SOS Splash

“Oh, crap! Crap!” Diane exclaimed. “You have got to be kidding!”

The entire room had erupted with the stunned reactions of the freshman women. The upperclass women either sat in stone-faced silence, or smirked at the shock and dismay of the freshmen.

Teresa, the chapter president, was one of the smirkers. She seemed pleased at the stir she had caused. “Believe it, ladies,” she said, speaking loudly enough to be heard over the commotion. “Believe it! I don’t care whether you like it or not, it’s a time-honored Gamma tradition. Gammas always uphold tradition. We’ve been doing this for thirty years, and we’ve raised a ton of money.”

“There’s no way,” Diane said. “There’s no way I can walk up to somebody and ask them to pay a hundred dollars for a ticket to something like—like that.”

“A hundred dollars is an awful lot of money,” one of the other freshmen said.

There were a few snickers from the upperclass women. Teresa glowered at the unhappy freshmen. “Any Gamma who can’t sweet-talk the average random man on the street out of a hundred dollars has somehow come into this sorority under false pretenses,” she sneered. “Come on, now! You know you can make men jump through hoops for you. All it takes is a little salesmanship.”

“But,” a small voice came back, “a hundred dollars? You—you said we would have to average twenty tickets each. That’s an awful lot of money…”

Teresa scowled. “You children,” she shouted, “are looking at this all wrong. First of all, a hundred dollars is the bare minimum. I will feel personally ashamed of any Gamma from this chapter who sells a ticket for only a hundred dollars. If we sell all five hundred tickets for just one hundred dollars each, the Gamma chapter at Tech is going to kick our ass—pardon the expression. They’re going to beat us, and you know what that means.”

Diane reddened.

“Look,” said Teresa, pointing at Diane. “Look! See? You’re embarrassed just thinking about it.”

Diane set her jaw and gave Teresa a withering look. “I’m not embarrassed, dammit. I’m mad. I—I never would have pledged to the Gammas if I had known about this.” A general gasp went up. Teresa shot Diane a look of pure hatred. Diane knew that she had crossed a line here, angering all of her sorority sisters. She didn’t care. “This whole thing is such a load of bull,” she concluded.

For a long moment, Teresa stood silent, staring angrily at Diane. Diane blushed even more as she recognized that all eyes in the room were on her. “The second thing you’re all forgetting is that this is all for charity,” Teresa said, her voice dripping with sarcasm. “I don’t know what it is this year—some poor starving kids in Africa, or taking bums off the street and teaching them to read, or something like that. Whatever the hell it is, it’s a good cause, okay?” There were a few amused chuckles.

Diane winced at the unfeeling tone in Teresa’s voice. These self-satisfied snobs wouldn’t know a good cause if it came up and slapped them in the face, she thought. Gammas never care about anybody or anything but themselves.

“So this is why the Gammas try so hard to recruit swimmers,” Diane said. “I always thought that it was for the Sorority Splash.”

Teresa gave a derisive laugh. “The Sorority Splash! That’s so pathetic. How much money did the Sorority Splash raise this year? About ten thousand? Pitiful—I wouldn’t bend over to pick that up. Every year, the Sorority Splash brings in ten thousand dollars, and you practically have to twist people’s arms to get them to buy a crummy little ten dollar ticket.”

Many of the women in the room were nodding in agreement.

“Last year’s SOS Splash brought in $120,000, and there were people lined up outside the Natatorium, hoping that there would be a seat or two available. And that’s pure Gamma—we don’t have to share the credit with any of the lesser sororities. Last year this chapter brought in $63,000, compared to $57,000 for Tech. Even if Tech beats us this year, at least we’ll be beaten by Gammas.”

“They’re not going to beat us,” someone said. There was a general murmur of agreement.

“We kicked Tech’s tail this year in football,” another voice said. There was a chorus of approving shouts.

“We would have beat them in basketball if it wasn’t for that crooked ref,” another voice called, and there was an angry chorus of assent.

“That’s right,” Teresa said. “And the Gammas of State U. are going to settle that score, right?”

“Right!” came a great shout.

