Playing with the Cool Kids
Right now, Fifteen wasn’t a happy pony.
Right now, she was leading our party of seventeen sulkies, she herself being led by Kendrick’s firm yet knowing hand. He had switched carts (but not ponies) at the last minute because something at his seat had cracked and couldn’t be fixed in a trice. It could still carry Kandrin, though, who would literally be half his weight whilst carrying a knapsack full of bricks. So it came to pass that Fifteen found her slender self harnessed to the first sulky in line. Consequently it was first in row as we were trotting along the main road south of the camp. Miss Cuntling had me following closely behind, my eyes fixed on the three red LEDs which served as a central rear light for the cart in front. I was ambivalent about being driven on tarmac. On it the sulky wheels ran smooth and true, but the undamped jolts of each hoof-heavy step vibrated through the many fine bones in my feet, up my legs and even into my knees. And on a bright afternoon it was like crossing a hotplate. It hadn’t heated up yet, not at seven o’clock in frickin’ October. It wouldn’t anyway, for the autumn sun – still an hour away of being but a vague promise in the East – seemed to have exhausted itself during the last days.
“Oi, move it, slowcoach!”
For once, Miss Cuntling’s velocity-related criticism wasn’t aimed at me. If this had been the case, she would have chosen a less verbal, more whippy approach.
“One cannot rush grace!” Kendrick stated back over his shoulder in playful wisdom.
Behind me the bulb hooter went off. She must have found it somewhere in the sulky. But in spite of Kandrin’s attempt to honk him off the road, the lead handler was stoically maintaining speed and pace. A sharp tug to the left corner of my mouth told me to veer out. Unnecessarily enough, yet typically for Miss C., the knurled bit dug briefly into the right corner when I was on the opposite lane. As if I would keep turning left and jog into the ditch instead of correcting my heading on my own! I knew she wanted to overtake or at least to drive abreast with Kendrick. My regular trot was faster than Fifteen’s, and after some moments the petite ponygirl was out of my field of view – thanks for the blinkers again, Miss C.!
“You sure you don’t want to walk? You may be faster that way, Mr Kendrick.”
Even in a whimsical situation like this Kandrin would never call any of her colleagues by their first name, not in front of us fillies.
“Haste is a burden of the youth,” the lead handler fortune-cookied again. “Besides, you think your nag is any faster?”
“Say that again!”
Yeah, say that again!
Of course I could take on Fifteen anytime, especially with the maldistribution of jockey weight. Kendrick knew that, and so did Miss C. But the situation, light-hearted as it might seem on the surface, touched Seva Kandrin’s fundamental character flaw: hubris. This wasn’t about the group being too slow for her liking, nor was it about somebody seriously doubting the abilities of her pony. This was about her not being in front.
Kandrin’s mean buggy whip connected with my thigh, singing the flesh like true love’s first kiss. Leaning into my reverse prayer compatible yoke, I immediately fell into a gallop, skipping canter. Naturally that didn’t spare me the second lick – same story as with the veering. I could hear Fifteen being whipped into a gallop as well. Now it was on, and sure as shite I wouldn’t hold back.
Better you than I, sweetie!
The only thing I could do for my fellow filly was to give her the coup de grâce. Shooting out of the starting blocks or even sudden acceleration for a staggering final spurt had been my speciality back in my days of running track. That low-end torque had won me many a tough race.
This little power play was a matter of seconds. After fifty metres Kandrin brought me back on the right lane and reined me down. Proper hierarchy was re-established. I was even confident that Fifteen hadn’t suffered too much. Kendrick was nothing like Miss Cuntling. What did bother me was the twisted feeling of pride. What a good pony I had been, and how thoroughly I had beaten a creature unworthy of carrying our stable’s brand.
After lunch kitchen duty was calling. Ten, Sixteen and yours truly. In the kitchen itself we were greeted by the expected conglomerate of used trays, plates, cutlery and indestructible plastic cups. In a separate storage room with a large stainless steel sink were waiting pans and a huge cooking pot for a scrubbing.
“We do the dinnerware, you can see after that stuff,” Ten declared.
