Short Story
Michael Gouda

Yes, it's tonight. The boys' night out, As always a Saturday evening. Wives, girl friends, female significant others all know the rules. Saturday is for the lads to go to the pub, get systematically rat-arsed, from thence a curry, or possibly a Chinese, if nothing else available, a pizza. To finish, a vomit, barfing, upchuck from those with the weakest stomachs and then home. Good night out? Brill!

Who's here? Obviously Chuck and Larry and Kit. Front row forwards, two props and a hooker, built like brick shithouses but surprisingly bright for their weight. Always smelling sweetly after the Saturday match and their communal bath at which very little happens except home-made bubbles and occasional raucous goosing.

Then there's quiet Kevin, he of the legendary enormous todger though how that fact was ever found out is anyone's guess. He always wears very baggy trousers and pees at the end urinal always with his back half turned to anyone else there. He's a bank clerk and his wife, Maureen, is a little blonde who tends to wear what has been described as a rather pained expression on her face. I draw no conclusions.

Pete's a painter - of the household variety. He always smells slightly of turps but no one ever mentions it because he has a notoriously quick temper. There was a rumour that once a guy, who was suffering from a bad cold, sniffed as he passed the table where Pete was sitting. The resulting punch-up has gone down in legend and it is said is the main reason why we drink at the Mole and Catcher rather than the Fishmongers Arms. That and the fact that it's marginally nearer the Chinese Takeaway.

And of course there's me, Steve, the runt as it were of the litter. Still a student which gives rise to a lot of banter from the others, like, 'When are you going to get out into the real world and start earning a living?', 'We're paying for you, you know, to live in the lap of luxury', 'Wish I was you with nothing to do all day 'cept shaft the girls'. And of course I put up with it because these are my mates, have been ever since we left school back in the roaring 90s.

So here, as I said, we are, as we have been practically every Saturday barring illnesses and holidays (not that there were many of these because very little would stop anyone attending the weekly 'Boys Night Out') and drinking our pints of lager.

"Whose round is it?" asks Chuck, as he does every time it is his - and we all respond with the usual "Yours, you tight-arsed fucker." So up he gets and goes to the bar to order six pints of lager, from Mavis, the big-bosomed barmaid with the bulging biceps and petulant pout. Despite her appearance though she is pleasant and popular with the pub clientele.

The conversation at home base turns to other things and it isn't until Kit and Larry and probably Pete as well start to experience the bottoms of their glasses from inside that we realise that Chuck hasn't returned with the foaming mugs - not actually that lager foams all that much, actually not at all, but you know what I mean. There he is, still standing at the bar, leaning slightly into Mavis and probably, though we can't see this from where we sit, staring down her cleavage.

"Oi, Chuck," calls Larry, "We're drying out over here."

Chuck reluctantly turns and comes over with three pint tankards in each hand - big hands, and a smile on his face.

"Cop yourself a feel?" asks Kit.

"Better than that," says Chuck. "She's off for a break in ten minutes. We're meeting up in the snug." A 'snug' I should explain is a separate small room often let off for private parties. The snug at the Mole and Catcher is usually empty unless there's a darts match going on, which there isn't this particular Saturday.

There are several suggestions about what could or couldn't be done with Mavis in the snug without the landlord noticing. "Not a word to Janice," says Chuck. Janice is Chuck's wife.

We all promise - the solidarity of brotherhood - though I suspect some of us feel a bit guilty. The conversation then gets fairly basic but Chuck as always takes it in good part, smiling bashfully but with an element of pride on his face. We occupy ourselves with our new pints.

There is a sudden commotion at the bar as a young man enters. I, who notice these things, recognise he is handsome in a rather willowy blond way, that he is wearing a gold chain round his neck, another on his wrist, a light blue pullover and cream chinos and boots up to his knees. Only a casual glance, you understand.

But someone else has noticed. "Poof in Boots," says Larry, nodding in the newcomer's direction.

The others look, take in the probable truth of his assertion and start telling 'gay' jokes.

"What's a real gay buddy?" asks Pete, and then, when no one answers, says, "Someone who will go downtown and get two blow jobs and come back and give you one."

