Sorry for not updating for ages; my novel's kinda been put on hold for a while, so I thought I'd try to update some of my old stuff, and make it a long one to make up for lost time. Enjoy!
R is for Redecorating
It had been two hours since Hoffman had declared a State of Emergency and gathered all the males together for a Meeting of Extreme Importance. Not that anyone knew what the emergency or extreme importance was about. The time had been divided up as follows: half an hour of poker, where Hoffman boasted about how much he was going to win; half an hour where they raided Hoffman's flat to find his money while Hoffman – being sat on by Strahm – protested that the games were fixed; and the last hour had been spent drinking and watching the football on Sky HD (and sulking, in certain cases).
"It's not fair," Hoffman sulked as a penalty was given – to which side no-one had any idea. "You all ganged up on me."
"You were the one who objected to playing strip poker," Lawrence knocked back the last of his Stella Artoris. "Besides, if we'd done that instead it wouldn't have been you I'd've ganged up against."
Adam batted his eyelashes. "You'd really do anything to see me naked wouldn't you? You did mean me, right?"
"Well he clearly didn't mean me, did he?" John rolled his eyes.
Adam glared. "He'd better not."
Lawrence patted him on the head. "Now, now, dear." He turned to loom at Hoffman. "Are you going to stop pouting and tell us what this emergency meeting is for?"
Hoffman blinked. "Ah. Yeah." He set aside his can. "So, as you know Amanda, Jill, Amy, Izzy and Kat are having a spa break over the weekend."
Zepp winced. "Don't remind me – Izzy had a go at me for rubbishing the cleansing properties of cucumber."
Strahm patted him on the shoulder. "On the plus side, you have now learnt the most important lesson of them all: never tell a woman that she's wrong."
"But I swear they're for eating, not putting on eyes!"
Adam nodded. "I agree, but waste of food or not, Strahm has a point."
John sniggered suddenly. "Do you think that Amy will try to get them to put muffins on her eyes?"
"Honestly?" Zepp thought for a second. "Yeah, most probably. Anyway, we're getting off the point; why exactly is that an emergency?"
Hoffman coughed. "Well, it's not really that. It's more the…bet I have on with Amanda."
The five other men looked at each other. This was not going to be good, given Hoffman's tendency to get into bets that he obviously would never be able to pull off. "Yeeeees…?"
"Well, she wants the bathroom redecorated, so she wanted me to get someone in to fix it up, but my last pay check has nearly been used up and I just can't afford it. We had a bit of a fight and she said if I was so uptight about money then I should just do it myself."
John groaned. "Please, please tell me that you didn't say you would."
"Well obviously he did, otherwise he wouldn't be telling us this story."
"Thanks for pointing out the obvious, Doctor Gordon."
Adam sighed. "So…we're helping you redecorate?"
"Yep. Didn't he make that obvious?"
"As much as I love you Lawrence, stop talking before I tip this can over your head."
"Now why would you ever want to do that?"
"Um, guys?" Hoffman waved his arms to get attention. "We have roughly forty-eight hours to get this job done, so can we get to it?"
"Hold up," Strahm switched off the TV that no-one was watching anymore. "We haven't agreed to this – at least, I haven't. I mean, a bunch of drunk guys with cement and paint? Come on, it's not gonna happen."
"One, we are not drunk." There suddenly appeared to be two Strahms looking at him doubtfully. Hoffman blinked several times. "Ok, not completely drunk anyway. And I'd really appreciate you all helping me prove Amanda wrong."
"How does that benefit me at all?"
"Oh shut up Strahm?" Zepp grinned at Hoffman. "C'mon, your bathroom can't be too bad."
Time elapsed: 00:05:35
"Of course it's not algae!"
"Well it's something green, and it's growing on the ceiling."
"Jesus Christ," Zepp blinked. "Hoffman, what have you been doing?"
"It's not that bad," Hoffman winced as Strahm pointedly kicked a wall tile and it fell and shattered on the floor. "Well…maybe…"
"Your bathroom's like shit." John cut him down. "The tiles are cracked, there's green stuff growing on the ceiling, and it smells like something's died in here."
"Probably his dignity." Lawrence stage-whispered to Adam and Zepp; the three high-fived while Hoffman started sulking again.
"Well," John cocked his head to the side as he thought. "Your bathroom's quite small, so at least we've got that on our side. I reckon this is actually plausible."
Hoffman grinned. "Alright! So, what's the plan?"
"I got some ready-mix cement."
"Good. Anything else?" Silence. John stared. "…Haven't you even got any stuff yet?" He groaned when Hoffman hung his head. "Ok, game plan: Adam, Lawrence, Zepp, you guys are going to go to Wickes and get some tiles and white paint. Strahm and I will remain here to get these tiles off the walls."
