Where the Boys Are
By hilary west
Cobblers," said Doggs. Albie Hugwoman was not impressed by Doggs Cox's comment on his idea that the new boys might be innocent. Doggs always thought the worst of everybody. He was a bad-tempered old hombi. Albie didn't like him, but he put up with him. Doggs had always been at The Lodge, Albie had arrived later.
A bitter and even twisted, brooding presence, Doggs had an appetite for young flesh. He never said a lot, and when he did it was usually something derogatory about one or other of the inhabitants of The Lodge. Albie was used to him by now, but still wanted to protect the boys and particularly the sharis, those aged eight to twelve, from his malicious tongue. The gymos, teenagers of thirteen to sixteen, could look after themselves.
Unlike Doggs, Albie cared what happened to the boys. If anything he sided with Sapphire when it came to their welfare. Where Doggs used, Albie loved. Today they were sat in Hayden's room after the departure of Nosnikrap and Bobby Dobbs. Because of the nature of his work in trade, Hayden had three clown dolls in his room. They sat in sad silence at the end of his bed.
Albie, as always, so full of glee, looked over to the clowns and thought his own thoughts. It was no good, he could not supress it, and slowly but surely the giggle erupted. It had dawned on him that the 'three clowns' were sat talking to each other in the room. Albie's slightly condescending attitude to his mates in The Lodge was in danger of coming out. That funny, must-suppress-laughter teetered on the brink of escape. It was no good he could suppress it no longer and he let out peals of muffled laughter. Always adept at laughing at somebody else Albie was giving himself away. The other two clowns had not said anything funny and looked over to Albie, who, embarrassed and afraid of revealing the truth, i.e., that he held his fellow hombis in some degree of contempt, went a deeper shade of red.
"Yes," said Hayden, slightly taken aback. "Can you let us in on it?"
"Oh, it's nothing," said Albie, attempting to cover what he really felt about all of them, himself included. Improvising quickly, he noticed Doggs was wearing odd socks.
"It's only Doggs' odd socks."
"Why laugh at them?" said Doggs in sombre mood.
"Mmm," Albie was struggling, as his eye caught the group of three offending characters once again.
"It's just us three are such wags."
"Oh shut up," said Doggs.
"Let's get down to business about these sharis," and being Doggs was not prepared to see the funny side of anything. Albie on the other hand was a man prepared to light up one's life with the sparkling jewel that was comedy. He was a tonic to the boys, and indeed to Hayden, who more than once had benefitted from his laughter technique. Tonight not even Hayden was amused. He wanted to know what Doggs proposed and he had no time for the caprices and whimsies of a fool. At that point Xanubis bounded in, followed by Phonebook. Phonebook of course, knew everybody's number, and so had acquired his name quite early on in the proceedings. His real name was Alex Smithson and he was thirteen years of age. He had been with The Lodge for five years. "I'm going off later with Councillor Reece, Hayden. Thexton can't make it. He met somebody unexpectedly in town and so is busy."
"Oh, that's allright Phonebook, just keep 'em happy. Have you been with him before?"
"No, I haven't."
"Well remember, he wears a corset."
"A corset?" retorted Phonebook.
"Yes, I'm afraid so. Don't make fun of him, he's a good customer."
Albie's glee was at risk of coming to the fore again. Phonebook could sense this, and like all of the boys had a liking for Albie. Albie was more like a boy than they were. Doggs frowned. To conceal his dislike Phonebook smiled at Doggs and said he'd see him later. The boys were used to Doggs and had art enough to lie : for all of them a smile in his direction was just that - a lie.
Hayden knew Doggs wanted to try out the new sharis. The worst they could encounter on the inside was Doggs, but on the outside anything was possible. Doggs was essential to the business. Hayden wanted to know the worst. What did Doggs Cox want and how soon did he want it? Hayden wanted to play for time. He said it would take him six months to introduce the boys to the business, certainly they could not be taken any sooner. Doggs said he didn't want to wait. He liked the look of them but had a particular desire for Nosnikrap. Already they knew Bobby Dobbs had a penchant for humour, Doggs had no time for fun or laughter, he gratified his baser instincts - nothing else.
