The door shut behind me and I immediately logged on to Camboyz.
For a moment I felt a kind of pride as I logged on, dreaming that horny perverts were at home marking the days on their calendar since they’d last jerked off to me.
The window opened onto an empty chat room with one lonely box in the top corner, featuring me slumped on the dusty bed, pupils dilated from withdrawal. I looked like no one’s fantasy. I was a corpse that was only a day or so dead. I needed to make eighty bucks quickly and at least forty more for my own well-being, but I knew it wasn’t going to happen.
I felt like a desperate talk show host whose career depended on the ratings of this one episode. If I failed to make the eighty bucks now, my show was fucking cancelled.
Then, as if he’d been waiting for me, an all-too-familiar box popped up.
I WANNA SEE SOME ASS PLAY!! WHATHEFUCK? UR NOT EVEN HARD, GET HARD
I had to slow this guy down.
U can’t rush brilliance
WHERE DO YOU LIVE?
My stomach felt like a broken garbage disposal, churning noisily. My legs popped with restlessness. I closed my eyes as I told him what neighborhood I lived in, trying to pretend that it wasn’t me typing.
-ME TOO. WHY DON’T YOU COME HANG OUT? 300 FOR AN HOUR
-I’m not for rent.
-I WONT BITE. I JUST WANT TO SEE U IN PERSON
-Sorry that’s not my thing
-. … no
-CASH, U DON’T HAVE TO SUCK, U DON’T HAVE TO FUCK, U DON’T HAVE TO DO ANYTHING YOU WOULDN’T DO ON YOUR CAM SID LICIOUS. $500 THAT’S NOT CHUMP CHANGE.
-. … . . It’s not my thing.
If the way Caps talked online was any indication of what he was actually like, this person was transcendently awful, but if you judged people by the way they talked online, everybody was.
The possibility of losing my laptop was too much. The pain was too much. There were too many problems.
-OK. Where do you live?
Down in the video box, Caps jerked off wildly in celebration.
Caps’ place was two stops away by train—or a half-hour on foot. Even though it was cold, I walked. Maybe I was giving myself time to really acknowledge what I was about to do. Maybe I just didn’t want to spend the money for the train.
I thought about my parents as I walked. The night of my mom’s birthday, my dad asked me what I had planned for the weekend. “I’ve got a date,” I said, giving him the answer I thought most likely to make me sound like a normal person. That’s when he called me “a hound.”
He didn’t mean this in a disparaging way. My dad only called me that when he was proud of me. In my teens, during that short period when I was really acting and there was tons of money but before the drugs, he’d call me over from time to time when I was walking downstairs from my room with some girl following behind me.
“You’re a hound,” he’d say, and I loved it.
Walking across town, I couldn’t stop thinking that if he could see me now he’d never call me that again.
Soon enough, I found myself in front of an upscale building and I climbed the cast-iron steps to the front door. I knocked lightly three times and immediately I could hear a furious barking from inside the house. I waited for footsteps, but I heard nothing. Finally a gruff voice yelled.
“Would you shut that fucking thing up?”
Three harsh slaps made the dog whimper.
There was more than one person inside.
I decided that I should leave. I could cam for a few more hours and earn at least sixty dollars. Then I wouldn’t have to worry about being sick until morning.
I took the first step down very, very lightly and then I stopped. I couldn’t lose my computer. I had no choice but to stay.
“And answer the fucking door,” said the voice.
The door blew open and a boy about my height, but much thinner, stood there, wobbling.
He probably weighed about a hundred and fifteen pounds. His skin was creamy white, his eyes were red-brick brown. He had black hair, so black it was probably dyed, short all around except for the front where a few thick locks hung down to his chin. He had on tight black tapered jeans and a black v-neck sweater with no shirt on underneath, exposing his hairless chest. I looked at him hoping that he’d give me a sign whether or not it was safe.
“Comin’ or goin’?” he asked.
I stepped through the doorway and onto the hardwood floor as the kid closed the door behind me. The place was bigger than most apartments in the city. The front room, a wide-open kitchen, was attached to another wide living room by a thin railroad style hallway. The sounds of a TV showing some kind of sporting event were coming from a room down the hall.
