Justin was bored one Saturday when Brian was at the gym, and he was wondering vaguely if Brian had any old sheets he could use for a painting project, so he decided to go through Brian’s storage closet. When he found the Scrabble game, with the corners of the box worn and taped together, he just grinned.
Considering the situation carefully, he knew that asking Brian straight out to play Scrabble with him was likely to result in a lot of sarcastic mocking from Brian, probably about his nerdiness and lack of a social life. Then Brian would probably go out to fuck some guy, just to prove his own social life existed and protect himself from any return mocking about said Scrabble game being found in Brian’s own closet.
So instead, Justin waited until the right time—after eating take out but before they were supposed to meet the other guys at Babylon—and then just took out the game and carried it over to the coffee table, where he began to set it up, relying on Brian’s own innate curiosity to kick in and bring him over to investigate what Justin was doing.
He opened the box and put the box lid under the box bottom like his mother had taught him so diligently, and then spread out the board, setting out a tile rack for him and one for Brian, and then he flipped over all the tiles so they were letter-side down in the bottom part of the box.
Brian was still occupied with something in the kitchen, so Justin decided to get up and take a piss.
When he got back, Brian was sitting on the floor in front of the couch, leaning back against the base of the sofa, and an Official Scrabble Dictionary had materialized from somewhere and was now next to the board on the coffee table. Justin smiled but managed to refrain from saying anything, and just went to sit down across from Brian.
As he sat, Brian reached for the bottom half of the box, and pulled a tile. “E,” he said, showing it to Justin with a grin. “One of my favorites,” he added.
Justin stuck out his tongue at Brian and pulled a tile of his own. “T.”
They both returned their tiles to the box, shifted them all around slightly to mix them, and then Brian pulled out seven tiles and started to think about it. Justin pulled out his own tiles while Brian was thinking, and sighed, because his Scrabble luck hadn’t changed much from back when he used to play with his mother while eating vanilla ice cream. He still got stuck with all the stupid letters and no vowels.
Justin had thought he was a decent player—he and his mother were pretty evenly matched—but it soon became clear that in Scrabble playing as in all other competitive activities, Brian was in a league of his own. He seemed to have memorized the entire Scrabble dictionary. At first, Justin thought Brian was just trying to pull words over on him, playing things like “fez” with the z landing on a triple letter.
“That is so not a word,” Justin said laughingly.
Brian smiled secretively but didn’t say anything.
“So what does it mean?” Justin challenged.
“It’s a little hat,” Brian said, gesturing with his hands on his head.
Justin raised an eyebrow skeptically.
“Look it up if you want to challenge it,” Brian said, but Justin didn’t want to waste his turn when he was pretty sure that Brian wasn’t bluffing. He decided to beat Brian at his own game, attempting to play “jor” on a double word. Brian wasn’t fooled, not by that, nor “yeaster” or “bevi,” which he tried to claim was an alternate form of “bevy,” having lost his y on the disastrous yeaster attempt.
But when he started to call Brian on his words, like “quo” and “yurt,” he just missed a bunch of turns and ended up more than a hundred points behind Brian in score.
Trying desperately to regroup and make some needed points but not seeing a good place to use his k, he began to wonder two things. First, why hadn’t yurt been on his SAT vocab list? And second, where did Brian learn to play Scrabble like this? I mean, he had to have a reason to get so good, not even Brian would memorize a Scrabble dictionary just on the off chance that someday someone might ask him to play. Plus, the worn out game—proof that Brian had played frequently before. Michael was the answer to most questions that Justin asked about Brian’s past, but even Justin knew Michael well enough to realize that there was no way Brian got this good at Scrabble playing against Michael. Lindsay, maybe.
“So who did you used to play Scrabble with?” Justin asks finally, playing “tick” with his k.
“Mmm…Vic,” Brian says, immediately using tick to play a ridiculously long word on a triple word score.
“Vic?” Justin repeats, surprised, since he never played Scrabble with Vic when he lived there.
“Yep,” Brian says. “He gave me the board when I went off to college. I played with Lindsay a few times freshman year.”
“Huh,” Justin says, trying to picture Brian his age, getting a Scrabble board from his friend’s uncle and playing it in a college dorm room. It just doesn’t work, though he does vaguely manage to picture Brian and Vic playing at Deb’s, with Michael running around complaining that Brian should pay more attention to him instead of playing a stupid board game.
“So maybe at the next family dinner,” Justin suggests, “we should bring the board over.”
Brian looks up at him over the board. “Mmm, I don’t think so, Sunshine.”
A few moves later, Brian lays down his last tile, winning the game by a margin that makes Justin sick just thinking about it. “Ugh,” Justin says, flopping over onto his side on the rug. “Winner has to clean up,” he pronounces, knowing that he’s being a bad loser and it’s rather amusing to Brian but unable to help himself.
“Uh, no,” Brian returns. “Loser gives winner a blow job. Get over here.”
Justin pokes his head up over the coffee table. “Yeah?” He says, failing to suppress a grin. “Somehow I don’t think that’s how you played with Vic,” he taunts, contemplating crawling around the coffee table for better access to Brian’s lap, but finally deciding that going under is just as convenient. And as he opens Brian’s pants, he decides that there has to be game somewhere that he could beat Brian at, and someday, he’s going to find it.