Flash: Join the Herd

Image provided by alexisdc at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“I still don’t know Phillip.” Ezekiel rubbed the back of his neck. The two best friends would be walking on stage in moments for a fundraiser, in reversed outfits to match their nearly opposite looks. Ezekiel wore black linen slacks, a midnight silk shirt, and white suspenders making his pale white skin that much lighter and his dark hair into a shard of night.

Putting the final shine on his white oxford shoes, Phillip, long used to his partner’s pre-presentation nervous breakdowns, smiled at his reflection in the leather.  His white linen slacks, with a crushed white silk poet’s blouse unbuttoned to show off his prematurely white chest curls against his African American skin was perfectly set off by the black suspenders. “It’s for charity. Just get out there, sing a little karaoke, play to the audience to drive up the price, then we take the old lady who wins the bid out for dinner next week at  American Soul and Steak.”

Zeke started pacing in the small space set aside for them. “I’m too Sexy?” he whined.

“It’s a song you actually know and in a key you can sing.” Phil leaned back in the solitary chair and put his shiny shoes on the box doubling as their table. “I had very limited options.”

“We could have tapped dance.”

“You could have tapped dance; I could have fallen flat on my face.” The black man stretched out his full length, nearly six foot three inches of hard broad muscle, most leftover from his college football scholarship days before he and Zeke dropped out their junior year as their second start-up blew the roof off their niche in the computer industry. “Beside tap dancing isn’t sexy. I don’t want to be the lowest bid winner in the Hot Bachelors for Protect and Immunize. That would be embarrassing.”

“What’s embarrassing is performing like monkeys. We could have just donated money; I’m sure they would have been happy with a check with four zeros following the one.”

“Not really. Half of the battle for immunization is getting the word out, and sex sells best. Word from an attractive mouth, which yours qualifies for bro,” Phil made a kissing noise toward his friend, “has tons more value in that part of the battle than anonymous dollars. That is a full house out there, and everyone out there has either proven all their immunizations are up-to date or just got a booster tetanus and whatever else they were missing before sitting down for their overpriced baby hot dog rolled up in some biscuit batter.”

“You know, I think they would be happy with just one of us, we should go talk–”

The door opened, and one of the female volunteers at the annual event popped her head in, “Ready to go?”

“Yes.” Phil jumped to his feet and grabbed his reluctant friend.

“I need to button–”

“Nope, if you wanted to do that, you should have done that earlier instead of dripping sexy all over me in there. Carlie, tell Ezekiel that the women in the audience don’t want buttoned shirts.”

Rushed with a thousand details, the woman responded on cue with a voice delivering flat, matter-of-fact reality like a doctor telling a patient to turn his head and cough. “Mr. Blaze, just keep your pants on, and the women will swoon. Otherwise we will need to break out the firehose.”

“Have you ever broken out the firehose for the fundraiser?” Zeke asked, fascinated at the prospect.

“Just keep your pants on. Both of you” Their escort waved from the wings at the announcer, a politician known for her maverick tendencies and her staunch support of all things health care. “Break a leg and thank you.” And like that, the woman was on her way to collect the next charge. Twelve local bachelors had volunteered in all.




“I can’t believe you talked me into this.” Freedom whispered behind her hand to her friend, bodyguard, and adviser during the lull in the auction, cupping the words with her magic so they carried directly to Jane’s ears.

Jane tipped her chair back, away from the minuscule two-person table where they sat in the shadows, until it hit the wall beside the fire exit. After looking either direction along the wall, and doing another full sweep of the room with her slanted green eyes, she responded to her mistress, charge, and close friend, “You need an escort next week, someone worthy of a princess but from this world, that is if you want to keep these lands out of your brother’s greedy hands.” Switching out of the magic whisper, since this world lacked the eldritch energies needed to maintain spells for anyone but royal blood, the fire sprite continued in accented modern speech. “We are already half-way through; you will need to make a choice soon if you are going to make one.”

Freedom rolled her dark eyes and responded in flawless American English. “You are always rushing me.”

“You are always needing to be rushed.”

“A princess is always on time. Everyone else is either late or early. You told me that yourself.”

“I also taught you to respect the worth of others.”

