Joyland

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This Is Only a Test

by Michael Turner

Though it was never his intention, drugs had made him a wealthy man. When he was younger, he wanted to be a musician, or a movie star, someone people looked up to, admired, fell in love with. Dealing was a way of getting there -- faster. But soon the drugs took over, and suddenly there was no turning back.

The dealers he knew -- the successful ones -- came from other professions. Architects, lawyers, people who could afford their habits and knew something of the world that serviced them. He was the only dealer he knew who had made the leap from illegal drugs to the invention of new ones, legal ones. Eventually he stopped referring to himself as a dealer, preferring manufacturer instead.

Of the products he manufactured, the one that earned him his reputation was not a drug but a test, something that could be administered cheaply, and at home. Most satisfying was that the test had been discovered by accident, without a penny spent on research. Like knowing the answer without having to do the math, he would boast, as if his understanding of the world was innate, compared to those who chased it down.

But the test never came on the market. There were legal problems, and before they could be remedied, one of his employees had leaked the formula. The next thing he knew the test had become a game. Or the basis for one.

The game required a minimum of two men and a woman, and took six to eight weeks to complete. This was how it worked:

The men would ante, then draw numbers to determine the order of entry. Once pregnancy was established, the foetus was aborted and its genetic material extracted and compared to the men’s. Whoever’s genetic material matched the foetus won half the pot, less the cost of the abortion. The other half went to the woman.

With the game still in its infancy, rumours began circulating of men whose genetic material consistently came out on top. Some of these men were competing in tournaments, where people bet on them.

He found this fascinating, but, in the absence of evidence, refused to believe it. Not that he avoided rumours -- he could do the math. Rumours equalled mystery, and mystery intrigue. And intrigue was something he was interested in. Not intrigue itself, but the road it paved, how it led to better things, like being looked up to, admired, fallen in love with.

One day he received an invitation to attend one of these tournaments – and he accepted, travelling halfway around the world, where he was met by a chauffeur, blindfolded, and driven to a farmhouse in the middle of the pouring rain. Once there, he was greeted by a dozen men and women, most of whom he recognized from the world of music and movies, all of whom knew him as the test’s inventor.

But before he could enjoy their company, they were herded onto a bus and driven down a gravel road, at the end of which was a barn. Inside the barn was a bed, bracketed on either side by bleachers, the kind you might find around a baseball diamond. At the far end of the barn was a red velvet curtain. No sooner had they passed through the doors then the curtain parted. Out stepped a man in a lab coat. The man welcomed them, asking that they occupy the bleachers to his left, before scurrying back as if he had forgotten something.

After twenty minutes, one of their group had grown restless and began to complain. The complainer tried to enlist the others, but no one joined him. In fact, no one had said much of anything since boarding the bus, which had him wondering if silence was a virtue at events like these.

Just then, a man in a tracksuit appeared, the lab coat in tow. The complainer was ushered out, while the lab coat asked that the group bear with him, the delay being due to a dispute over the optimum moment of ovulation. As for the contestants, they would be appearing shortly.

Betting had been explained on the bus. The first round would be based on the men’s appearance; the second round, once the order of entry had been determined. A top hat had begun circulating, inside of which were twelve white tiles, each bearing a number. He drew a three. Not bad, he thought, though he was worried about the two ahead of him -- because out of everyone there, they seemed the most experienced.

With the order decided, the curtain parted and out came the contestants -- naked as the day they were born. There were tall men, short men, skinny men, fat men. There were tall skinny men and short fat ones, just as there were tall fat men and short skinny men. Some men had small penises and large testicles; others had large penises and small testicles; while others still had large penises and large testicles. The man with the largest penis and the largest testicles was also the shortest and skinniest, and it occurred to him that if it were not for a test like his a man like that might only have sex if he paid for it, and what a boon a game like this must be to someone as ugly as him.

First choice belonged to a woman dressed in white – white blouse, white slacks, white shoes. She picked quickly, selecting a tall skinny man with an average-sized penis and large testicles, while the second man chosen was tall and fat, and had a smaller penis and average-sized testicles. He chose the short skinny man with the largest penis and testicles. From there the selections took progressively longer, with the last man chosen by default.

Once the bets were placed, another hat was passed, this time amongst the contestants. As luck would have it, his pick would be entering first, while the default man was second, followed by a medium-height fat man with a small penis and smallish testicles. Another round of betting, and for the final time that night, the curtain parted.

He could not believe his eyes. For what emerged was not a woman, as expected, but a well-known actress. At first he thought it was her lookalike, a model brought in to spice things up. But this woman was more than identical -- she had the same nose, the same chin, the same war-torn body that had made her famous. It was her alright. He was convinced.

As if to pinch himself, he nudged the woman next to him, a singer he had fallen in love with while in high school. Is that who I think it is? he asked. But instead of answering, the woman got up and moved away. Without thinking, he followed after her, to make amends, but before he could reach her, the tracksuit was on him, pushing him off the bleacher and beating his head to a pulp.