By Joshua Ryan
Chapter 16: Establishing Your True Worth
There were bets about how quick Yash would go, and the ones that bet on his thirty-first day in the Coop were right. I took longer. Lots longer. By the time I went to the Room, I was the longest-running slap in the Coop. But just when I thought I was lost in the system, the boss grabbed me out of the line leaving the chow hall and told me to “stand aside.” “Aside” was a collection of three slappies–me, a 20-something named Kristian that had been vacationing from Sweden and had suddenly discovered that coke was not allowed on St. Bevons Island, and a young local named Marco, a “rude boy” that had got himself “sent down thee road” to Slappieville. Marco was a kid, 18 or 19, whose eyes kept roving back and forth like he expected someone to kill him. Kristian was tall and his stubble was blond, but he was skinny and somehow professorial. Even after his weeks in Slaptown, he was still looking around him in a bewildered way, like he’d lost his glasses or his cellphone.
The Boss led us to the Intake shack, where Jojo and Malcolm gave us a shower and a new set of browns and boots. “Lookin you best for thee Man” was Jojo’s comment. “No haircut?” I said. “No mon, that stubble you got is you best feature mon.” When they were finished, they shackled our legs and cuffed our hands in front of us. Then they locked our cuffs to a chain. An officer came by, grunted something at the trusties, gripped the end of the chain, and gave it a tug. We shuffled forward. “You’re on your way to the Show Room,” he said. Like we wouldn’t have guessed. But that was that. No long goodbyes.
After a few weeks in training, what you expect of the world is a wooden barracks, a wooden bunk, and a plastic mattress. So it’s a shock when you find yourself in a place with tile floors, plaster walls, and upholstered furnishings. The Major’s little office building was suddenly a stunning exhibit of luxury. “Look at thee john!” Marco whispered, as we passed a restroom with its door open for cleaning. It was as if he had glimpsed the Taj Mahal. Anything normal was luxurious and disorienting. Even in his thick slappie boots, Kristian almost slipped on the newly waxed floor of the Show Room stage. Maybe he was blinded by the reflected light, or maybe he was rattled by the rustle and murmur we heard as we arrived. Beyond the spotlights was a crowd of men, turning toward us with interest. Strange looking men–they weren’t wearing uniforms.
We were taken off the long chain and stood up next to the item numbers painted on the floor. Each number had a steel ring behind it, and our right legs were padlocked to the rings. We heard a sharp “Eyes front! Stand straight!”, but the command wasn’t necessary. Everyone knew that you had to make a good impression if you wanted to get a good home.
I remembered the speech I was chosen to give at my high school commencement—coming on stage, recovering from the spotlights, seeing the terrifying spectacle of a wall of faces. What I saw from the stage of the Show Room was less like a wall and more like a pack—20 or 30 civilians, in various degrees of age and formal attire, poised to seize us, one by one, and carry us away. Some of them were staid black businessmen in conservative suits; some of them were young Bollywood playboys in pastel slacks and necks full of bling; some of them were heavy white dudes looking sweaty in their blue blazers and open-neck shirts; some of them were gays of all races, self-advertising in their island shirts-of-many-colors. Anyone could imagine the thoughts of the people out there. “Always looks good, you know, to have lots of slappies around.” “Trevor said this would be fun, and it is.” “Like I told the boss, we need an edgier, more energetic workforce.” “I need some slaps to do brickwork.” “I love shopping–don’t you!” Next to each chair was a tiny table supporting a long champagne flute.
The guests had already had the benefit of seeing our pictures in the catalogue, but to provide further help an officer hung signs around our necks. Name, number, age, height, weight, selling points. Mine said:
SLP No. 21338
Healthy! Reliable! Good Teeth!
Handy to Use for Any Common Labour
A Mature Servant
For the Discerning Buyer
The auctioneer was a 40-something black dude in a flashy suit and American English.
“Gentlemen,” he intoned, “allow me to call these proceedings to order. Welcome! I see some new faces in the group, so let me give a warm SLP welcome to both our new and our, shall I say, senior friends. [Genial laughter.] Today we have an exceptional display of contract items. In Position 1, a youth that we call Marco—for that is his name! [Chuckles.] Marco’s qualifications are obvious. [Murmurs of agreement.] In Position 2, Scandinavia’s gift to St. Bevons, Kristian! This young Viking is prepared to labor in many capacities. I said, in MANY capacities. [More laughter, some of it nervous, some of it the kind you hear in gay bars.] Then, in Position 3, we give you Tom, the slap that we call Old Reliable—the perfect slap to round out your efficient staff. Our auction will begin in 20 minutes. In the meantime, gentlemen, feel free to step forward for a more personal view.”
