enough to need an exorcism just to get them out of the bottle. After the ensuing mess, he’d been known as “Ralph” to the entire Alpha house. Luckily, they seemed to find it endearing.

The brush snapped merrily, already lined with the beginnings of the fallen-leaf carpet that would soon be crushed under first snowfall. Ralph was able to make his way through the tangle with only a little difficulty, and most of that came from the glare of a magic-hour sun in his eyes.

His football lay about a hundred yards in, having careened of something or other, at the foot of a bridge. Judging by the layout, it had once spanned the reservoir that used to cover the arboretum, but the water’s disappearance left it hanging in space over a river tributary below, swift and deep.

Ralph took a tentative step out, reaching his hand for the oblate spheroid that was just a little out of reach on a structure with less integrity than a New York City alderman. He soon regretted even this timid action, as the rotting timbers gave way and sent man and ball tumbling toward the welcoming drink below.

Inspired by the song ‘Alpha Ralpha’ by Hiroki Kikuta, released under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.

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“Now,” Bethany said, toying with the ‘editor-in-chief’ sign on her desk. “With a Greek participation rate approaching 50% on our campus, we have to be very careful about offending our fraternities and sororities. Offense translates into boycotts which translate into lower sales which translate into pink slips and thin resumes and eventual refrigerator boxes under overpasses for the lot of us.”

“Do you really think a school newspaper run by students runs that kind of risk?” asked Tom, the sports editor.

“Try and get a Kenmore box when you land in the gutter,” Bethany retorted. “They’re the most spacious and are double-ply.”

Tom folded his arms and glared as Bethany passed a stack of papers around the office.

“The point is, people, we need to take steps to preserve our circulation from baseless attacks on the Greek community, especially on the opinion pages,” Bethany said. “So I’m beginning a new initiative.”

The paper contained the following list:
Digamma Ϝ
Stigma Ϛ
Heta Ⱶ
San Ϻ
Qoppa Ϙ
Sampi ϡ

“What the hell is this?” demanded Aaron, the opinion editor. “It looks like a rejected script page from a Star Wars prequel.”

“Those are obsolete Greek letters,” Bethany said proudly. “Unused since 500 BCE. They look Greek, they sound Greek, but they ain’t Greek. Not anymore, at least. From now on, you are to substitute these letters for the letters of an actual Greek organization when writing opinion columns, dealing in speculation, and so on.”

“You cannot be serious,” Aaron said.

“So, if you were writing about a rumor of a wild party in your opinion column,” Bethany said, briskly ignoring Aaron, “you could attribute the even not to the very real Sigma Phi Delta, but the fictional Heta Qoppa San.”

A moment of silence followed. “I like it,” Felicity, the weekend insert editor, said. “It opens up all sorts of puns to us. Frat acting up? We can tell people ‘don’t be a Heta.’ Sorority getting a bad rap? We’ll call ’em Stigma Heta Omega or the Stig HO’s for short!”