Have just signed renewal contracts for two of my old Torquere Sips: Good Company, and Epiphany, and it got me thinking about themes I return to—and those I don’t. Gray and Vinnie from Epiphany, for example, are a mis-matched couple, with Vinnie a body-builder who’s a little short on education, whereas Gray’s smaller, slighter and smarter. As such, they’re in many ways a proto Al and Larry from Muscling Through. Then again, they’re very much their own people.
For those who’d like to compare and contrast, here’s a snippet from Epiphany, where Gray and Vinnie meet on a New York street:
“Hey, ya lost?” I call out. “Maybe I can help get you where you’re going.”
“Er, thank you,” he says. He’s got kind of a stutter, but not quite, you know? Not that Jesus-H-Christ-I-will-get-this-fucking-word-out-if-it-kills-me kind of stutter that always makes you feel real bad about making the poor asshole talk, just a hint of the first letter of a word coming out a little shy.
And he’s British, so yeah, he’s got that whole Hugh Grant thing going on. I feel like telling him if he wants head I’m way better than some two-bit LA hooker. But maybe he won’t get the reference. He’s kinda young.
“Where are you headed for?”
“Central Park,” he says, looking up at me from underneath his bangs. “I think I can make it back to my hotel from there.”
“Man, you’re way outta your way here,” I tell him. Ah, screw it. “You’re probably better off gettin’ a cab.”
“It’s that far?” Damn if he don’t look disappointed.
“Hell, I don’t mind walking if you don’t!”
“You’d show me the way? That’s awfully k-kind of you. I’m, er, Graham.” He holds out his cute little hand and I take it in mine, careful not to crush it.
“Vinnie. Pleased to meet you, Gray.”
“No one’s ever called me that before,” he says, but he’s looking kinda pleased.
“This your first time in New York, Gray?”
“Is it that obvious? Yes. Everything’s so, well, big here.” I kinda like the way he looks across at me as he says it.
And here’s a smidge of Muscling Through, where Al and Larry meet down a Cambridge alley:
I got caught short on the way home, so I stopped to have a wazz in the street. I mean, I checked to make sure there wasn’t no one there before I got my cock out. I didn’t want to shock no one.
But it took a while, ’cause I’d had a few pints, so by the time I was almost finished, this bloke had turned into the street. I could hear his footsteps, so I looked up, ’cause I didn’t want no one sneaking up on me when I had my cock out, and there he was. I mean, it was Larry, but I didn’t know that then. I just saw this really pretty guy in a posh suit. He had browny-blond hair, like straw that’s been left out in the rain—I don’t mean it was messy or nothing, it was just that mix of colours, like it couldn’t make its mind up if it wanted to be yellow or brown. And his face was kind of delicate, and he was really little. Way shorter than me. Skinny too. I like them skinny. And he was looking at my cock. So I smiled at him, ’cause he was pretty, and then I zipped up and headed his way. Which was my way home, I mean. I wasn’t planning to make a pass or nothing, ’cause I could tell he was too posh for me.
“Shit,” he said, and he started backing up like he was scared or something. “Ah, sorry. I didn’t mean to—”
I wasn’t sure what he was on about, so I smiled again. He looked like he was about to piss himself, and I didn’t like it, you know? It’s not right, people being scared like that. “You look like you’re about to piss yourself,” I told him when I got close.
“Shit,” he said again, and he sort of leaned against the wall and closed his eyes like he wasn’t feeling well, so I stopped and leaned over him.
“You should let me take you home,” I said, ’cause I was worried he might not make it on his own. “Nice-looking bloke like you, stuff could happen. You meet all sorts on these streets. I saw a bloke getting the crap beat out of him last week just a couple of streets from here.”
Turning to Good Company – well, this one’s an age-gap romance between a Northern car dealer and a cheeky Southern lad who’s hitchhiking up to Scotland. I’ve got a soft spot for this one: it was my first published story. But I’m darned if I can see any recurrence of themes, unless you count the whole opposites-attract thing. It’s not even in first person! *g* All right, I’ll confess: there’s a hitchhiking scene at the start of my WIP Feathers – but trust me, there’s nothing else the two have in common!
Here’s where Aidan and John meet in Good Company:
“Well, come on lad; get in, if you’re getting in. I’m not hanging round all day.”
Aidan pulled himself together and grabbed his rucksack hurriedly. “Sorry mate. Didn’t reckon you’d’ve stopped for me.”
“See some other bugger hitch-hiking, do you?”
Aidan grinned, slinging his pack in the back and climbing into the passenger seat of the Merc. “Nah. ‘S not what I meant. It’s the posh car and all. Usually it’s the truckers what stop.”
“Oh aye? You want to watch out, good-looking lad like you. Get some nasty sorts picking up young boys on roundabouts.” The bloke was giving Aidan a look, as if he was flirting or something, but it wasn’t threatening. Aidan knew threatening when he saw it. He gave the bloke one of his cheekiest grins.
“Takes one to know one, does it?”
“Pure as the driven snow, I am.” Yeah, this bloke was definitely flirting. Aidan gave him a frank stare. He was older than Aidan – could have been nearly his dad’s age, assuming the old bastard hadn’t managed to drink himself to death yet. Nice smile. Broad in the shoulders, but far as Aidan could tell from inside the car, not too tall. Just how he liked them, really, although it made his chest hurt a bit to think it. Still, flirting back wouldn’t cost him nothing and if he did it right the bloke might buy him a burger at the services. After all, he had to be loaded if the Merc was anything to go by.
“So, you nick this thing, or win the lottery?” he challenged, smiling.
“Neither, you cheeky young bugger. Earned it with the sweat of my brow.”
“Yeah? Don’t see a right lot of navvies with Mercs, generally.”
The bloke laughed. “Them buggers aren’t doing it right. So, where are you heading, lad?”
Sandy-coloured eyebrows rose. “Long way to go just hitching lifts, lad. We’re hardly past Watford Gap. Started out a bit late, didn’t you?”
Aidan shrugged, sinking down into the leather seat. “Yeah, well, I’m not in a hurry. And me mate reckoned truckers’d be more likely to pick me up on the night runs. Reckons they get lonely, or something. So how far can you take me, then?”
The bloke grinned, making the corners of his eyes crinkle up. “Depends. Get on my tits and you’ll be out on your arse before we get to the M6. Name’s John, by the way.”