"Sounds like a plan." Strahm approved.
Adam punched his fist in the air. "To the Bat-mobile, Robin!"
"You mean, 'To Lawrence's shitty little Prius'." Zepp muttered.
"Do not," Lawrence growled. "Diss the Prius. Or you can walk all the way there."
As the threesome left, Hoffman coughed timidly. "Uh, what am I supposed to do? You left me out of the plan."
John clapped a hand on his shoulder. "Hoffman, as you have an apparent lack of manliness and got us into this rather unnecessary situation, so you are relegated to Beer Boy."
"Yeah, and get me a cold one, snappy." Strahm smirked as Hoffman left and then turned back to John. "So, how are we going to get the tiles off the walls?"
"I noticed that Hoffman owns a pair of decently sized hammers…"
A slow smile spread across Strahm's face. "Hell yeah…"
Time elapsed: 02:25:12
"ARGH!" Several beer breaks later, Strahm gave what he thought of fondly as a manly yell as he slammed a hammer into the last section of tiles on the wall: it exploded with a rather satisfying smash and shards rained down onto the floor. He smirked at John. "My God I feel manly!"
"No doubt your testosterone levels have reached a new high." John said dryly, draining his fifth beer can. He clicked his fingers. "Beer boy!"
Hoffman slouched into the room. He hated the whole nature of what he thought of as a conspiracy against him: first the poker, and now this – giving away his beer and watching everyone else drink it while he went thirsty. I mean, where was the justice in that? It was like everyone was against him, even right from the beginning…his brain reminded him that they had, which put him in an even worse mood. "What?" He asked sulkily.
John held out his empty can. "Be a dear; pop this in a bin and get me a new can will you?"
Hoffman pouted. "Shan't."
"No, no, no, shan't, shan't, shan't."
Hoffman caught the death glare and rolled his eyes. "Fine." He stomped out of the room while John and Strahm shot each other a look.
"So immature…" Strahm shook his head sadly.
"You were the one who thought that crushing wall tiles was a manly thing to do." Strahm squeaked and ran out of the room. "Oh for goodness sake."
"We're baaaaaccckkk!" Zepp sang as he slammed the front door open. He was followed by a scowling Lawrence and Adam, who were carrying several heavy bagfuls of tiles.
"You could've helped." Lawrence grumbled.
"But I did!"
"Sitting in the trolley screaming at us to run faster was not helpful."
"But it was so much fun…"
"Yes…until we lost control and you crashed into the paint tins."
It was only then that everyone took proper notice of Zepp's appearance. A huge patch of his face had turned the colour of eggshells, contrasting with the rest of his head, which was a violent shade of mulberry. The rest of his form was covered in mismatched blotches ranging between navy and violet. He cracked a grin, and flecks of dried paint detached from his lips and floated to the floor. "We ran into the blue/purple section."
"Which they weren't too happy about." Adam commented.
"No," Lawrence glared at Zepp. "No, they weren't."
Zepp looked wounded. "I don't know why you're glaring at me," He whined. "You two were pushing me!"
"Now is not the time to start pointing the finger of blame," John stared down all three of them, and felt like a boss. "Right now, we need to get redecorating. Lawrence, did you get the white paint?"
Lawrence dared to meet his eyes. "Yes, it's in the boot of the car."
"Go and get it. Adam, Zepp, start sweeping up these shards off the floor. Once you're done you can clean it."
Over Adam's whine of complaint, Zepp asked, "Uh…can I clean myself first?"
John sighed. "Yes, yes you may. Just – why are you stripping?"
Zepp paused while pulling off his shirt. "Shower?"
"Oh for goodness – fine, but make it a quick one. Five minutes tops." He turned to leave. "Adam, you're going to have to wait a while to start cleaning. Fancy a beer?"
Adam grinned. "Do you even need to ask?"
Time elapsed: 02:45:17
"So uh…we just add water, right?"
"Yeah, soooo eaaasssyyy even Hoffy here could do it!"
"Ah shaddup Strahm!"
"Guys…I think we had too much beer."
"Aww Adam, always the conscientious one."
"I am not consci…comsci…conscimomentus."
"You're not all that good at English, either."
"Johhnnny-boy, why are there three of you?"
"I was about to ask the same question to you."
"Hehehe…Johnny-boy, still elo…eloq…able to talk right when drunk."
"Ughh, I don't feel so good…"
"Aaaannnddd Hoffy can't take his alcohol."
"Shaddup Zepp, I never asked to be called Hoffy."
