FINGERS AND THUMBS
At his local gym, Elliott is astonished at the sight of naked men in the locker room – but the casual freedom exhibited inside this windowless temple soon becomes contagious. He regards slippery bodies like monoliths of tender flesh as men shower en-masse; stark tan lines become bookends to white bum cheeks that shine like plastic. Will he catch his reflection staring back if he gets close enough?
He quickly becomes a Pump disciple. Another Pump enthusiast with ginger hair, Tony, lends a hand on his first visit, demonstrating how to assemble his barbell and bench stepper. Concentrating on the mechanics, Elliot watches Tony transition expertly through routines but is soon distracted by his teeth, which beam like pearl mosaic, and his pale muscles that flex beneath gym clothes. He marvels at Tony and daydreams of life in his skin.
Only a month earlier Elliott drank wine and ate Chinese take-away with his mother and best friend. It was the eve of a new year, a new year they were desperate to welcome. They cracked open fortune cookies, reading the contents aloud. When it came to Elliott’s turn the room fell silent.
“Don’t muck around with the past when you can fuck around with your future”
Rhonda smiled with wet eyes and raised her glass, “Here’s to grabbing life by the balls, my darling.”
With the clink of glasses, they wished one another a happy new year. Folding the paper in half, Elliott slipped his fortune inside his wallet before taking another sip of his drink.
The next morning, he filled his car with all the suitcases and boxes it could stand, before tooting his horn and tearing into the distance. His white hatchback surged with every gear-change until his past could no longer be seen.
Elliott had followed a well-worn path walked by many sensible shoes. He liked his job at the call center, he looked forward to his annual resort-holiday with his mother, and his box set of Lost sat comfortably on a bookshelf that was home to more shelf space than actual books. But the comfortable path he was walking no longer felt certain. In 2020 everything changed, and Elliott was finally pulling the rug from under himself, or as his father might have put it, he was pulling his finger from out of his arse.
Around Easter, when the bushfires were finally over, his father complained of feeling ‘a little shabby,’ but it was already too late. His body was crawling with cancer and by ANZAC day, Bruce was dead and buried.
With only seven people at the funeral, Elliott wept for his father but his grief was confounded by the fires, the onset of lockdown and the collective mourning of an entire town affected by the loss of Big Bruce.
In life, his father cast an enormous shadow that everyone fit beneath comfortably, but in death, his absence was an unbearable void. Grief settled in and the glossy patina of their solid family began fading. Like a deflated balloon, they were spent.
In hospital, as Bruce grew pale in color and character, Elliott took his dad’s papery hand and mustered a pathetic smile. Breaking the chemical reverie, Big Bruce, who now seemed so disproportionately scaled, held his son’s hand instead of squeezing it with his signature grip.
“Bloody hell, mate”, he whispered. “Promise me you’ll bugger off when I go tits up. Hear me?”
A month into the New Year Elliott felt he was acclimating well to his new city. Aside from a seasonal hand-job from Troy, the apprentice butcher back home, his romantic exploits were undercooked to say the least. But now that restrictions were relaxing and a hint of normalcy was seeping back in, Elliott’s mission, his new years resolution, was to make up for lost time. He kept his fortune inside his wallet, unfolding it on particularly tricky days whilst repeating his own little mantra inspired by ginger Tony from the gym, a prompt to push him from his comfort zone. What Would Tony Do?
The First Tuesgay Book Club met on the first Tuesday of every month. In February, nine men gathered to discuss Later: My Life at the Edge of the World, which Elliott had not yet finished. Opening the cover he scanned various accolades and pinched a few descriptors to use as his own. When the time came, he cleared his throat and offered some thoughts on the work, “It seemed kaleidoscopic in its sense of nostalgia and I felt the author a little bleak at times, but he grappled with death and desire with confidence.” Cameron and Blake, the hosts, gazed approvingly, smiling at Elliott from across the room. Elliott nodded in return, wondering if he had gotten away with this stolen moment.
