Friday, February 1, 2008

Growing Pains

As a young man, around the turn of the century, I successfully lobbied my father for a chance to work in Philadelphia for a summer. I framed it as a test of my mettle, an opportunity to take on the impending challenge of adulthood amongst real men, far from the comforts of the childhood I was leaving behind. Manual labor, and lots of it, would be my summer semester. After putting my affairs in order for a return the subsequent autumn, I booked passage down the coast the first week of June, arriving just as the last nectarous breaths of spring evaporated into a froth above the Delaware. It came as a hot, rusty season that one, with long spells of cloudless sky scorching the cracked Pennsylvania earth.

I was the youngest of the men contracted to work the First Union lot that year, a fact which (by being a full head's length shorter than any of my coworkers) never left the forefront of my peers' perception. Each of them seemed to me a behemoth, with an impossibly muscular frame emerging from the very same materials I too was composed of. Had I not biceps as well? Having them or not seemed irrelevant, laughable even when one considered the disparity between their version of the muscle and mine. Like the runt of a litter, I found not a shred of sympathy amongst them. In me they saw a child of privilege engaging in some sort of class tourism, not the idealistic wandering ascetic I fancied myself.

The first week, a cold war was waged against me each day, with contemptuous deep set eyes regarding me below weathered brows. None more so than the foreman, Francis. He was a dark specimen, hirsute from tip to toe with a gravely voice and blackened teeth. The other men regarded him with unwavering admiration. They were a flock of man beasts, and he was their shepherd. Morning meeting was the worst, when a full day's banishment was ascribed to me with one flick of his elephantine wrist. Upon sizing up my capabilities, with a cool confidence he'd assign me the most wretchedly menial tasks he could devise, having me pore over documents or proofread purchase orders 'til my eyes were weary with malcontented boredom. He, in turn, would sequester himself in his well appointed office until the afternoon. The others would work the lot, shoulder to shoulder, brothers in arms.

I assumed I was suffering through some sort of trial or test period, after which I would be accepted amongst the laborers, if not as an equal than at least as a 'little brother'. At the end of my second week, when I finally came to realize that there was no exam taking place, here confined amongst reams of forgotten dusty parchment, I decided to take action. The foreman's lack of faith in my skill as a laborer threatened to lop my entire endeavor off at the ankles; I could have just as easily stayed in New York had I wished to indulge my wont for administrative work. I had no choice but to approach him.

I pushed myself to walk with a robust gait as I approached his office. My instructors repeatedly told me, as an adolescent, I had been guilty of employing too feminine a step. Despite my petite feet, I was pleased that the sound of my strides echoed forcefully through the hallway. As I approached his door, a mature resolve came over me, and after three quick blows I entered without waiting for a response.

Francis was in the middle of the room, red-faced from exertion and in obvious discomfort. My eyes didn't know where to look at first, so it took a moment to truly take in the struggle: His pants were around his ankles, causing him to shuffle about, bare-assed and helpless. His hands clutched a black box below his abdomen, their strained whiteness betraying the severity of his grip. He muttered to himself in quiet desperation, with a tone far too faint and pathetic for my ears to pick up discreet words. His eyes finally met mine.

"GET OUT! GET OUT! GET OUT!" he roared at once, eyes shaking in their sockets.

I didn't budge an inch. I couldn't. I felt incapacitated. "GET OUT GET OUT GET OUT!" Still, utter paralysis.

"GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE OR I'LL KILL YOU!" This threat was the final motivation my icy limbs needed, apparently, for I began to back out of the room, mouth and eyes agape. As I started to shut the door in front of me he called out suddenly, "WAIT!". I froze. "WAIT! GET BACK IN HERE!"

I weighed my options: Defy him and return to the musty piles of paper I so dreaded (now certainly for the duration of the summer as punishment), or go further down the rabbit hole with Francis and the mystery box affixed to his groin. Knowing precisely where the former road led, I opted for the latter.

I stepped back into his office. "CLOSE THE DOOR!" I did. I looked closer at the black box. It was producing a low buzz, like some tiny clockwork was busy churning away within. "DONT LOOK AT THAT, LOOK AT ME!" I raised my eyes to meet his, and took three steps towards him. In retrospect, I really can't explain my calm demeanor throughout what followed, but I accept it now for what it most likely was: A miracle.