"OK," says Larry, "What do gays refer to haemorrhoids as?" We all know that one so we chorus, as one, "Speed bumps."

Kit asks, "Who's for the next round?"

Kevin falls for that. "I don't know that one," he says, so Kit and Larry laugh, get up and go off to the bar together. They always do things together. If Kit wasn't married, and Larry hadn't got a steady girlfriend, you might begin to wonder. Course the marrying bit doesn't necessarily prove a great deal but the girlfriend more likely does.

I don't really want any more pints. Not that I can't take them with the best but I notice how all the others are beginning to get a bit of a beer gut and I can do without that so I shouts, "I'm OK, thanks. Leave me out of this round." This prompts Pete to say. "Get her a port and lemon instead," but I know they won't.

Pete and Kevin drift off into a conversation which I think is about interior decorating. Maureen, Kevin's wife, it appears, needs the front room smartening up and he and Pete are discussing wallpapers, paints, dadoes, coving etc. I sometimes wonder that Kevin knows a bit too much about decorating for a bank clerk - he was the same last year when Maureen wanted the bedroom done, plush pink, I think it was. Of course Pete knows all about it too, but it's his job.

I watch the willowy guy at the bar who seems to be having trouble attracting Mavis, the barmaid's attention. She occasionally takes a sudden and irrational dislike to people and from then on - they're as good as invisible.

Larry and Kit though have no trouble and, when they turn, I see that they've got three pints each, so they've got one for me after all. But then I notice that the slim guy is following them back to our table.

They arrive and Kit says they've rescued the guy who was having problems at the bar and the pint is his. Kit's like that generous and considerate almost to a fault. "You'll be all right now," says Pete, "Now that Mavis sees you're with us. Have a seat," he adds. "You'd best sit with Steve. He's the only one who hasn't got a regular partner."

I feel a blush starting around neck level and ascending. These guys know more about me than they're often prepared to say, but I skootch up on the bench with my back to the window and the guy slips in beside me.

"I'm Gavin," he says, and smiles. He has a nice smile, wide, frank, engaging, which bulges out his high cheek bones, spreads to his eyes, exposes teeth, which, though not perfect (one canine is slightly crooked), are white and clean. His smile creates question marks on either side of his mouth (one reversed, the other the right way round). His skin is clear and he has a small mole by the side of his nose. I only give him a cursory glance, you understand, and smile back, hoping mine is correspondingly attractive.

"I'm Steve," I say and we go round the table, anti-clockwise, next to Gavin on the other side is Kevin, Pete, Larry, Kit, Chuck and back to me again.

It turns out that Gavin is a student at the same college that I'm at. I haven't seen him before but I hope that I will again. I feel the warmth of his thigh against mine, not sure whether it's there on purpose or merely because of the narrowness of the window seat.

The news that Gavin is another student gives rise to more joshing about spendthrift students who do little work but fuck around a lot and I glance at Gavin hoping he isn't taking it seriously. He smiles again and I know he's not.

We chat about college, Gavin and me. Kevin and Pete are still talking about paint. Larry and Kit are, I think, talking about football. I hear occasional words but I am concentrating on Gavin. Chuck is silent. Occasionally he looks over towards the bar. Then Mavis holds up two fingers, not as a rude gesture but, I suspect, to show there are only two minutes. Chuck starts to twist about in his seat.

Testing, I move my thigh against Gavin's. I'm not sure if anything happens but at least he doesn't move away. I look sideways at him but his face is turned away towards Kevin who has just asked him a question.

Chuck glances at his watch, looks at the bar from which Mavis has disappeared, gets up and goes into the Snug. The door closes behind him with a click which is only just covered by the general level of conversation in the pub.

"Has he left because of me?" asks Gavin.

"Not unless you've got a date with Mavis in there," says Larry.

Gavin gives a little shiver which no one but me notices. I feel it through his thigh still pressed against mine.

The conversation becomes general as everyone talks about Chuck and what his reception will be in the snug. Jests are lewd and we all laugh, including Gavin. He becomes animated. Kit asks him if he plays any sport. Gavin says he plays tennis a bit and Kit nods showing an appreciation of the game which I hadn't realised before.

