Dead on Arrival

an excerpt

If Andrew Stanton hadn't been killed in the car crash, I wouldn't be writing this tale now. You see I didn't even know him before, and the night he died was the first time I had ever even met him.

"Let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start..." You may recognize that from the musical, "The Sound of Music" but I agree with the sentiment, so let me go back to the beginning--or at least as far as "the beginning" affects the whole story.

My name is Graham Howarth and I'm a homosexual. Yes, I know one of those two statements shouldn't really be deemed all that important--after all sexual orientation is a private matter and shouldn't, at least at the start, be considered one of the two most important facts in a story. However, as you'll see, it is important, and we might as well get the facts known right from the beginning. I like to be as open and honest as I can.

Right then, I'm Graham Howarth and I'm gay--oh and I'm twenty-five years old. Again, is that important? Well, I guess it is. Readers like to picture the characters in the story they're reading, so giving my age means that they won't see me as an inconsiderate and thoughtless juvenile of preteen age (apologies to all those who aren't--inconsiderate and thoughtless, that is) nor yet as someone cynical and middle aged (and there are some of those) and not elderly and crouched with silver hair (or indeed no hair at all).

As far as the rest of me is concerned, well, I've got mid-brown hair, at the moment cut short, though at the time I think it was long enough to cover part of my ears and sort of drift over my collar--when I was wearing anything other than a T-shirt, that is. My eyes are my best feature, or so I've been told, being brown and very much "come to bed." I certainly encourage this, often slightly closing them so that I look sexy and mysterious. On the other hand, it could make me look a bit simple, but I always hope for the best. A nose is a nose is a nose, as Gertrude Stein never said--nothing special there. At least it isn't broad or broken or hooked. Unfortunately, it isn't snub either. That's always been a bit of a regret. I love snub, tip-tilted noses.

My lips are a little thinner than I'd really like, but my teeth are good. Body, well, you'll have to wait as that does, in fact, come up later in the story (both senses of course--I intended the double entendre). I suppose that shows that I've got a sort of juvenile sense of humor.

Anyway, that evening I'd been taken along to a party by a straight guy I know who deserted me as soon as we got there and went "birding." It wasn't even a gay party, well, not predominantly, though several of us that were that way inclined recognized each other pretty soon, through gaydar or because we could be found shrieking together in a corner over a punchbowl of an excruciatingly nasty mixture. Each one of us had turned up with something cheap in a bottle and emptied it into the bowl, and the result was indescribably vile--though extremely potent.

There's something sadly familiar about a group of gay guys having fun. They often have a desperate look in their eyes, usually glancing towards the door to see whether someone better, more hunky, with shinier hair or a bigger cock in tighter trousers will suddenly appear. At the same time, they're being as bright and animated and, yes, well, as gay as they can be.

So I guess the scene is set, or perhaps it isn't quite for the only guy with them who didn't seem to belong was, I assumed, straight who either had lost his taste buds or was so naive that he didn't recognize a proclamation of queens when they flapped their wrists at him. This was Andrew Stanton--as someone introduced him to me, a serious-looking twenty-two-year-old with blond hair and dark eyebrows that were the wrong color to his hair. Perhaps he'd dyed his hair or his eyebrows, I don't know and never found out at the time, but it made his face look interesting, and his smile was beautiful. And yes, he had a tip-tilted nose--which I found delicious. He was just about to start sipping a plastic cup of the dreaded poison, and as he tasted the foul brew and his lips twisted in a grimace of horror, his eyes met mine, and I grinned sympathetically.

"I could try to get you something better," I said. "I've a friend who might know the host."

He shook his head. "Actually I'm doing the driving," he said, "so it'll probably be better for all concerned if I don't drink anything alcoholic at all."

So that explained it, or so I thought. He must be a straight friend of one of the gay group who'd been dragged along to drive them around. I wondered what the inducement had been. If it had been me it would have had to be something pretty rewarding.

"Can't be much fun for you," I said sympathetically.

"Oh you never know," he said. "I might meet someone." He looked at me closely and then said, "Don't I know you from somewhere?"

Wow! I must have got it completely wrong. This was the most basic pickup line if ever I heard one. I led him along a bit, testing the water as it were. "The Guardsman?" I suggested, "Pretty Boys? Kismet Hardy?" reeling off the names of a few of the gay clubs in the neighborhood. I didn't add "Crossland Road Men's Public Convenience" as I hardly ever find the need to go there, and I rather hoped he didn't either. That would have been a real disappointment.

We chatted for a while; he was very easy to talk to, though we didn't exactly identify where, if anywhere, we'd met before. I'm sure I would have remembered anyway. He told me he worked as a salesperson in a local branch of a men's clothes shop, "Chic for Men" in the High Street. Plenty of chances to feel guys up, I immediately thought and then realized that the times were long past when salesmen measured inside leg measurements and asked which side "sir" dressed. It would just have been possible that I'd seen him there, though I must admit I didn't often visit that establishment--too trendy and a bloody sight too expensive for someone like me on a fairly basic salary.

I told him I was a lowly clerk at one of the local banks and worked mainly on computers. Neither of us did exciting things like mountaineering, MI6 special agents, or Formula One racing which was a pity, but how often do you meet those sort of exciting guys? Still, one lives in hope.

We were, indeed, getting on fine, and I was just about to make a move on him--which of course meant getting close to and stroking parts of him which seemed appropriate when there was news of another party. This new one, it was promised would be better than the one we were at, with more guys and completely gay--and everyone in our little group wanted to go. Andy, as delegated driver, was essential to the operation, and though I'd have been quite happy to remain where I was--as long as he stayed there too, it was obvious that he was too nice a guy to upset the others by refusing. We exited in a bunch loudly and vociferously, thanking anyone who looked remotely as if they could have been the hosts for the fun, and regretting the necessity to move on. There were six of us who left together. I don't think the party deteriorated a great deal from our absence. The remnant probably got the real stuff out, drink, drugs, or whatever, and had a much better time in consequence.