Sixteen looked at the pot as though it were a xenomorph egg. One could tell she had never done the dishes before.
The extensively tattooed girl grabbed her at the shoulders and shoved her in the side room.
“In you go. Work sets you free.”
She slammed the door shut behind Sixteen.
“That will take her a while.”
We went to work as well. Outside in the mass hall we heard two other members of our group cleaning the tables and wiping the floor. Now and then some blokes of the cooking staff puttered about, but didn’t bother us. They were already making preparations for supper or cleaning kitchen knives – tools we were not allowed to touch.
So we concentrated on doing the harmless stuff; loading a special dishwasher with trays, putting plates in the next one, then playing “2 Girls, 100 Cups”. It’s impressive to what heights one can stack those fine goblets into one another. If Miss Cuntling had caught us, we would have been in for a savage flogging at the whipping post – not for messing about with DACC property, but for having a fraction of fun.
“‘Alex’ was it?”
I nodded, knowing full well how hard it was to maintain a concept of names on our twelfth day of dehumanisation. Ten lightened a cigarette by relieving one of the gas stoves from its traditional duties. She opened the kitchen side door and, leaning in the frame, blew the smoke out into the early afternoon.
“Where did you get that cigarette?”
“Scrounged it from one of the cooks.”
“Relaaax. If they can gawk at our fluffy arses day in, day out, they can throw in a fag now and then.”
She took another drag, then offered the cigarette to me.
“Thanks, I’m fine.”
Ten might be a bit butch, but I liked her. Partly because it had turned out she was at least as big a petrol head as I am, partly because she could not stand Sixteen either. We both had been equally short-changed in the boob department also.
“I haven’t had one in weeks. Maybe better that way, with all that cardio going down here.”
She helped herself to another lungful of nicotine.
“You are quite quick. I bet you are a runner yourself.”
“I used to. Semi-competitive.”
I’d done regular training, but had dropped it eventually when it had interfered too much with my ever-increasing number of appointments in court. I’m not entirely sure whether this qualifies as irony, but as a punishment for my criminal hobby I now had to perform a bitter mockery of what used to be my non-criminal one.
“Never thought I would take it up again under such circumstances.”
Ten flicked some ash from her cigarette.
“You are in for swiping some twat’s motor, right?”
Did I have a short-bio printed on the back of my shirt?
“A bit of re-parking that went out of hand,” I summarised diplomatically. “And you?”
“Caught up in the system.”
“You’ve been to Jorvyl House Annexe – that’s more than just being caught up system-wise.”
Ten did not reply at once, and I thought I had overstepped my bounds. But she was only giving herself mysterious.
“What’s an s’n’g?”
She dragged at her halfway finished Gauloises.
“Smash and grab.”
Turned out Ten had jobbed at a garden centre before relocating to the DACC. One night, after a lively debate with her boss regarding unpaid overtime hours, she and a mate of hers attacked the greenhouse façade with a pick-up truck. Primary target of this commando operation was Eddie the Elk, a three metre tall anthropomorphic fibre glass deer and much-beloved mascot of Green World Conservatory (open Monday to Saturday, 08:00 – 20:00). Soon the mighty Alces alces was chained onto the truck and kidnapped into the darkness. The last phase of the plan, decapitating Eddie and putting his head in the boss’ bed, had been thwarted quite unexpectedly by a random police patrol being put into a state of wonder by a passing pair of oversized antlers.
One may wonder as to how somebody like Ten has ended up in a garden centre rather than, say, a tattoo parlour. She had also flipped burgers at a Fatty Joe’s and had even worked at a car hire firm (“One of life’s great adventures!”). I could vividly imagine her in this employment…
Customer: “I saw you’ve got electric cars in your fleet. I’ll take one of those.”
Ten: “Absolutely, sir! Would you like some anal beads and a copy of ‘Brokeback Mountain’ with it?”
The tats and piercings, the wild haircut, the bawdiness – Ten enjoyed playing the outlaw and had ticked all the boxes. Kicking out troublesome patrons as a barmaid at a bikers’ waterhole? Yep. First-person shooter fanatic? Sure. Bassist in garage band? Done (despite the fact that she could only play two chords). She has even had her picture in the “monochrome”-issue of Ink Heroes.