Teresa fixed Diane with a laser-like gaze. “So, Diane, you’re such a hotshot swimmer. You’ve got a competitive streak a mile wide, right? So you should really appreciate the SOS Splash. I mean, what are you swimming for in the Sorority Splash? Prestige? Some honor that nobody knows about, nobody cares about, and nobody remembers by the next morning?” Several people laughed.

Diane bit her lip. She had single-handedly won the Sorority Splash trophy for the Gammas this year. Every one of the women in this room had sung her praises and congratulated her after that victory. What a bunch of two-faced harpies!

Teresa continued, “It’s a lot different at the SOS Splash. Everybody has something—no, everybody has everything on the line. Every swimmer is giving all they’ve got for victory. Unless you make the Olympic team, I don’t think you’ll ever be in a more competitive swim meet.”

“I’ll bet the Olympics aren’t as competitive,” someone said. A number of people laughed.

Teresa shrugged. “Maybe they’re not.” Once again she pinned Diane with a penetrating gaze. “One thing I do know—if you help State U. win the SOS Splash, everybody in this room is going to thank you for saving our skins. We might even decide that nasty crack about wishing you weren’t a Gamma was the result of temporary insanity or something.” Teresa’s tone grew menacing. “Now, if we lose the meet to Tech—well, I think everybody will want to personally thank you for your role in our humiliating defeat.”

All around the room, Diane saw heads nodding grimly. The other freshmen women had apparently forgotten their own concerns, and had joined with the others in their stern disapproval of Diane’s disloyalty.

Teresa stepped backward a couple paces and once again addressed the entire room. “Now, who wins the swim meet is going to be sort of a moot point unless we win the ticket sales competition. We’ve got five hundred tickets, and the Tech chapter has got five hundred tickets. The key to victory is going to be the big money sales. If any of your boyfriends aren’t rich enough, dump ‘em and go find somebody better. If any of your rich boyfriends aren’t willing to shell out to save your skin, dump ‘em and find somebody who will.”

“Teresa,” a timid voice came from the back of the room, “be sure to mention the SOS thing.”

Teresa smiled. “That’s a good point. Do not tell the guys buying the tickets that SOS stands for ‘Save Our Skins.’ It’s not good marketing. It’s sort of like an auto race, where some guys buy tickets hoping to see a big wreck. Most of the guys buying these tickets are hoping we will lose. Don’t tell them anything that will interfere with that hope. The guys on campus have their own idea about what SOS stands for, and it sells more tickets than ‘Save Our Skins.’ If someone asks, tell him that it doesn’t stand for anything.”

A hand shot up. “Yes, Pat?” Teresa said.

Pat stood up. “You might want to consider asking some of your professors to buy tickets. Most of them make pretty good money, and you would be surprised at how excited some of them get when they hear about the SOS Splash.”

Teresa nodded. “Good advice, Pat. For those of you who don’t know, Pat was our sales champion last year. She sold three of her tickets for five hundred dollars each, and she set a record for the total dollar amount she collected.” There was a smattering of applause. Teresa pointed to another woman. “Hey, Sue,” she said, “stand up and tell everyone about the corporate angle.”

Sue rose, looking a little embarrassed. “Well, there isn’t much to tell. My dad got his company to buy five seats at $250 each. Since the money goes to charity, the company got a tax write off, and he was able to show some clients a little more entertainment than they had bargained for.”

Diane felt sick. It had been bad enough when the audience seemed likely to be a bunch of dim-witted frat boys with too much money on their hands. But now they were being urged to go directly after the dirty old man market. All around her, blank-eyed women were nodding, seemingly impressed at the wisdom of this advice. Disgusting.


One week later, there was a sense of panic in the air.

“Ladies,” Teresa said, her face flushed, “I am ashamed of you. Way, way too many tickets have been sold at the minimum price.” She shot a nasty glance at Diane. “And even at that, we haven’t sold all our tickets. If we don’t get this mess turned around in the next couple days, we are in deep, deep, deep trouble! And let me remind you, we are all in this together.”

Diane just didn’t care. She had never felt like she belonged here. The Gammas were the most stuck-up, self-obsessed, money-mad sorority on campus, and that took some doing.

