“I almost had a threesome once,” Ted said, casually sipping a strong Belgian Chimay in a footed pilsner glass, exclusively brewed at some remote Trappist monastery in Belgium.
Ted had already been careful to point out that only seven such brewing monasteries existed. Six in Belgium, and one holdover in Holland. His beer was nine percent, yet tasted like rolled oats, Maine blueberries, and “mad” cherries. Or so he said. With our evening beer education complete, Clarissa and I now had a course in multiple partner manipulation to sit through.
The conversation had turned to sex, a seeming inevitability because none of us were guaranteed it tonight. Times like these require the ammunition of spank-bank stories. Memories you can recall and use to elicit jealousy, admiration, or, depending on the atmosphere and number of drinks consumed, disgust amongst your peers. Ted cast the illusion of having a Rolodex of stories and had waited until splurging on a twelve-dollar pint to savour and impart the latest one.
“Do tell,” I implored. I could sense Ted smirking at my Früli, a strawberry flavoured Belgian brew that lacked manliness with its stained fuchsia coloration resembling Slushy syrup. I didn’t care. It tasted fantastic.
“I was at this party and ended up on the couch with two pretty-littles.”
“What point of the party?” I was good at cutting Ted off with the kind of questions that forced him to enhance details. He was usually purposefully vague. I could sense Clarissa’s intrigue. Clarissa was gay, but she and Ted had fooled around briefly when she expressed interest in pinch-hitting for the other team. When she couldn’t get wet for him, she broke down, lamenting how she thought she might be asexual since she had the same excitement issues with women. Despite his public bravado, Ted nurtured her through the whole thing. Now she was his lesbian wingwoman.
“Late. We’d been drinking solidly for several hours.”
“Beer or liquor? Or mixing?”
“Mixing. I was at least. You remember Karen?” Ted asked me.
“Of course. We dated in grade five. I’m pretty sure she was the hottest girl in school at the time. She dumped me after I asked her to wash her mouth before kissing me, because of my peanut allergy. Instead of having my first kiss at 11, I had it six years later. I blame all my subsequent sexual awkwardness on that one incident.”
Ted and Clarissa laughed. Clarissa was nursing a rum and Coke, scanning the bar that looked like a clear rectangle filled with oil. It was a deep black, and the glasses, beer and wine, hanging from gold racks above it, reflected off the surface.
My anecdote was like stuffing two packages of smelling salts up each nostril.
“Hold up! No! You asked her to wash her face before the kiss?” Clarissa asked.
Ted just leaned back and laughed. “Yup,” I said. “It was either that or risk anaphylactic shock and death. Maybe I sensed she wasn’t my soul mate.”
“You, sir, are fucking insane!” Clarissa said. “But let’s get back to Ted’s story. Sounds juicy. I’ve always been curious about threesomes.”
“Like I was saying,” Ted continued, briefly stopping himself to laugh at the narrative in his head, “I was sitting on the couch with Karen. We start making out a bit, and she’s rubbing my crotch. As this is going on, this foreign exchange student from Switzerland, Elma, stumbles into the room and sits on the other side of me. Pretty close. Our thighs are touching.”
“Aw, shit!” Clarissa interjected. “Old Teddy’s gonna get a double dip.”
“What did Elma look like?” I asked, feeling renewed interest in our conversation for the first time in over an hour.
“Blond, blue eyes, thick lips. Athletic build,” Ted said fondly.
Disappointment. What a lame description. I hadn’t asked him to fill out a medical questionnaire for Elma. I decided she had a Marie Antoinette mole and that, well, she was basically Cindy Crawford from that old Pepsi commercial. Now that was more interesting.
“So our legs are touching, and Elma suddenly starts rubbing my thigh with her hand, inching it up closer to my crotch with every stroke.”
“What room in the house were you in? Were other people there?” I asked.
