The secret James Dean in me always wished for a leather jacket. When he saw the sign hanging from one in the leather store’s window, “Everything inside $20 or less”, he ducked in before I could notice. A close-out sale offering a cheap childhood fantasy is too much to resist.
The sign was no lie. The shop is full of leather goods of all kinds for $20. I head for the racks of jackets. Identical, ugly, and not the best quality, they do retain the powerful selling point of the Great Deal.
I glance up and see a row of balding middle-aged men straining to fasten cloned crap jackets over their beer bellies and admiring themselves in the mirrors. OK, time for us to go, Jimmy.
A question drifts out from the mid-life crisis club. “So, is this a close-out?”
“No,” says a man. The owner, I guess. “We just make ’em cheap.”
“We take scrap leather and ship it to China to be assembled. Those little Chinese girls work practically for free.” He chuckles.
It’s remarkable how the scent of leather can suddenly turn putrid. “Yeah, modern slavery is a laugh riot,” I say.
“C’mon, I was just a joking. Those people aren’t slaves.”
“Are you sure about that? Have you actually looked into it? Personally, I prefer to keep my slaves where I can see them, not invisible in some far-off land. It’s more honest that way, and you get to use a whip.”
I walk out of the store.