It was seven o’ clock by the time the squad swept into the clubhouse, their spirits buoyed by the tide of recent victory. They formed a boisterous production line at the bar before seating themselves with drinks in hand at a large oblong table in the corner. They played a few drinking games to get the night underway: King’s cup, 21, loping horse, a few rounds of standard hoopla, and a few more of Tabernacle rules. Horace Turgood, a thick-necked second row, was the captain and sat at the head of the table, as was his right. He was the ringmaster of this loud boozy circus and he began setting hoops for the squad to jump through. Aubrey, a fourth-year medical student who played right wing, was given a forfeit for missing a tackle early in the second half of the match. He drained his pint in seconds and slammed the empty glass on the table in manly triumph. Jones, a bovine prop who studied botany, was given a forfeit for having his flies undone. He, too, emptied his glass with extreme prejudice. Things escalated from there: Turgood, drunk on power and alcohol, became increasingly despotic, and each forfeit he ordained was more wanton and debauched than the last. It seemed like the nadir had finally been reached when Johnson, a diminutive full-back, was given a forfeit for being exceptionally well-endowed — something that they had all noted at one stage or another in the showers, but had never remarked upon until now. He was christened “Tripod” by his venerable captain and positively beamed as he chinned three shots of sambuca. Everyone thought that that would be the end of it; that is, until they saw Turgood staring at Philip with a rapacious hunger in his eyes, and a large hand on the young centre’s knee. The ponderous clunking of the big second-row’s thought process was almost audible.
There was a clear logic in the progression from Johnson to Phil, a common thread linking them both as objects of fascination and scorn in the showers. Phil had never once taken his underwear off in front of the squad; he even washed himself in his boxer shorts.
It was clear by the grim pallor of Phil’s face that he knew the nature of what was about to unfold: an awful, and very public, unmasking. Turgood’s huge frame strode to the bar and returned with two pints of Dutch lager. He set them on the table before him and proceeded to undo his trousers and lower himself in to each glass, in a practice that is commonly referred to as “teabagging.”
“Now, Phil. You’ve been repressed for too long. I think you need to let loose, let it all hang out, if you know what I mean. So, either you stand up here and strip to the bare bones, or you take your forfeit like a man. I’m doing this for your own good.”
A stark and ominous silence fell over the previously raucous squad. Phil, ashen-faced, looked around the room at the lads: leering, boorish, all of them rapt with anticipation. They had been waiting a long time for this — the subject of extensive locker room discussion. Numerous postulations had been made as to its abnormal size, colour, shape, or even its absence altogether. The moment of truth was now at hand.
Phil stood up, walked round the table, and downed both pints with urgent wincing gulps. Turgood’s disappointment was palpable, abundant even, and its echo rippled around the table in the faces of the rest of the squad. They released a collective groan as Phil began to step back towards his seat, with his unflinching gaze pinned somewhere high up on the far wall. A curious breathless sigh slipped from his mouth when Turgood reached out and yanked his trousers down, but the creature that hung between his legs let out a terrible shriek.
A head and elongated torso stuck out like a monstrous vegetable from the thick patch of hair between Phil’s legs. The creature had a small pointed nose and enormous rheumy eyes that blinked rapidly, obviously unaccustomed to the light. Two thin protuberant arms stuck out of its tubular body like pipe cleaners.
“It’s a slender loris,” said Joe, a flanker who studied zoology. “The top half of one, anyway.”
“It’s a lesser primate native to India and Sri Lanka. It’s actually highly endangered.”
The loris was in a state of extreme agitation, snapping its fierce little jaws and grabbing furiously at everything around it with long lank arms. Phil, blushing crimson, made a series of frantic attempts to tug his trousers up but the creature kept forcing them down. He tried to cover his modesty with his hands, but it clawed at them, wrenching his fingers apart and leering at everyone sat round the table in a perverse game of peek-a-boo.
Turgood stood there in broad-shouldered, square-jawed gormlessness.
“It’s a birth defect,” mumbled Phil, by way of an apology, as the loris picked a pint glass off the table and smashed it back down. “The medication normally keeps it subdued,” he said, as it swung a sizeable shard of glass towards Turgood, lacerating his gilet.
“Mate, it’s fine,” said Johnson, shifting uncomfortably in his seat.
“Yeah, don’t worry about it. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about,” said Joe, as the loris upended a bowl of nuts onto the floor. “I never thought I’d get the chance to see one in the wild.”
“I’m sorry, Phil; I didn’t know,” muttered Turgood, in a moment of uncharacteristic sincerity. He bent down and managed to pull Phil’s trousers up while Phil pacified his nethers. They both sat down and the night continued, though the mood had been irreparably soured. The captain’s ribald manner had acquiesced and in its place was a more tentative, sober demeanour. Phil was silent for the rest of the night, save for the plaintive squeaking that emanated from his lower anatomy. Amongst the rest of the squad, some conversation was attempted, but it was like trying to start a campfire in the rain.
The party broke up well before one and went their separate ways. The captain caught the same train home as did Phil. They talked mostly of sporting matters in a tone of detached masculinity, but all the while the captain was casting furtive glances at the constantly undulating surface of Phil’s jeans and thinking only of the roving primate’s hands beneath them.
CHARLIE GALBRAITH recently graduated from Glasgow University. Since then he has moved back in with his parents and now divides his time between writing fiction, waiting in line at the job center, and scratching himself. He is currently feeling disillusioned and rudderless, which seems like an appropriate response to the circumstances.