I stood in the kitchen, looking at the kid’s face for some kind of warning. He sat down into a chair as slowly and laboriously as possible. He put his forehead in his hand. He couldn’t have been older than twenty and he was still clearly crafting his brood. He took a bag out of the fifth pocket of his tight black jeans.
“You get high?”
I put my hand up, declining, because it was coke, the worst thing for my withdrawal.
He emptied the bag out onto a mirror. A short, round bulldog, white with brown splotches, came shuffling into the room and sat down on my foot. It had sort of an ovoid ass. Both sides rested perfectly on the toe of my black shoe. The dog’s ass was warm there on my foot. As the kid sucked the rails of white powder into his nose I knelt down and petted the dog. The dog responded with wild gratitude, shuffling its feet and wagging its tail. It rolled up into a little upside down ball as I rubbed its stomach, putting its arm on mine like he was trying to keep me from stopping. When I stopped, it just sat right back down on my toe.
“That fucking thing won’t leave you alone all night now,” laughed the kid. “Sure you don’t want?” he asked in a nasal voice, offering me a rolled-up bill.
I stood there looking at the dog. It seemed magnetically drawn to me, its face tilted upward. I knelt down. The dog had hundreds of wrinkles all over its face. I smoothed them out with my hand as I petted him.
I ran my knuckles along the puppy’s slanted snout and it buried its head in my lap.
The kid finished his coke and stood up. He headed for the other room. On his way out, the dog got up and took a few waddling steps toward him. The kid responded by quickly throwing his fist toward the dog as if he were going to pound it. The dog flinched and walked back to me. A moment later I heard a toilet flush and the kid returned, sitting back down and shoving in earbuds.
“What are we doing?” I asked.
“When he wants us, he will yell,” he said.
“I need my money.”
I sat down beside the kid as he picked up a tablet from the table and signed on to Brad.tv: a website where teens video-chatted en masse. He wasn’t actually chatting, or listening to what the other kids were saying, he was listening to music on his headphones. He just stared at the other kids, communicating via sexy or pouty faces, occasionally flashing his baggy of cocaine.
Fifteen minutes later, nothing was still happening. The kid remained where he was, listening to some kind of electro rap with bass that made his earphones buzz. He was now muttering scattered verses from the music.
“Killin it … feeling it!” he’d mumble, then, “Bottle service!”
Meanwhile, there was a cacophony coming from down the hall. It sounded like a gladiator pit. For the life of me, I couldn’t imagine what was happening in that room. All I could do was wait.
Finally a voice beckoned.
“Faattt,” it yelled.
“Fat!” It yelled again.
“What the fuck?” I whispered.
“The dog,” the kid said.
“Jeremy, bring Fat over here.”
The kid jumped up, shoving the tablet into the waist of his pants so that it was sandwiched against his belly as he walked. He grabbed the dog by the collar, yanking him off the toe of my shoe, dragging him down the hall. I looked around the kitchen. I checked out my pupils in the window of the stove. They were so big I couldn’t see any blue in my eyes. I felt a little dizzy, and also nauseous. I was sick. The phantom beeping of my phone was warning me to cop quick.
Finally, Jeremy came back and motioned for me to follow him down the hall. There were dinosaur sculptures in the hallways made of spade-shaped rusted metal shards that were spray painted maroon. I gawked as we passed a triceratops and then a t-rex.
“Those things are big deal art shit,” Jeremy said. “Dude’s rich. “
We walked down the narrow hall into a living room, which looked like it was decorated from a Sharper Image catalogue for sadomasochists. The floor was covered in soft white carpeting full of red and brown stains. On one side of the room was a grey suede couch, and on the other a big leather recliner, both of them facing a 90-inch flat screen TV with golden orb-shaped speakers on both sides. On the screen, football players were running down a field in HD. Next to it was a smaller screen playing what looked like a camcorder video of a guy walking on train tracks, not noticing the train that was coming way in the distance. Two more screens on the other side of the room played Girls Gone Wild and Jerry Springer. The volume was turned up on all of them, the sound clashing like a pair of cymbals banging on each side of my head. My temples began to throb.
