Authors: Cordelia Blanc
“Gage Daniels. What’s so funny, Corporal?” he asked, using my full name the same way my mother would when she caught me eating all the cookie dough.
“Nothing, sir,” I said, but I couldn’t stop laughing.
“I strongly recommend you stop laughing right now, Corporal.”
“I can’t, sir.”
“Why not, Corporal?”
“Because you’re one dumb bastard,” I said. He didn’t have a rebuttal because he knew I was right. He knew damn-well that his men were going to be all over those Playmates the moment they stepped out onto that makeshift stage and grabbed onto that glorified stripping pole.
And they were.
“You have nothing to worry about, Ms King. These men are some of the most respectful gentlemen I’ve ever met, and they’ll treat you like royalty,” Nancy Goodwin, our chaperone said to me once we were all inside of the big trailer they called the Guest Facility.
I smiled but I didn’t believe her. I wanted it to be true. Hopeless optimism—of course it was too good to be true.
Five measly days in Iraq for the priceless nationwide exposure. How could I say no?
Why didn’t I say no?
Brit, my agent, assured me that, between my upcoming April Playboy cover and the Iraq promo tour, acting roles would start pouring in. Real acting gigs; no more squishing my tits into skimpy outfits for some low-budget crap TV show that no one watched.
“I don’t have to sleep with anyone, do I?” I asked Brit before agreeing.
“No one’s making you do anything.”
How did I not read between those lines? Half of those soldiers already had hard-ons, the moment we stepped out from those helicopters. They didn’t want to see us pose or take pictures with us. Those men didn’t care about getting to know us. They just wanted to see our tits shake and stick their cocks in our snatches and call it a day.
They called our living quarters the “guest facility,” but it looked more like a whore house. The “rooms” were divided by curtains, and the light above my bed was tinted red. “Sorry about that, Ms King. We meant to change that before y’all arrived. We generally use this room to develop important photographs taken by Intel,” the major said to me. His face was as red as the light.
As soon as the major left, the girls started to get ready for the “big show.”
They wanted us to put on a show, a strip-tease. It wasn’t until we boarded the helicopter that morning that we knew about any “big show.” There was no rehearsal, no protocol, nothing. Just, “Go out there and do what you do best!”
“Why aren’t you getting changed?” Barbie asked me.
“Because we don’t go out for, like, four more hours,” I said.
Barbara Reynolds, aka Barbie Reynolds, was the runner-up to be Miss March. A shame too, because she was way prettier than Kelsey Greene, the girl chosen to be Miss March. Barbie was prettier than half of the Playmates, but I guess she just wasn’t Heff’s type—strange, because she was petite, blonde, and dumb, exactly what he liked in a woman. I think Heff was finally losing his mind in his old age.
I was shocked when I found out I’d been picked for the April issue. I was going to be Miss April. I wasn’t blonde, petite, and as far as I’m considered, I wasn’t dumb either. My hair was dark, my skin was pale, my tits were real—B-cups on a good day. But still, they liked me, and they picked me over a whole mess of blonde bimbos.
I wasn’t complaining. The money was good and the exposure was incredible. And as of January, Playboy stopped putting nudity in their magazines. I wouldn’t have done it otherwise.
When the other girls started talking about which men they wanted to fuck, I stood up to leave.
“Where are you going?” Barbie asked me.
“I’m going out for a smoke.”
Nancy Goodwin, our chaperone—the lone woman in charge of all twenty-four Playmates—grabbed my arm as I started towards the door.
She was an older woman, appearing to be somewhere in her fifties thanks to a great deal of plastic surgery. But her lips appeared to be well into their nineties, thanks to a great deal of chain-smoking cigarettes. “You can smoke in here, darling,” she said, already smoking a cigarette herself.
“I need the fresh air,” I said.
She peered around the room and then nodded her head slowly, as if she understood completely that I just needed to get away from the malignant idiocy of the other girls. Already the fireworks were beginning. One of the girls, runner-up Miss September, was getting worked up over one of the soldiers. “I already said that I wanted him!” she said to Miss May.
Miss May just rolled her eyes, and like school children, the other girls began to part the room, taking sides to defend their favourite month. September or May? Neither months were anything special.
