Mike punctuated his rebuke with a smirk as he glanced back at the other two men seated around the coffee table. They returned the look in silence, communicating with their eyes. Mike took a final sip from his Bud Light tall boy and raised it over his head, shaking it for emphasis.
“Just hold up one second.”
Brad’s voice floated back from the kitchen area, a touch of submission in his tone. The sound of the fridge door slamming and the unmistakable swish-swish of polyester track pants fast approached.
“Sorry, guess we crushed all the Lime-a-ritas!”
He paused to smile triumphantly, letting the implied accomplishment of his statement wash over his friends.
“So, uh, I grabbed the strawberry ones. That cool?”
Silence and three sets of eyes greeted his query before the room broke into unified laughter. Mike spoke up first.
“Of course it’s cool! Beer’s beer, bro.”
Brad grinned and nodded. Tossing a can to each man, he retook his seat on the futon. He marveled momentarily at the worn gray cushion. It was pretty impressive the way it had held up in the eleven years since they’d graduated.
The din of the television recaptured their attention and soon the four men were immersed in the flow of the game. A familiar name rolled off the tongue of the color announcer, and from his seat to the side, Pete grunted.
“That asshole Gilman is back in.”
The four friends exchanged knowing looks. Dale snorted and shook his head.
“What, was he hurt? I didn’t even notice.”
Mike nodded and tilted his can up, taking a swig. He grimaced subtly. Not as smooth as he remembered. Swallowing, he grinned and took a quick breath in through his nose.
“Yeah, happened in the first quarter. He pulled a vagina muscle.”
The room again exploded into raucous laughter. From the next seat over, Brad wiped a tear from his eye and slapped his friend playfully on the arm.
“That’s fucking hilarious, dude!”
He paused and shook his head, wiping another tear as his giggles subsided. He repeated the zinger to himself in a low, admiring tone. Pulled a vagina muscle. Fucking epic.
Mike surged with confidence, his face tingling as he absorbed the kudos from his friends, verbal and otherwise. Swallowing another mouthful of his beer-like drink, he extended one finger and shook it thoughtfully towards the screen.
“You know, someone should tell him that.”
Pete raised an eyebrow and parted his lips. His face was still creased with laugh lines from his buddy’s joke. He, too, repeated the bombshell in his head. VAGINA muscle! Gold! Where does he come up with this stuff?
“Tell him what?”
Mike flicked his eyes over and shook his head with condescension. Like it should be obvious.
“That he’s an asshole! And a coward! I mean, who just runs out on Coach Ken like that?”
Dale grunted again, this time in affirmation.
“That’s true. Coulda used him this year.”
Mike began to feel the blood pump more freely through his veins. His pulse elevating, he smacked his palm onto the futon cushion.
“Damn right, we coulda! Fucking Temple? One score game! Tulane? One score game! Ess-!”
Pete interjected, his eyes sharp and focused.
“Don’t forget SMU.”
Mike waved his hand in annoyance.
“I was fucking getting there, bro! Yeah, SMU. Overtime. SMU, Temple, Tulane. And those Army fucks, too. Shit, add those four wins to our three and we’re fucking bowl eligible.”
Brad nodded in agreement.
“Yeah, definitely. Probably get into the Poinsettia or some shi-.”
Mike cut him off with a playful smack to the shoulder.
“Doesn’t matter what bowl. Point is, this Gilman pussy fucked us. Fucking quit on us.”
He paused and set his jaw, bringing his expression more serious and somber.
“Fucking quit on our country too, in a way.”
Shaking his head, he took another sip and simply repeated his initial point in a low tone.
“Someone should tell him that…”
The room fell silent as introspection gripped each man. The game continued in the background but no one was really paying attention any longer.
Suddenly, his heartbeat banging against his ribs, Brad jumped to his feet. He looked around the room. He swallowed hard and spoke, his voice trembling just a bit.
“So why don’t we?”
Pete raised his brow again.
“Why don’t we what?”
But Brad didn’t look his direction. Angling his eyes down to the true alpha of the group, he slapped Mike on the back and smiled brightly.
“Why don’t we fucking tell him?”
Mike regarded his old roommate for a moment, letting his gaze rise upward. He could see the dancing excitement in Brad’s eyes. Feeling an electric surge streak through his gut, he smiled back and moved to a stand as well.
“Fuck yeah! You’re right! We should!”
He watched Brad nod back at him and extend his palm, signaling for an embrace. Gritting his teeth, he nodded and clasped his friend’s hand firmly, pulling him into a signature bro hug.
Suddenly each man was up from their prone position. A minute-long exchange of high-fives, hugs, and emphatic expletives filled the air.
As the celebration began to calm down, Mike and Brad hugged one final time. Their bodies pressed together, they could feel the adrenaline coursing between them. Mike was about to casually disengage when his eyes widened fast. He’d felt something else, too…
Leaning back quickly, he shot his friend a panicked look. He licked his dry lips and swallowed.
“Bro, what the fuck? Are you-?”
He didn’t want to look, but instinct took over. He flicked his eyes quickly downward, past Brad’s torso and directly to the front of his blue and gold Adidas track pants. His eyes widened again and he felt the air hold hard in his lungs. Returning his gaze to his friend’s face, he spoke accusingly.
“Do you have a fucking boner?”
For the second time in as many minutes, suffocating silence held the room. Brad felt the color rush from his face and his stomach twisted into a knot. He stayed quiet for several seconds, his brain sputtering as he tried to choose his words.
“I, uh-. I-.”
He paused and swallowed hard. Tearing his eyes away from Mike, he glanced nervously at his two other friends. Turning back to face the accusation directly, he just took the plunge.
“Um, well, yeah. I don’t know-. Sorry, bro. I don’t know why…”
He trailed off, unable to conjure up an adequate explanation, nor able to break his friend’s steely stare.
Mike felt his abs flex and the skin of his face pull tight. He grinded his teeth and narrowed his eyes. He spoke with clear purpose.
“So do I.”
Brad nearly gasped as a sizzling jolt passed through his system. But his shock was replaced quickly by cool refreshing relief. He spoke with inquisitive softness.
Mike sniffed in through his nose and took another full sip of his drink. He nodded matter-of-factly.
“Hard as fucking steel, baby.”
He paused and looked to his left, raising his chin at Dale.
Dale grunted, as was his way.
“Thought I was the only one.”
Mike smirked and adjusted his gaze.
Pete nodded enthusiastically.
“I could roll out a fucking pizza dough with this thing.”
All four men smirked together, bonded further by their shared arousal. Finally, Brad broke the silence, verbalizing what was certainly on everyone’s mind.
“So what do we do? How do we let this prick know we mean business?”
Mike looked back at him. And then at Pete. And then at Dale. And then at the television. He scowled as #11 in the white and gold streaked across the screen. Taking a final swig, bringing the can to at least one-quarter empty, he looked purposefully at Brad.
“Go get my Macbook from the office, bro.”
He paused to adjust the front of his jeans, an evil smile forming across his lips.
“I know exactly what we’re going to do…”