Manfred gazed desultorily around the gloomy basement. Three hours in and his Men’s Rights meeting had still yet to reach a satisfying conclusion. If he was honest with himself, it had barely even glanced at a climax. The closest they had come to action was in the second hour, when a mention of GamerGate had produced some half-hearted applause. Right now, the mood was sombre, silent, the only sound the cooling fan of Manfred’s computer as it vainly tried to mine Bitcoin.
Crushing another fistful of Cheetos into his mouth, Manfred looked about at the assembled members of Men for Men.
To his left was FancyPants, a level 100 blood elf fire mage made flesh, occupying the full length of a sofa like a porcine odalisque, or an avalanche. Seated on the sofa arm was Terry, 45, with his wet eyes and even wetter lips. He caught Manfred’s gaze and said, for the twelfth time that day, ‘I just want my kids back!’
Sitting next to Terry, clad in full trench coat, fedora and sunglass regalia, completely oblivious to the blasting summer heat, was Cool Devin. Manfred always became a little starstruck when he was talking to Cool Devin. Manfred had first met Cool Devin when he did Cool Devin’s Pick-Up Artist Introductory Seminar a couple of years back. The only thing Manfred had really picked up was $600 of debt, but Cool Devin was still the coolest guy he knew. Word was that last year he had slept with two separate women. Right now, Cool Devin looked terminally bored, but Cool Devin always looked terminally bored. As far as Manfred could tell, that’s what made him so cool. That and the fedora.
Finally, squatting on the ground and ripping up a corner of carpet, was Simon. Manfred was firmly of the belief that Simon was legitimately insane and could rip Manfred limb from limb if he was so inclined. Simon had biceps like large hams and the sort of restless energy most people cross the street to avoid. Manfred didn’t really want him at the meeting, but Simon wasn’t the type of guy you said ‘No’ to without having a very comprehensive escape plan.
‘Why isn’t this awesome?’, Manfred thought, pouring another half litre of Dr Pepper into his gaping maw. ‘I thought this was going to be like The Avengers, but instead it’s like The Avengers: West Coast.’
Suddenly, a voice echoed from the top of the stairs. ‘Are you boys talking about men’s rights?’ Every eye in the room swivelled to the figure silhouetted against the light flowing in from Manfred’s mum’s kitchen. Long, flowing curls, willowy body, full bosom, child-bearing hips. There was a combined gasp as the members of Men for Men realised what was happening. A woman! An actual human woman.
Manfred stammered a response. ‘Ah. Um. Oh. Gee.’ Had his voice always been that high? He sounded like a seven-year-old failing at a spelling bee. ‘It’s not quite like tha–’
She cut him off. ‘Because I think that’s super hot.’
She began slinking down the stairs with the steady grace and unstoppable movement of a well-struck Slinky. The assembled men were quiet. Manfred could hear a steadily escalating wheeze coming from the direction of the sofa. FancyPants sounded like he was about to ejaculate, or die, or both.
She reached the bottom and strode into the light. ‘Hi. My name’s Miranda.’ The woman said her name as if she was giving it an oily massage, each letter its own sultry event. By the time she hit the final A, the temperature in the room had gone up a full three degrees. The Hot Pocket that Terry was eating exploded in his hands, covering him in molten cheese.
Dressed in a figure-hugging green dress, almond-shaped face framed by immaculately coiffed, flame red curls, Miranda looked like Jessica Rabbit come to life by way of Christina Hendricks. Sure, they’re pretty much indistinguishable, but Manfred’s erotic tastes could never be accused of falling far from the tree. He was the kind of guy who just Googled ‘boobs’ when he wanted to get off. Which was always.
‘Is that Dr Pepper? I love Dr Pepper.’ Miranda picked up Manfred’s 2L value bottle and started chugging. The men watched in enraptured silence as all two litres of the mysterious brown liquid vanished down her lily-white throat. FancyPants’ wheezes reached a crescendo and he started whimpering softly.
‘I also love men,’ she said, licking her lips and somehow managing to make eye contact with each of them individually. ‘Especially men who love men.’
‘I love men!’ cried Manfred before he knew what he was saying. He clasped his hands to his mouth and looked around, mortified. The other men shuffled and averted their gaze. The pause stretched on mercilessly. Then Simon looked up and spoke for the first time since he arrived.
‘I love men.’
He reached out and put his hand on Manfred’s thigh, reassuringly. Manfred could feel Simon’s racing pulse, like spokey-dokes whipping around at full speed. Then it was Terry’s turn. ‘I love my kids. But I also love men.’
FancyPants rolled, Jabba-like, to face the rest of the room. ‘By the power of the Great Prince Kael’thas Sunstrider, I declare that I love men.’
The air in the room felt suddenly electric, full of infinite yearning and untapped potential. All eyes turned to Cool Devin. Cool Devin took off his cool sunglasses and gazed coolly around the room. ‘Well, that’s why we’re here, isn’t it?’
‘Say it,’ Miranda purred. Cool Devin wilted under her gaze. ‘I love men.’ It was barely a whisper.
‘Good. Then show me.’
In later years, the men would all try to explain what happened in those ensuing hours and all five would say the same thing: ‘I just felt something explode within me. And that thing was an erect penis. Sometimes more than one.’ Well, except for Simon. He never did say much after that, communicating mostly in high, keening wails that his neighbours referred to as ‘soul-crushing’ and ‘I thought that was a kettle going off the boil for two days!’
For Manfred, the only thing he could liken it too was the feeling he’d had when he was 13 and saw The Phantom Menace for the first time. The joy of finding a world he loved made startlingly new again. The comfort of finding a kindred spirit in Jar Jar Binks. The awesome power of the pod racing scenes. Yes, Manfred truly did love The Phantom Menace. That was just the kind of guy he was.
But try as he might, Manfred could never quite conjure the full memory of what he’d experienced that afternoon. One moment, Miranda had been gently guiding his face into Terry’s, and the next, Manfred was yanking his head from FancyPants’ wilting member and cascading folds only to realise that their sultry siren had long since vanished. Had she ever even existed in the first place? Her arrival seemed like a wondrous, impossible dream. But looking around at the cuddled forms of the sweaty, sated members of Men for Men, Manfred realised that whatever the truth of the matter, the meeting had been a resounding success. For in the reckless abandonment of their carnal odyssey, these five erotic adventurers had proved once and for all that men really were right.
About the Author
Canyon by name, canyon by nature: surprisingly deep and dangerous to be around. Born on a mountaintop, while thunder roared and the sun painted the horizon burnt umber and savage pink, and Toto’s ‘Africa’ played on the radio. Learned the power of words at the feet of legendary Tajik poet Mirzo Tursunzoda, the man who first popularised the saying ‘Where’s the beef?’. Wrote his first poem at the age of three. It was about cats. Wrote his first novel at the age of eight. It was also about cats. Wrote his second novel at the age of 29, which was about cats, but this time they were sentient, human-sized cats and they lived in a city in the sky named Meow Town. It has sold 13 copies.
Currently resides in an abandoned chalet in Vermont, with his cat, Marbles, and his other cat, Goliath. He is unmarried.