Caps wasn’t watching any of the TVs. He was sitting on a leather chair, naked, staring at the laptop resting on his thighs, Camboyz open on the screen.
Caps was an obese man with a bald head and an unexceptional face. His lips were pressed together in a snarl, making it look like he talked only out of one side of his mouth. Every once in a while he’d peek up at the game to check the score with one eye as he masturbated to boys on the internet. This struck me as funny considering that he was paying a lot for boys to actually be in the room with him.
A remote control rested beside him on the arm of his chair. Every so often he would grab it and change the images on the screens: the man walking down the train track was hit by an oncoming train just before Caps flipped it to a video of homeless people fighting. Jerry Springer turned into animals eating each other on some wildlife program.
“Sit Sid. Sit down on that couch with Jeremy. Come here, Fat!”
“I need that money,” I said, my shout becoming a near whisper.
“My boy is out getting the cash from the ATM. He’ll be back soon.”
“Bullshit,” I said, partly slurring, getting too sick to properly speak.
“Isn’t it true, Jeremy?” Caps asked. Jeremy looked at me and nodded, then went back to fiddling with his tablet, lifting up the camera end and showing all the teens on Brad.tv what Cap’s room looked like, including me. I turned to hide my face. The dog cocked its head.
“That’s my dog,” Caps said, still staring at his laptop. “Fat Smashface. That’s his name because he’s fat and his face looks smashed.”
Caps lifted the remote, switching the inputs on a few of the TV sets. As he did, the faces of men began popping up all around us. These men looked like Caps, pelts of hair covereing their naked bodies. They were watching us from their computers at home. The big TV in the middle of the room continued to show the football game but on the rest of the high definition screens around us, these bald, fat men were waiting.
“Hey, come on, what the fuck man?”
“These are my friends,” Caps said.
“I didn’t agree to this.”
“You don’t look like you’re in any condition to complain though,” he said, now looking at me for a moment, “are you?”
I didn’t answer.
“Besides, it’s all just between us. Hell, with Jeremy here and all, I could go to jail!” Caps said, erupting into hysterical laughter. “I’m just kidding: you’re eighteen, right Jeremy?”
“Uh huh,” Jeremy answered not looking up from his tablet. Caps looked back at me and shook his head, mouthing the words ‘not a chance.’
Jeremy stared harder at his screen, frowning.
Caps reached into a glass jar beside his chair and picked out a dog biscuit. Still masturbating with one hand he teased the dog with the other, keeping the biscuit too high for it to reach. Caps shouted for Jeremy to come to him, but Jeremy didn’t hear or else he wasn’t paying attention.
“Boy!” Caps screamed, and then stretched out toward Jeremy. Caps plucked the tablet from Jeremy’s hands and then launched it across the room at the wall.
Jeremy resentfully pulled the buds from his ears and stood beside Caps, rolling his eyes. Caps held the cookie above the dog’s head while tickling Jeremy’s back with his other hand. He held the biscuit just above Fat, forcing the dog to stand on his hind legs and lunge for it, pulling it away just before he got it. He did this five or six times, holding it just above Fat’s face and then snatching it away.
Jeremy stood beside Caps looking as apathetic as possible, his gaze drifting around the room. Then in a quick motion, Caps grabbed Jeremy by the waist and pulled him into his lap, shoving the dog biscuit into Jeremy’s mouth, kicking his stumpy legs with joy as Jeremy struggled to break free. Jeremy made a horrified face but then, to my surprise, he chewed the biscuit in four or five solid chomps and then swallowed. Jeremy opened his mouth wide to show Caps that it was all gone. Only then did Caps let him go. Jeremy walked back down to the couch, pouting as he sat back down while Caps laughed so hard that the laptop almost fell from his knees. From monitors all around us there was nothing but intense, focused stares; facial expressions that never changed.
I looked at Jeremy. I was baffled. He just sat there like this was part of the deal.