"And I never asked to be called Johnny-boy."
"Oh quit whining, both of ya."
"Larry, hey, hey, Larry!"
"'M right next to ya, dipshit – whadd'ya want?"
"How many beers did we have?"
"Thank God it's Friday."
"Friday, Friday, gotta ge' down on Fridayyy – "
"Yeesshhh, why aren't ya feelin' the love?"
"I was around in the 80's, Adam…I felt enough love there to last a lifetime."
"Shut up, you immature excuse of a man!"
"Oooo, Adam got burned."
"No, you shaddup!"
"Nooo, you shaddup!"
"No – ohhhh I see what you did there!"
"Both of you shut up! Now, are we going to do some redecorating or what?"
"Yeahh, yeah we are!"
"Good, so let's pour in the water and get started."
"You sure this is wise, Johnny-boy?"
"Oh come on, what could possibly go wrong?"
Time elapsed: 20:37:45
Strahm awoke with a furry feel in his mouth and the strange sensation that he was vertical. This, he knew, was impossible, as when you pass out you always end up horizontally sprawled on the ground, on an unknown bed or some other strange object/place. He registered this just before his brain revolted against him and began slamming against the confines of his skull. Wincing, he tried to massage it back into submission but found that he could not move his arm. With a growing sense of horror, he realised that he couldn't move any part of his body whatsoever. With this now a certainty, he began to shout for help.
Meanwhile, Hoffman whimpered softly as the full effects of his own hangover took hold; Strahm's cries were not helping. He was dimly aware of other forms scattered around him, but his immediate call of duty was to shut up whoever it was who was screaming like a wuss and causing him unnecessary pain. After several aborted attempts to pick himself off the floor, he finally hauled himself up by means of an armrest and staggered in the direction of the bathroom. On registering Strahm he opened his mouth to speak, but after his blurred vision was able to comprehend exactly what was in front of him he cracked up laughing instead.
It was Lawrence who woke next. Getting up with slightly more success than Hoffman (on the third attempt instead of the tenth), he joined the men in the bathroom, took in the view and then jerkily returned to shake the other three men awake. "Guys…you gotta check this out…yes Adam it's painful, but trust me, you're going to love this."
Five minutes later, they were still laughing at the unfortunate Strahm who somehow had been cemented to the wall.
"It's not funny!" Strahm screamed. "Someone get me down, now!"
"Oh relax," Zepp grimaced as his brain reminded him of the pain he was supposed to be in. "It could've been worse?
"How? How could this possibly be any worse?"
"Well, we could've been like in 'The Hangover II' and ended up in some place overseas, and then we'd never get the bathroom finished before Amanda gets back…" Zepp's smile faded. "Oh shit…"
"Shit!" Hoffman shrieked, then winced as his head protested. "Ow! Shit! Ow! SHIT! OW!"
"What the hell are we going to do?"
"I don't know!" Hoffman had definitely gone into full-blown panic mode. "We've got just over a day to sort everything out, and we've used up all our concrete on sticking Strahm to the wall!"
John frowned. "I don't even…remember that. I seem to black out after the 'Johnny-boy' conversation."
Adam sniggered. "Johnny-boy…who came up with that?"
"I don't care about that," Hoffman shrieked. "What are we going to do?"
John snapped into action, despite the pounding in his skull. Honestly, did he have to sort out everything? "Adam, Lawrence, Zepp, buy more packs of ready-mix cement. Hoffman, get me those hammers and a chisel."
"I don't have a chisel."
John turned back to the other three. "Add two chisels to the shopping list."
"Wouldn't it be cheaper to just cement over him?" Adam whinged.
The response from Strahm was quite clearly a negative one.
Time elapsed: 26:07:51
"What took you so long?" John demanded when the three shame-faced men returned with the shopping.
"The people in Ikea weren't happy to see us again." Zepp said grimly. "And we had to pay for the paint tins, which we'd somehow 'forgotten' to do the last time…"
"And then on the way back Lawrence got pulled over and breathalysed; he was over the limit so we were taken down to the station and now he has to go to court." Adam added cheerfully.
"We walked all the way back." Lawrence growled.
"Oh, I pity your woes," Strahm said sarcastically. "Get me out of here. I've had to put up with Hoffman trying to force feed me muffins as means of entertainment."
Hoffman was hurt. "I was trying to be nice for once; they were from my private stash as well!"
"A rare moment indeed," John commented dryly. "Now Hoffman, take a chisel and a hammer."
"Beer break for the rest of us!" Zepp cheered.
The response from the others was undeniably negative.