When the discussion concluded he excused himself to the bathroom and in his absence the next novel was selected. Returning to the living room Elliott found his hosts wearing nothing but wide grins.
The following weekend Elliott found himself inside a bird watching tower with his trail tights around his ankles after signing up for a mountain expedition organized by The Hiking Homos. With the promise of a great view, Adam, a regular day-tripper, invited him into a vacant structure before planting his bearded face between Elliott’s cheeks. Using his elbows as a tripod Elliott’s mouth made a perfect ‘O’ as he panted into the cold mountain air. The view was spectacular, the landscape reminding him of camping trips with his dad. As he looked into the middle distance Bruce echoed inside Elliott’s head, “Bugger off to someplace bigger and better than this piddly pocket of paradise, mate!”
Look at me now, dad! Elliott mused as Adam moaned into his gulch. After an especially energetic tongue lashing, Elliott gasped with surprise, and in a nearby tree a Speckled Warbler twitched, eyeing both men with caution.
At Same-Sex Salsa the unthinkable happened. Elliott’s attention lapsed momentarily when learning to Suave correctly. Shifting his weight with a little too much gusto, a galvanizing pain lurched from his lower back, leaving him buckled before his dance partner. Hobbling to a nearby seat he winced in agony and withered from embarrassment.
His attentive teacher assumed the position of First Aid administrator and on all fours he massaged Elliott’s back like he was searching for kidneys. Gasping for breath, Elliott politely wheezed into his armpit, “Do you know a good physiotherapist?”
After several visits to Dr. Bradley Fletcher, Elliott was mended and his final massage felt more relaxing than remedial. With his face wedged inside the table recess Elliott exhaled as Bradley untangled knots in his shoulders. As Bradley’s hands slid down the curve of Elliott’s spine they paused at his briefs where he took hold of the modesty towel before slipping it beneath the elastic waistband. This routine maneuver always took Elliott by surprise, feeling as if his underpants might be reefed off, exposing his backside. Bradley folded the edge of the towel beneath the elastic and tugged. Elliott submitted. After exposing an additional inch of Elliott’s lower back, Bradley went further, shifting the waistband all the way to the crease of his buttocks and upper thigh. “Let’s get rid of this tension, yeah?”
Wondering what Tony would do in this instance Elliot thought back to the locker room some weeks earlier, where he’d found him kneeling on wet tiles. Standing before him were three men, their bodies swollen and gleaming under running water. Tony, his pale bum pressed against the heels of his feet, bobbed his head from one throbbing penis to the next, using his mouth to make each slippery erection disappear down his throat. In flip-flops and wrapped in a towel, Elliott clutched his toiletries, eyes growing wider. His penis, pushing against fluffy cotton, was harder than he could ever remember.
Unsure of polite etiquette, Elliott hung his towel on a hook and blasted himself with hot water. It was business as usual. Turning at the sound of the open faucet, Tony locked eyes with Elliott, who lathered his body with broad sweeps. Smiling from his position on the tiles, his teeth glowing from inside his mouth, Tony raised his eyebrows, giving Elliott a ‘thumbs up’ before getting on with the job. Elliott was fixated. He watched Tony’s wrists and mouth working like a well-oiled machine. He pushed the soapy tip of his finger inside his flexing hole as his erection reached for the ceiling like a plant searching for sunlight.
Back in the room Elliott softened his rigid body, letting Bradley push and pummel his flesh. Arching his back, Elliott readjusted his legs too, creating a ‘V’ shape with his parting thighs. Bradley’s hands slipped and darted into new territory, his fingers and knuckles grazing parts previously off limits. In a bold move Bradley shifted his hand into the valley of Elliott’s butt, his middle finger making circles in the center.
“How’s this?” Bradley wiggled the tip of his finger inside Elliott like he was flicking a light switch on and off. Elliott lifted his head from the table, catching Bradley’s reflection in the mirror. His finger still swiping back and forth. This is exactly what Tony would do, he thought to himself. With a grin he lifted both hands and gave Bradley two ‘thumbs up’.