I needed to leave. My eyes focused on a huge, out of place wooden cross that hung just behind Caps’ chair, looming over him. A carved Jesus with accentuated wounds. The sickness and terror was building. I felt like I was being tattooed with a dull needle.
The clock on one of the TV screens said that it was three in the morning. It was too late to make enough money online to get well. Taki-chip-mush shot up in my throat and I swallowed it back. The sickness was growing. I was about to lose all control.
“Please give me the money,” I begged.
“It’s coming,” Caps snarled.
Jeremy was now pacing around the room, as if looking for something, moving with an exaggerated, coked-up intensity like some kind of strung-out detective. I rocked back and forth on the couch with my hands gripping my knees.
“What’s the matter with you … Sid Lish … Sid Dish … Side Dish,” Caps asked, giggling. “Why the long face?”
“Nothing, I’m fine,” I said, hoarse.
Caps shook his head. “Don’t look fine. I know what that look means.”
Caps took the laptop off his knees and reached under the chair’s leg rest. He pulled out a small orange prescription bottle.
He took a small pill out of the bottle and held it up like a cop would his badge.
“Could THIS make you a little more relaxed?” he asked. “Maybe help wipe the scowl off that mug, off that punam?” He was holding an 80 mg Oxycontin, which would indeed go a long way.
Caps had used the word “punam.” It was a Yiddish word that meant “face.” I knew this because my grandfather used to call me “sheina punam” when I was growing up. It was an expression that meant “beautiful face,” and this memory more than anything else made me feel like I was coming apart.
I sat up, and charged toward his chair hoping to grab the pill before he did anything gross with it. But I was too late. Caps popped the pill into his mouth and opened his lips. The pill sat on the tip of his pink leech tongue, floating in the slimy white film. I went to grab it with my fingers and he swallowed it.
“Sorry, that’s all I had.”
I gnashed my teeth at him, clenching them so hard my molars almost cracked. The pain was up against the part of me that wanted to leave, the part of me that cared. I refused to play into his bullshit. I may have had an addiction but I wasn’t going to be some drugged-out twink like Jeremy, willing to put up with any brand of humiliation.
Sweat poured down my whole body, collecting in my belly button, tickling the small of my back.
“Just kidding,” Caps said, brandishing the pill bottle again. “You guys can share this next one.”
Jeremy went to sit in Caps’ lap again. Caps rubbed the outside of the boy’s jeans. Jeremy leaned over the glass table next to him. Jeremy crushed up another Oxy that Caps gave him. Caps whispered something into his ear.
Jeremy stuffed a rolled up dollar bill up his nose and began sucking up the powder. I hovered over him, waiting for my turn, but Jeremy didn’t stop halfway. He sucked the whole line into his nose.
“What the fuck,” I screamed.
“Hit the bastard!” Caps yelled to me. He was shaking with joy, staring at us now, no longer interested in sports, more interested in this game. His fists were clenched in excitement. “Hit him in the face!”
Jeremy stood in front of me, both of his fists balled at his sides.
“No,” I said.
“Jeremy, hit Sid!” Caps yelled.
Jeremy cocked his fist back and swung a sloppy haymaker at my face. It burned like being whipped with a hot curling iron.
“Yeah!” Caps cheered as I grabbed my face.
Blood dripped from my left nostril and from between my lips.
“Hit Jeremy,” Caps yelled.
“No,” I screamed.
Lights from the football game on TV flashed in my periphery.
“Strip then,” Caps yelled.
Jeremy stripped. I was fuming, but at the same time I had to get my money. Then, I could cop and shoot five bags if I wanted and forget all of it. Jeremy peeled off his jeans. The lights from the TV reflected off his hairless chest. I looked at him wondering if he ever had a dog growing up as I began to unbutton my shirt and unzip the fly of my jeans, peeling them off until all I had on were my tight white Hanes. Eyes from all the screens around the room were glaring at us.
Caps blurted something out, which I couldn’t decipher. He yelled again.
“Do the dance!”
“The floppy dance, do the floppy dance. Make it flop!”
