Hawkins is in charge of locking up the tool room. This symbolic gesture is on orders from Barrett. (“The man can’t pass a test and get a promotion, but we can still make him feel important.”) The tool room is where the men store their instruments of manipulation--pincers, claw-shaped wrenches, chains for hoisting, ropes for tying down, and hammers for driving nails into metal skin. In the cool darkness, I caress miles of fat orange electrical cord. I run my wrists lightly over the sharp teeth of the power saws. The conversation I had with Spikes (the Plant’s Chief Technician) echoes in my head. “Where did you say that place was?” I had asked Spikes. “What place?” “You know, where you say the women dance naked at.” “Oh yeah, man, they got some fine women there. And young cats like me and you, they be near ‘bout begging us to come in. Yeah, some fine women be there. Buck naked. Ain’t got on nothin’ but the air around them.” “Well, where is it?” Spike didn’t answer right away. He let me hang on his line baited with naked women. “Spikes, where is the club at man?” “On Rose Street, man. Thirty-five hundred block. Ain’t no sign on the place. But the address is in blue neon letters above the door. You goin’ to have to pay twenty dollars to get in the door, though, ‘cause they don’t know who you are.” Twenty dollars, I think as I wander through the tool room. I want to be like any other guy, but do I want to pay twenty dollars to see naked women? What am I supposed to do once I see them? What do I do if they lead me off to a back room and ask me to get naked with them? I’m Nineteen and never even kissed a girl. If I had a gold tooth like Spikes and if I knew about liquor and drinking and sports and all the other stuff men do, I’d know what to do with a naked woman. If, if, if, when suddenly I hear a loud clang like a broken bell. Hawkins stands outside the gate, feeding the hook of a giant padlock through the wire. He smiles at me. My hands go up in the air as I run toward the gate.
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