“Basement. A couple of others, but they were passed out. So once Karen notices Elma rubbing my leg, she stars kissing my neck. Before I know it, we’re really making out.” Ted pauses to laugh again. Sort of a transvestite witch laugh. Sharp, yet deep. “But then I start to get distracted because I can’t feel Elma’s hand moving anymore. I look over and she’s passed out. When I turn my attention back to Karen, she’s already getting up to go to the bathroom to puke.”
That’s it? I think to myself. “Did you at least wake up in a dumpster the next morning with blood and chocolate stains on your shirt and pants?”
Clarissa and Ted give me blank stares. Lame.
“Ah Teddy, one of these days you’ll get there,” Clarissa soothed.
“What about you, Vanilla Sweetness?” Ted said to Clarissa. “Any tales of moral debauchery to tell us?”
“I don’t want to excite you chumps too much with girl-on-girl action stories. Get your imaginations running too wild.”
“About that,” Ted began, “What are the assumed ethics of a gay relationship?”
“What do you mean?”
“Yeah, Ted,” I said, raising my eyebrows, “they don’t have a written manual with rules, ya know?”
Everyone laughed. “No,” Ted said mock-defensively, “I have this gay friend Martin who told me that the assumed ethics of a homosexual relationship are that you should presume to be sleeping with, and actively looking for, other people until the exclusivity talk happens.”
“Don’t know where he gets that from. We don’t have unified rules like a boxing commission,” Clarissa said jokingly, “I’ve always been monogamous, actually.”
“Yeah, Ted,” I cut in, “no unified rules. Not every lesbian…” I pause. “Damn, I was trying to pun on three-knock-down-rule, but I got nothing.”
“Actually,” Clarissa began, “I will give you guys a little taste of something… but nothing exclusive to the fairer sex, so you boys don’t go making any assumptions now. I had this partner who had an armpit fixation. She could only really get off if she had her face buried in my pit. The ranker, the better. Made for an easy couple of months since I could get away without shaving.”
“I think the hair helps retain the scent,” I said.
Ted was looking at me. “Alright, boss. Let’s hear some shindigery.”
“Bah, I got nothing.” I figured I wouldn’t tell them about the time I peed on my ex-girlfriend. We were in the shower, I had to go, mentioned it, and she actually brought up the idea. I hesitated at first, but getting the green light was actually appealing. I ended up peeing on the side of her ass and thigh. It was nothing. She soaped it off right after, and she was standing right over the drain. Still, all the qualifying and technicalities I’d have to convey made that story worthless when you were a few drinks in.
I paused. “I’ll just tell you about the fetish room at the Amsterdam Sex Museum.” I figured this would work well enough. I talked about donkeys with pricks that dwarfed a Louisville Slugger, piercings and hot wax in various orifices, and midgets packing some serious heat. My story was half-assed. Ted’s “near” threesome made me think of how my current girlfriend had promised me a threesome with a girl she’d once “been” with. I was sceptical, but the thought kept me going when final papers were sucking the lifeblood out of me. Needless to say, the thought of that success increased the flow of red bile and changed my humour from melancholic to sanguine.
I was starting to find the conversation tiresome. I’d been nursing my beer for the past hour, and Ted was now pontificating on how he was certain, with a surgeon’s precision, that he’d given every girl he’d been with an orgasm.
“That’s impossible!” Clarissa ejaculated.
“What do you mean, ‘it’s impossible?’”
“You have no way of knowing. What if they faked it?”
“Trust me, had you been there, you’da known they weren’t faking.”
“But still. You can’t ever really know. You can have a sense, or perception of it. But it’s impossible to inhabit her body and actually know. Men have…”
“A tell?” I jumped in.
“Exactly. Like if someone spilt their beer all over the table every time they tried to bluff.”
Ted wasn’t convinced. “I know for a fact I’ve given every girl I’ve been with an orgasm.”
“Teddy, that’s ridiculous. I’m sure even you have an off night.”
I didn’t have the heart to tell them they were misunderstanding each other. Ted meant he’d given every girl he’d been with an orgasm, not every single one he’d been with every single time, as Clarissa seemed to gather. Their sparing match was entertaining.
