Unexpected Packages

'Just get out!'

He picked up his underpants from the floor as he stood up. As he started to put them on, he opened his mouth and began to articulate a vowel sound, but before he knew himself what he was going to say, she cut him off.

'I don't want to hear it! If you say another word, I will kill you. Just get out!'

He was dressed and out the door and still couldn't think what he might have said.

Not the truth, obviously.

He wished he'd never hit on her, but he'd thought it was completely safe. When he'd hit on her before, it had been completely safe. It had been in the middle of the school's medieval fair, where nothing could have happened no matter how she'd responded. As it happened, she'd called him a creep and told him to get lost. That's why he'd figured it would be safe to hit on her at Jodie Landon's graduation party.

He'd had to hit on some female because of the persona he'd constructed for himself over the years. Chuck always felt that it was that persona and not himself that people were talking about when they called him 'Upchuck'. It was 'Upchuck' who was perpetually lecherous. For 'Upchuck' to attend a party without unflagging libidinous innuendo would be tantamount to his absence, to a discarding of the mask.

He'd never dreamed she'd take him up on his proposition. Once she did, he'd really had no choice. The 'Upchuck' persona trapped him. He'd had to go back to her place, into her bedroom, into her bed, or else destroy that persona for good, and that he hadn't been able to do.

She'd taken his failure to perform very personally. Maybe that meant she'd spare him the embarrassment of spreading rumours about him. But if she did—well, 'Upchuck' was impossible to embarrass.

He kicked at a stone that lay on the ground at his feet and watched it skitter away. His persona might not be embarrassed, but that didn't mean he was joyous about the situation. He looked around to see whether anybody was noticing him.

He was walking past the park, on the way to where he'd left his car, and he could see somebody seated on one of the benches, but obviously not looking at him. The figure on the bench was too preoccupied with his drinking to pay any attention to anybody else's misery.

Chuck looked again.

It wasn't just 'somebody' on the bench.

He took a third look and then detoured across the grass to the bench.

When he reached the bench he looked around again to see that they were unobserved and then said, 'Hey there, big guy'.

'H—hu-uh—hr—' responded Kevin—and then leaned forward and vomited.

'I see the signs of extensive indulgence in alcohol', Chuck said, as he looked around at the discarded empties.

Kevin squinted up at him in puzzlement and Chuck answered his unspoken question. 'Or should I say, you've been hitting the sauce pretty hard?'

Kevin's facial muscles worked, and then he came out, in blurred tones, with a statement he could be sure of. 'Hey, I'm the QB!'

'You certainly are, and quite a remarkable QB you've been for the last three years. I'm sure you'll continue with the same heroic performance for the next year.'

'Yeah', Kevin said, sitting up a little straighter. 'I'll be here, being the QB!' He slumped again. 'And my babe'll be off at some college.'

Chuck already knew that Kevin had flunked his senior year and would be back at Lawndale High after the summer, when even his dim-witted girlfriend Brittany had somehow managed to scrape through. What he hadn't realised was that Kevin would be taking it so hard.

'The course of true love never did run smooth', Chuck quoted, 'as few know better than I. But I do not let that make me despair. If the fates do not smile on you today, you should refresh yourself ready to face the challenges of tomorrow. For this evening, let us consider ourselves comrades in the struggle. I'll help you up.' He leaned down and slid an arm around Kevin. 'Let's get you to my car to begin with.'

'Hey', Kevin said, 'I can stand up by myself! I'm the QB!' But at the same time he let Chuck give him a boost to a more-or-less upright position. From there they managed to get to Chuck's car, and into it, without much difficulty. Kevin continued cooperative enough as Chuck manoeuvred him into the passenger seat, but by the time Chuck had shut that door, gone round the car, and got himself into the driver's seat, Kevin had fallen too far into a stupor to be consulted about what happened next.

Chuck knew where Kevin lived, of course, and he could have taken him home with no difficulty. But he didn't. He drove back to his own house instead. Kevin had recovered enough to cooperate again as Chuck steered him out of the car, into the house, and then into the guest bedroom.

