By Joshua Ryan
Chapter 14: A Brief Introduction to Our Personnel Policies
And fuck! There I was! The total package! Brown boots, brown shorts, brown shirt, brown cap—an SLP servant from head to foot! I’d like to say, “I didn’t even recognize myself,” but too bad, I’d need to change that to “almost didn’t”! Still—HUGE change, even from the way I was, back at my brief visit to Patrick’s browns. I’d been putting on some weight, I mean muscle, but most of it was attitude. That SLP on my chest was yelling “watch out for this dude!” And of course the collar—“this bad boy needs to be collared!” SO cool! I couldn’t stop repeating: I’ll be in SLP gear for the rest of my life! It wasn’t one of those remakes that happen when you visit the mall and decide to get with the trends. What I saw in the mirror was me–the permanent me.
I put my hands on my hips and turned this way and that way, raising my arms and flexing my muscles like you see dudes doin on Mashbook or whatever, just likin what I saw. I grabbed the brim of my cap and pulled it off, wondering what I’d look like without it. Still good! I mean, who is this tough guy with the bald bald skull? Can it be Slappie Number 24250, the former Joel Barlow? Wow! It definitely changes you! But I think I liked it better when I was wearing my cap. I liked the all-brown look.
“Too bad, dude,” Jojo said, coming up behind me. “Gotta wear em, like it or not.”
I wasn’t trying to be snarky—like he was—but I had to tell him, “Dude, I love it! I fuckin love it!” Then I put the cap on again and kind of lowered the brim a bit, so I looked a little meaner.
I could see him in the mirror looking sideways at Malcolm, and Malcolm looking sideways at him. So they wanted me to be, like, shittin on the floor or something? Cuz now I was all ugly and shit? I guess so. I guess they were sadists or something.
Which was true, because then they started saying, “Guess nobody been tellin ya the rules, dude, so we gotta do it.” Like that was this huge painful subject that they couldn’t wait to get into. Supposed to be painful for me, anyhow.
“Long as I know em,” I said, “I’m good.”
Another surprise for Jojo and Malcolm, but they took it from there.
“I’ll splain it so you can understan it,” Malcolm said. “Real simple. You do what you tol’. Freeman tell you, slap boss tell you, you do that thing. Got it?”
“Slap boss is a slappie that’s givin orders to thee other slaps.”
“Got it.” God, how dumb does he think I am?
“Or you git you ass punish big time dude.”
“An you doan be no smartass, boy.”
“I won’t be.” I just said it like a fact, but I guess I needed to say it with more emotion. “Sorry!” I added.
“Gittin better now. Nex thing is, you call thee freemen sir. All thee time. Always yes sir, no sir. Same with thee bosses. Yes boss. Yep boss. Right boss. No boss. Nah boss.”
“I ain’t no boss. Not yet boy.” Was it just my illusion, or did I catch a little eye-roll from Jojo when he heard that?
“But you show respec’,” Malcolm continued. “You show respec’ to evrybody.”
“Right! Ver’ sorry!” I was starting to get into this. It was sorta fun to obey somebody, even when you were lots smarter.
“An that’s about it, cept for one thing. But it’s thee mos’ important thing. You know what it is?”
“No, I don’t.”
He took a step forward. He was right in my face.
“You doan snitch on thee other slappies.” He paused, leaving a certain amount of spit on my face. Probably that “snitch-slappies” combination wasn’t easy. “I SAID you doan NEVER SNITCH on thee other slappies!”
He’d lost me there for a moment. It wasn’t just the spit. It was mainly my being amazed by that word “other.” “Other slappies” meant that I was a slappie! So–total, complete, final, end of checklist: stripped, poked, washed, buzzed, mugged, numbered, uniformed. If it’s buzzed like a slappie, and it’s collared like a slappie, and it’s wearin browns like a slappie—it’s a slappie!
“I’m sorry! Fuck no! I would never snitch!”
“Meanin, you doan tell nothin bout nothin to nobody, dude. The Man wanta know, but you DOAN know. You never know. You jus dummy up.”
“Right! Got it!”
“Or we kill you.”
Gulp! That sort of erased any doubt I might have about the world I was in. But at least the rules were clear.
“Right! I’ll remember!” By that time I was shouting, but that’s what he wanted.
He still had a look on his face like “can I trust this smartass?” I knew I had to get rid of all doubts. “Definitely,” I added. “That’s what you’ve gotta do.” Meaning kill the snitches. Kill me if I snitch.
He still looked sort of iffy, so I said, “You gotta have trust.”
“Pretty good,” Jojo said. He was way in the background, compared to Malcolm, but I was glad he was weighing in. “For a smartass.”
“I’m doin my best,” I said, and I couldn’t keep from grinning. But Malcolm grinned back.
“Keep tryin,” he said. I guessed they weren’t so snarky after all.
“He ain’t so bad,” Jojo said, “for a country-club kid.”
“Ain’t nothin that bad,” Malcolm said.
Did I mention how hard I was! I’d been totally hard through the whole thing! Even the stuff about gettin killed—who cares? I wasn’t gonna snitch on anybody. Why should that bring me down? And when I dared to take a look at Malcolm’s shorts, I could tell he agreed. Maybe that was the part he really liked, I dunno. I’d already guessed that Jojo didn’t mind his job as much as it seemed when he was doin his weary faggot routine with the computer. A quick glance at his shorts showed I was right about that, too.
To be continued …