As Male Prowess versus the State of Female Orgasms continued to cross examine witnesses and prepare for closing arguments, I spied a mother-daughter combo manning two stools unsteadily at the bar. An awkward 17-26 year age gap separated the two; the mother, with wavy blond curls, make-up caked age lines, and bifocals, was probably one of the only regular customers of the local Miami Tanning Salon; the daughter, petite in a black one piece dress that rode up enough to reveal a tear in her flesh coloured stockings, had ink-black hair and Sicilian features.
The mom guzzled a vodka-cranberry with a lime wedge, and the daughter slowly sipped scotch with an appreciative demeanour. Every time the aura of a body whisked past, the mom swivelled around, on the prowl. I made eye contact with each one separately, lulled into their Circean spell, which Ted finally broke.
“Common, man. Let’s get a tall tale.”
I sighed inwardly. “I’m not in the sharing mood. How about a joke instead?”
“As long as it’s dirty.”
“So this guy’s boarding a plane. He sits down, and before he has time to buckle his seat belt, this gorgeous woman sits next to him. I mean, this is the type of woman a man gives up red meat for.” I’ve got Ted and Clarissa under my spell.
“The guy’s deliberating about how to break the ice. Pick-up lines always fail at the critical moments, so he’s at a complete loss. Lo and behold, the woman engages him in conversation. ‘Hi, my name’s Krystal. I’m headed to Chicago for a nymphomaniac convention.’ The guy can’t believe his luck. ‘A convention? What are you, speaking or something?’ he asks. ‘Yes,’ she replies, ‘In fact, I’m the keynote speaker. I’m there to dispel myths about sex and nymphomania.’ At this point, the guy is nearly bursting. He asks her what the myths are.
“‘Well,’ she continues, ‘most people assume that black men have the largest penises. But actually, it’s the Native American Indian. Another is that the French are supposed to be the most sensual lovers, but actually it’s the Jews. Finally, and this one might surprise you, a prevailing assumption is that Italians are the most devoted lovers when, and you might not believe this, it’s in fact the Southern Americans… or ‘rednecks’ as the uncouth like to call them. But look at me, I’m rambling about all this technical stuff and haven’t even asked you your name.’ The guy pauses for a second, looks at the woman’s naked things, moving up past her cleavage before settling on her face. ‘My name is Tonto Goldstein, but my friends call me Bubba.’”
Ted and Clarissa laughed, but I felt the timing was off. Around the middle of telling the joke, a man sitting at the table over Ted’s left shoulder, diagonal from the mother-daughter task force, distracted me. He had a suit with a silk bowtie and medallions, one each with red and blue sashes respectively, pinned to his lapel. I noticed the medallions as I was watching the mother, who I’d started calling Madame Bovary, stumble towards the bathroom.
I kept gazing periodically at the medallion man. He had closely cropped black hair, receding with a widow’s peak. The bald patches next to the peak glistened like newly buffed curling stones sliding along a freshly zambonied rink. His suit was precise, clearly custom fitted, and his face was razor sharp aquiline. Still, his jaw fanned out. Looked like he could take a punch with that bull neck, too.
I was hooked. He sat at a table with three others: an older man and two university-aged boys. He carried himself like a patriarch who maybe had a kid fighting overseas in Afghanistan. Damndest thing was that every time I looked up, he was standing up next to his chair, shaking some stranger’s hand who’d approached his table. The other three supposedly sitting with him seemed to pay no mind to his celebrity. After he shook hands with each newcomer, he stood erect, his back with a perfect outward shoehorn curve, with hands cupped in front of his crotch.
“Ted, casually look over your shoulder at the guy standing up. Isn’t that fucked? Why does he have medals pinned to his lapel?”
Ted and Clarissa both looked over. “I don’t know, man. How long have you been staring at him?”
“On and off for the past fifteen minutes. That’s the third guy who’s come up to talk to him randomly. I wonder what his deal is.”
