The Line

Chris stifled a yawn as he reached for the next toy. His rubber glove squeaked as he picked up the plastic dinosaur and held it under the light shining between his legs. With a practiced movement, he dipped his brush into the paint and then drew ten short lines along the spine of the toy. Without waiting for it to dry, he carefully set the toy back on the moving platform and grabbed the next.

Eleven other factory workers lined the moving platform around him. He had worked with them for three years, but they were all still stranger. No one spoke on the line, not that anyone could hear over the pumps, motors, and screeching that twelve production lines produced in the cramped quarters.

Everyone focused on their work, trying to meet the quota for the day. The constant pressure had increased over the last few months as upper management tried to make enough to keep the factory open.

The economy had hit the manufacturing sector hard and an American-based toy manufacturer had the least rosy prospects to survive. It didn’t matter that they had been in business for two hundred years or that the entire town, what was left of it, depending on the steady flow of plastic dinosaurs, rabbits, and Santa Clauses that flowed out every day.

The rumors of layoffs have been coursing through the factory for a few weeks now. The latest clusterfuck of executives, Marge’s word for a group of suits, had done a tour of the factory twenty minutes after close. Chris didn’t see them, but having a bunch of suits checking out the building meant only a few things: someone bought the company, they were selling the building, or they were about to go bankrupt.

He sighed and glanced to his neighbor, an curvaceous Mexican who only spoke English at full volume and had her iPod hidden in her cleavage. She didn’t bother with headphones but kept it loud enough that her tits rippled with the bass notes of whatever she was listening to.

While it was distracting to half the guys painting dinosaur stripes, Chris had no interested in her or the two other women sitting nearby. The blonde, a twenty-something named Mary, attracted the most attention despite the baggy jumper management insisted everyone wore. Underneath, she wore the skimpiest top and shorts but Chris only saw them as she was flouncing out of the factory on Friday.

At the other end of the line was Marge. Everyone thought she was there when the factory first opened. The chain-smoking woman exhaled smoke even when she didn’t have a cigarette in her mouth. She was also a foul-mouthed woman who played pool like a shark and somehow managed to have seven husbands, all of them dead.

Working with those two women had finally convinced Chris of the fear growing in the back of his mind. Hour after hour of staring at sweaty bodies and his eyes drifted toward the men, not the women. When they were stripping down to leave for home, he stalled in the locker room to enjoy the sights. And then replayed them in his thoughts as he masturbated at night.

His current crush was Dave, who sat across from him. Dave was a broad-shouldered man with a bit of a gut and curly hairs on his chest. He had dark eyes and hair. The only problem was Dave’s homophobia. Every other word out of the man’s mouth was a slur or an insult, almost universally toward gays.

It was heartbreaking. Chris found his sexuality on the factory line, but had no chance to experience it. He always liked guys, large ones at that. In a small rural town, coming out as a gay wasn’t the smartest thing to do. They hadn’t caught on to the rest of the country despite the lawsuits, court cases, and lectures.

Now, his only date was the Internet and his left hand. The endless stream of pictures confirmed his interest but it also made him hunger for more. Like for Dave to actually be a closeted gay and trap him in the locker room one Friday, pressing his chest against Chris’ back.

Chris tore his thoughts away and clutched at the next toy. He had a hard-on thinking about Dave’s hands and a blush to match. His fingers caught the sharp teeth of the tyrannosaurs but he managed to pull it off and drag it under the line. One of his lines was a bit shaky, but he didn’t want to waste time cleaning it off. Doubling up all ten lines to mask his mistake, he set the toy back on the platform.

The problem with factory work was the tedium. One toy every eleven seconds, hour after hour. The deafening roar of machinery forced Chris to concentrate on his thoughts and let his hands move automatically. Without conversation, his thoughts inevitable turned to curiosity and sex, but an hour of wondering what a real cock—not a plastic toy bought from the Internet—would feel like left him squirming uncomfortably and afraid to stand up.

The only thing he couldn’t do was look up at the clock. He learned years ago that counting the seconds made everything pass slower. That drove him further into his thoughts, punctuated only by peeking up at Dave and his sweat-soaked jumper.

When the whistle rang out, the entire factory line jumped with surprise. Chris frantically finished the last line on his toy and tossed it on the rolling platform in front of him. He rested his wrist on his thigh and pushed his hard-on against his leg before closing his legs. He didn’t want Dave teasing him about it.

He nodded to the others as they filtered out. By the time he had softened, the factory was quiet and the platforms were running empty. He groaned as he pushed himself off his stool and stood up.

Unlike the others, he didn’t have to duck underneath the girders or the other platforms to get out. He was barely five feet tall and slender, almost delicate. He liked to pretend it was his graceful fingers that got him the job, but he knew it was just being a warm body and a willing mind. It sure wasn’t his accounting degree.

With another sigh, he reached the hallway and headed toward the locker room.

“Chris Evenhall!”

Chris froze at the one voice everyone in the factory dreaded to hear. It was Phyllis Caim, the secretary for the owner of the company. Shivering, he turned around as she marched up to him. She was a short woman with frizzy gray hair and piercing blue eyes. She was also shorter than him by almost half a foot, but she made it up with an attitude that could strip chrome from a bumper.

“Hi, Ms. Caim.”

Phyllis peered up at him. “Why are you here so late?”

“I had…” He blushed, not wanting to say anything. “I was… I’m just running late.”

Phyllis smiled, it looked like a cat about to pounce. “Didn’t want to get beaten up by the big boys in the locker room?”

An image of Dave pressing Chris against the locker while kicking apart his legs flashed through Chris’ mind. He paled as he tried to ejected it out, but the damage was done. It took all of his effort not to look down at the tent forming.

To his horror, Phyllis glanced down and then back up. The smile grew wider, if possible. She clicked her tongue for a moment and her eyes flicked to the side. “Still don’t have a girlfriend?”

Chris shook his head. “No, madam.”

Phyllis smiled. “I liked it when people call me that. No wife?”

“No… madam.” He flushed.

“Got a boyfriend yet?”

Chris almost melted. He could feel the heat burning along his face and shoulders. He knew it would be riding right up into his brown hair. “No! I mean… no, no I don’t have… I’m not…”

Phyllis’s smile broadened. “Relax.”

“I… I’m… I can’t…”

“Turn around,” came a sudden order.

Chris’ mouth closed with a snap. He stared at her, confused and disoriented. Her questions left him feeling dizzy.

Phyllis used her finger to swirl around, repeating her order.

Shivering, Chris turned around. His small shoes squeaked on the floor as he came in a full circuit. He was thankful no one was watching except for an ancient woman who wouldn’t stop smiling.

Her smile scared him.

“Small, tiny. You’ll do,” she finally said. With a nod, her smile came back. “You’ll do quite nicely.”

Chris looked down the empty hall. Decades ago, it would be packed with the second-shift folk, but it was empty. He gulped, trying to ease the hardness in his throat. “W-What?”

Phyllis gestured to the bathroom. “Why don’t you clean up? Take a shower, and then come up? Robert wants to talk to you.”

As much as her rapid-fire questions confused him, being called up to the boss’ office didn’t. Ice ran through his veins as he stared at her. The only people who were ever called into Robert’s office were usually fired within minutes.

She turned and headed back toward the stairs. When she reached it, Chris still stood in place. Turning around, she pointed to the locker rooms. “I expect to see you in ten minutes.”

Her shoes tapped softly on the stairs. He stared at her, trying to will something to responding.

“Yes… madam.”