by JL Merrow
I should have bloody known. I mean seriously, I should have known.
It was hard enough—pun bloody well not intended—before me and Archie got together. But now? Every time I look at him, pumping away rhythmically in front of me as we cut through the water, his face screwed up with the effort as those muscular shoulders power the boat forward, all I can think of is, well, various other things getting screwed and pumping away rhythmically.
Look, it’s not my fault. I mean, have you seen Archie? He’s about six foot six, blond, with shoulders of granite and legs like tree trunks.
And he’s mine.
We got together after the May bumps—that’s one of the Cambridge University inter-college boat races, for those of you not in the know. I tell you what, it was a bloody good summer. Both of us got jobs at the start of the holidays, and when we’d saved up a bit of money we buggered off to Europe for four weeks, ticking off all the countries we’d shagged in. And when we got back to Cambridge, there was the icing on the cake: both of us made it into the blues squad.
It’s actually not that common, undergraduates making the blues rowing squad—either ours, or the other place’s. Most of the crew are postgrads, some shipped in specially. Gives them time to fill out a bit, lay on a bit more muscle. Statistically speaking, it’s the heavier crew that wins, more often than not.
Course, for me, being the cox, it’s the other way around. But like I always say (and I reckon Archie’d back me up on that) size isn’t everything. Most of the blues coxes of the past have had years of experience on me. And maybe I was only coxing the Cambridge reserve crew, but I’d back my boys in Goldie over any other university crew you can mention. I was over the moon when I got the news—and when I found out Archie was going to be my stroke, well… Put it this way—after we celebrated, one of us was wincing for a week every time he sat down on that hard wooden seat.
But bloody hell, we were going to have to do something about this.
This being the way my hard-on threatened to capsize the bloody boat every time we got out on the river.
The lads were looking at me, expectant.
“Firm pressure,” I croaked, and nearly came in my pants while Archie caught a crab.
It couldn’t go on. I had to sort this out or we’d both lose our places on the squad.
So Archie and me started getting down to the boat house early, so we could take care of business before we got on with the serious training. It worked pretty well—until Boat Race day. What with traveling down from Cambridge to Putney and all the bloody build-up that goes on, we hadn’t had moment to ourselves. So we didn’t get our usual warm-up, and as we lined up to start, I realized we had a little problem.
Oh, all right, I had a problem. And it wasn’t all that little. Archie, bless him, was white with nerves and right then probably didn’t give a monkey’s about anything long and stiff that didn’t have a paddle on the end. Me, though… put it this way, if the rudder broke and the oars fell in the water, we’d still be fine—we could just use my prick as a punt pole. I glanced over at the Oxford Isis crew, hoping for a bit of negative inspiration, but seriously, when was the last time you saw a rower you’d kick out of bed?
And then they saved us. Rob and Phil from our old college eight. “Dave! Archie!” Rob yelled, as they elbowed their way to the front of the crowd.
I looked—and my jaw practically crashed through the bottom of the boat.
They’d come in comedy drag. Rob was in a shapeless floral frock Oxfam must have paid him to take away, carrying the sort of handbag old ladies keep bricks in to beat off muggers.
Phil… Phil had come in one of those skin-tight lycra mini-skirts. And matching boob tube. Down which he’d stuffed a couple of balloons. Both of them had tatty blonde wigs on, and bright red lipstick. Rob blew us a kiss as Phil hitched up his skirt to show us a garter on one hairy thigh. Wolf-whistles echoed from the banks of the Thames.
“Do you think this means, if we win the race, we’re going to get lucky?” Archie asked, a big grin on his face.
“God, I hope not,” I told him. Just the thought of it had sorted out my not-so-little problem nicely. “Let’s think of it more as a warning not to fail, all right?” I raised my voice. “Come on, lads—let’s show these Oxymorons how to row!”
We didn’t. Fail, that was.
Although after all the champagne had been drunk, some of us did get very, very lucky.
And no, Rob and Phil were not involved.