Bad by Gary Brooks

Gary Brooks' colourful descriptive comedy about the fallout after a party in a student house, full of character, flamboyant turns of phrase, and strong language

'Get up! Why aren't you in bed?'

This from Martin's housemate Julia, an attractive girl whose fine brows were currently furrowed in a mark of exasperation, and - possibly - concern. Concern because Martin was lying on the floor of their shared shabby living room, dry mouthed and bleary eyed, with his body arrayed in a most uncomfortable position upon the shabbier brown carpet. Atoms of grit and dust clung tenaciously, like needy children, to both sides of his face; while both of his hands were coated in a sticky residue that could well have been beer, but could equally well have been something else entirely. What he assumed to be a cushion propped his head up, while what he knew to be an empty wine bottle performed the same service for his feet.

He flicked a cigarette butt from off his crotch.

'Fuck,' he said, by way of answer, greeting, and request for a cup of tea.

'I'll put the kettle on,' said Julia.

She left him lying on the carpet, a solitary figure on a floor that only the night before had been populated by the feet of many people. Now, the only inhabitants were Martin's body and enough bottles and cans to begin a potentially world healing recycling project.

Slowly, a body moving with the graceful ease of hangover dictated sloth, Martin dragged himself onto the dirty rouge of the couch, as though he were a mountaineering tragedy uncertainly clawing his way back onto the surface of a cliff. He had both arms, his face and one knee on the cushion, and his bum in the air, when Julia re-entered the room bearing two mugs of hot tea.

'Oh, for heaven's sake,' she muttered, carelessly placing the two mugs onto the coffee table with a dull 'thunk,' shortly before kicking Martin up the arse and sending the rest of him sprawling about the couch. Immediately he made moves to sit up, but what with their couch being a student couch - and a student couch being a couch that has had nine other owners who were all very likely obese people with a penchant for violent inter-couch sexual experiences - his hand plummeted down a hole underneath the top cushion, which made the rest of him follow suit; stopping only when his nose met the ironically hard, structurally sound arm of the couch.

Curiously strong feminine hands grasped his shoulders and pulled him up, so that he did eventually find himself in a sitting position, and looking, once again, into Julia's eyes.

'You're a fucking idiot,' she cooed, and sat down opposite him.

Housemates are allowed to show such signs of hostile friendliness. Young people who live together, and especially students, call each other 'cunt,' as a middle class, middle aged couple might call each other 'darling.' Martin especially found this a fun way to carry on, and would amuse himself by thinking up new and bizarre combinations of obscenities with which to greet people. The only real problem with this, Martin found, was that he occasionally forgot himself. Thus the time when, visiting home for the first time in months, his mother opened the front door, and found herself greeted as a 'fuck stained old shit licker.'

Julia, however, was much more grown up than this, and swore only because it appeared to be the native custom; a harmless way of carrying on that seemed to be shared not only by Martin and her other housemates, but also by every other person under the age of twenty five that she had met at University. So she said 'fuck' just as an anthropologist in a strange land will invariably adopt the various local customs. Julia was nineteen years old, and very much looking forward to turning twenty. Despite being only one up on nineteen, twenty seemed like a very important and mature age to be. She imagined being plunged in to a new and novel world as soon as she left her teenage years. To be twenty was to be in the adult world, to go about one's business however one damn well pleased; all without being hampered by the horrible suffix '-teen' which shrivelled her sense of being a grown up, as salt to a slug. Martin had once commented that the only benefit to no longer being a teenager was that one got to whinge about the 'bloody teenagers.' She had laughed, but also suffered an internal pang. Turning twenty really was infused with importance for her, and she genuinely did view herself as going through a kind of metamorphosis; or at least that is what she wished. She would never admit this to any one of course, as this would give away the fact she thought nineteen not a very grown up age to be. It was bad, she knew.

A small tide of tea sloshed over the mug as Martin swept it from the table and collapsed back down, leaving a small trail of drips that led across the carpet and up his leg. His lips formed a perfect 'o' as he lazily blew into the hot drink, before taking a cautious sip.

'Ah. Thanks Julia. Well, last night was certainly eventful, wasn't it?'

'Judging by the wreckage, I would say so, yes.'