Giving her councilor a quick, mischievous smile, Freedom responded, “That you did, but I fail to see how this … spectacle … gives proper value to anyone.”

“The value is in the worth it brings to humanity.”

The auctioneer, the woman who had originally invited Freedom and Jane to the event, activated her mike as the next bid stepped on stage. The immaculately dressed black man who immediately drew the attention of the room with a glamour and charm usually absent in humans, raising Freedom’s interest like none of the other handsome men before him. That one could possibly stand up to her brother and parents when they visit to see how her negotiations were coming. Her eyes drunk in his broad shoulders and the muscular chest peaking through his partially opened shirt. Very possible.

Behind him rushed a disheveled half-dressed white man hunched over, who stopped in the middle of the stage and stared at the audience. His hawk-like features froze, not in fear so much as realization of others. His shoulders settled back and attention snapped from the first man to him. A small half-smile turned up the left side of his lip. Snapping his unbutton shirt wider, he spun like the floor was ice, ending with a flourish where he went on tiptoes, thrusting out his knees, perfectly balanced for a moment. Then rocking back. Freedom’s mouth watered.

He went over to stand by the first man. The black man towered over Representative Cutter, and the white man added another six inches to that, well displayed now he was standing straight. Nowhere near the pure muscle mass as the first man, they were likely of weight but Freedom could count to six on either of their bellies.

“The next in our Herd is the only pair of the night. Y’all know Phillip Morrow and Ezekiel Markow, boy geniuses and bachelors about town, about to sell their newest startup to Space-X. Before we see what other talents these men have, I think we should set up our baseline.”

“Fifty!” Shouted from the audience. The same person who had bid fifty for the previous six men. She never bid any further, but seemed to be having fun. Everyone laughed, expecting the bid at this point.

“Five hundred,” came a different voice. Two of the early sales had stopped at five hundred, not started there. Several women who had been raising the sticks with the round numbers, laid them back down. The white man grabbed the black man’s arm when the bid had been placed. The black man put his hand on the other, before brushing the hand down.

Interesting. As much as she hated court intrigue, Freedom had been raised on it. These two men would be hers. She tapped Jane’s hand indicating bids may be placed on her behalf. Jane didn’t put anything forward yet, because now wasn’t time to enter the fray, but soon.

“Five hundred from Ms. Eerdman of Securities, Listings, Underwritings, and Trades.” Maxine repeated from the stage. “That is a great start.” With that line, which she had repeated after each initial bidding cycle, the state representative handed the microphone over to the man dressed in white. A woman dressed completely in black ran out a second mike for the other man.

Once they verified their microphones were working, the white man spoke in a raspy, deep, panting voice, with a beat like he was drilling into a woman and whispering into her ear “I’m too sexy for my love.” Next black man started making sounds unlike anything Freedom ever heard. A drumbeat formed, and guitar string plucked from nothing. Against the deeper voice still rocking in her chest and vibrating through her body, the drumbeat pounded opposite beats keeping Freedom off kilter and wanting more. On stage, the man dressed in black spun and danced, playing with his white suspenders, slowly buttoning up his shirt.

Freedom glanced at Jane, and her bodyguard ran her tongue around her lips. Around them older women started dancing to the music, as though it brought back memories of a younger time.

The growl continued, talking about cars and pussies and loves. The voice beat and instrument supported the monotone, making it throb.

“I’m too sexy for this song.” Then all sound stopped.

Freedom partially collapsed on the table.

Someone in the audience immediately cried out, “”Two thousand,” instantly topping the highest bid of the night.

Representative Cutter hustled across the stage to grab her mike back. “I hear two thousand from number thirty-nine.”

“Five.” “Five thousand five hundred.” The bidding continued until reaching ten thousand, again placed by the lady from the securities firm.

The final three bids had bounced between her and a much older lady who sat at a table with three men, one her age and two clearly her sons. The woman had earlier bid on the second bachelor of the night, also clearly related to the family but another generation younger than the sons. The grandmother hadn’t won but had raised the price by an extra two hundred dollars. The woman who had won the bid afterwards had gone over and kissed the gray-haired woman on the cheek and plucked the $200 the grandmother held out before going to pay for her winning bid.

Neither Freedom or Jane raised their paddles during the auction as there was one more piece to the performance based on previous parts of the show. 