At that point the audience “stepped forward,” some happily, others from what looked like a comfortable man’s sense of duty. Obviously, they’d all been reading the online catalogue; they seemed less curious than they seemed willing to be entertained. Most of them clustered around young Marco. A couple moved over to Kristian and me, maybe because they didn’t feel like breaking into the Marco crowd. One of the sweaty white dudes walked in front of me and stood with his hands in his pockets. Then he unbuttoned my shirt, opened it out, and dropped my shorts and undershorts. They hit my shackles and stuck. One hand grabbed me around the balls, and yanked. The other pulled my dick to full length. “You queer?” he said. “No sir,” I answered. Fortunately, my dick doesn’t respond very well to just being pulled. If this dude thought that it should, then he was straight. Probably. But now he was in back of me, and his hand was feeling my ass. “You ever been fucked?” he asked. “No sir!” I said. I felt my ass cheeks being pried apart and heard him muttering something. “OK,” he said. “Open up. Let’s see those teeth.” I opened my mouth—“wider!”—and he looked all around in there. “Looks all right.” It’s true—I’d had only two fillings in my life. “Umph,” he said, walking away.
After him came one of those middle-aged gay guys who in my town always turned up as members of some Civic Association—dark tie, dark blue blazer, hair carefully groomed, smooth skin the color of coffee with cream, a highly respected employee of some highly respected firm. He left the group around Marco, came up to Kristian, and carefully stroked his nads. He checked his teeth and ran a delicate finger across his lips. Then he checked the sign around his neck:
SLP No. 21413
You Can Trust a Swede to Do Good Work
“You speak English?” he asked. “Yes sir.” “Good boy,” he said.
Then it was my turn to have my balls examined—not quite as carefully. “What job did you use to work?” he said. The truth would only complicate matters. “I was a delivery man. Sir.” “Turn around, boy. I suppose that delivering . . . things puts a lot of pressure on your . . . lower back.” “Yes sir.” “Any problems down there?” “No sir.” “Looks OK from back here.” “Yes sir.” Even without his hands on my tackle, this was torture. I hadn’t forgotten how boring it was to deal with people like him, even when I had the power to get them out of my office. “Good boy,” he said.
The auctioneer started calling the customers back to their seats and motioning Kristian and me to pull up our shorts. He’d attended to Marco himself.
“I wish to thank you again, gentlemen,” the auctioneer said, “for shopping here for your labor force. The State Labour Program is always happy to supply your needs. You have seen the three exceptional servants we are offering today. Let us begin with servant Kristian, number 2 on the stage–an unusual property, coming to our sunny shores from the realm of ice and snow and steady workers. Not the most entertaining servant in the world, perhaps, but a slap that is sure to . . . over-perform. [Laughter.] That’s the way they are up there. Now, gentlemen, this slap from the north country is underpriced with a minimum bid of only 30,000 St. B Dominion dollars. Which of you gentlemen will make that bid?”
Silence. The audience looked back stoically. “Thirty thousand, gentlemen! A mere 30,000 dollars for the lifetime use of this dutiful young slap! Gentlemen, this slap boy has NEVER received a disciplinary penalty! Not one! Not once!” I was impressed—like I said, almost everyone gets the pillory. But the audience wasn’t responding. They were evidently waiting for Marco to come up.
“Very well, gentlemen, I will return to this excellent young work boy, and give you a second chance. We all need a second chance in this world, don’t we? Unless you’re a slappie, of course!” [Big laugh.] He turned to me. “But here is another bargain—item number 3, Tom! For this healthy, mature, dependable boy, the minimum bid is a mere 19,000! Nineteen thousand Dominion dollars! Gentlemen, it’s the price of a cheap truck! And this service vehicle will last much longer than any model on the road!”
But there were no bids on me, either. Now I knew what I was worth—or rather, what I wasn’t worth. I wasn’t worth the price of a cheap pickup. The auctioneer said he would come back to me, too—after he opened bids for “the little bucko in Position No. 1—our own native boy, Marco! As you have seen—and some of you have felt [laughter]—this is an item that would enhance any collection. Bids start at 60,000 dollars, gentlemen.”