For the first time, Martin allowed himself to properly gauge the state of the living room. All of the expected rubble was strewn about the place - beer cans and fag ends lay on the floor like corpses in a killing field; while on top of all this lay beer cans with fag ends spilling out of them. For a brief moment, his rueful gaze landed upon an unused ashtray that sat on the table, but he decided to look on before he had a chance to get really annoyed. He saw also the idiosyncratic mess that every party can invariably claim to be its own, not to be replicated, shambles. The television set, for example, had a porcupinal appearance, due to the quill like arrangement of matchsticks someone had inserted into the cleft between frame and screen; while the surface of the latter had a portrait of a stickman couple in a lewd embrace, painstakingly detailed (some parts of it) in correction fluid. But best of all were the socks that had been glued into the boots that had been glued onto the ceiling; Martin really had to grant that whoever was responsible for that had at least put a bit of thought and effort into their act of vandalism.

'Christ, amazing isn't it? We invite people into our home, encourage them to get pissed, and they just misbehave themselves.'

As he spoke, he fumbled in the pockets of his navy cords for a cigarette. After he had lit it, Julia - who had been staring pointedly and silently into her tea whilst Martin surveyed the damage - fixed him with a sardonic gaze, and said:

'I wondered what the line would be.'

'What's that - eh?'

'The line, Martin. Your measured maxim of the moment. Everything you say has to be funny or detached in some way. I just wondered what the line would be this time. I was expecting something like "Well yes Julia,"' - here she rather unflatteringly began to ape Martin, turning down the corners of her mouth and scrunching up her lightly freckled shoulders - '"one must understand that the greatness of a party is directly proportional to the greatness of the post-party mess," but what you actually said was typical enough.'

'What the bloody hell is up with you? You make me a cup of tea, all friendly, and now you're apparently deconstructing me. I mean - what?'

'Its just that I don't like the feeling that I am living with some kind of one liner jukebox, and not a person. How am I supposed to know what you actually think about anything, anything really, when all you do is shrug and say something silly? It's like you don't care. Look what they've done to the television, for Christ's sake.'

Martin allowed himself to once more look at the porcupine, stick figure art installation that their television set had recently become, and noticed further that a fairy had been placed delicately on to the aerial.

'Easily fixed,' he shrugged. 'Look, things like this just aren't worth getting wound up about, are they? Hmm? Spot of tidying, and everything back to normal. Don't worry, if ever I got really upset about something you'd know it, I tell you.'

He gave her shoulder a quick squeeze, which he synchronised with his to-charm-the-ladies smile. Despite being marred by seriously filthy teeth stained from last night's drinking, and lips made chapped and sticky from his hangover, his smile did have some effect. Julia sighed, and visibly relaxed as she did so.

'Right, well, I'm going to get dressed. And have a bath. See if you can tidy up a bit in here. The cigarette ends are making me feel ill.'

'Will do.' Martin said, and relaxed into his previous slouching-sitting position, placing his mug of tea on the slight mount where his stomach met his chest. He looked contentedly at his tea, and smoked his cigarette slowly down to the butt, before popping it into the mug. This he placed upon the floor, then straightened himself out on the couch and promptly fell asleep.

As Martin slept, Robert stared blankly at his computer monitor. The third housemate, Robert, had of course also been present for the previous evening's party; but, having managed to revile every single woman present by eleven p.m., he had slouched dejectedly off to bed shortly after that - chiefly to stop people doing in his room what he had fully intended doing in there himself. Denied this, however, Robert had locked the door and turned on his computer for what he called 'a session.' He looked at the clock at the bottom right hand corner of the monitor - it was just after ten. He had been involved in this 'session' now for a little over as many hours, during which time he had visited over fifty web sites, chatted with more than twenty similarly socially disadvantaged people - from around the globe - and ejaculated into his pants four times; but had broken only one major pornography law.

One partially opened window displayed a film of frustratingly short length, that depicted a young, pig tailed brunette engaged in an act that would require a protein rich fluid to wash away the other protein rich fluid that was currently coating her disturbingly attractive face. Robert had set this particular film to play over and over again, until such time as he eventually clicked the stop button. A larger window displayed the constantly moving threads of conversation currently taking place in the 'NAUGHTY-TEENZ(13-17)' chat room.