He applauded exuberantly as Jeremy did a generic go-go dance beside me. Jeremy was gyrating and knocking his head back and forth. His skin was sweaty pale. He rubbed his bony ass with his outstretched fingers.
“No,” I screamed. “Give me the cash now. I’m not doing anything until you give me the fucking money!” My screams kept falling apart; my voice was cracking with each syllable.
“No, no, nooo. I have your stupid money. Let Jeremy suck you, and then you can have it!”
Jeremy dropped to his knees in front of me. He was swaying and seemed on the verge of keeling over from all the Oxycontin. He looked even more faded as he fumbled with the hole of my underwear and fished around for my cock. I looked away. He pulled it out and began stroking. Something exciting was happening in the football game. The sportscaster was shouting, his fervor growing. Jeremy squeezed me and I twitched.
My eyelids blasted open. Caps was furiously whacking off while popping more Oxys. He apparently had plenty. Jeremy began to slow his stroke down and his face seemed to droop. He looked like he was about to die. I felt his lips on the head of my cock. My dick felt like chewed gum. I closed my eyes, wanting my lids to seal shut forever.
With my eyes still closed, I might be in bed any number of years before all this happened, just waking up from a long, hard dream. Jeremy let go of me.
Eventually, I noticed a stillness, a lull in the chaos. The only noise came from the big TV and it sounded like a calm infomercial now instead of a football game. I opened my eyes and looked down. Jeremy was on his side, sleeping on the floor, his legs curled and his mouth still open. My dick hung freely from my underwear. Caps was sitting in his chair, completely still with his mouth open. Snorting air. Both of them had passed out from the pills.
I looked at the screens around me, making real eye contact with the men behind them for the first time. On all their faces was a look of surprise, discomfort.
I stumbled over to one of the screens next to the TV. The man on the other end panicked as I came toward him. I leaned on the wall, my hand resting on one of the screens, my fingers spread, covering one man’s face as my other hand felt around for an off switch. I found it and pushed it. I fumbled with the next screen. The man watching me shook his head, trying to stop me from shutting him off. I couldn’t find the button. Instead I walked over to an outlet that was overflowing with plugs, grabbed them all at once and yanked them out of their sockets. All around me the screens and noise and all the lights went dead.
I walked over to Caps and grabbed the bottle of pills. He didn’t move. I crushed two of them up and snorted. He still didn’t move. In a moment, the pain diminished just enough. The fear melted away. Carefully, I got dressed. Caps’ eyes were still open, but there was no movement in them. He wasn’t moving at all, besides breathing. It felt like I had stopped time.
I stumbled back down the hallway. I passed the dinosaur sculptures. Did they come alive and patrol the place while Caps slept?
I tore through the apartment until I found his bedroom. A pair of pants on the floor held his wallet. My hand shook as I opened the wallet and turned it upside down. A mess of cards and bills fell out onto the floor. I pocketed all the money. On his nightstand was an old Rolex watch.
With the five hundred bucks from the wallet, plus the watch from his bedroom, I made my way to the door.
I opened the front door and was just about to step outside when Fat Smashface came walking up to me. He sat down. The dog looked into my eyes. I glanced into the darkness of the house and then back to Fat.
I couldn’t leave him in this place where even people didn’t get treated like good dogs.
I knelt down and wrapped my arms around his big white waist and I picked him up like an enormous toddler. I could feel him breathing against my chest, which calmed me as I made my way down the cast iron steps.
Fat weighed about sixty pounds and I couldn’t bring him on the subway. It was almost dawn. The night was just bowing out, making room for the morning to take the stage. My legs were killing me because the pills weren’t really strong enough, but it didn’t matter. If I didn’t look out for Fat, who would?
When I got tired of carrying him, he walked beside me. Kids my age were still making their way home from the bars. I had just turned old enough to legally drink.
When Fat and I were both tired, we stopped and he looked at me in a way that made me feel as close to proud as I’d been in a long time. Together, Fat and I made our way home through the Brooklyn streets, two hounds just trying to find our way home before dawn.
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