Fic: Beer and Skittles

The clink and crash and rumble of the garbage truck woke them. It was that time when there is the potential of light but not the light itself. Things are monochrome, the third dimension suppressed. Their fanned clothes were calligraphic on the floor.

“Fuck,” Hugo said softly.

And Orlando said, head still in the pillow, “Err.”

Orlando rolled off the bed and up. There was the creak of floorboards, then the clunk and roll of the sliding door to the toilet across the hall.

Then Orlando’s bare feet scuffing the stillness now the garbage truck was gone, up the hall, then back again. Part way down on the way back, there was a muffled impact, a complaint from laths under plaster. The footsteps continued.

“Did you hit the wall then?” Hugo said, when Orlando appeared, tall and naked, in the doorway.

“Nah, nah, more sort of just chafed it,” Orlando said. He settled one glass of water on the bedside table with a clink and a wobble; handed the other to Hugo. Sinuses heavy, he had gone quite cockney. Sore of jiss chafed dit.

Hugo pulled the covers back. Orlando sat down, elbows on bent knees. “It’s not that I’m still drunk, ay,” he said. “I was orc-dodging. There were fucking hordes of them.”

“The house just sort of rotated with me as an axis, you know,” he added, looking at the window. The light seeping between the slats of the blind was blue-grey.

Hugo, on one elbow, watched him. Said, “Shit, mate, if I’d known you were the axis around which all things rotate…”

Orlando turned his head to look at Hugo, unfolded a long elbow and let it hang loose. “Yeah, well, sorry,” he said.

Then Orlando said, “I just drank most of a litre of apple juice, and it didn’t even touch the sides. D’you think that’s normal?”

“Probably not,” Hugo said. “I used to drink a litre of Coke when I was your age, but that was a party trick. Felt fucked after.” He reached behind Orlando’s back with its scar like beetle tracks in sand, and put his glass on the bedside table. Then he said, “Lie down and we’ll inspect the battle wounds, eh?”

Orlando cocked his dark head.

Hugo said, “I’m cold, mate.”

“Alright,” Orlando said. He flattened the tall peaks of his knees and slid his feet under the tag of covers left on his side at the foot of the bed. Hugo threw the rest over him.

“Uh,” Orlando said, in a pleased sort of way.

Hugo shifted closer under the covers. He ran a hand down Orlando’s bare hip. “Chafed, eh?” he said.

Orlando gave a small squirm. “Nah, don’t touch! I’ve been cold. It’s about this big.” He did not indicate how big “this” was. His hand was busy trying to catch Hugo’s.

“Geez, you’re right,” Hugo said. “It’s fucking tiny. I can barely find it.”

“Piss off,” Orlando said. “You’ve got matters well in hand.” His own hand, cupped over the back of Hugo’s, began to push forward rather than pull away.

Then Orlando said, “Weird to feel more sick when you’re lying down. I dunno about this.”

“We’ll see,” Hugo said. “Not gunna chuck up a litre of apple juice on me, are you?”

“Nah. It’s not a king tide sort of thing,” Orlando said.

Orlando stroked the back of Hugo’s moving hand.

“Why do you run around in the nuddy if you get cold?” Hugo said.

“Nuddy,” Orlando said. Then, in a different tone, “Should I get a dressing gown or something?”

“Might be an idea,” Hugo said.

“Maybe some fluffy slippers,” Orlando said. “A pipe.”

“Shut up,” Hugo said.

“No trouble finding it now, then,” Orlando said. He withdrew his hand and settled it around Hugo’s shoulder. He changed his mind and pushed Hugo’s hair back from his face. Let it drop, pushed it again.

“No, no trouble,” Hugo said softly.

Orlando said, “Oh, that’s good.” He put his hand on Hugo’s elbow to feel the forearm moving back and forth. Hugo kissed Orlando, slid his tongue along Orlando’s.

The sound from under the covers was like fine sandpaper used on a delicate corner. “Yeah?” Hugo asked breathily.

“Yeah,” Orlando replied.

Hugo released Orlando and sat up. Orlando lay open-mouthed, limp. “Uh?” he said.

Hugo threw back the covers. On hands and knees, without further preamble, he took Orlando in his mouth, Orlando’s balls in his hand.

As Hugo settled in, the wet sound began in earnest. “Fuck,” Orlando said, “oh fuck.”

The light around the blind had yellowed slightly.

 

When they woke again, the books on the shelves had resolved themselves. The fanned tarot of the clothes on the floor had developed body, wrinkles that would need ironing.

Hugo lifted Orlando’s lolling, dark head from his shoulder, Orlando’s own limp shoulder from across his ribcage, and rolled Orlando gently over onto his back. Orlando’s hand flew out and struck the bedside table. A soft “Uh!” came from Orlando’s mouth, and he pulled the hand back.

Hugo sat up and shook his arm to get the sensation back from where Orlando’s head had been.

Orlando opened one eye and looked at Hugo. He lifted the hand he had knocked on the bedside table and began to rub it. Orlando’s one eye met Hugo’s two.

Hugo reached for the hand and took over, sandwiching it between both his own. He kissed Orlando’s knuckles.

“Morning,” Hugo said.

“A hurtful rumour,” Orlando said thickly.

Hugo lay down again, touched Orlando on the nose. Then he rolled over to face the wall, shaking the shoulder that had been downmost.

“Fuck off, then,” Orlando said.

“You’ve got a heavy head,” Hugo said.

“Me?” Orlando said.

“See anyone else here?”

“No one important,” Orlando said. He walked his fingers up Hugo’s spine. The texture of Hugo’s skin was softer, drier than his own.

Traffic had begun in the street outside. They lay quiet.