As soon as he said that, voices shouted 70! 80! 90! In two minutes, Marco was knocked down for 115,000 St. Bevons dollars to “Mr. Cyril Monteith, the well-known proprietor of the St. Petronius Lounge and Spa.” Mr. Monteith acknowledged the applause and congratulations for his winning bid. It was pretty clear that Marco would do well at the Lounge and Spa, and that everyone would appreciate his contribution to the St. Bevons economy.
“Marco will await you in the Shipping Room at the close of these proceedings, Mr. Monteith. Now may we return to the items in Positions 2 and 3. I have just received word from the Sales Manager that these items are now to be auctioned in a single lot, with a starting bid of . . . wait for it, gentlemen . . . only 35,000 dollars! I don’t need to tell you, gentlemen, how unprecedented this is. The price has been cut by one-third!”
The bored look of the audience suggested that the discount was not without precedent. Was there a soft market in slappies that month? Or were Kristian and I so useless-looking that only people who wanted a generic slap would take us? Either way, the proceedings now had the listlessness of things that nobody cares much about. Bidding inched upwards until Kristian and I were sold for 37,500 dollars to the civic leader who had been pawing us—“Mr. Bryant Williams, who has favored us with his custom on many previous occasions. Mr. Williams, will you please accompany Mr. Monteith to the Shipping Room for the receipt of your items. And to the rest of you, gentlemen, in the words of the immortal Bard, ‘Good night to all, and to all a good night!’”
By that time I was so disassociated that I almost believed it was night. It seemed like the ceremony had gone on that long. For an eternity, to be exact. Looking over at Position 1, I’d seen that Marco didn’t mind. A long procession of Didn’t Wins sauntered past him, pulling down his shorts, rubbing his dick, feeling his young stringy biceps, and even planting a kiss on his full moist lips. “Just like chocolate,” I heard one say. In the Coop, Marco had been sort of shy and embarrassed, and had kept to himself, but now his eyes were darting and gleaming. He was discovering his true self-worth.
I don’t know how long that lasted, because Kristian and I were soon being marched to the Shipping Room. We stood in chains while a slappie tapped things into a computer, bowed, and handed printouts to Mr. Williams, who signed them. Then Mr. Williams shook hands with Major Timmons, who appeared for the occasion. Mr. Williams told him it was a “singular honor, which I will have the pleasure of sharing with my colleagues in the firm.” So I’d been bought by a “firm,” not a person. That sounded good. You couldn’t tell what cruelty might lurk beneath the surface of a man like Mr. Williams. I’d seen it before, in some of the respectable men who wanted to chat with me on the net. Back when I was a respectable man myself. Back when I was a man . . . . Maybe Mr. Williams was grateful for a visit from a leading person in the SLP, but I doubted it, from the way the Major was acting. He behaved less like a government official and more like a sales manager trying to please a client. But there wasn’t any doubt when it came to his attitude toward me. A few weeks before, I’d been his honored guest. Now I was just a slap he was unloading on its new owner.
He had bowed to Mr. Williams and was turning to leave the room, when he happened to look in my direction. He paused and gazed at me appraisingly. It was the kind of look you give your car after you’ve traded it in. You see it sitting next to the curb in the bad part of the dealer’s lot, dusty and suddenly forlorn. So much for that, you think. It was that kind of look, except that it was totally lacking in the sympathy you have for your old car. In place of sympathy there was a glint of vengeance. Here was an object that had bored him, an object that he’d been forced to pretend to like. But that was then. This was now.
“I’m glad,” he said, turning back to Mr. Williams, “you picked this one up. I know it doesn’t look like much. And it’s not very bright. You knew that. We didn’t try to keep the truth from you.”
“Of course,” Mr. Williams said. “The catalogue is seldom specific about such things. But when one lacks a specific, one knows that the specific is lacking.”
“A good way to put it, sir,” the Major replied. “And you know what ‘reliable’ means in these circumstances. But I knew you weren’t looking for a hotel manager!” They both laughed, heartily. “It should be good at simple tasks. Well, goodbye, Mr. Williams.”
“Goodbye, Major. Take care.”
Now everything was set. Mr. Williams had taken possession. “That way,” he said to Kristian and me, and followed us as we marched, still cuffed and shackled, out to his vehicle. It was a van, like the ones you take to an airport, and it was a top-of-the-line affair—long, wide, and royal blue. Along its side there were words in gold lettering: THE KING GEORGE HOTEL.
To be continued …