While he typed a saucy reply to 'Abby 14 F, uk' he heard the sound of Julia running herself a bath. Robert imagined Julia with her pale skin - no, in fact, 'flesh,' not skin; that's much better, he thought - that looked so promisingly soft, and so warm to the touch, climbing slowly into the tub of hot water. He thought of how the bubbles would rest in her straight, raven hair, and of how the soapy water would cause the dark hair on her forearms to stand out starkly against the whiteness of her flesh, and how that flesh would be rendered even more fragrant by this morning's ablution.

'Have u had sex B4?'

He was sure that she was the type of girl who kept her pussy trimmed. Trimmed, but not shaved. She was tidy and not sexually promiscuous. Which meant, he thought, that she went in for the general upkeep and tending of that area, but did not attempt to make any changes for blatant sexual effect. A tidy trimmed pussy. He wondered what she looked like down there, how thick her labial lips were, how juicy she got at opportune moments, and how noticeably warm she would be to the touch.

'Really? Your PE teacher? How many times?'

Her arse was an object of fascination for him as well, as were her breasts, her legs; and to a lesser extent, her eyes and her mouth. If truth be told, Robert had quite a crush on Julia. The only reason he moved into the house and a shared tenancy with the others was because of her, and her only. His room was expensive, and not as large as any other he might have got for the price he was currently paying for it; but it meant he was in the same house as Julia. And this, as well a sizeable hard drive crammed with all manner of pornography, served to keep Robert relatively content.

'ooh really? Getting me hard now. What did U do?'

Robert did feel that perhaps the best way to act upon his extreme attraction for Julia was for him to make friends with her, and maybe ask her out; or at least do what all of the other blokes at University did, and get her drunk, talk bollocks to her and touch her inappropriately. However, he was well aware that this approach would very likely fail, whereas living with the girl guaranteed him a constant point of contact and interaction with her - as well as the possibility of a few accidental glimpses of her nudity now and again. Perhaps he would walk into the bathroom without realising that she was there, or perhaps she would walk into her bedroom without realising that he was there, hidden away in her wardrobe and peering intently through the crack of the doors.

'THREE tennis balls? oohh, you're a talented girl.'

Surprisingly, Robert was not a virgin, as one might expect; an early sexual encounter with a stern faced dinnerlady at school had put paid to that. He was only fifteen at the time, and now, at the age of twenty one, and not having yet had a chance to repeat his sexual success, Robert had become decidedly warped as far as his enthusiasm for once more having sex went. He was sure that were he ever again to find sexual bliss - or two minutes of friction - with a woman just one more time, he could get it out of his system once and for all, and become a normal, well adjusted young man; and use the Internet responsibly, as a research tool, for example.

'I want 2 suck ur tampon clean.'

It was no joke now, actually, Robert's record of research. He was so obsessed with sex, girls, and wanking that his academic work had inevitably begun to suffer. Whenever he would begin an essay, poor Robert would find himself half a page in before he was no longer able to resist opening up one of the many 'folders' upon the desktop that contained varying different types of pornography, all at varying levels of obscenity. The extremely obscene stuff he only ever looked at if he needed to bring himself off very quickly - he had not yet built up a tolerance to it, as he had most other things he had downloaded. Only the sort of porn where the 'stars' needed counselling shortly after their scene could manage to get him off in under thirty seconds these days. It was bad, he knew.

'Hello? Hello? R U still there?'

'Bitch,' muttered Robert as he swiftly began closing the various windows - each of them a port hole affording a glimpse of deep, unsavoury waters - and finally shutting off his entire computer. The session had ended at just under eleven hours. A particularly long one, even by his standards, but then he had been drunk and depressed to begin with. It always took him a while longer if he had to work himself out of a rut at first.

The pipes resounded their hot water symphony about the length of the house as Julia continue to fill up her bath. Robert, now lying back upon his bed, listened to the constant thunder of the water as it continued to pour forth. His cock was swollen and sore from the eleven hours of manhandling he had subjected it to, but the thought of Julia standing in the bathroom, clad only in her light, fluffy white housecoat - beneath which she was gloriously, wonderfully naked - was still enough to make him take the head between thumb and forefinger and give it a few token rubs.