'You can sleep here tonight', he said. Kevin made no response except for one of his charmingly goofy smiles, so Chuck lowered him, or at least his upper body, onto the bed. Then he realised he still needed to turn the covers down. He had some difficulty lifting Kevin a little to get them free, but managed the job. Next he got Kevin's shoes off and then swung his legs up onto the bed and got them part of the way under the sheets. Kevin shifted his weight a bit, apparently trying to get comfortable, working his head into the pillow.

'Would you care for a glass of water?' Chuck said, remembering the amount of alcohol Kevin had consumed earlier. Kevin responded with an affirmative-sounding grunt. Chuck started to pull a sheet partway over him before going to obtain the liquid mentioned, and noticed as he did so that Kevin was twisting and turning uncomfortably as if trying to wriggle out of the constriction of his clothes, so Chuck partly unfastened them before leaving so as to let Kevin get comfortable.

When Chuck returned with Kevin's glass of water, shutting the door behind him as he re-entered the room, Kevin seemed to have settled into the bed. He was making a muffled noise which Chuck couldn't interpret; he couldn't even tell whether Kevin was awake or not. He set the glass of water down on the bedside table and leaned over Kevin. 'The glass of water's just there by the bed', he said. 'Do you still want it? Or is there anything else?'

This time Chuck was sure the sound waves emanating from Kevin were an attempt at verbalisation, but half of them were going into the pillow. He leaned in closer, and managed to discern that the word was one Kevin normally reserved for addressing Brittany. 'Babe?' Kevin reached up with one hand and took hold of Chuck. 'Babe?'

Chuck lowered himself onto the bed, kicked off his own shoes, and then slid under the sheet, close to Kevin.

Chuck had taken the risk of allowing himself to descend into slumber alongside Kevin, assuming that he would be sure to wake earlier by virtue of having avoided inebriation the previous night, while their other shared exhaustion would have affected them both equally. When he woke, Kevin was still snoring. Chuck carefully removed himself from the bed. Then he inspected the floor and the tangled bedclothes for garments, carefully extricating and collecting his own while leaving Kevin's where they had been discarded. Last of all he picked up his shoes and then tiptoed from the room, first to drop his soiled clothes in a laundry basket, next to take a quick shower, and then to his own room to find a bathrobe and slippers. Thus clad, he returned to the guest bedroom to find that Kevin had rolled over and was groping blindly for something. He'd also stopped snoring: once again he seemed to be partly articulating words.

'Good morning', Chuck said brightly. 'Are we too much overcome by our excesses of last night? Are you hankering for a hair of the dog that bit you? Is there anything else you require?'

'Ugh', said Kevin, half-opening his eyes. 'Er … Upchuck? Wow! That's weird! You were in my dream last night. It was the strangest dream I ever had. I mean, it was, like, completely crazy! Everybody knows guys can't do that with each other? Only with chicks, right? You know? I mean, a guy can't be another guy's babe, right?' He shook his head and then winced slightly as the lingering effect of last night's intoxication hit him. 'Pretty funny, huh?' He chuckled.

Chuck stared at Kevin, furiously reappraising the situation. Then he grasped his courage in both metaphorical hands. He seated himself cautiously on the side of the bed. 'Actually, Kevin—it is in fact possible for guys to do that together, without any chick. A guy can be another guy's babe.'

'Oh, you can't fool me! You're just trying to play some kind of joke on me, right? I guess you think I'll fall for anything, huh?'

'No, Kevin, I am completely serious. It's not any kind of joke. Sometimes it might only be a dream. But it doesn't always have to be a dream. It wasn't a dream last night.'

Kevin stared hard at Chuck, making an intellectual effort that obviously tested his limits. 'You mean—I didn't dream that stuff last night? It really happened?'

Chuck just nodded.

'Wow! I thought that was a pretty amazing dream but—wow!' Kevin seemed to ponder for a moment. 'Does that mean we can do it again?'