Island Paradise – Part 1: Chapter 15

By Joshua Ryan

Chapter 15: Crime and Punishment

Here’s the way it was.  Every new slap had to spend at least 30 days being “trained.”  The idea was that if you spend 30 days in the Chicken Coop, you find out what you are, an you be a good slappie, resta you life.  “Good” meaning all slappie and nothing else.  After that, the Program looked around for somebody to sell you to—I mean, somebody to take a lease on your labor service.  Every few days, clients were invited to the Show Room and slap boys were displayed.

Sometime in my distant past, Major Timmons had explained it all.  Then it had seemed less personal—much less personal than when it was discussed in the Scrum Room.

“They even got a catlog, dude.  They be seein YOU, an you bare ASS, right in they laptop dude.”

“While they jerkin, I guess.”

“They jerkin for ME, anyways.  Doan know for you, dude.”

When you were sold, you left the Coop and you were never seen again, unless you turned up working down the block from some other slap that trained with you.  Then maybe you would meet him and share your happy memories.

A few of the slaps started sweating and watering up whenever sales were mentioned; a few kept bragging about the easy labor they were gonna get.

“Know them crossin guards we seein when we onna truck?  Betcha they make me one a them dudes.  EASY shit.”

“Yeah, big fuckin traffic cop, eh mon?  But I guess I can cook some grub an do some dishes.  For a while.”

“An whaddaya do, mon, after you owner got his supper?  Eh mon?”

“I don’t believe those rumors.  The owners can’t all be gay.”

Islan’ talk was for backslappin an braggin and gettin long, but when you were anxious and scared, your former English might came out.

Wondering how much money you’ll lose if the stock market goes down—that isn’t “scared.”  Scared is when you’re wondering where you’re going to be working as a slave.  Or wondering whether anybody will even buy you, because if nobody does, you’ll be spending your life hoeing weeds on a state plantation.  The barn boss was always telling us: “Fuck up in here mon, or you on you way to thee fields or thee cannery.  You ain’t gonna like none a that shit mon.”

But how do you audition to be the right kind of slave?  I remembered being scared blind when I was interviewed for my first real job.  Was my tie right?  Did I need to take another piss before it started?  What would I say if they asked me three things that I liked about myself and three things that I wanted to improve?  I knew they did that sometimes.  As if that had anything to do with business!  And there I was—I couldn’t think of anything that needed to be improved!  Not about me.  Would I sweat and tremble in the Show Room the way I’d sweated and trembled in the waiting room at Alter and Franklin?

Slappies went to the Room, and most of them didn’t come back.  If they did, they were usually having fits, either about the guys that almost bought them—“dirty ol’ men!”—or the guys that paid no attention to them–“Dude! Thee mon want a pool boy.  An I been a pool boy before dude!  So what is WRONG mon?”  It was bad enough being a slappie, but to be a rejected slappie . . . .

So why would anybody want to buy me?   If somebody wanted a slave who could manage investments, that would be me, but I knew that wasn’t one of the options.  The qualifications were simpler: hot, strong, docile.  “Strong” was obvious. “Docile” was a word the Major had used.  “Hot” is a word that was never actually mentioned.  What the slappies said was, “You be doin what thee mon be wantin.”  It didn’t seem to matter that we were all criminals.  Well, almost all.  There might have been a volunteer like Jojo in the group, but nobody would admit to being such a pussie that he would actually sign up for Slappieville.  The Program always said it wouldn’t make a slap out of you if you’d “committed a crime of violence,” so most of us were burglars or embezzlers or guys that had too much to drink and ran somebody over.  But a few of the slaps “had did a few OTHER things, long thee way.”  Killing your wife, for instance, wasn’t regarded as a disqualification.  It was a one-time deal—you’d never have another wife you could kill.  My offense—smuggling drugs—wasn’t violence.  But that wouldn’t make me seem any younger.

There was another old guy, but he got sold, no one knew why.  Then I was the oldest.  I’d been an ol’ dude before; now I was a really ol’ dude.  My nickname with the other slaps was “CEO,” and it wasn’t because anybody envied me.  They knew that I’d been “thee dude with thee money,” and that was another thing for them to laugh about.

Every few days there were slaps going out, and there were also new slaps coming in.  Now that I was “one of thee crew,” I was pleased to join in the hazing of the new slaps.  I remembered one night when Roger was discussing some BDSM site about making men into “total objects.”  “No,” he said.  “These are not yet total.  You may be an object, but there is always an object lower than you.”  Every new slap was proof to the old slaps that we weren’t total objects—yet.  The trick was to keep abusing him as long as possible before getting tried of it and going back to knowing that we were just somewhat complicated tools like the cattle trucks we rode on, only not as valuable.  The ones we loved to torture were the cute young unspoiled slaps, the ones that looked like two days ago they’d been somebody’s pampered heirs.  They had everything, and then they went out in their brand new car with their first big drunk in their heads and they happened to kill somebody, and now they’d be wearing browns for the rest of their lives.