The rumbling of the water stopped. In his mind's eye, Julia allowed the housecoat to fall off her shoulders to the floor, where it lay, crumpled at her slender, dainty feet, which she lifted to immerse herself into the delicate perfume of her morning bath.

Robert winced, and he tried his best to have a wank.

Andrew, the fourth and final housemate, lay wrapped in a snug entanglement of warm duvet and warmer womanly limbs. The young lady who lay beside him was still deeply asleep, and he watched the minute oscillation of her nostrils each time she breathed out. Her smooth belly was pressed against his hip, and the knee of her left leg was drawn up to his right thigh. Each time either of them breathed, their bodies would very lightly push against the other, her skin against his and his against hers, each time imparting a sensation of reassuring weight. He sighed. He could honestly say that at such moments, he did not care at all what bad things were happening in the world, to people he knew, or even to himself. Moments of bliss such as these wiped cleanly away such shreds of existential scurf, and left only a smooth and unblemished present. Andrew's idea of heaven would be infinity locked in a woman's endlessly palpitating embrace, but only with a ten second memory, so that every sensation would be fresh and new. It would be fair to say that Andrew enjoyed the post-coital squeezes more than the sex itself, which he found to be faintly embarrassing. All of the groaning and moaning and twisting and licking and groping and kneading did not, to him, seem to be worth the coming. And if he and his partner should have any eye contact during the act? The enormity of his mortification would rather reduce the enormity of something else. But the hugs afterwards, when their two bodies would be slick with perspiration, and the heightened body heat of the other could be so unmistakeably felt - that was what granted Andrew all of his pleasure. To him, intercourse was foreplay to the climactic cuddle. It was bad, he knew.

A faint 'click' signalled to Andrew that Robert had finally finished whatever it was he was doing on the Internet. It amazed Andrew that Robert could work so hard. It was unbelievable, at times, how that fellow pushed himself into the depths of his various academic projects. Robert was always in his room working, researching on the Internet. Time and time again he berated Andrew and the others for not taking as much care with their study as they should. Andrew remembered how Julia had once complained of not being very able to organise her time, and how Robert had kindly offered to get her up every morning to make sure she could have a bit of extra time to read through her course notes.

Andrew decided he would rather not waste his day, and gingerly disentangled himself from the young girl's embrace. She stirred slightly a couple of times, but was not roused entirely. Andrew covered her body with the rest of the bed clothes and, pulling on his housecoat, tip toed out of his room and down the stairs.

'What the bloody hell has happened to the television? Martin, wake up!'

'Fuck,' said Martin, by way of reply, greeting and request for a cup of tea.

'Jesus, they've put matchsticks in it, and what the fuck is that on the screen? Jesus. I'm going to get a cup of tea.'

'Can I have one too?'

'No, piss off, Martin. You encourage this sort of thing with the way you carry on when you've had a drink. And anyway, you've got a cup of tea.'

'It's got a cigarette butt in it.'

Martin's angular face framed an imploring look, so designed as to cause an overwhelming sensation of pity and mercy and Christian charity on whosoever should receive it. Andrew looked disconcerted, until Martin remembered that he only wanted a cup of tea, and adjusted his features accordingly. Martin was one of those individuals who, for whatever reason, decided early on in life that things probably were not going to go their way, and therefore decided that it was down to them and them only to try and tip the scales a little more in their favour wherever possible. The shameless manipulation of others was definitely one of the better tools for improving the odds, and affectation of certain contrived facial expressions one of the favoured means. Martin practised this phylogenetic sleight of hand in front of the mirror for great lengths of time; so too with his tone of voice and body posture. It was bad, he knew. But he didn't care, and he wanted a cup of tea.

'All right, for Christ's sake; but get that television sorted out while I make it.'

Martin nodded from his horizontal position on the couch.

'Will do, you fanny fart fudge packer.'

Despite himself, Andrew let out a snort as he left the room. He must admit that he found Martin's clumsily revolting turns of phrase amusing; even though, when Andrew's mother had phoned the house once, Martin had rather forgot himself and greeted her as a 'tit mangled bollock cake.'