My companions didn’t seem to share my curiosity. “I donno,” Clarissa mused, “might be a war veteran?”
“He can’t be. He isn’t the right age. Unless he’s American and fought at the very beginning of Desert Storm.”
I pretended to rejoin the conversation. Clarissa and Ted were goading each other into approaching random strangers. This was my way to find out who the medallion man was.
“See that mother-daughter combo sitting at the bar?” I asked.
They both nodded, afraid of what might follow.
“I’ll go hit on them. They’ve been striking out all night.”
Before Ted and Clarissa could respond, I was up out of my seat and sliding onto the stool next to Madame Bovary. The man with the medallions was right over my shoulder. I rested my beer on a Stella Artois coaster and hunched forward, leaning my elbows on the bar, ignoring Madame Bovary’s obvious staring.
I could hear snippets of conversation going on behind me.
“My bitch is so obedient. We have this great game of fetch that we like to play at night,” the man with the medallions was saying to a portly, half-pint sized man with a broom-bristle Hungarian-style moustache, extending approximately two centimetres below the corners of his upper lip.
Straining to hear more about the game, I was interrupted by Madame Bovary. “What’s a stout manly thing like yourself doing sipping a fruity beer like that?”
“Taste is a lost art, Madame,” I replied.
“I’m an expert in many of the lost arts,” she whispered, tonguing the rim of her glass and caking it with passion fruit lipstick. Her daughter merely sipped her scotch absently from a seat away, paying no attention to her mother or me. I was temporarily spellbound as she gargled the syrupy, amber liquid on her tongue, sucking in air through her front teeth to extract the aroma of birch bark, peat moss, and old rubber bands.
I smiled and nodded, hoping to end the conversation. Behind me, the man with medallions was holding forth. “She wears a leather collar with a Canadian diamond encrusted at the front. And yet, you’ll never believe this, she’ll only fetch this old tennis ball I’ve had since the era of plum-smuggler shorts and wooden rackets, but not the custom made, velvet ensconced rubber ball I ordered from Italy for her.”
The man seemed enamoured with his dog.
“My daughter over here just finished her first semester of university,” Madam Bovary interrupted, touching my shoulder with one hand while pulling her daughter by the hem of her skirt towards us with the other.
“What’s your major?” I asked, bypassing Madame Bovary entirely.
She paused, dragging air as if smoking. “Undeclared.”
Her lack of eye contact startled me. “How are you enjoying it?”
Madame Bovary seemed hopeful for the response. “Enjoyment merely implies that the experience has been equally painful.”
Everyone was silent for a while. “Where are you both from?” I asked.
The daughter sighed; Madame Bovary seemed embarrassed. “Conversation should only involve minds consolidating their perplexities. Your banality has made both my intellect and scotch stale. Ta.”
The daughter got up and left slowly, pulling out a cigarette case and making for the door. I watched her leave and noticed Ted and Clarissa had also gone outside to smoke. Madame Bovary laughed and took a large swig of her vodka-cranberry.
“The bitch scurries on all fours, incessantly panting and wriggling her arse. She always comes back and deposits the ball on my lap, resting her jaw on my thigh…”
“I’m sorry about her. She’s going through that rebellious phase,” Madame Bovary interrupted, again.
“Never mind.” I smiled.
“What are you doing here alone, no woman on your arm?”
“I might ask you the same thing. No gentleman caller this evening?”
Madame Bovary’s eyes looked like near empty glasses of stout. She rubbed my knee with the sharp, red-painted nail of her index finger. “Maybe we can help each other out.”
“The Scottish Deerhound is unequivocally this year’s front-runner. Its coat is like crystallized salt and pepper sewn into Mandarin silk.”
The man with the Hungarian moustache seemed pleased. “Stupendous. Lyudmila and I very much look forward to the Kennel Club’s annual competition. Will your bitch be there?”
