He used to be smart. That was how he came by the name Dexter. Poindexter. He was the skinny kid, the quiet kid. The kid with the dirty scruffy clothes, who sometimes smelled a bit funky. The other kids laughed at him. TJ was the only one who never did, even though he got laughed at too for hanging round with him. Teej got in fights sometimes, when the other kids made Dexter cry. He was his best friend, and Dexter was the only one who got to call him Teej.
“You're smart,” Teej said. “Just remember, they're dumb, and you're smart. You're better than they are.” He said it like he thought it was true. And Teej was smart as well. And pretty, and kind, and he had a lovely smile, and he was too good for him. Dexter kinda loved him, though he hated the word 'love.'
But Teej was right. Dexter might be skinny, and scrawny, and smell funky, but he was smart, at least when he was a little kid. He always listened to the teachers. He was very good at listening to adults. If you listened, you knew what might happen next. And you really needed to know what might happen next, so it wouldn't hurt so much, wouldn't be such a shock when it happened.
The teachers didn't hurt him, though sometimes they shouted. He didn't like it when they shouted, so he listened, and learned. And he was smart.
As he got older, he got less smart though. He could even feel it happening. He supposed it should have upset him, but it didn't, not really, and maybe it was his fault. Maybe he was letting it happen... because dumb was stupid, but dumb was good. When the world went a little bit fuzzy round the edges it didn't hurt so much any more. And even though he could tell Teej was puzzled by the change, Teej was still his friend, even if Dexter was getting dumber.
The first time he took drugs deliberately he must have been... ten? Maybe eleven, certainly not nine. He'd been given them before, of course, because it made him more compliant, and at first he didn't like it. Didn't like it that the world went away, and went strange, and he couldn't make it stop. But then, he never could make anything stop. You just got used to it.
When he was ten, or maybe eleven, one of his father's 'friends' had him for the night. His father's friend told him to call him 'Daddy,' and gave him a bath. He didn't mind this guy so much. He'd had him before, and he didn't hit him, or call him a whore, or make him gag when he did it to his face. He even let him spit it out.
So. 'Daddy' was giving him a bath.
“You like that,” Daddy said, as he rubbed the soap between his legs.
“Yes,” he said, even though he didn't like it. He never did. Sometimes it got tingly, and stood up, like right now, but he didn't like it when that happened. Because they were always too rough with it, even nice guys, like this Daddy, and sometimes it ended up bruised. It was because it was so stupid and little though. All the men he was with had big ones, and some of them laughed at how little his was.
It used to make him sad, but you could get used to anything.
“You'll like it more when you're older.” Daddy smiled at him, started soaping his back. “If you like, I'll teach you some tricks. Would you like that?”
“Yes,” he said, because of course, nobody wanted to know what he really thought, and he was supposed to say yes.
Daddy leant over, lifted him slightly over the side of the bath so he could reach behind him, and carried on soaping him. “Come on out now,” he said. “I've got something to teach you.”
Dexter got out of the bath, reached for the towel. Daddy slapped him. Not hard, not like his other Daddies, or the men who told him to call them 'Sir' or 'Master,' but it still stung. Dexter blinked. He knew not to cry, unless they wanted him too. Sometimes though, he couldn't help it.
Besides. This Daddy liked it when he cried. He liked wiping his tears away, and telling him he loved him. So Dexter pretended to cry, just a little, though he couldn't squeeze out a tear. His hair was wet though, so he dipped his head, and let the water drip on his face. The man thought it was real crying, and his face went soft.
“Daddy's not cross,” he said, gently, wiping his face. “I just like it when you're wet.”
“Good boy, Sam.” This Daddy liked to call him Sam. Dexter wondered who Sam was. He hoped he'd grown up, and was living somewhere nice, and didn't have to call anyone Daddy. “Lie down on the bed.”
Dexter lay down.
“On your front.”
Dexter rolled over.
Daddy came up behind him, and started rubbing his back. He had that baby oil stuff, that Dexter hated the smell of. He swallowed, trying not to feel sick. The man's hands were kind though. This Daddy hadn't hurt him. For a moment Dexter felt safe, and floaty, relaxed from the bath. All he'd have to do would be give the man a blow job, and then the man would smile, tuck him in, and maybe fall asleep beside him. Maybe in the morning Dexter would have to do it again, but it wouldn't be so bad...