The kettle made a sound similar to a man gargling phlegm, rounding off finally with a great 'whoosh' as Andrew tilted the kettle to pour the scalding contents onto the million, bare serrated eyes of the two teabags in the two yellow mugs with the two oversize handles. He stood about for a moment, idly moving his head side to side, brushing the nape of his neck with his shoulder length hair - the tea needed time to brew, and he wanted to give Martin a head start on fixing the television. He attempted to recollect the sensation of the girl's thigh pressed against his own. What was her name?

Sarah tried to hold on to the delicious sensation of just waking up for as long and as aggressively as she could; she relished the first few seconds of consciousness upon waking, when the inner fuzz of sleep and the outer lucidity of the waking world were still intimately tangled together. It made everything external to her feel as soft as everything internal, during those seconds she could be wrapped in a nylon bag and still believe it to be silk. A myriad array of tiny hands stroked her limbs as she stretched taut and triumphant into full consciousness, the full consciousness of being awake, and the full and unpleasantly abrupt consciousness that this was not her bed.

She sat up with a start, immediately wishing she hadn't done so, as this brought into her vision not only the accusatory fingers of the sun to accost her tired eyes, but also the condemnation of her knickers rolled into a white cotton fist at the foot of the bed. Instinctively, she crossed her arms, funereal style, across her chest and sat up in the strange bed. Looking about her more, she set her mind the task of quickly recalling what had happened. Nothing in the room jogged her memory. She felt frightened, not to remember a thing at all was worse than knowing what exactly she had done. At least the knowledge of her indiscretion would allow her to make some sort of excuse for herself, as well as find out if it was really all that bad. But currently, where no recollection offered itself to her, she could have done potentially anything, and that was no comforting thought.

Something, surely, some item must help her to remember? Again, the contents of the room offered no stimulus. Her breath caught in her throat as she heard a door open and footsteps approach the room she occupied. They passed, to her relief, and travelled down the stairs. Then a high pitched voice careered throughout the air:

'What the bloody hell has happened to the television?'

Coinciding with the voice, a mental image of such gruesome vivacity presented itself to Sarah that she felt nauseous: a chubby face with a smattering of bum fluff on puffy, pale cheeks leered at her drunkenly and suggestively. She lay slowly back onto the mattress, the dread weight of foreboding heavy in her stomach, as the memories continued to flood in:

The face belonged to a gruesome young man whose pasty body was as stocky as the cheeks implied, and whose general demeanour was as thoroughly unpleasant as the whole physical package suggested. Not with him? Not even if she was slipped something in her drink, surely not? She remembered him asking her if she was a big fan of the Internet as a research tool. She had said that yes, she was and this horrid little troll had winked as though she had just given utterance to the most suggestive innuendo possible. A strong arm clad in wizened brown leather had then pushed the manky little man away. Now, a handsome light brown haired man stood with her. Scruffy. He leered as well, though it suited this one, she thought. He had an angular face and the most enormous eyebrows Sarah had ever seen, and they were joined in the middle. His big lips had quivered as he searched for something to say, she remembered, and when he did speak it was a polite enough question, but a dull one that didn't leave her much room for an answer. Then he had said something highly suggestive instead, and she knew that he was purposely changing tack, and she could clearly recall getting the impression that at certain times, this bizarre man had probably got away with that sort of thing with a specific sort of woman; but not with her. Even though the comment was quite funny. She had excused herself, that's right, she knew now, and she had specifically sought out female company. There was a very sombre, though very beautiful girl, wearing a conservative blue dress in the corner of the living room, and she looked very out of place. Sarah had struck up conversation with her. The girl had not seemed to relax entirely while they spoke, indeed, she paused for a few painfully long seconds before she answered any questions; as though she were weighing up and evaluating everything she could conceivably say before actually saying it, perhaps according to the dictate of some inner criteria. Despite her youth, the girl came off as middle aged. But a naive middle aged. Middle aged without the experience. Just boring. Sarah had got up and left. What else? Then what? The large eyebrowed man was lighting another cigarette with the butt of his first, and the goblin boy had skulked past her muttering something about 'Internet research.' Groups of other people were milling about, girls and boys in duffel coats and Radiohead T-shirts, very young men attempting to grow beards and producing only a scraggly mess, similar types wearing shades even though it was night time and they were indoors. Half the heavily populated room was smoking weed; the stench of the herb was acrid in her nostrils. She didn't mind if people smoked dope from time to time, she herself did occasionally, but she had sensed that most of the people at this party did so regularly out of a twisted sense of fashion or duty, or were just weak enough to need it all the time. She fucking hated to see the kind of shitbags that regularly spazzed over that or any kind of shit. Fucking. Weak. She had gone over to a window and opened it slightly to escape the stench of dope and perspiration, and also to avoid any contact weakness from the greasy, dreadlocked little fucks who were smoking it. She overheard two intellectual, coffee shop types arguing with the big eyebrowed man about literature, writing, books. They posited that the arts community needed more material from younger voices, more laid back, with no regard for style or seriousness. The big eyebrowed man was disagreeing violently, asserting that such types only produce works that show an immature sense of humour, and overly ego indulgent self referential set pieces, as he plucked a cigarette from his pocket and started telling unseemly jokes. And then along came a man with melancholy eyes and shoulder length brown hair. He looked like the big eyebrow man except he didn't smile. He blushed easily and was sentimental and said things very sweetly; not her usual type but yes she remembered it brought out the mothering instinct in her and to mother is to smother, so they went into this room where dear Sarah sat now with head in hands and beautiful pale back arched forward as she is struck with the full final force of her recollection.