Diane really wasn’t the sorority girl type. She had been puzzled when the Gammas started trying to recruit her, but a bit flattered, too. Perhaps because they were so stuck up, there was a sort of veneer of fake prestige about the Gammas. Diane hadn’t yet realized just what that veneer covered—she had been impressed. The Gammas actively sought out all the best female swimmers. They pointed proudly to their long record of victories at the annual Sorority Splash charity swim meet, where most of the sororities on campus competed. Diane had swallowed the image without a lot of reflection, and had regretted her mistake ever since.

After the first SOS Splash meeting, she had decided that she wasn’t willing to ask anyone to buy her tickets. To hell with the Gammas. To her surprise, the tickets sold themselves. Guys who recognized her as a member of the Gammas approached her everywhere on campus and practically begged her to sell them a ticket. A couple guys offered more than a hundred dollars. Others asked how much she was asking for her tickets, and got them for the hundred dollar minimum price. In this way she sold half of her twenty tickets. She had turned the others in, reporting that she hadn’t been able to sell them.

Now Diane was enjoying seeing her snotty sorority sisters squirm. She wasn’t looking forward to the SOS Splash on Saturday night, but the thought of seeing these obnoxious witches taken down a peg or two made her own embarrassment seem less onerous.

Teresa continued to harangue the group. “What’s the matter with you, people? Gammas have it all, right?”

Half-heartedly, a handful of women shouted, “Right!”

Teresa scowled. “Every mousy girl in every pathetic sorority on this campus wishes she was a Gamma, right?”

“Right!” More voices had joined the response this time.

“Every male with a pulse on this campus would cut off his right arm to get a smile from a Gamma, right?”

“Right!” Now the chorus was loud and full-throated.

“We are very fortunate. Gammas have the money. Gammas have the brains. Gammas have the looks. Gammas have it all, right?”


“Then why can’t you sell these stinking tickets?” Teresa screamed. Diane was startled to see tears in Teresa’s eyes.

A timid voice came from the back of the room. “Teresa?” it called.

“Stand up, Mary,” Teresa said, impatiently. “What is it?”

Mary stood, and blushed when all eyes turned toward her. “I think I know a way to guarantee that we’ll win the ticket sales this year. I—I hesitate to mention it because you might think it’s, uh, cheating.”

Teresa’s face brightened. “Mary, remember this is all for charity. It seems to me that there’s really no such thing as cheating for a good cause, right?”

A few scattered voices said, “Right!”

Teresa looked annoyed. “What’s your idea, Mary?” she asked.

“Well,” Mary said, “I started thinking about it last week after Sue talked about her father’s company buying some tickets. This year my father’s company bought thirty of those, uh, what do they call them—seat licenses.”

Teresa nodded. “Yeah, I heard about that. It’s been a big money-making scheme for the university. Go on.”

Mary cleared her throat. “The, uh, seat licenses—they aren’t really tickets to anything, but they give my father’s company the right to buy a ticket to any event at the university for just one dollar. They mostly use it to guarantee seats at the football and basketball games. They’ve got thirty licenses, so they can buy thirty tickets.”

Teresa gave Mary a puzzled look. “I don’t see how that solves our problem,” she said. “That’s only thirty bucks!”

Mary’s voice dropped to a whisper. “Well, that’s where the cheating part comes in.”

Everyone strained to hear.

“It’s only thirty dollars for the charity, that’s true. But I was reading the rules, and we’re allowed to count all money that was paid to secure the tickets.”

“Speak up!” someone shouted.

“We’re allowed to count all money paid to secure the tickets,” Mary repeated. “The way my father reads it, and the way his company’s lawyers read it, we can count the seat license fee. They paid ten thousand dollars for each seat license.”

There was a long moment of silence as the people in the room digested this news. Then a whoop of joy rose from several throats simultaneously. Teresa raced back and hugged the embarrassed Mary. “That’s three hundred thousand dollars! Oh, Mary, I could kiss you!” Teresa cried.

“Wait a second!” Diane shouted. “Aren’t we forgetting something here? It’s only thirty bucks for charity.”

Teresa shot a look of absolute hatred at Diane. “Diane, you are becoming such a pain! Who cares about some lousy charity? We win! That’s what’s important. We win! Or have you forgotten what happens if we lose?”