“Absolutely. She won’t be leaving my side, or she won’t get a reward.” His last statement carried a tone of contempt. The man with the medallions continued. “She wavers occasionally, but she’s usually an obedient bitch. Highly excitable.”
It made a fraction of sense. Clearly the man with medallions was head of the local Kennel Club and was preparing for a best-in-show competition. Still, praising a bitch for her fetching skills seemed amateurish.
Madame Bovary interjected. “I have a pocket poodle, you know. I wanted to give it to my daughter as a reward for completing her semester of university, but she scoffed at the idea, lamenting having to clean its droppings and such.”
“Has the dog been in your purse the whole time you’ve been here?”
“Certainly. I merely lay down napkins at the bottom. It makes cleaning simple. When I think ahead I line it with reinforced paper towel, or my husband’s silk handkerchief if he’s been naughty.”
She reached into her purse and pulled out a hard candy. “Would you like one?”
I recoiled. She had a husband, and I needed a way out. The man with the Hungarian moustache had wandered away, and before I knew it I’d swivelled around and the man with the medallions was rising out of his chair to greet me. He extended his hand. We shook. He had Herculean grip.
“What can I do for you?” he asked. I was too nervous to look at the medallions.
I hesitated, tugging at my sweaty wedgie once my hand was free. It was as if Vulcan had forged his paws. My fingers throbbed and felt singed by an oven burner.
“I have a Vizsla.”
“A fine pointer-retriever breed! The best hunt-dog, in my humble opinion.”
I needed to think of a follow up. “I overheard you talking about some bitch you have. I want my Vizsla to breed. Think your bitch might have use for him?”
His widows’ peak ignited with a flaming aura and his eyes squinted as if blasted with sand. He neck veins throbbed, and he grabbed me by the collar, gripping my shirt like Scylla and Charybdis. “That ‘bitch’ you so flippantly referred to happens to be my wife! And NO, she is most certainly not interested in fucking your Vizsla!”
Still tearing at my shirt collar, he swung me to the side towards a table, forcing me to grab hold of his lapels, jolting his medallions to the floor in the scuffle. Metal struck floor just as he was about to smear my face in half-eaten calamari and tartar sauce.
Noticing his medallions had fallen, he loosened his grip slightly, but still kept me pressed against the table. Bent over a chair, I felt something scurry between my legs. He’d now twisted my arm behind my back and was frantically yelling out, “My medallions! My medallions! They’ve fallen to the floor.” The three other men from his table stood up and frantically began to search for the lost treasure. Amidst the commotion of squeaking dress shoes and men bending down on all fours to search, their noses nearly pressed to the ground, Madame Bovary emerged next to us on all fours, panting with delight, the medallions firmly clasped between her teeth.
The grip on my arm slackened and the man sat down in front of Madame Bovary. I observed the scene as I backed away towards the door. Madame Bovary placed the medallions on the man’s lap and rested her head on his thighs.
I burst out the door and found Ted and Clarissa standing at some distance from Madame Bovary’s daughter.
“Guys, we need to get the fuck out of here!” I exclaimed.
“What happened?” Ted asked.
“Just trust me. I think some bloodhounds are about to be sent after us, followed closely by an angry mob whose gin supply is about to be cut off.”
They could see the desperation in my face. We started walking briskly but were interrupted after a few paces by Madame Bovary’s daughter. “You. Aren’t you going to ask me out for a night cap?” she asked, clearly directed at me.
“But everything’s closing now. I think they just had last call.”
“Huh. Fitting.” As we walked away, she took a tennis ball out of her purse and absently began bouncing it up and down.
Zachary Alapi is a second year M.A. Creative Writing student at the University of New Brunswick. His fiction has appeared on tommagazine.com and in the Ottawa journal Front & Centre, and he has also published non-fiction on eastsideboxing.com and the British online zine, Beat the Dust. In 2007, he co-founded the Montreal-based small press Siren Song (www.sirensong.ca) and is currently co-fiction editor for the UNB graduate student literary magazine, QWERTY. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.