With any luck Bobby Dobbs would be spared too much manhandling. Hayden felt delight in Bobby's presence, not least because he had an unfortunate way with words. On meeting Alice, who had a room at The Lodge, he referred to her as a likeable transistor. Hayden, ever eager to educate had said, "No Bobby, she's a transvestite." Bobby Dobbs was learning fast: if he twiddled Alice's knobs he might not only get very good reception but she would probably blare out quite a good and kindly sound too. Alice however, did not have much to do with the boys, it was not her thing. Councillor Reece had seen her more than once however and apparently she was a great help with his corset!
"Can I get to know Bobby Dobbs?" said Albie Hugwoman, hoping to make friends with another joker in the pack. "Well, as I've said to Doggs," retorted Hayden, "I need time with them to get them right for the business."
"Oh to hell with all that crap Hayden. I only want to talk to them and be a friend."
Doggs winced. He couldn't stand the naivete Albie sometimes showed. The only thing Doggs could like about Albie at all was the fact that he was sometimes indistinguishable from the boys themselves, and it was that tenderness he wished to ravish. Albie's innocence however could not be extinguished by Doggs. When Doggs approached the boys it was a different story. He had taken a belief in goodness and dashed it to pieces more than once in the mind of many sharis. Hayden preferred it if Doggs took the gymos; at least they had a bit more experience in dealing with badness. The sharis had none, for in dealing with Hayden and Ariel they were taught 'love' in its many guises.
Doggs inculcated hate and misery, but the business wanted him there. He was as much a friend to them as anyone else; it was just his sourness made him distant from Albie and Hayden. The bosses in trade liked him - why? - in the end no one knew. Maybe they were just twisted or maybe Doggs Cox, many years ago, had done them some favour or maybe covered something up they wished to be forgotten. It was things like that that vice never forgot. It seemed that Doggs had done something good. He was certainly reaping the benefits now. He got all that he wanted, though he would have to wait for Nosnikrap and Bobby Dobbs. Hayden would insist. Both Hayden and Ariel were far too professional to let sharis go to the dogs straight away.
The Lodge was a strange place. No one really knew who owned it. A lot of the bosses behind the venture were faceless. And some thought it held secrets, dark secrets best forgotten. Albie certainly had many misgivings. He didn't want to think anyone had disappeared for good. People had gone away, yes, but that was different. If it was anything more sinister Albie was certainly not in agreement. And people had pasts at The Lodge. Often people ended up there because there was something that needed covering up in a colourful or even macabre past. Some thought Ariel had been a rapist, but Hayden pooh-poohed this.
Although they weren't exactly on the same wavelength Hayden felt he knew enough about people to know that Ariel wasn't really bad. Yes, what they did was wrong, but it was a job for chrissakes, a job in trade. Somebody had to do what they did and these men felt they were the right ones for it. Neither Ariel nor Hayden would harm anyone. They were there because they cared for boys as much as any other reason. Ariel, in love with his body, was in love with youth and even extreme youth. Hayden loved innocence and together they embraced boyhood and gave as much as they took. Hayden educated the boys as well as introducing them to the ways of their particular world. Ariel too would help on this, but it was Hayden who was the didact really. He wished to teach the boys the wonder of the world, as well as its more fundamental truths. Truths that Doggs Cox would relish.
Doggs had already taken Nosnikrap aside and said to him, "I'll show you there's a T in genial, and I'm not talking T and cakes." Hayden had not approved by any means, and he told Doggs to his face. Doggs, sharp-featured and swarthy-faced rebuked Hayden like he had done many times before. A fifty-five-year-old was not an attractive proposition to either shari or gymo. Ariel and Hayden looked like Adonis's in comparison, for yes, they were both stunningly attractive men in their own right. Both could command the attention of their peers. As it so happened their friends were considerably younger than themselves, and both had given up on looking for peer approval. They loved the life at The Lodge and neither would swap it for anything. It gave both men a rush of adrenalin just thinking about the work. Trade was like that, but to many outsiders they would just be considered rats. You got the benefits in trade, but who knows when you would have to pay.
The risk element appealed to both men, particularly Ariel. Hayden could become neurotic at the thought of loss, Ariel merely laughed in the face of adversity. Both men enjoyed what they did and neither would change anything. Albie knew this and he had a liking for both, for he felt both cared for the business and both gave him special access to sharis and gymos. They were all hombis who satisfied their desires. If anything it was Doggs who remained an unspoken outsider. If rebuked for his carping ways all anybody got back was 'Cobblers'.