Nancy followed me outside. I hadn’t met Nancy until a few days before we shipped out, when we all met to discuss the details of the Iraq promo tour. I liked her right away. She was bitter and grumpy. She would grumble after every idiotic statement that seeped out of every idiotic girl’s mouth. It was strangely comforting knowing I wasn’t the only one bitter about the whole situation.
Before I could light a cigarette, Nancy handed me one, freshly lit. “Thanks,” I said.
“You know, you don’t have to sleep with any of the guys,” she said to me.
“Trust me, I won’t.”
“Don’t think you have to,” she repeated, ignoring my response.
“I really don’t think I have to.”
She took a deep breath in, enjoying the hell out of every little carcinogen in that plume of smoke. “They’ll want you to. They’re going to try and guilt you into it. Just say no.”
“I figured as much.”
“You know I was Miss February once,” Nancy said to me. “1968.” She looked me up and down with a combination of disgust and resentment. Then she turned to the window and checked herself out in the reflection, making a similar look. The resentment was for me, but the disgust was probably for herself. She wasn’t exactly in Miss September form anymore. “We did a similar thing. They sent us to an outpost in Ho Chi Minh City. We were there for two weeks. I slept with more men than a Bargain Bin Prostitute.”
“Jesus, Nancy. They sent you to Vietnam?” If she was my age during ‘Nam, then she must have been at least sixty-five years old.
“It was scary. We were there right when the Tet Offensive started up. We were rushed out. All the guys I fucked died.” She flicked the ash off the tip of her smoke. She didn’t seem to be bothered by what she was telling me, or she was really good at hiding it.
“I’m sorry to hear that,” I said. “But why’d you sleep with all those guys?”
“Because I knew they were all going to die, and letting them fuck me was the least I could do.” A chill crawled down my spine.
The Iraq breeze was warm. Before any of us agreed to the gig, they told us we were being sent to a safe, more-or-less peaceful province in the country. And by the looks of it, they weren’t lying. It just looked like a big boring desert. But still, the warm air carried the scent of gunpowder and an unfamiliar scent that my mind could only associate with death. It may have been a peaceful region now, but who knows what could happen? They did keep a battalion of men stationed there permanently, after all.
“Guilt is a powerful bitch,” Nancy said, flicking her cigarette butt onto the dead ground. She had a fresh one lit within seconds. “Just don’t let guilt make your decisions for you.”
She walked inside, leaving me behind the guest facility, facing a long barbed wire fence and a seemingly endless field of dead ground.
Then I noticed him, standing alone, a good forty feet away, behind the building next to the guest facility. He was topless, smoking, staring at me. He looked me up and down, and then scoffed dismissively and looked away.
A part of me wanted to tell him to go fuck himself. But there was something strangely refreshing and comforting about him dismissing me like that.
I didn’t get a very good look at him before he disappeared back into the building. From what I could see, he looked just like the rest of them—just another man obsessed with sculpting his body to impress women he’s never met, totally oblivious to the fact he could get blown up at any moment.
Normally, I could think of at least one dozen better ways to waste my time than to sit in a room full of horny, desperate men and watch a bunch of prostitutes strip clumsily on a stage. That night, nothing else came to mind. Besides, for once, they weren’t
I’d skipped the last few shows. You’ve seen one cracked-out street girl struggling to pull her shirt over her head, you’ve seen them all. But I figured, how many times do you get to attend a private Playmate preview?
“Whoa, look who showed up,” Private Ryan Hastings said to me as I walked into the Chow Hall.
The place was still only half-full, the other men still in their quarters, plucking their eyebrows to look pretty for the girls. Hastings had a table front and center, ready to see some marginally famous tits. Private Miller sat with him. “Have a seat,” Hastings said, kicking out a chair.
I didn’t take the seat. “You ever think the girls might think you’re a creep, sitting up front with your boner pressed against the stage?” I asked.
He laughed. “I like the girls to be able to see me,” he said.
“You can get as close as you want, Hastings. Those girls aren’t going to see your two inches.” I motioned towards his lap. Miller broke into a laughing fit. Hastings was less amused but he pretended to laugh anyway. It was a well-known fact at COIQ-QU-14 that Hastings had a small dick.