Time elapsed: 28:32:49
The last bit of plaster was cut away, and with only a small amount of cuts and minor lacerations, Strahm finally pulled free. "Thank God!"
"I agree," Lawrence replied grouchily. "I'm bored."
"Me too." Adam seconded.
"Me three!" Zepp agreed.
"Well I'm practically shitting bricks," Hoffman growled. "Because my bathroom still isn't bloody done!" He wished once again that he'd chiselled away a certain part of Strahm's anatomy which would make certain that future generations of Strahms would never occur.
"These things take time." John reminded him calmly.
"Yes, like redecorating bathrooms."
John sighed. "Fine. Let's go."
Time elapsed: 29:02:16
"The mildew's gone!" Adam called from the top of the step-ladder. Where the patch of green had been, there was now a patch of white that, sadly…
"It's not the same colour as the rest of the ceiling!" Hoffman screamed. "I said white, not cream!"
"We've got to paint the rest of the ceiling now!"
"Oh…we'd better get that done then."
"Bloody well yes you will…"
Time elapsed: 30:55:28
"Less than eighteen hours left, and we're still not done."
"Calm down," John handed him a mug of coffee. "We'll work through the night and get it done."
"I should hope so…"
Lawrence looked doubtful. "I don't know John, it seems impossible."
"Listen," Strahm forced him to make eye contact. "We will succeed for one reason: we are men. Apart from Hoffman."
"Men have triumphed over many struggles: racism, injustice, feminism – "
"Yep, and that's totally inoffensive."
"Shut up Zepp."
"Only pointing it out."
"Well, it wasn't needed. The point is, if we can beat that, we can beat DIY!"
John was impressed. "Nice pep talk, apart from the feminism bit."
Adam, Lawrence and Zepp, fired up, cheered and high-fived. In the rumpus, the stepladder fell over and the pot of paint tipped over. Hoffman sighed and went to get a mop.
Time elapsed: 38:10:12
"Less than ten hours left and counting!"
"We've done half the wall…I didn't expect this to go well."
Time elapsed: 46:15:06
"I've never been so tired in my life."
"Hoffmaaaan…can we have a beer celebration now?"
"No. You all need to go home. Now."
"Because Hoffman wants to take responsibility for our manly efforts."
"Ah, that explains it."
"Well Hoffman, it was good helping you. Good luck with Amanda."
"Now pay me."
"Either that, or we all play Mariocart and eat your muffin stash for one-and-a-half hours before we leave."
Time elapsed: 48:01:01
Jill touched Amanda's arm sympathetically. "Are you sure you don't want me to come in with you?"
Amanda thought for a second. "Actually, please do. I want you to witness my boyfriend's absolute humiliation and the destruction his wreaked on his own bathroom." Turning the key in the lock, the two women went inside. In the living room, they found Hoffman innocently watching Sky News. On seeing them he clicked off the TV.
"Hey Amanda," He smiled, standing up to kiss her. "How did your weekend go?"
Amanda smiled. "Pretty good actually – highlight was definitely Amy using two blueberry muffins as a face mask."
Hoffman laughed. "Oh we – I mean – I predicted that would happen."
Jill sniffed and frowned. "Is that…beer?"
Hoffman ignored her. "So…do you want to see the fruit of my efforts?"
"By all means," Amanda smirked. "Be my guest."
They went into the hall, and with a dramatic gesture flung open the door and snapped on the light. Amanda stared. White tiles. Cream ceiling. And all – seemingly – perfectly executed. "Wow…" She turned to Jill. "Sorry Jill you might as well go home, nothing's happening here."
Hoffman pretended to be shocked. "What? You mean you only invited her in to see me be torn apart? And I was going to put the kettle on."
"Shut up," Jill gave him a hard look. "There's other opportunities. And besides, I don't think you did it on your own."
Hoffman's eyes widened as he brought his acting to the next level. "What? You doubt that I, with my sweat, blood and tears, redecorated the bathroom alone?"
"Amanda, tell your friend that she is wrong."
Amanda rolled her eyes. "I've got to admit it, you've done a pretty good job. Sorry Jill, I'm going to have to back him up on this one."
Hoffman beamed. "Oh yea of little faith. I'm going to make some coffee." As he walked away he called out:"You owe me Amanda!"
As the sounds of coffee beans grinding began, Jill turned to Amanda. "Do you believe him?"
"Do you like it?"
"Are you going to get a professional in?"
"When are you going to tell him?"
Amanda winked. "Some other time, Jill. Some other time…"
Disclaimer: I do not share Strahm's view on feminism. It was for comic purposes. Please don't flame me. Thank you and hope you enjoyed – it's good to be back!