It was bad, she knew.

'I mean - Jesus - matchsticks?'

Robert gesticulated half heartedly at the television set, whilst glowering at Martin and Andrew, who sat beside each other on the couch, each of them cradling a mug of tea. Martin was looking at Robert with a kind of optical smirk, whilst Andrew had his eyes rolled up and was looking into his own head. Neither of them seemed particularly concerned about the television set.

'Don't you two care? We can't watch telly beneath a picture of two sticky people doing,' here he exasperatedly waved his left hand in the general direction of the screen, 'that. Can we? It's your fault Martin, you encourage this sort of shit from people.'

'Fuck off,' said Martin by way of answer, rebuff and suggestion that Robert go and make himself a cup of tea.

Sarah had half of her bottom lip caught fast between her teeth as she slowly descended the staircase. Her knickers were in her left hand, and her right was held out like a rod before her whose purpose was to define her path to unhampered freedom. At least not hampered by the goblin, the big eyebrow man, or her recent sad eyed lay. She had recovered her clothes from various points about the strange man's bedroom. She was not sure which was the more embarrassing possibility - that she had thrown them about in a fit of passion, or that he had. Either way, she did not want to dwell on the theatrics of her drunken screw. And she was quite unable to bring herself to put her underwear back on; they were dirty. Or rather, the crotch showed signs of an excitement that was now quite foreign to her, and which she did not want to assimilate intimately again.

Julia walked out of the bathroom, her favourite purple towel wrapped around her body. She glanced over the bannisters by the stairs, and her eyes locked in a gaze with a strange girl. This girl was a woman, actually. At least, she was older than Julia was, by at least five years, she guessed. Mature then. Neither of them spoke. The girl, Julia recognised her vaguely from the night before, looked vaguely embarrassed about something. She saw then what she had in her left hand, and understood. Neither of them moved for another couple of seconds, and for a brief moment, Julia had to bury the foolish urge to invite this older woman to her room and subject her to a Q+A about what it was to be a fully fledged adult. When it got to the point where it would be absurd for one of them not to break the stasis that flowed between them, the stranger on the stairs brought her index finger to her lips and winked at Julia, who nodded. She walked down the stairs, and Julia understood that to be an adult you had to creep away in silence with your knickers in your hand.

Sarah almost shouted filthy words louder than the last chap who had sounded angry about whatever the bloody hell had happened to their television, when she saw the girl staring at her from above the bannisters. She recognised her as the middle aged nymphet from the previous night. She wondered exactly how old this girl was. Sarah reckoned a good few years younger than herself, she was younger than twenty certainly. She resisted the spiteful urge to run upstairs and slap her about the face while exhorting her to act naturally in future. Then she recalled that all people her age have some sort of silly mock personality they like to filter themselves through. The silence was getting uncomfortable, and the stare kind of creepy, so Sarah winked and brought her index finger to her lips in a 'shush' motion. As she walked down the stairs, she whinged to herself:

'Bloody teenagers.'

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