“Just take the seat, motherfucker,” he said.
“Nah.” I kicked the chair back into the table “Save it for someone who gives a shit.”
“You trying to tell me you don’t give a shit about the world’s hottest girls showin’ their tits?”
“I’ve seen hotter.” I walked towards the back of the room where I knew I’d be out of the way. I didn’t want to take my chances. There was always one or two Barrel Cleaners that would get off the stage and get interactive with the crowd. I wasn’t interested in being part of their show.
The place filled up fast. No one wanted to miss a girl. And no one did miss a girl, thanks to the show’s delayed start. Major Richards refused to green light the festivities until every soldier was in that Chow Hall. For once, the event was deemed mandatory.
“Playboy paid a lot of money to send these girls out here. You’ll give them your full attention,” Major Richards said. It was the first time I could remember that we didn’t even have someone on guard duty. I thought it was an unnecessarily dangerous decision in the name of tits, but like the rest of COIQ-QA-14, I wasn’t worried. Two years had gone by and I’d never even heard a gunshot.
Sometimes I wondered if we even were really in Iraq, or if we were just in the middle of Nevada somewhere, with a nearby town full of Iraqi actors. Did the Hajjis even exist? Or was this just some big elaborate setup to waste time and employee prostitutes?
They dimmed the overhead fluorescent lights, flicked on the cheap, flashing Christmas decorations, and the show began. The joint looked like an elementary school talent show. The stage was just a cluster of tables around a support-post, some plywood, and a big sheet.
The first girl up was runner-up Miss January. She got a thunderous applause, being the first girl out. Some old lady with wrinkly old lips had to come out and tell her to go easy on the pole, or she’d take the whole building down. A shame too, because the girl was surprisingly acrobatic. She wasn’t much to look at, but she could flip around that pole like a fucking chimp in the zoo. Her tits almost fell out of her black bunny top, which got a few whistles from the Joes.
The next few girls were less entertaining. One girl got a particularly sharp rise out of the crowd. She was blonde and petite and had big fake tits like the rest of them, so I wasn’t sure what was so special about her. She liked to flash her stiff-looking chest spheres to the crowd, which she did more times than most men in the room blinked.
Then, the one I came to see took the stage, the black-heeled vixen from the landing pad, the smoker behind the guest hall. “Give a warm welcome to Miss April, 2016, Ashley King!” Major Richards announced from his little makeshift podium next to the stage.
Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who thought she was in a different league. The place erupted with hollering and whistling and catcalling. I didn’t pity Miss April one bit. Those men were going to eat her alive, and judging by the flat, unimpressed look on her face, she wasn’t excited for the feast.
Like the others, she was dressed in the traditional Playboy Bunny outfit with the poofy white tail and the big black ears. She spun around the pole, did a few laps around the stage, and then left. No tit flashes. No pussy. The crowd sighed one loud, simultaneous sigh. It sounded like a big, deflating balloon. I couldn’t help but laugh from my back corner seat.
Runner-up Miss May took the stage, but the men were too preoccupied being disappointed over not seeing Miss April’s rack that they hardly even noticed. Runner-up Miss May didn’t get far into her little routine before she realized she had no one’s attention. She got naked faster than you can say Barrel Cleaner, and then left the stage pouting like a kid throwing a tantrum.
By the time Miss June rolled around, I’d seen enough. Desperate women trying to get the attention of desperate men. I couldn’t take another six months. I slipped outside.
If it wasn’t for the thudding bass from the music in the Chow Hall, you’d think the outpost was abandoned. The buildings were all dark, the air was silent. Save for that evening, we always had three guys on watch duty. Everyone passed time on watch duty differently. Some guys listened to the radio. Some guys played their guitars. Some guys watched porn. There was always some sound filling the warm Iraq air. That night, there was nothing.
I jumped up and grabbed onto the pull-up bar. I did a few reps. My mind was back home, on my family, on my future. My tour was over in sixteen more months, and I had nothing waiting for me back home. I had no job lined up, no university, no wife, no kids, no mortgage, nothing. “Have you considered a career in the military after your tour?” they asked us once every couple of months.