There was one cute little Indian guy—“Hi, I’m Yash!”—that we tortured for a whole week.  Tripped him up.  Dumped his chow in his crotch.  Dumped him out of his rack.  Knocked him into the hole when he squatted to shit.  Yelled “Fire!” at him in the middle of the night, so he’d fall halfway out of the bunk with his leg still hanging by the chain.  Mocked him when he cried from the shame and the pain.  Then we got bored, and we stopped.  It was interesting to see his big eyes filling with tears, just because we weren’t torturing him anymore.  Now he was nothing.  But he’d figured it out: he was a slappie like the rest of us.  Soon he was bulking up and talkin thee islan’ talk like everybody else.  Seemed to be enjoying it.  A lot of young slaps were like that.  Look at Jojo and Malcolm.  Probably that’s how they got to be Jojo and Malcolm, the Major’s trusties.

One thing that helped to keep your mind off being a slappie was watching another slappie doing the pillory.  There were a lot of reasons why somebody could wind up with his head and his hands locked between a pair of wooden beams.  Every time we were marched past the thing, all of us wondered whether today would be the day for us.  The first time I saw it happen, the victim was a dude that was yanked out of line and put right into “thee woodpile.”  He didn’t know the boss was behind him when he was cursing the boss.  It was only my fourth day in Slaptown, and I got to watch the whole ritual.

First the offender was told to stand by the pillory while the rest of us formed up in front, hands behind our backs, at attention.  Jojo the Trusty idled past, listened to the boss reciting the crime, then sauntered forward and said, “Strip off, mon—fold up you clothes.”  He gazed down at the naked slap while he folded and stacked his browns.  Out in the fields, we always had to smear block on ourselves to protect our vulnerable complexions from the sun; some “employers” don’t like “workers” with a cancer risk, or unsightly tints on them.  The slap that was about to be pilloried had to smear on a double helping–the pillory started its day in the shade, but eventually the sun came round to it.  His hands shook while he did it; the smear was just that.  Then the big moment came: Jojo lifted the top beam and said “head and paws.”  The slap laid them down in the appointed places.  He was wincing as he did it.  He began to cry.  But when the beam thunked down and the lock clicked, there wasn’t a slap in formation that wasn’t smiling, and there wasn’t a pair of shorts that wasn’t showing another kind of wood.  The same thing happened when we were marched back at the end of the day and saw Jojo open the pillory and take the dude out of them, half conscious and flooded with sweat.  A couple of slaps carried him back to the barracks, and all the time they were laughing.  Yeah, we knew we would get it someday too; it was the tax you paid for your free room and board.  But that just made it better to see somebody else getting it.

Of course I got it myself.  I’d been there for six weeks, because they hadn’t tried to sell me yet, and when I went to the pillory it made the other slaps happy, because by then I was the CEO in more ways than one.  Every night in the barn, there was gambling.  The stakes were just little shit that the slaps picked up in the fields, snuck in from the chow hall, whatever.   Cigarets.  St. Bevons dimes.  Sporks.  When I was losing, I hit the rack early.  When I won, I saved my winnings.  And I loaned them to the other gamblers.  Pretty soon I had so much trash hidden around my bunk, I could buy pieces of real fruit, smuggled out of the kitchen.  I could buy sex from the second hottest slappie in the place.  But one day the boss decided I was “outta line, slap.”  So he shook my bunk down and sent me to the pillory.

I’d seen it happen to so many other slaps—I’d even seen it “happen” to me, when the Major gave me his little torture preview.  So I thought it was going to be one of those times when you’re just watching yourself sort of cruise through something, like it’s an act in a play you already rehearsed.  My only fear was that I’d be getting hard.  But when Jojo dropped the beam on me, and my hands and my head knew they were trapped, it turned out to be more than a play.  It wasn’t just panic.  It was total panic.  I heard the lock clanking into place, and I turned to see it happen—but I couldn’t turn.  I couldn’t look at the thing that was trapping me.  I could only look down at the dirt.  I heard laughing and I knew the other slaps were watching the show and enjoying it.  Hey mon, See Ee Oh finely gettin his, wish I could jack while I watch.

I started off in the shade, and they’d made me slather myself with St. Bevons Best Sun Pro.  It was later that the sun twisted up.  But it didn’t take long for the oily, stinking thing that was hanging from the pillory to feel the cramp start climbing from its legs to its back to its neck to its head, which finally realized that the laughing had stopped and the trucks had chugged off through the gate, and undoubtedly even Jojo had wandered away, so now it was all alone in the pillory, where it would hang in pain for as long as it took for its so-called thoughts to go away.  I wanted to pass out, and I did, many times.  When they unlocked the pillory I thought I was 18 again and it was spring break in Florida and somebody was kicking me out of a bar.  Then I found it was two slaps dragging me down the slab, standing me up in the shower, then hauling me to the barracks, where they threw me into my rack and told me to sleep it off.  Number 63, the slap underneath, gave me some body language about how fucked I was for disturbing him, but I didn’t care.  I was too happy to be back with my fellow slappies.

When I woke up the next day, everything was the same as the day before.  The slaps were shitting and pissing and pulling on their shorts and lacing up their boots and getting in line for the chow hall and running for the trucks that took us to the fields . . . .   For them, nothing had happened.  I realized that for me, nothing had happened either.  No “epiphany.”  No “learning from my mistakes.”  No “new understanding of myself.”  No plan of escape.  No plan for how to spend the rest of my life—the rest of my life!—as a slappie.  Nothing had happened.  Nothing had changed.  I didn’t even give up my business.

I just wondered when I’d get sold.

To be continued …

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