Orlando said, “Did you do that? Fuck!” He began flapping the covers like a great sail.

“Fucking hell, stop it!” Hugo said. He rolled over and grabbed at Orlando’s wrist.

“I’m not keeping it in here.” Orlando gave another flap, Hugo’s hand on his.

“It’s fucking freezing,” Hugo said, tightening his grip. Orlando let the covers subside over them, parachute-like.

“Fucking English beer,” Hugo said at last. “Warm piss.”

“That’s your excuse?” Orlando said. “I drank it too.”

“Maybe it was you, then,” Hugo said.

Orlando, propped on one elbow, looked at him for a long moment. “The only reason you would chill beer,” Orlando said, “is to disguise the flavour.”

“Yeah, yeah, settle down,” Hugo said, turning his back again.

“Yeah, alright,” Orlando said. He put his hand on Hugo’s back, then let it drop.

Orlando watched the shadows of the plaster leaves in the ceiling rose shrink.

 

The curtains were open in the kitchen. The sun lit the beer bottles on the table green, the tablecloth yellow. Out the window, beyond the bricked courtyard and the back fence, a television aerial rose into the sky above the next house.

Orlando picked popped toast out of the toaster and dropped it on a plate, then put it beside Hugo’s elbow. He went back to the sink. When the water had run till it steamed, he put a gravy-smeared pot under it.

“You’ve got…” Hugo began, then took the toast out of his mouth. “You’ve got voicemail.” He had the cordless phone tucked between his head and his shoulder. “No, wait.” He held up his hand. “For me.”

Orlando worried at the pot with a scourer.

When Hugo had pressed the button to hang up, Orlando said, “Well?”

“He did good on his maths test, is all,” Hugo said.

“Oh, you mean it was…”

“Yeah,” Hugo said.

“They ring you a lot,” Orlando said, “cause you’re always away.”

“Yeah,” Hugo said. “He was worried about it, and I said he should ring and tell me. It was eleven last night. I wish I’d picked up.”

“You were too busy shagging me senseless,” Orlando said.

“Pretty much,” Hugo said.

Orlando looked at him, head slightly sideways. “Why did you give her the number here?” he said at last.

“I didn’t think you’d mind, mate,” Hugo said. He put his toast down.

“Is it alright to give her the number here because I’m a man, is that why it’s alright? It’s all no worries.” Orlando spoke quickly.

“Pretty much,” Hugo said.

Orlando scrubbed the pot, inspected the suds climbing his wrist.

“I can tell them not to ring here,” Hugo said. “I’m sorry.”

“No,” Orlando said. He rinsed the pot and put it in the dishrack. “We should get going.”

“Don’t I get a kiss?” Hugo said.

“I’m driving you to the station, you duffer,” Orlando said, drying his hands.

“Yeah, but before we go outside,” Hugo said.

He pushed Orlando against the edge of the bench and kissed him hard, using his tongue. Orlando kissed the creases fanning from Hugo’s eye, the point into which Hugo’s sandy hair receded above the temple. Hugo tousled Orlando’s short-cropped hair all over, using both hands.

 

When they got into the car, the morning was bright blue. The rubbish bin was fallen down diagonally across the footpath.

Hugo’s knees nudged the glove box in the car, and Orlando’s hair brushed the padded roof. Orlando flipped through his keys to find the ignition.

“What is all this?” Hugo asked.

“Keys to all my bank vaults and stuff,” Orlando said. They pulled out of the drive.

“I don’t know, mate, I think there’s a pretty established dressing gown culture in this street,” Hugo said, watching a woman on the other side of the street take her bin in.

Orlando took a left at the end of the street, past the pawnbroker on the corner. At the next intersection, he accelerated for an orange light. Then, when it turned red, he bunny-hopped them hard to a stop on the line.

“Fuck, mate,” Hugo said.

Leaning over the steering column, Orlando turned the motor over, then again. The car restarted.

“You’re not fucking driving, are you?” Orlando said. They took off. The gearbox clunked the change into second.

“No, mate. You drive great stick,” Hugo said. And then looked out the window quite quickly, his fingers at the bridge of his nose.

When they got to the station, the tracks were singing with a train just gone in the other direction to Hugo’s. Broken glass sparkled in the car park. Hugo caught Orlando’s hand on the gear stick, and moved it slowly up and down the shaft. He grinned and got out of the car. Orlando retrieved the keys, his face still.

On the platform, they stood in the sun with their hands in their pockets. Orlando rolled his head around, then rubbed his upper arms. A weathered man in a zippered jacket approached them. “Got a smoke, mate?” he said to Hugo.

“No, mate,” Hugo said.

The man turned to Orlando. “You?”

“No, I’m sorry, I don’t.” Orlando squinted.

The man moved on. He asked another man in a suit further down the platform.

The tracks began to rumble and hiss. “That’s me, eh,” Hugo said.

Orlando stopped rubbing his arms.

“Shall we shake hands, then?” Orlando said.

“It’s not like that,” Hugo said softly.

“Sure it is,” Orlando said.

“Look, I’ll see you at the end of the month, eh?” Hugo said, reaching for Orlando’s shoulder.

Orlando stood still for Hugo’s hand. He said, “Yeah, maybe.”

“Mate…” Hugo began. But the doors were opening, and Orlando was backing away, his head hunched into his shoulders, collar up.

2 comments

2 Comments so far

  1. elfscribe October 3rd, 2014 6:59 am

    This is another one I remember reading a long time ago, remember with great fondness. You have such a knack with words, a poetic spareness of language and you tell the story through what they aren’t saying even more than what they are. It’s positively Zen. Love your writing.

  2. Eyebrow of Doom October 3rd, 2014 11:43 am

    Thanks again! This was my first lotrips story, I think.

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