A Piece of Ass. Part 3. An introduction to Card Sharking
The instructors and other boys were waiting for him at the designated rendezvous point, the statue of a seal, Fidelity, by the train station.
Corey was last on the mini-bus and the only seat available was right at the front next to the driver, an extremely fat man with botched prosthetic lips who told an endless stream of jokes about dogs out of the corner of his mouth.
Did I tell you the one about the Dalmatian? Most people spot the punchline a mile off.
Did you hear I’ve got a dog with no nose? ‘How does he smell?’, ‘Well, in truth, he produces the most terrible farts.’
Rather than the castle up on a mountaintop Corey had dreamt of, visited daily by loose-moraled cowgirls and their older, more sexually experienced and looser sisters, the Swiss Card Sharp Summer Camp and Academy was in a former prison.
Water ran down the walls, the long dark corridors smelt of the former convicts armpits and feet, and there were so many large spiders and other insects that when one of the other boys exclaimed it was like a ‘fucking bugatarium’ this turn of phrase had stuck and this is what they all called it.
The fucking bugatarium.
And Corey was the flea.
The other boys were all taller than him, bigger boned, confident, sporting the brightly coloured shell suits, and fine slicked across the forehead hairstyle made popular in a recent reality TV show, Refugee Down!, about a group of rich teenagers who put a group of refugees through a series of humiliating tests, the prize being, for the refugee who abased themselves the most, a permanent residence visa and a quarter of a shared room in a tower block in the Capital City.
Corey shared his ‘cell’ with Kurt and Eli and on his first night, in an attempt to bond, he had taken out his copy of Rude Food, stolen in happier times from under his father’s bed when he was doing a double shift at !!!Moustaches!!!
He thought displaying a certain sexual chutzpah might be a way in but neither Eli nor Kurt gave the impression they would like to put their willies in a watermelon or to cover their nipples with crushed kumquats.
His dad, it seemed, had ripped out the best pages, the ones with women on them.
And that was how Corey got his nickname.
Or just Melon for short.
Or Fucker, Fuck-Face, Fuck-Boy.
Or just Fuck.
As in, ‘Come here Fuck’ and he would have to come. Or be beaten.
His most precious possession was his mother’s toilet roll. When alone he would unroll and re-roll the sheets glorying at her inspirational phrases.
Just when you think things can’t get any worse. They can.
A bird in the hand is not worth two in the bush. Just get in that friggin’ bush. That’s opportunity! Grab it.
The instructors who ran the academy were a pair of fiercely competitive co-joined twins, one of whom was rumoured to have formerly worked as an assassin.
Throughout the day they continually shouted out motivational phrases they had gleaned from watching old episodes of You Can Beat It! on a battered VHS player in their rec room.
You Can Beat It! was a TV show in which top business men were taken to an abandoned car wrecking plant and trained for a week before trying to break that episode’s specified World Record:
Drinking the most glasses of water while sitting in a paddling pool full of crabs.
Running the equivalent of a marathon while standing on your head.
Passing the most strings of spaghetti through your nose and out of your mouth in a hour.
The show had been cancelled after one notorious episode, never publicly shown, called Dick Splicing.
It was rumoured post New MoralityTM millionaires traded copies of the show for huge sums of money while publicly castigating habitual users of peep shows saying they were degrading both for the spectator and the spectatee.
Whatever that was.
Not that it mattered.
The New Morals didn’t have to be understood they just had to be obeyed.
Every morning after the designated prayer time, Dear Lord please keep us from the temptation of inadvertently imagining our rear ends in certain situations they were not put on God’s bountiful Earth to do, the boys trooped downstairs.
The twins had rigged up a mock casino in the former prison gym, its walls adorned with enormous peeling posters of long dead boxers, Sixto Escobar, Kid Chocolate, Frankie Klick, Baby Casanova, and under the gaze of these giants for eight hours each day the boys would practise routines; the three card monte, bottom dealing, false dealings, shuffles and cuts and many sleights of hands.
It was torture.
While the other boys could easily slip a card up their sleeve, cut a deck so the facing card was always the two of hearts, flip and switch cards while throwing an inverse wink, Corey could never do these things.
At night he dreamt of bleeding hearts, blood diamonds, clubs with nails in them piercing the heads of seals, the spades of gravediggers dropping soil down onto him.
And his mother’s face.
She telling him he was their only hope.
At the end of week one, An Introduction to Card Sharking, a mock yearbook was produced, (below Corey’s name was written ‘Most Likely to Fail’) and a party organised.
Brad, who had been using roll on deodorant since he was 11 and wore his jeans low slung at the front to show off his thick crop of pubic hair, was sent into town to buy alcohol and, because there were no girls at the camp, a selection of ‘blow up birds’.
By the time Corey got to choose there were no ‘birds’ left only an inflatable sheep which he actually preferred. He didn’t mind this as he found the blow up women scary. Their heavily made up faces reminded him of those of the ladies who had stood outside the petrol station on Friday and Saturday nights, leaning into slowly moving cars, catcalling, adjusting suspenders on withered and ungainly legs.
The party was on the rooftop of the prison. There had been a riot there once and there were still bits of broken chairs, a barrier made of wooden toilet seats, demands daubed on the wall in white paint.
EARLY RELEASE FOR CARTER, says CARTER!
SOFT TOILET PAPER!
PRISON OFFICER SCUM.
Corey had never been drunk before but his parents had once taken him for a day out at a wind tunnel and it felt something like that. There were fireworks in milk bottles, a table full of pickled snacks, a Binotone record player and Jacque Brel’s Ne me quitte pas.