So it came to no surprise that she had a penchant for cars as well. The more offensive, the better. From her father she had learnt how to drive, from her uncle how to powershift, from her older brother how to hotwire. After some joy-riding she had started her career as a regular car owner – quite impressively, I might add – with a proper Jag.
“Bought it for 900 quid. Oh dear, what a piece of joy. Regency Red Metallic, which went very well with the rust at the door seams. But it was mine, and it looked reasonably cool, even with alternating blue and white fumes coming out of the exhaust pipes. Plus, it sent its power to the rear wheels, just like the Good Lord intended.”
She was now down to the last third of her cigarette.
“That one I really miss.”
Ten slouched, whether out of nostalgic feelings I could not tell. It seemed to be a habit of hers, presumably because she was so tall.
“What was the matter with it?”
“My back-then boyfriend pounded my arsehole so hard that I lost bowel control and shat all over the upholstery.”
“I hope you had at least the common courtesy to suck his dick clean of any rectal residuals.”
Normally I do not lecture my fellow human beings on anal etiquette. But Ten was prone to a provocative choice of words and thus should expect a reply of the same calibre. I couldn’t hold it against her, though. Too tempting is it these days to shock people out of their politically correct hibernation.
“Nope. No a2m on the first date.”
I was glad to finally have closure on that topic.
“You do that a lot, providing flowery descriptions.”
Ten blew out a smoke ring.
“I like to put filthy pictures in other people’s heads.”
“You came to the right place. What have really happened to it?”
“To my arse?”
“To your Jag.”
“Apparently I redlined it one time too often. A valve head was ripped off, fucked up the piston and liner. And that was that. Those old inline sixes weren’t exactly speed-proof.”
Maybe her driving like a hooligan hadn’t been helping either. Ten snuffed her Gauloises, which was down to the filter by now.
“I did have anal in that car, though…”
“Yeah, I reckoned that much.”
Cigarette break over, my rebellious co-inmate hammered against the side room door.
“Oi! How’s it going in there? We are burning daylight!”
From inside Sixteen’s muffled voice gave little hope for an advanced state of the cleaning process. In the main kitchen area things went better. The trays were ready and dry, and we stocked the dispensers at the counter with them. To be honest, kitchen duties were desirably boring.
After the sudden death of her XJ40 Ten had switched to a ratty, matte-black roller-painted E32 beamer. Impressively enough again, it had left the factory as a V12, but propulsive realities placed it more in proximity to a V7 (that she had got it in exchange for her busted Jaguar without extra charge should be clue enough). Finally she traded up to a turbocharged Nissan S13 with a ride so hard and low its rear window cracked twice in an attempt to negotiate a speed bump – the same speed bump both times that was. Naturally this minor drawback was easily overlooked, for the red rice burner sported pop-up headlamps, the most awesome invention in automobile history ever.
All of these particular cars had been rubbish, yet they had also been cool in their own rights. Driving them mirrored Ten’s character and set of mind, and I envied her. Whenever I have done something irresponsible, off-limits, unacceptable, I’ve done it out of frustration or anger or confrontation. Her kamikaze actions mostly originated from a stalwart kiss-my-arse attitude.
“How do you cope with all this? How do you take a cigarette break from humiliation?”
“Would anything have changed if I haven’t had a smoke?”
“That’s kind of fatalistic.”
“It’s kind of true. I already know when all this is over. And I know I can take anything they throw at me.”
Many things could be said against Ten, but a lack of self-confidence wasn’t amongst them. Although I would advise against boasting about one’s abilities to take pain in our current environment. Perhaps a streetwise girl like Ten was cut out to deal with this madness, but maybe she was just as out of her depth as the rest of us. I hoped to never witness the situation proving the latter.
“Can I ask you something else?”
“What kind of place is this?”
A cacophony of clashing and clanking erupted from the side room, followed by an indignant-desperate “a little help, please?!”.
Ten sighed and put the plates down she was just about to stow away.
“I truly do hope she’s a great fuck. That’s the only chance that bird has got in the real world.”