Four guys sit at a table near to us. They are loud, raucous, probably a bit drunk. One notices Gavin and points him out to his companions. They start whistling and generally behaving like arseholes. Gavin notices and tries to become one of our crowd. He sinks a little onto his seat and I feel his leg pressing even more strongly against mine but I know it isn't lust, just embarrassment, perhaps a little fear. I know the feeling of not wanting to be noticed. I put my hand on his leg and he covers it with his.

One of the dickheads looks at Gavin. "Hello, sweetie," he says. His tone is unpleasant.

"'E's wiv us," says Pete. "Just leave 'im alone." He is frowning but they do not recognise the threat in his tone.

"Look what we've got here," says dickhead number one. "A bunch of poofs."

Dickhead number two, who is perhaps a bit more cautious mutters, "There are six of them."

And reinforcements in the snug, I think.

Dickhead one says. "They're poofs. What do you think they'll do? Hit you with their handbags."

Dickheads three and four don't say anything. They are obviously the sort of guys who just follow D #1 into whatever scrape he leads them. Actually D #4 looks distinctly green about the gills. Wouldn't like to get near him in case he throws up all over you.

But D #1 can't leave it alone. "Fucking queers can't fight anyway. Stand up to them and they'll run away shrieking."

That's too much for Pete who gives a bellowing roar and stands up. Kit and Larry stand too and even D #1 looks a bit disconcerted at the size of them. Prop row forwards do look menacing even when they're wearing civvies or perhaps especially when they're wearing civvies. It's something to do with the way the material stretches over chest and groin, bicep and thigh.

The patrons of the pub, sensing something is about to happen, gradually stop talking and the buzz dies down. The landlord tentatively reaches out a hand towards the telephone under the bar and then pauses to see if perhaps it is a false alarm.

I hear Gavin murmur, "Jesus, straight men fighting over me. I can't believe it."

I pat him reassuringly on his thigh and he quickly shifts my hand to his crotch area. It is pleasantly large and quickly assumes a hard shape. I think the impending fight may be turning him on. OTOH it may be me.

"No trouble please," says mine host.

But nothing is going to put off the inevitable now. D #1 takes a shaky step towards the three, now backed up by Kevin's less gargantuan but still menacing physique.

Chairs and stools fall over, a table squeaks on the wooden floor. People shout. Pete aims a perfectly delivered punch at D #3's (who happens to be nearest) chin. He falls. D #4 throws up, luckily not over Pete which would have enraged him further.

From the other side of the room, Chuck bursts out of the snug. He is doing up the zip of his trousers. I hope coitus hasn't been too much interruptus. Seeing yet more reinforcements D #1 and D #2 turn and flee, leaving D #3 flat out on his back and D #4 groaning in a pool of his own vomit.

"Short but sweet," says Pete.

"I didn't have a chance to hit anyone," complains Chuck.

Larry looks around at the mess. "I think we should transfer our custom elsewhere," he says, and Kit agrees. They make a stately exit and Gavin and I scurry out after them, not wishing to be left and blamed for any of the consequences.

We repair to the Indian Curry House and there consume some very hot Vindaloos cooled down with pints of lager. It is a convivial party. Gavin seems completely accepted and he and I hold hands - as well as other things - under the table. In the course of the meal, Gavin has to visit the little boys' room. I would go with him except that I know it will lead to enormous teasing from the rest. In fact Kevin is already there.

When Gavin comes back, his eyes are large. "Have you seen . . .?" he asks, nodding his head at Kevin.

"Never," I say regretfully. "He always keeps it very private."

"Enormous," says Gavin.

"Lucky Maureen," I say.

Everyone agrees it's been a brilliant evening. Perhaps we may have to move to another pub, though maybe Mavis will be able to work her magic with the landlord and rescind our banishing.

I must ask Gavin more details about Kevin's todger.

He and I are getting together tomorrow.

I hope this may possibly be the start of something significant.


Date started: Monday, February 14, 2005
Date finished: Wednesday, February 16, 2005
Word number: 2,573

If you wish to comment please write to