Just hours after we had arrived back from Vegas Captain Vegas burst
into my flat in the Castro looking important. This was the second time
he had burst into my flat in as many weeks and I felt that something
needed to be said.
"What on earth is it?" I said. "You shouldn't go bursting into other
peoples' apartments like that. They might be up to something they don't
want you to see."
In fact, my words were just a diversion to divert Captain Vegas's eyes
from what I was really up to. At that time I had my hand down the front
of Seven's underpants. I wasn't looking for a lost pussy cat I was
giving him the old heave ho how's your father. Seven and I were still
at that stage where we regularly did things like this. In some people's
book this was called love. In my book it certainly was.
"Get your hands out of Seven's underpants and listen to me," said
"It was only one hand," I started and then I noticed that behind
Captain Vegas were standing The Poet, Akimat and 16. They looked like a
triptych rarely seen on the wall of any medieval church.
"One hand?" said Seven, opening his eyes. "I thought it was your
mouth. What was all that slippery stuff?"
"Orange juice," I said.
"Yes please," said Captain Vegas.
"Thank you," said The Poet.
"Me too," said 16.
"And me," said Akimat.
"If you're offering," said Seven.
When I came back with the tray of drinks Seven, 16 and The Poet were
squashed together on the sofa, Akimat was crosslegged on the floor and
Captain Vegas was sitting on an armchair by himself. He was running a
hand through his hair and he was humming the opening bars to 'Always On
"Is someone going to tell me what's going on?" I said.
"Captain Vegas got a letter," said The Poet.
"He won't tell us what's in it," said 16.
"Is that my orange juice?" said Seven. Then he chuckled into the back
of his hand. "Orange juice, well I never. I thought it was a mouth.
I'll have to remember that one."
"We have to go away," said Captain Vegas. He sounded like Frodo
Baggins in the first part of The Lord of The Rings. He looked a bit
like him too, around the eyes. I wondered if he had a magic ring.
"What?" said 16.
"We've just come back from Vegas?" said The Poet. "Remember the
"It was all that foreign food," said 16. "I won't forget that in a
hurry. Twenty-four hours on a toilet. I felt like I was in a Andy
"I know what you mean," said The Poet. "It could have been called The
Dump. It was just the sort of thing he would have made. Before he went
"We can't go away," I said, cutting through the crap. "What about the
darts team? We must be due another match around about now. We've just
won one, we might be on a winning streak. You never know."
"This is about darts," said Captain Vegas.
"I don't understand," I said.
"I told you," said Captain Vegas, "I got this letter." Captain Vegas
said letter the way they say subpoena in both cheap and expensive
American cop shows.
"It wasn't from the Inland Revenue, was it?" said 16. "I told you that
you should have got your chip shop accounts in order. I offered to help
you do that stock take. I'm good at things like that. One chip. Two
chips. Three chips. Yumyumyum."
"The letter was from the editor of a darts magazine," said Captain
Vegas. "He heard about our story?"
"Which one?" I said. "The one about the dragon or the one about Dolly
"It's a very serious magazine," said Captain Vegas, setting his face
in what he believed was an approximation of seriousness, "and they are
only concerned about reality. They were going to run a story on us,
about our gay darts team, but we were shunted out by a story of a kid
in Seattle who got a dart stuck in his eye and had to have emergency
surgery. During the surgery the kid's heart stopped and he would have
died if at that point the hospital hadn't admitted another darts
player, a ninety-six year old guy who died throwing his last dart. The
old guy's heart was transferred to the kid and he lived happily ever
after. The story was called, 'Cory scores a bull's-eye'."
"That's a nice tale," said The Poet.
"Who's Cory when he's at home?" said 16.
"Cory is the kid," said Captain Vegas.
I stood up and put my hands on my hips. "WHAT THE HELL HAS ANY OF THIS
GOT TO DO WITH US?" I shouted.
"I'm getting to that," said Captain Vegas looking hurt.
"Well get to it," I said. I was thinking of Seven's underpants and
what I had been doing in them before we had been interrupted. I thought
about spending the afternoon back there, maybe even booking a week's
"The magazine didn't run our story," said Captain Vegas, "but the
editor was at a party and he mentioned it to this other guy and then
this other guy spoke to his barber who spoke to his lawyer. Anyway,"
said Captain Vegas, "this lawyer spoke to one of his clients and it
turns out this client is a real homophobe and he doesn't like the idea
of a gay darts team at all. He says the whole concept of a gay darts
team is against the spirit of darts. 'What if you drop a dart and bend
to pick it up? What kind of straight man could do that in the presence
of a poof? Our arses are impenetrable.'"
"He sounds like a prick," said The Poet. "And just the kind of
challenge we set the darts team up for."
"I might look at a straight arse, but I wouldn't touch," said
"I've had a few straight arses," said 16. "They're not all they're
cracked up to be."
"Captain Vegas," I said. I had now stopped thinking of Seven's
underpants and was now only thinking of what was in them. "Is there any
point to your letter?"
"As a matter of fact," said Captain Vegas, "there is. The guy who said
those words has challenged our team to a game of darts. He wants to
show us who's boss."
"It all sounds very S&;amp;M," said 16.
"Know what you mean," said Seven. "I can recognise a guy who
struggling with his own sexuality when I see one."
"Have you seen one?" said 16, looking around him.
"Well?." said Seven.
"Is there any more?" I said to Captain Vegas while at the same time
putting two hands on 16's head and holding it steady. I felt that if we
didn't get to the point soon the point would probably get fed up
waiting for us and book itself into a care home for lost points in
Skegness. The same thing had happened to my grandmother.
Captain Vegas ran a finger nervously around his collar. He
surreptitiously adjusted his balls in his underpants.
"I rang the guy this morning," said Captain Vegas. "I was angry. I was
upset. I threw down my gauntlet."
"Good for you," said The Poet.
"What's a gauntlet?" said 16. "Is it a kind of thong?" Then he added
directly to me. "And by the way, your hands, they smell of cock. What
have you been up to?"
"You've accepted the challenge for a match?" I said to Captain Vegas
while at the same time making a note to wash my hands at the earliest
"I knew you'd understand," said Captain Vegas. And then he gave a
grin. It was the kind of grin you'd expect to find on the face of a kid
who'd pissed in your shoes by mistake and had now turned up to
apologise. "If you like I can help you pack."
"Pack?" I said. "Where exactly is this match?"
Captain Vegas shrugged. "We've been to Vegas. This will seem like a
"Do you want to play strip darts again?" I said eyeing Captain Vegas
nakedly in my mind's eye. "Just tell me where this match is."
"It's in a place called the Norfolk Broads," said Captain Vegas.
"Apparently we need a boat."
"A boat?" I said.
"A boat is a kind of ship," said 16. "We did that at school."
"If you're up for it," said Captain Vegas, "then we'd better be