“Okay,” Diane said. “Let’s talk about what happens next year. The SOS Splash will be held on Tech’s campus. They recently started selling seat licenses, too. There’s no way we’ll be able to beat them and their seat licenses. What are we going to do? Just take turns losing?”

Mary shook her head. “No,” she said softly, “that’s the beauty of it. After everyone sees how we’ve cheated, the national Gamma office will change the rules and outlaw this kind of thing. But they can’t change the rules before the event. We’re home free.”

The room erupted in applause. Teresa gave Mary a puzzled look. “That is so evil! I never expected this kind of thing from you, Mary. Hiding your light under a bushel, eh? I love it! I’m sure glad you’re on our side.

Breaking Records

Two dozen Gammas from State U. stood near the locker room door, fidgeting nervously, suited up and ready to enter the pool room. From the other side of the door, they could hear the sound of the eager crowd. But Diane sat before her locker, stark naked.

“Jeez, Diane, hurry it up! You look like a member of the losing team.” Teresa said. “We’ve got to go out in just a few minutes.”

Diane shook her head. “Nope,” she said. “I’m dressed. I would be ashamed to have anyone think that I’m one of you.”

Teresa was incredulous. “You—you can’t mean you’re going to go out there naked! There’s a thousand people in the stands!”

Diane shrugged. “What’s the big deal? The girls from Tech are going to be naked, right? If we hadn’t come up with that brilliant scheme for cheating, we would all be going out there naked, right? I’m not nearly as embarrassed about the idea of all those people seeing me naked as I am about the possibility that they’ll think I’m like you.”

Most of the women in the room watched in stunned silence. Teresa’s face twisted into a mask of pure fury.

“All right,” Teresa said. “All right. You go out there naked. See if I care. But if you throw this meet, so help me, there will be Hell to pay!”

“I wish I could throw the meet,” Diane said. “You don’t know how much I wish I could do it. I’d love to see you all have to strip off your swimsuits while the crowd hoots and whistles. But that’s one of the differences between me and all of you. You see, I believe in something called sportsmanship. I have to give my best, and win or lose fair and square.”

There was a tap on the door. One of the women opened the door and admitted the judge from the Gamma sorority’s national headquarters, an attractive woman of about forty, dressed in a neat business suit. She was carrying a clipboard. She was smiling broadly, and her face seemed a little flushed.

“Hello, ladies,” the judge said. “Is everybody ready?”

There were nods and several voices murmured, “Yes.”

“Well, this has been an extraordinary year, I must say,” the judge said. “I wanted to take this opportunity to congratulate you for these outstanding ticket sales figures. Your total, as you know, was $355,000. I want you to know that figure broke all previous records for SOS Splash ticket sales from all Gamma chapters everywhere in the country. You can be very, very proud of that!”

There was applause and squeals of delight from the assembled Gammas. Diane set silently on her bench, feeling more and more disgusted.

“That alone is reason for celebration,” the judge continued, “and with the Tech chapter’s amazing sales figures, well, we really have an embarrassment of riches. The total amount collected for tonight’s SOS Splash is over a million dollars!”

A few mathematically impaired Gammas applauded. Most of the women stood thunderstruck.

“How much did they collect?” Teresa asked.

“The Tech chapter collected—let’s see…” The judge consulted her clipboard. “The Tech chapter collected $648,000. Just a spectacular accomplishment. And the grand total for tonight’s event is $1,003,000. We just barely squeaked past the million dollar mark, but I can’t tell you how excited I am.”

“How—how did they do that?” Teresa asked, incredulously.

The judge smiled. “They have some awfully clever and creative young ladies over there at Tech. They got $600,000 for selling a number of seats to that cable sports network—what’s it called? Not ESPN, but…”

Teresa gulped. “Uh, ESPC?” she asked.

“That’s it,” the judge replied. “Yes, they’re going to broadcast tonight’s meet live, and they’ve expressed interest in broadcasting all the SOS Splash meets nationwide. It’s all very exciting.” She glanced at her watch. “Well, I see I’ve taken up too much of your time already. You had better hurry and get those suits off. But once again, congratulations, and good luck in tonight’s meet.” She turned and left the locker room.

Diane smiled. Live television—that was more than she had bargained for. She was definitely starting to feel very embarrassed. But, by God, it was worth it!