Daddy's hands came away from his back, and Dexter opened his eyes. He heard the familiar sound of a zip being pulled down, and began to roll back round so he could do his job.
“Stay on your front,” Daddy snapped, and pushed him back down.
Oh no. Oh no. Oh no.
“What are you doing,” he asked, though he knew what was happening even before the slippy finger pushed its way in.
“Oh,” Daddy sounded like something was very very funny, like when they watched cartoons together, and Jerry had bopped Tom over the head with a mallet, and little tweety birds were flying round his head. “I didn't know that. You're a virgin.”
Dexter wasn't a virgin, but he knew not to let Daddy know that. Because they liked it when they thought they were his first, and if they knew differently they could get rough. His real father didn't like it too much when they did it anyway. It was one of the rules, so it didn't happen often... but it happened. Dexter was scared. He'd liked this Daddy. He hadn't thought that he would hurt him. Maybe if he begged a little... Some of them liked it when he begged. Some of them even changed their minds.
“Please, Daddy, don't.”
Daddy groaned, and Dexter craned his neck round, and looked up at him. His stomach lurched. Daddy still had his finger in there, and it really really hurt. It always did. It always hurt, but Daddy was being nasty with it, and Dexter started to cry.
“You like that, don't you,” Daddy said, and Dexter nodded, sobbing. It felt all slimy, like the man was pushing goo up there, or a slug. “Good,” the man said. “You'll like this even more.”
And then Daddy was really hurting him, and Dexter was screaming, and Daddy pushed his head down into the mattress so he couldn't breathe, and everything went black.
When he woke up he was still on his belly, naked from the bath, and he was shivering, and sore, and his ass was burny and cold at the same time. He wished he'd never woken up. He wished he was with his Mommy, where she was safe. His real father was shouting at the Daddy man.
“You're not supposed to hurt him. He's gonna be no good to me till he's healed up, and who knows how long that will be?”
“I'm sorry, Frank, I didn't realise he'd be a virgin. I got carried away.”
His father went quiet, calculating. Dexter could tell that he was working out profit. This new Daddy thought he had been Dexter's first, and that might be worth something. Please, he thought wordlessly at his father, please, don't let him have me. I'll be good. I promise I'll be good. I won't cry, or pull faces, or anything.
“Well,” his father said, thoughtfully. “He's my son, after all, I didn't want just anyone to do that to him. I wanted his first time to be special.”
“I'm sorry,” the other Daddy said. “I'd have paid more, if I'd known. If you like...” he paused. “If you like I'll look after him till he's better. I'll pay good money. I know you need to be compensated.”
“Okay,” his father said, sounding as though he was reluctant. “I'll think about it.”
“How much for me to keep him, for a week? Just till he's better?”
“Oh,” his father sighed, pretending he hadn't already made his mind up. “I don't know about this...”
“How about...” the other Daddy paused. Dexter opened his eyes a peek, and saw the man leaning up to his father, whispering. His father looked across at him, saw that he was awake again, and winked over the other man's shoulder. His father was obviously pleased with him.
“Okay,” he said to the other Daddy. “Add on twenty five percent, and we have a deal.”
The other man smiled, glanced across at Dexter. “Oh, honey,” he said, looking happy, “you're awake.” Dexter didn't say anything.
“Listen,” his father said, “gimme a few minutes alone with him, to get him ready, then you can take him. Money up front, and give me a ring at the end of the week to let me know if you want to keep him longer. Same price again, and you'll pay for a full week, even if you finish with him early. I got other customers waiting, ya know?”
The man nodded, and stepped out of the room, still staring at Dexter.
“Okay, son,” his father knelt down beside him, all business. “You did good... he really liked the screaming and crying bit, but I think he likes a bit of affection too. He thinks he's your first, so you gotta act like you fell in love with him. Oh yeah. And he thinks you're eight. Think you can remember all that?”
Dexter nodded, dumbly.
“Yeah, course you can. You're a good little slut, just like your Mommy.” His father grinned at him proudly, slapped his ass. Dexter groaned. His father frowned. “Did he really hurt you? I don't see much blood.” Dexter didn't say anything. His father had a look between his legs. “No, you're good to go. He musta got you ready before he went in. You're just a bit sore. Grazed, that's all.”
Dexter knew he'd had worse. At least this time he didn't have to see the doctor.
