Love and War
by David Cain
“Well, well, well. Look what the cat dragged in,” Mark laughed when he opened the door. Brian stood sheepishly at the threshold, and then held up his offering, half a case of brown bottles. “Yeah,” said Mark, stepping aside, “get in here before the beer gets warm.”
Brian pushed the rattling box onto the counter, tore away the perforated top and reached familiarly into a small drawer to retrieve and deftly wield a chrome bottle opener.
“There are some mugs chilling in the freezer,” said Mark, watching as he leaned against the door frame. Brian pulled open the upper compartment, releasing a misty stream of cold. Reaching in, he threaded his fingers through the rings of the glasses.
“Nice,” Brian said, pouring the pale brew over the lip as the air froze grey on the seal of gold leaf impressed on the glassware. “When did you get these?”
“Rick and I went up to Manchester,” Mark said, “maybe, a month ago?” Brian handed Mark the glass topped with brown bubbling foam and then knelt down to transfer the rest of the bottles onto the bare shelf of the refrigerator. Mark took a drink and sighed. Brian looked up at him sadly, and tossed the flimsy cardboard at the trash can. Standing, he picked up the other glass from the counter and carefully filled it with beer.
“Peace?” Brian asked, holding up his icy mug. Mark’s dark eyes glowered and he slowly raised his glass. A dull bell clanked as they met.
“I heard she dumped you,” Mark said, nodding them out of the kitchen. Brian followed as Mark went over to his stereo cabinet and started leafing through some old vinyl records.
“Yeah,” Brian said, smiling without pleasure.
“What happened?” asked Mark, pulling out a red and black record jacket.
“Same old story,” Brian said and he took a drink. “She ran off with someone better.” He laughed gently, amused by his soft jab at the both of them.
“No way,” said Mark, pulling the album carefully from the paper folds. “I’ve met the guy. Steph’s taste has been on a serious decline, well, since she left me.” He placed the record on the old turntable and set the needle on the spinning track.
“Yeah. I just don’t know what her deal is.” Brian sat down on Mark’s blue leather chair and leaned his head back, wearily.
“Are you all right?” asked Mark. “I mean, you should have known better than to get too serious with her. Steph’s not a girl you get involved with like that.”
“I know,” said Brian. “The whole thing was just a stupid mess. I still can’t believe I let myself treat you the way I did, and after all that, she’s off with some putz from Carrollton.”
“It’s the way she is. You know? Steph likes to be in the center of things, watching guys bash each other over her. It’s part of her thing. Look at what she did to us. I mean, we were acting like kids.”
“God knows I was,” said Brian, sitting up. “I’m really sorry, man.”
“Beer down the pisser, my friend. I’ve had a little down time to work my way past it, and once I realized that the losing part was really inevitable with Steph, I was almost glad to have passed the baton to someone who deserved a little fun.”
“Yeah, thanks,” said Brian. “It’s like the time you gave me the flu.”
“Well, be careful what you wish for. I didn’t make you steal her from me. You’re the jerk who blew off our friendship for a pair of tits.”
“Ooh,” moaned Brian, “but what a pair.” Mark offered his glass in toast with a smile. The ring of empty glass sang.
“Another?” said Mark, reaching for Brian’s mug.
“You know what?” asked Brian.
“What?” Mark called back.
“Steph really made me crazy. It’s almost like I’m coming down from a long, wild trip. She did something to me.” Brian walked over to the kitchen and took his fresh beer from Mark.
“You don’t have to tell me, brother. I have been there myself. She had ways that would drive the best of us insane. Wait,” Mark said, stepping over to the stereo and turning a knob. The wail of an electric guitar filled the small apartment. “I love this.”
“Heartless,” Brian muttered. “How true.”
“What?” asked Mark, turning the song down again.
“True,” said Brian, lifting his glass. Mark sat down on the blue chair and leaned back.
“I’ll tell you what, man, I’m glad you’re back, but I’d throw you out in a second just to see those titties again. Mmmm,” Mark licked his lips and laughed. Brian sat down on the carpet and leaned back against the wall.
“Sweetness,” he said, thoughtfully.
“There was one time,” Mark said, “Did I ever tell you this?” Brian shrugged. “Steph was over and we’d been going at it most of the afternoon. I always loved that about her. She could give a whole day to getting off. Anyway, she was sitting at the table, eating a bowl of Crunch and all she’s wearing are these little black panties. I was in the shower, because we were going out that night. You remember, that was the night we all went over to Steve’s and watched a movie and Liz was having a big fight with Rick.”
“Okay,” said Brian, slightly flushed by the memory.
“Dan dropped by, the way he used to, just a knock and then he just walked in. He goes to the fridge, gets a beer and then I guess he heard the shower so he goes and just sits down in front of the tube. Steph’s still sitting there, eating her cereal. Dan finishes his beer and goes around this way to get another one and he sees Steph sitting there, with those big tits staring him naked in the face and BAM! Dan walked right into the wall. I came running out of the shower and Dan’s rubbing this knot on his head, his face all red and starts telling me he’s sorry as he’s running out the door.”
“What did Stephanie do?”
“I looked over at her, and she’s still eating her cereal and she just shrugs, like ‘beats me.’ I could not stop laughing.”
“That’s how it felt, when I first saw her. Like a blow to the head.”
“Man, could she. I’d kill you, my friend, for one of her blow jobs. You know the ones I mean. God help you if you don’t.”
“I know,” said Brian, smiling despite himself.
“Our girl Stephanie knows how to kiss a dick. Am I not right? One minute your standing there minding your own and the next she’s got her mouth all over that puppy and no matter how hard I tried to hold back, she would be guzzling another load. Tell me if I’m lying, but Stephanie Rogers has a wicked tongue.”
“I’m a witness,” said Brian, laughing at his friend’s forthright portrait. “You tell no lies. There was one time when I was sitting on her bed and you know the mirror by the bathroom door?”
“Oh, God,” said Mark, “The mirror!”
“She crawls over, naked and steamy hot, and starts sucking my prick and I look over at the mirror . . . ”
“That ass and that pussy staring right back at you.”
“I swear, I came in twelve seconds and then I came again.”
“I know exactly what you mean,” Mark said, raising his hand for a slap. Brian smacked their palms together. “She knew what she wanted and she knew how to get it.”
“I tell you. The vision is still burning in my mind,” said Brian, “her perfect round ass, lifted and just spread apart so that I could just see her little asshole and the dark pink of her lips, all swollen and glistening with those fine curls and the little folds of pink flesh inside and she’s bending just a little with each stroke of mouth over my dick. Ah,” Brian said, sighing to mourn pleasures lost, “fuck.”
“What’s her number?” asked Mark, picking up the phone.
“No way, man. She’s in Williamsburg with the putz. Besides she’s still more mine than yours.”
“Says you,” said Mark, laughing. “All’s fair.”
“Yeah,” said Brian raising his empty mug in toast. “Here’s to losing the war.” With a clink, the friends’ glasses rang true.