"LISTEN TO ME BOY." I wouldn't have dared otherwise. "I HEARD WHISPERS THAT YOU HAVE A WAY WITH GADGETS. THAT YOU STUDIED MECHANICS. IS THAT RIGHT?" He wasn't yelling any more, but the intensity with which he spoke made it unnecessary. Despite the change in tone, his physicality displayed all the rage and pain that affected his speech just moments prior.

"SOME ASSHOLE SOLD ME...A DEVICE." He cast his eyes down to the box that, now from this closer vantage, very obviously had ensnared both his penis and testes. "TO MAKE A LONG STORY SHORT, IT DOESN'T DO... WHAT HE CLAIMED IT DID. NOT IN THE MANNER HE DESCRIBED AT LEAST." All of this said through agonized, clenched teeth.

I was never a 'hit' with the ladies, so to speak and as such I'm rather well read on matters of self-stimulation. As a result, it didn't take long for my understanding to catch up to the reality my eyes presented: Someone had sold lonely Francis the Foreman a mechanical pussy box, and he was hopelessly snagged within its trap. I had read reports of such devices robbing men of both means and member in one fell swoop, but these were all anecdotal accounts from travels to the Far East and I had never regarded one with my own two eyes. I decided to seize the opportunity my knowledge had afforded me. I looked down at the contraption, then back up at him.

Calmly - "Looks like your dick is caught in that box, Francis. There are no two ways about it."

He was yelling again, now with a tinge of panic. "DONT YOU THINK I KNOW THAT? JUST HELP ME GET IT OFF!" For all intensive purposes, the mechanical pussy box was a featureless black cube. Nothing on the outside to denote it as one thing or another, just an inconspicuous smooth black shape with a perfect, cock-and-balls-shaped hole on one side. Francis couldn't possibly know where the release was and the pain probably wouldn't let him think straight long enough to find it. "HURRY UP AND HELP ME YOU LITTLE SHIT!"

If the device was in fact like the one's I'd read about, A release switch was subtly embedded in the underside of the cube. But Francis was not cooperating, and though I knew exactly how to remove it, I saw no urgency in doing so.

"I know we didn't get off to the best start, Francis, you and I. But I hope we can come to an understanding now that your need my help saving your dick."


"And you, Francis, could rip your dick clear off, standing in the middle of your office because a conniving Chinaman sold you on a dream."

This quieted him considerably. "WHAT DO YOU WANT? WILL YOU HELP ME OR NOT?" He looked truly pathetic in that moment, pleading with me. It didn't make me love him, but I came to understand how someone could. I thought: "If only more people saw this side of him! He'd have no need for a mechanical pussy box at all!"

I took another step towards him, so that now I was within an arms reach of the box's underside, where unbeknownst to Francis, the release awaited my knowing touch. "What I want, Francis, is what any man wants - the opportunity to work an honest day and earn the respect of his peers." I realized this sounded slightly arrogant coming from my mouth, but I didn't waver and held my stare.

The certainty of his response surprised me.


He was right. The manual labor of an entire summer could never hope to muster as much significance as this one act could. How could you not help but respect the man who saved your cock and balls in a time of crisis? Surely you would hold that saint of a man in the highest of regards, mentally extolling his benevolence each time you took a piss or indulged in a masturbatory act. In a moment of perfect clarity, I felt myself reach for the box.

"Hold still, Francis."

As I slid my hand under the cube and pressed the release, my childhood came to a close. Francis recoiled to the floor in front of his desk, and the box clattered to the ground. He looked at me, speechless, with tears welling in his eyes. I offered my hand and helped him to his feet. He raised his pants back up to his waist, ignoring for now the dilemma of his bloody, mangled wang. He fastened his belt, took a second to compose himself, and opened the door. After a moment's hesitation, he turned back and extended his hand out towards the hallway.

He was urging me to go first. That afternoon, quietly standing in the frame of his office door, Francis the Foreman had ordained me a man.

We walked down the hall, side by side. He held himself tightly as he went, and before long, I could tell he was weeping softly into the crook of his elbow. No longer in awe of him I noticed, that unlike the other men, we were the same height. I stopped to ask what the problem was, but before I could, he dried his eyes and looked at me. In sotto voce, he called me 'brother' and led me to the common area where the men would soon gather for lunch.


Billy said...

Sotto voce for emphasis, bitches.