Andy's car was a bright red Vauxhall Corsa, and I could see immediately that it was going to be a bit of a squeeze getting everyone in. Andy drove, of course, with a guy called Doug sitting in the passenger seat. I'd wanted to sit there myself figuring that from that position I could have fun with Andy's leg--and even his crotch--while he was doing things with clutch, brake, gear lever, and accelerator. Unfortunately, Doug explained very loudly and positively that he always got car sick unless he sat in the front, and so he obviously got his way. Then three of us (me included) scrambled quickly into the back seat leaving the one other guy who hadn't been quick enough hovering outside, hoping against hope that he wouldn't be the one left behind.

"You'll just have to sit on someone's lap," said the guy next to me in the middle. It was already a bit of a squash, though companionable.

"Okay," agreed the outsider quite happily and sat himself firmly on me, who happened to be the one nearest his side. Fortunately, he was quite a small, slim guy, so neither he nor I were really uncomfortable. Once the car started though, he decided that he'd make himself really at home, so he wiggled his backside into my groin so that, despite myself, I felt the urge that comes naturally to us gays and began to get excited. Not wishing to appear ungrateful, I folded my arms around his waist and into his crotch where I found, investigated, and gently stroked his erection, first through the material of his jeans, then, as he slid open his zip, in the flesh.

The guy sighed. I wondered what his name was, but it didn't seem to matter. We were just doing what the good lord intended and introductions were hardly necessary. Then, perhaps as a sort of thank you gesture, he turned his head round and his lips sought mine, his tongue finding mine, probing until it almost started to feel as if he was performing a tonsillectomy. His cock throbbed in my hand and I stopped wanking him, but obviously he fully intended to come. His hips jerked so that, even though my hand was still, he was still frotting away. I heard him give a great gasping intake of breath, his mouth against mine. I looked past him and caught the reflection of Andy's eyes in the rearview mirror, his face lit up and then obscured by the street lamps as we passed underneath each one.

I couldn't tell his expression from the eyes alone, but I thought he knew what was going on in the back seat. What I couldn't tell was what he thought of it. He stared at me, and suddenly I thought, "He's not looking at the road." I disengaged the leech on my lips. "Andy," I said as a warning, and then almost immediately there was a screech of tires, a bang as metal hit something dangerously solid. The car and everyone in it turned upside down. I felt a blow to my head, and everything disappeared into Stygian darkness.

I remember coming round a couple of times. Once, when someone in a day-glow uniform, presumably a paramedic, kept asking me what my name was. For a moment I couldn't remember, but I knew that Andrew as driver must be in urgent need of help. "Andy," I said. "Help Andy"

"Hold on, Andy," said the guy. "Keep hold of everything. Try to stay awake." But however hard I tried, everything swirled away out of my grasp, and I must have blacked out again.

The next time I came round I was on a hospital trolley and above my head were bright white strip lights. So many that it seemed that they were joined in one long stream stretching into infinity. "Andy," said someone. "We'll soon have you..."

"Where's Andy?" I asked, but no answer came and I passed out yet again. It seemed to be becoming a bit of a habit--and not a good one at that.

Someone was calling a name, a woman's voice from very close at hand. "Andy," she was saying insistently. "Wake up, Andy."

I opened my eyes. A nurse was sitting beside my bed. A drip from a bottle was going into the back of my left hand through a cannula. My head felt tight and throbbed a bit. Other parts of me hurt as well, especially my right arm. These clues suggested to me that I was in Intensive Care. If not, I felt I ought to be.

"Ah. You're awake at last, Andy," she said.

"My name isn't Andy," I said or tried to say, though the words came out so slurred and indistinct that even I could hardly understand them myself. I settled for, "wa'er" and tried to point to my throat.

The nurse picked up a sort of bottle with a spout and held it to my lips. The water was cool, though tasted slightly of chemicals. But it was good, and it felt marvelous on my tongue and going down my throat. She wouldn't let me have much though. "Not at the moment, Andy," she said. "Just a few sips."

"Why do you keep calling me Andy?" I asked when I could actually make coherent words again.

"Can't you remember your name?" she said. There was a touch of anxiety in her tone.

"Of course I can," I said, my strength returning. "It's Graham. Graham Howarth."

"You gave your name as Andy," she said, "when you came into hospital. Do you remember the accident?"

"Of course I do," I said and was about to tell her how I was wanking off this boy on my lap while looking into Andy's eyes in the mirror. I stopped myself though. Perhaps that was just a little bit too much information; rather more than she really wanted or needed to know at the time.

"The driver wasn't looking at the road," I said, which sounded to me a bit disloyal, though it was true enough.

"Who was driving?" she asked.

"Andy," I said. "Andy Stanton was driving, and Doug was sitting next to him because he gets sick if he sits in the back." I struggled to remember. "Then there were the four of us in the back. Don't know what their names were. We were going to a party--from a party." That didn't sound very clear, but I couldn't be bothered to explain any of the details.

Suddenly I felt very tired. "I want to go back to sleep," I said.

The nurse though was looking puzzled. "Four in the back," she said, "and two in the front. That isn't right."

"I know," I said, even though all this talk was becoming much too much trouble for me, and both my head and arm ached. "There were too many in the car, against the law, I suppose, but..." I closed my eyes and felt myself drifting.

I heard her voice. "You have a good sleep, dear," she said. "We'll talk about this more in the morning when you're rested."