At the end of the evening they played Truth or Dare and when it came to Corey’s turn he said dare.
Truth was his dad being fired from !!!Moustaches!!!, his mum’s tattered fortune telling tent being carried off in a gale fortunes, the former petrol station where he lived.
He guessed he might have to perform fellatio with one of the spent fireworks, mime a sex act with his sheep, eat one of the other boy’s bogies, but Kurt, pissed as a kite and stumbling, said he had to kiss Eli’s ass.
Corey couldn’t believe the word had even been said out loud.
The national football team whose bums had first appeared on that calendar were now in a prison somewhere in Cambodia. Meanwhile the founder of the Moral MajorityTM only ate caviar and was rumoured to have his buttocks massaged by a highly trained team of former choir boys. Some said it was hypocrisy but they did it quietly.
Nobody liked a whistleblower.
Kurt held Corey around the neck while Eli backed up to him like a dump truck.
First he lowered his jeans. Then his outer pants. Then his secondary pants. Then his final ‘back up pants with protective layer’.
As the bare buttocks came towards him Corey did the only thing he could.
He was damned if he did, damned if he didn’t.
He opened his mouth wide and bit.
Corey woke in the cleaning cupboard. There were snails crawling down the walls, empty industrial sized vats of Dettol, broom handles with suspicious stains on their ends.
For hours he had heard the other boys calling his name and in the background Eli sobbing.
In his hand he was surprised to see he was still holding the rather large piece of flesh.
Closing his eyes and concentrating he saw that Eli’s full name was Elijah, named after his Rabbi grandfather and the prophet and miracle worker from the Hebrew Book of Kings, that Eli had lost his virginity at the party following his Bar Mitzvah, that it had been to one of his drunken mother’s friends and although she had breasts that sagged and an afternoon gin habit he had loved her a little and had written her 34 love notes, all unanswered. That Eli ate his own cum after masturbating and that he promised himself the next time would be the last time he would do it.
It never was.
That he had a dog called Rockie and that although Eli was stern and manly with him in public, he secretly let him into his bedroom every night and let him sleep on his feet.
That he dreamt of being a good man but he was easily led.
That he once poohed himself a little in a biology class while dissecting a rabbit’s eyeball and that he blamed the smell on Ronald who wore pink glasses and was fat and who all the boys teased.
That two weeks later he asked Ronald to slow dance with him at the school disco and that although he told the other boys he was doing it for a dare he had got a stiffy and that after the dance he whispered in Ronald’s ear that he was quite the little mover.
That he sent Ronald secret Valentines cards even when it wasn’t Valentine’s Day.
That one day he was going to marry Ronald even if he didn’t shift the weight.
That the marriage would be on a mountaintop.
That Doves would caw.
If that is what doves did.
Because he knew he was a stupid boy who nobody would ever truly love.
At dawn Corey made a break for it. He hugged the wall and walked in a low crouch through the gates only pausing to give the sign the Vs. Then he called his mum and dad and told them he had graduated with honours and was being posted to Monte CarloTM post-haste and he would send them money as soon as he could.
He told them he loved them and after he put down the receiver he said he hoped they could forgive him.
Then he made his way to Delicious Gifts.
The elderly owner was still outside when he arrived, carefully attaching the partially inflated inflatables to the façade. If he was surprised by Corey’s request for something in a jar he didn’t show it.
The pickled onions were 36p.
Corey ate them all sitting on the kerb. Then he tipped the vinegar down the drain.
He had remembered exactly.
The Foetus Museum was just next door.
He went up the fire escape steps and, wrapping his jumper over his hand, he punched the glass out of one of the windows.
He wasn’t precious about which exhibit he used so he went to the nearest.
The baby-to-be in there seemed to glare at him as he prised open the lid of its final resting place.
I’m sorry, he said, my need is as great as yours.
Then he dipped in the former pickling onion jar to fill it. Finally he dropped in the piece of ass.
Now it would be his.
And preserved forever.
For forty-eight hours he lived on the streets. There was an Italian restaurant, Gino’s Place, out of the back door of which the fat chef would throw scraps of food at the end of each service. Corey would fight the local dogs for them, baring his teeth and pressing himself against their warm steaming bodies.
He slept in the waiting room of a former bus station.
For a bedtime story he would run a finger down the faded timetable, mouthing the name of each town, imagining himself heading North to the mountainous region no longer served by the buses.
He missed his mother and father but how could he go back? Penniless and an outcast.
On the third day of being on the streets he remembered the card the old lady had given him:
We’ve got a slot for everyone!
Come over and chance your luck!
He called from a phone box smelling of urine. It was plastered with hundreds of tiny cards displaying images of women in high heels, tight leather skirts, wielding whips above their heads and as he spoke he imagined men calling them, arranging £10 meetings, while they thunderously pissed onto the floor of the phone box.
The waiters all wore lobster tails and claws which made it difficult to handle the slick black trays. Their pigeon chests were stained red and they had to call the boss The King of the Lobsters in an obsequious simpering voice. Ginny was sitting near a window. After the third attempt the waiter almost got their glasses on the table.
“So you are a runaway?” Ginny whispered after the waiter had disappeared out of earshot and, picking up a lobster claw, Corey told her everything.
Except for the biting and the piece of ass.
And although the story didn’t seem to make much sense to him without it, like Little Red Riding Hood without the wolf, Ginny seemed to understand.
“You can come and work for me,” she said. “I know a good worker when I see one. Don’t worry I’ll train you. And as long as you keep the fishermen onside you’ll be fine. You’d be surprised. They can be frightful buggers.”
Jacques Brel, Ne me quitte pas - https://youtu.be/Vz6r0TP4FBI