Men, huh? Can't live with 'em. Can't strip 'em and spank 'em. Well actually, you CAN, in this little corner of cyberspace. Around here, fully grown males are at constant risk of humiliating bare bottomed correction - hence the 'humblings' of the title.

Thursday 28 February 2013

Sore Losers

'And the Triple Word Score makes it thirty-three,' said Peter, nudging the last of his letter tiles into place.

'Funny,' mused Alan from the other side of the table as he studied the playing board. 'When I was at school, zero was zero whether you tripled it or not.'

'When you were at school multiplication hadn't been invented,' retorted Pete, despite the fact that at forty-two he was barely three years younger than the other man. 'In any case,' he continued with exaggerated patience, 'I'm not tripling zero. I'm tripling eleven.' He tapped each letter in turn. 'Three, four, eight, nine, eleven.'

'I can see the numbers,' said Alan, 'and I can see the letters. What I'm not seeing is any English word that exists outside of your wishful thinking.'

'Let it go, Alan,' said his fiancée Lucy - lightly, but with just a hint of warning in her tone. Although she enjoyed having her friend Jenny visit, the childish sniping between their menfolk was always wearing and tonight it had reached fever pitch.'We don't have a dictionary to hand, so you boys are just going to have to play nicely and give one another the benefit of the doubt - for once. Which would be a welcome change, wouldn't it Jen?'

'A welcome change and a bloody miracle,' replied her friend wearily. 'I don't know that word either though, Pete. You sure it doesn't have an A after the O?'

Her husband scowled.

'Jesus, Jenny. Whose side are you on?'

'Mine, sweetie. Last time I checked, this wasn't a team game - if you're losing then it's all your own work. And if you're going to sulk about it, then we'll be having a little discussion regarding that when we get home.'

Peter's mouth opened but then shut again, and he coloured visibly. A moment later he reached out to retrieve two of his letter tiles and closed the gap to form a shorter word.

Alan studied his rival's offering with a smirk of derision. 'C-O-N, con - how appropriate - and worth a frankly underwhelming six.' He retrieved the pencil from the centre of the table and neatly wrote the figure under Peter's name, overscoring it several times for emphasis. 'Not exactly a winning word, ladies and gentleman - but at least this time he had some kind of a clue how to spell it.'

'Here's a clue for you,' muttered Peter evenly, as he reached for the bag to replenish his pieces but found it empty. 'This one's two words. Starts with 'f' and ends in 'uck you'.

For a moment nobody spoke. Then 'Enough,' said Jenny, pushing her chair back from the table and turning to her friend. 'Lucy, honey, do you have somewhere private I can take my husband for a few minutes?'

Peter blanched. 'Ok, sweetheart,' he said quickly, his hands raised in a gesture of supplication. 'Forget I said that. I take it back.'

Jenny placed her own palms flat on the tabletop and bent so that her face was level with his. 'I'm not your sweetheart right now, and you're certainly not mine. And it's a little late for you to be taking anything back, but just exactly the right time for me to be taking something down. Lucy, sorry to be a nuisance...'

'Not at all,' said her friend with a small shake of her head that made her pony tail bounce. 'You can use our bedroom, second on the right. There's a straight-backed chair in the corner that tends to come out when necessary.'

'Ooh, that sounds perfect. And I don't suppose you have a...'

'Top drawer of the dressing table,' said Lucy. 'Always close to hand.' She laced her fingers beneath her chin, rested her bare elbows on the table and cocked an eyebrow at Alan. 'Isn't it, young man? Needed it quite a lot lately yourself, haven't you?'

Alan, apparently absorbed, slid his letter tiles carefully from side to side while he studied the tabletop. 'Mm-hmm,' he said.

'Speaking of which,' said Jenny, 'I believe it's your turn to play, Luce. And you can take your time. There'll be no rush.' She reached over and used two fingers to issue a brisk tap to the back of Peter's wrist. 'Follow me, mister,' she said. Turning on her heel, she strode purposefully from the room. Peter sat frozen for a moment until Lucy caught his eye. 'Off you go, little boy, and get your medicine,' she chided, and he reluctantly stood and made his way out. Moments later there was the sound of the bedroom door closing softly behind him.

For almost five minutes Lucy sat studying and rearranging her letters while her fiancée fidgeted in his seat and their guests were occupied down the hall. One might have expected the noise issuing from the couple's bedroom - the lengthy scolding, the muted apologies and the eventual rhythmic thwop of hairbrush against bare skin - to spoil her concentration. Yet it only seemed to inspire her. A small, amused smile played across her lips whenever the brush found a spot that produced a muffled yelp from the other room. 'Con,' she half-sang under her breath as she considered her move. 'Con, con, con...' Finally she sighed happily and began to transfer her tiles to the board, appending them to the three that the luckless Peter had already put down. 'T - R - I - T - I - O - N,' she recited. 'That makes twelve altogether, plus the fifty point bonus for using all of my letters at once.' She sat back and regarded Alan with a satisfied expression. 'Bingo,' she said.

A few moments later their friends reappeared, Jenny with a contented glow and Peter looking red-faced and flustered. His arms were held stiffly at his side and his fingers waggled involuntarily as though he were fighting the urge to rub his behind. He spent an agonised few seconds lowering himself back onto his chair.

Retaking her own seat, Jenny looked over the board. 'Ooh, you are a clever old thing, Lucy. That's a great word.'

'Glad you think so,' smiled the other woman. 'It's one of my favourites.' She turned to her fiancée, who seemed to be taking surprisingly little pleasure in the other man's discomfort. 'Your turn, Alan,' she said.

'But the game's over,' he replied a little uncertainly. 'You've won.'

'Oh, I'm not talking about the game,' said Lucy.

'I had a hunch,' chuckled Jenny, 'so I've left everything out for you.'

'Thanks, Jen,' replied her friend with a wink. 'The only question is - shall I make coffee now, or after we come back? I have a feeling we may be some time.'