“Daddy,” he said, using the term to try and remind his father of past affections. “Please don't let him take me.”
“You gotta go. How do you think we make a living? I got debts to pay. You don't want them to break my legs, do you?”
Dexter liked the idea of his father's legs being broken, but it made him ashamed, because you were supposed to love your father. They said that in school, that he had to 'honour' him. Did that mean he was going to hell?
“I'm scared,” he whispered.
“What you scared of? It's not like you ain't done it before. This is a real good opportunity for us. Do you know who he is?”
Dexter didn't care. He just didn't want the man to be the one to kill him. His father stared down at him, shook his head. “Look, if you're really scared, I got something you can take.” He reached into his pocket, and pulled out a bag of pills. “I checked with Dr Melling. It'll be okay.”
“Okay.” Dexter took the bag, and looked at the capsules. He wondered what would happen if he took them all together. That was how Mommy died.
“There's enough there for a couple of weeks, if you don't take too many. One a day, maybe. Half an hour before he wants you, if you can work that out. If you like them, and you're a good boy, I'll get Dr Melling to get you more. You know the Dr likes you.”
Dexter closed his eyes. His father had a lot of friends.
“Come on then,” his father said. “Tidy yourself up. You're going on a holiday.”
“I'm scared,” Dexter moaned, even though he knew his father might hit him. Instead, his father patted his head.
“Take this,” he said, and popped a pill on Dexter's tongue.
In the end, it lasted two weeks. His new Daddy was very pleased with him, and it wasn't as bad as he'd thought it was going to be. He was only really scared at bedtime, and the pills definitely helped. He'd sat and counted them out at the start of the holiday, so that he knew he'd not run out. There were seventeen. His father had said they'd stop him being scared, and he was sick of being scared.
The first night, he took one, and it hit him all the way to his belly. His Daddy sat and watched cartoons with him, and he cuddled up on his chest, and drifted, pleasantly buzzing as the chemicals tingled to his toes. Daddy stroked his hair. “You're sleepy, aren't you love?”
“Uhum,” Dexter mumbled against the man's shirt.
“You wanna go to bed?”
And his father was right. He wasn't actually scared. “Yes,” he said, “I want to go to bed, Daddy.”
And although it hurt, it didn't hurt so bad, and this time the man didn't go as hard or fast, and he didn't suffocate him. He'd promised his real father that he wouldn't do this at all, which might be why he was being careful, so that nobody would find out. After he'd finished doing it, the Daddy had said, "our secret, Sam," and Dexter nodded, and promised not to tell. And, although he still cried, Daddy thought he was happy, and kissed him on his back, and told him he loved him. And even though Dexter was drowning, he could tell that he'd done his job well. He told the Daddy that he loved him too, and the Daddy seemed to believe him.
In the daytime they'd go out, and walk around the new city, and he would call the man Daddy, and hold his hand, and pretend to be littler than he was. Sometimes he sucked his thumb, because Daddy liked it. He thought about Teej, and wondered what he was doing right now, and thought how much he'd laugh if he ever saw Dexter sucking his thumb. Daddy bought him clean clothes, took him to the pictures, and swimming, and skating, though he was still a bit woozy from last night's pill when they did that, and he fell over and cried. Daddy picked him up, and cuddled him, and he hid his head on his shoulder. He could tell the people at the skating rink thought he was a bit simple, and that didn't matter, because Daddy liked it. Daddy thought he was eight. Besides, he was actually enjoying some of it. Daddy took him for a haircut, and out riding on a horse and cart.
On the last day the waitress in the restaurant they'd been going to smiled, and told the man that it was so nice to see a father taking care of his son like that. Her own boyfriend ran off after she'd had her baby, and why could she never meet a nice man? Daddy had told her all about his divorce, and access visitation rights, and how much he missed his 'Sam' when he was with his mother at the other end of the country. When she came back to bring their desserts he gave her his phone number, and she blushed, tucked it into her blouse all happy.
“Nice girl,” Daddy said, thoughtfully, and Dexter looked at his plate sullenly. “You're not jealous, are you?”
“You are. You're jealous.” Daddy looked pleased at that. “Come on. Finish your ice cream, and I'll take you home.”
