By Joshua Ryan
What kind of lover did he make? What kind of lover did I make? What do I know? I’m just a stupid workie. We were a thousand times better than Mike and me — how’s that for an evaluation? Because Ace was totally solid. Whatever we were doing, he was totally there. He never talked; he just did it. If I shied away from him, he did something else. Then he came back. He also had a way of waiting for me to do something, then going all in on it himself. If we were doing something, we had to do it together. He had to do it, and I had to do it. That was his idea. So we did.
I always knew what was going on in the barracks. I knew there was sex. Everybody knew. There had to be. But I didn’t hear any talk — any except jokes about what’s always “gonna” happen, where everybody accuses everybody of everything. But when I got up to take a piss at night, I always noticed there was a bunk that wasn’t filled, and another bunk that looked heavier than normal. I didn’t go looking for evidence, but Boss Web’s rack was always way heavy, and everybody knew it was Chico, the little Mex dude. I would’ve liked to fuck him myself.
Anyway, the rule was, Do it, don’t talk about it. Even Ace and me, we didn’t talk about it, even between ourselves. Sometimes he looked at me and I thought, fuck, here it comes, he’s gonna tell me how much he “likes” me, or even how much he loves me. Because I thought he was looking at me like that. One or two times I thought he was starting to say something. But he always stopped, like that would cause trouble. He’d just tell me “come to my rack tonight.” I didn’t want to talk about it either. Or have him as a “boyfriend.” I’d had it with boyfriends. And … OK, I’ll admit it. It was bad enough being a workie — I had to be fuckin desperate before I had sex with one. Even him. Just that name — Ace! Like a dog. And the bald skull and the hairless crotch, rubbing against my own hairless crotch — I got hard, totally hard, but it was still disgusting. Which I was. Which he was. Sorry. It’s true. That’s what I felt.
So … summer, fall, winter, spring. Boss Web noticed I was gettin some fuzz on my eyebrow ridges. “You done a year now,” he said. “Congratulations.” Then he took me into the shower room and made sure I wouldn’t have any hair for the next year. One more year out of a life sentence. And it was spring, so back to the onion field. That’s the field I was hoeing when I looked up and saw Mike, my former lover, and Jerry Hamilton, my owner, walking down the rows.
The field boss was walking behind them, and from time to time they stopped to ask him a question. The way they asked their questions, it was like they were punching some computer keys and expecting the machine to throw them an answer. I heard the field boss say, “Yes sir, good performance from this coffle, sir.” Jerry kind of snorted, like, “What else is this workie gonna tell me?” Then they stopped in front of me.
Ace kept on hoeing, so I did the same.
The boss was saying something, but I saw Jerry’s legs walking away from him. Mike’s legs stayed in the same place. Then Jerry’s returned. I let my eyes wander up. I could see them checking out my suit and my boots and my little dance with my hoe. I could see them smiling at each other. Then Jerry said, “Let’s get back.” Mike nodded, and they left.
Everybody had been scared to look at them when they headed our way, but everybody was watching their every move when they turned their backs on us, walked to Jerry’s sports car, and drove off. The field boss came back, angry. “Fuckin field inspection. Him and his fuckin friend. What does THAT guy know about the farm?”
“He must know somethin bout SOMETHIN, boss!” a dude named Jaf shouted out.
“And I think I know what!” a guy named Chick put in. They were all dropping their hoes and laughing. Which was something the boss never let us do before. He was too busy thinking — or whatever field bosses do when they aren’t fuckin with you.
“Maybe it’s a good thing,” he said. “They liked what they saw. This is the first inspection we’ve had since that guy moved into the House with him.”
Then everybody had something to say. “If they’re in the rack, tell em to stay there!” “Hey, workies do it in the rack, owners have to do it in bed.” “Right, J-man. But who’s pitchin and who’s catchin?”
“Awright, motherfuckers!” the boss said. “I told a lotta nice lies about you today. Now get back to work!”
Everybody got back to work, but I was the only one that was drenched with sweat. I thought about it all day. Now I knew — Mike and Jerry were lovers. They’d been lovers before I came along, and they probably were lovers again when they set me up. I was too stupid to know — anything! But the way they did it! There were a hundred ways of pushing me out. Rich guys like Mike — not as rich as Jerry, of course, but rich! — they pay you off and kick you out. OK, that would have been pretty unpleasant. But that’s not the way they did it. What they did was to turn me into a workie! No, worse — they got me to turn myself into a workie!!! They didn’t just get rid of me — they enjoyed getting rid of me. They were still enjoying it.
Two days later I was leaving the showers and Web told me, “Pack your gear. You’re goin up to the House.”
I froze, and everybody else froze too. “Why?” I said. “What did I do?”
“I dunno. You’ll be livin up there from now on. Here’s a box. Pack your gear. Mr. Williams is waiting at the office.”
Living in the House?! What could that mean, except …”
I stumbled into the barn, followed by the other workies, who were yelling questions at Web. “How come?” “What’s he gonna do up there?” All except Ace. He just watched while I put my gear in the box and closed the cover. He didn’t say anything. Neither did I. I knew what I was gonna do up there. I was gonna stop being a workie. I was gettin out!
To be continued …