I joined the military for something to do. My friends back home were all either busy chasing dumb girls that they’d get bored of within months, or chasing mindless jobs that would make them want to kill themselves. I didn’t want any of that shit. Before I joined the army, my buddy said to me, “You’re twenty-five, Gage, you’ve got to do something with your life. Anything.”
“I want to be a boxer,” I said. “I’m a boxer.”
“You lose every fight.”
“Not every fight.” I had twelve wins and sixteen losses—not the greatest record, but not the worst, either.
“Look, Gage—You like fighting, and that’s great. But it’s maybe just not the career for you. It’s not doing anything for your wallet, you know what I’m saying? It’s not a career.” He was right. I wasn’t good enough to go pro. I was hardly good enough to be amateur.
My other friends agreed, and even my parents said something similar. They weren’t quite as gentle. “When are you going to do something with your life?”
I had no intention to do something constructive with my life just because that’s what everyone wanted me to do. I didn’t want to be like them, all running around, stressed out about some stupid raise that would make them no happier. I was sick of hearing them talk about it, so I joined the Marine Corps to shut them up. And it was a way to practice my boxing without their hollow scrutiny.
Sadly, I was wrong. There was nothing to do at COIQ-UA-14. Nothing that they weren’t already doing back home. No one here wanted to spar with me. Even the gyms were better back home.
I wandered around the quiet outpost. The Chow Hall’s chef’s door flew open and slammed against the temporary tin wall, creating a loud, gunshot-like sound echoing through the camp. I was about to dive for cover before I realized it was just one of the Playmates stepping outside for a smoke.
It was Miss April with a cigarette in one hand and a bottle of Jack in the other. She was still in her bra and panties. The door closed and she slammed her back into the tin wall and tilted her face up to the sky. I could hear her sigh from halfway across the outpost.
She had a nice body. I could see why everyone wanted to see her naked so badly. Her legs were long, her tits were perky, and her face was pretty cute; from what I could tell, it wasn’t pumped full of collagen and silicone like the other girls. She took a long drag from her cigarette and held the smoke in her lungs, holding her eyes shut. It was a sight that reminded me of the day Major Richards found out his brother died in a roadside bombing. Except Miss April was significantly hotter than Major Richards.
She looked over at me and then jumped. “Jesus,” she said. “What the fuck are you doing? How long have you been standing there?”
I shrugged. “I dunno. A minute,” I said. I lit myself a cigarette and continued to stare. I thought about looking away—my mother always told me not to stare—but then I figured, she’s a Playboy Playmate. The only reason she was here was for us to stare at her. The polite thing to do was to keep staring.
She covered her chest with her arm. “I should get back inside,” she said. She tried to open the chef’s door, but it was locked.
“It only opens from the inside. You need to go around,” I said.
She tried the door again, as if she didn’t hear me. It continued not to budge. Her tits jiggled while she yanked on the door. I walked up.
“Miss April, right?” I said.
“That’s right.” She turned to me slowly and stood tense, with her arms still trying to cover her body.
“You okay? I’m not going to hurt you or anything.”
She kept her arms wrapped around herself, only releasing to have a drag from her smoke.
“Congrats. You were a hit in there,” I said.
“Thanks,” she said. “I should get back inside.” I watched as she tried the door one last time and then scanned the complex for another door in. She would have to walk all the way around, through the front where all the men were sitting.
“Just wait. Someone will come open the door sooner or later,” I said.
She looked again for a hidden entrance she may have missed when she looked last. There was none. But she didn’t head towards the front door either, knowing the Joes would make minced meat out of her. “Shouldn’t you be inside?” she asked.
I ignored the question. “Why are you here?”
“To promote the magazine,” she said.
Her eyes darted away from mine. She seemed to think I was the one she had to worry about, that I was going to make a mess of her. I could have if I wanted to. She was a small girl—frail-looking—probably less than half my weight. She would have liked it, too. If she could handle it, anyway. She was a lot smaller than the usual hoes that came through the compound. The BCs before her either had a good deal of meat on their bones, or they were too high to feel anything while they were fucked senseless.
But unlike the BCs before her, Miss April didn’t look like she wanted any action. Unlike the other Playmates inside, she was looking for something other than a good fucking.
She was better off out back with me. Inside, she stood no chance. And she knew it, too.