Dexter wondered about the waitress, how old her child was... boy or girl? Did that kind of thing matter to Daddy? He didn't know. Some little numb part of him told him to run back and warn her, but you never did that kind of thing. He'd tried once to tell a teacher, but he couldn't figure the words out, and she told him off for lying. Besides, the waitress thought he was simple. And really, he was.
He'd wanted sometimes to tell Teej, or Teej's Mom and Dad, but he was scared, because if they knew they'd not like him any more, and he'd never see Teej again. And he didn't like to think about Teej when he was doing a job like this, though sometimes he couldn't help it. Because some of the Daddies, and some of the Sirs, had seen him walking around town with his friend, and they thought Teej was pretty, which he was, and some of them talked dirty about him. It was the one thing that always made him cry. The Daddies and Sirs would laugh then, and tell him he was jealous, just like this Daddy did about the waitress, and maybe it was true. Maybe he was a little bit jealous of Teej... because Teej had a Mom and Dad who loved him, and nobody had ever called Teej a slut, or a whore, or a sweet piece of ass. And because he loved Teej, and Teej didn't even know it. Teej just thought he was like his brother or something, and if he ever knew the truth about him, he'd never talk to him again.
When his father came to pick him up from the train station, he was pleased with him. “You did good. He got you for a week at Christmas.” Dexter stared out the truck window, watching as he came back into town. He was feeling sick, and shaking. He'd been greedy, and started taking two of the pills, a couple of nights ago, and then he ran out. Now he was feeling sick. He'd cried when Daddy put him on the train, and Daddy was pleased, because he thought Dexter was sad to leave him. But Dexter would have cried at anything by then. He wanted another pill. The day was too bright, and glaring, and his mouth was bitter and dry.
“You had a good time,” his father asked.
“Yes,” he muttered. His father glanced at him.
“You're coming down, aren't you?”
Dexter didn't know what that meant.
“Here,” his father tossed him a paper bag. “Just take one. Wouldn't do to turn you into a total junky. Just take one, take the edge off.”
Dexter swallowed it dry, and waited for it to kick in. He kinda wanted two.
Teej was sulking when he next saw him. “Hope you had a nice visit with your uncle,” he said. “You coulda told me you were going.”
“I'm sorry,” Dexter looked at his feet. “I didn't know till the last minute.”
“Okay. But you coulda sent me a postcard.”
“I got you this.” Dexter pulled out a box. It was something his Daddy had bought for him. He'd seen it, and thought, 'Teej would like that,' so he'd asked Daddy to get it for him. He was right. Teej did like it. His face broke out in a delighted smile.
“He's got skis,” Dexter told his friend.
“Yeah,” said Teej, and looked up, anger forgotten. “Wow, thank you. This is so cool.”
“You think when the weather changes we can go skiing?” Dexter was still feeling woozy, but his head was a little clearer, since his father wasn't letting him take the pills so much.
“Dad thinks we're old enough now,” Teej said. “Mom's worried, but you know Mom. She's always worried. You wanna come round for dinner tonight?”
“Yeah,” Dexter smiled. In his head, he pretended that Teej's Mom was his Mom too, and that Teej's father was his real father. “That would be nice.”
Teej grabbed his hand, and tugged him along the road. “Let's go home,” he said. “I wanna show Dad our ski man.”
Dexter walked alongside him, and wondered what would happen if he ever kissed Teej. He had a pretty mouth. He wondered would Teej kiss him back, and if they did anything, would it hurt, or would it feel good. He'd like to feel good. He could make Teej feel good, he thought. Maybe he would, one day.
Teej kept chattering away about how much fun they were going to have when it started snowing, and Dexter tried not to think about being booked for a week at Christmas. They would still have a lot of time together. It wasn't like his father sold him out every night. He wasn't a bad man after all. He let Dexter have days, weeks even, when he could do what he liked. And then, Dexter could go around to Teej's house, and be a normal boy.
Normal boys didn't want to kiss each other. He knew that. And he knew that he wanted to kiss Teej. But he couldn't do it, not yet. Because Teej didn't have a clue, not really. His father had always warned him to be careful what he said to other people, because Dexter was special, and normal boys didn't know anything. Boys like Teej, who still liked Tom and Jerry, and had never had it done to them. He wished he could be Teej. Or that he could kiss him. He'd have to wait until Teej was older though, and knew what kissing was for.
So, instead of kissing, he squeezed Teej's hand and smiled.