“Thank you all.” Representative Cutter shivered. “This is so exciting. But before we place the final bids on these hot bachelors, let’s find out why they wanted to ‘Join the Herd’ tonight. Phillip, why don’t you go first?”

Freedom returned to sitting straight, prepared to be bored with prepared speeches about helping others and a chance to give back to the community. Bread-and-butter shit she heard all the time when home, but essential for the smooth running of politics. She had mastered looking politely interested in hearing someone say essentially the same thing for the fifth time in an hour.

The black man took the microphone. A rich baritone poured out cheerful, yet serious. “During my time at college, Go Bulldogs,” some of the crowd roared the cheer back at him as the man punched his fist up, working the crowd with rare skill, “I traveled for exhibit games in Europe and Africa. There I got to see children with polio, yellow fever, and a host of other diseases we have … had … kicked in America. We can’t let these killers back into America. It must stop now, we need to draw our line in the sand, and that line starts at the health centers around the nation.”

He passed the mike to the other man who waited for the clapping to end. After the adoration for the much better than average bread-and-butter speech died down, his hawk-like cheekbones sharpened, his white features drained of color. He stared at the audience until some started shifting in their seats. Then his toe-curling deep voice rumbled its raspy fingers down everyone’s spines. “I don’t know how many of you remember the year of the H1N1 flu strain. My mother was pregnant at the time, after years of trying with my step-father. I was twelve. Both he and I had gotten our shots in October, but several people at Mom’s workplace didn’t think it was necessary. They never got sick. No, for them it wasn’t a problem. They only carried the disease. To the one person who could not get the shot that year. H1N1 killed pregnant women. Herd Immunity would have saved my mother, instead we got to bury my three-month premature brother and mom side-by-side. Get your fucking shots. Save everyone while saving yourself.”

Shoving the microphone back at the representative, the man stepped out of the spotlight. After wiping tears from her face, Maxine tried to resurrect the party atmosphere by reiterating the catchphrase of the night, “Join the Herd. Wow. Thank you Zeke.” She coughed, clearing the emotions from her throat. “So the present bid is $10,000. Yes, Mrs. Rovin.” She nodded at the old woman with her family who did a couple quick finger motions. “$15,000. I hear $15,000. We will be raising in thousand dollar increments. $15,000.”

“$20,000,” yelled out Ms. Eerdman.

“$20,000, I see number sixty-eight,” Jane had finally raised her paddle, so the auctioneer took the bid to the next price up. “$21,000.”

The security woman sent a death stare at their dark corner and raised her paddle. 

“22,000.” The white hair lady fingers danced again while she raised her paddle. “25,000. Thank you Mrs. Rovin.”

“Fifty thousand.” Ms. Eerdman screamed, her voice raising into the hysterical octaves. The room silenced at the outburst.

Mrs. Rovin nearly raised her paddle again, but her husband put his hand on the wood handle.

“I have 50,000. Going once.”

The securities woman sat back in her chair, smug as a rockendrabble in the berry patch.

“Going twice.”

Freedom took a particular dislike to the woman and raised her paddle.

“I see sixty-nine, raising to 51,000…” Representative Cutter stopped as Freedom rocked the paddle like she had seen others do when the price being quoted didn’t match what they wanted.  “Yes, Lady Veresuo. How much do you want to bid?”

The quiet room filled with sounds of moving cloth as those in the know, turned in their seats to peer toward where the Representative looked. Capable of easily projecting over the noise to carry to the furthermost corner of room, Freedom stated, “There are two of them. I would like to bid $51,000 … each.”

The security lady threw her paddle across several tables in anger.

“If I am understanding the bid correctly, the present bid for the Team M&M is one hundred and two thousand.” The representative stared into the shadows until Freedom nodded. Ms. Eerdman, realizing her error, stood to retrieve her paddle. Once the auctioneer received the affirmative to her price, she went into verbal overdrive before the security woman could take two steps. “One Oh Two thousand is my bid. Going-once-twice-sold!”

Very intriguing, Freedom thought again, watching as each of the women in the room reacted differently to the turn of events. She would need to come to more of these functions if her court expanded to this country.

(words 2,592; first published 9/29/2019)