New Short Story from Ray Bentley: Shooting Blanks
I started to really doubt myself that morning when I went about the task of shaving. No, I’m not talking about your normal morning shave. The pre-surgery instruction specifically stated the patient was required to shave the “pubis and scrotum.
I stood straight, naked in front of the full-length bathroom mirror and took a deep breath. This was the do-or-die critical moment – my last chance to bow out, my final opportunity to pull the cord and cry, “No Mas!” Or in this particular case, “No Vas!”
Only a call from the Governor issuing a full pardon and stay of execution could save me once I used that razor. The phone did not ring.
I exhaled in what may have been my career best sigh and grabbed my wife’s Lady Bic razor off the counter. This whole thing was her idea anyway. (I sure as hell wasn’t going to use my Gillette Trac II. No, I didn’t tell her. No, I didn’t replace the blade. Yes, I carefully put her razor back exactly where I found it.) I lathered up good – a little Edge Gel goes a long way!
The rest, as they say, is history. As is my nature I did a rather thorough job of it. Understand this was long before this kind of thing became popular and was widely done. Call it the “Bush Era,” and I’m not talking presidents. While inspecting my handiwork I felt an unsettling pang of déjà vu.
Back in the ‘70s in my junior high days we had a term for what I had once again become: A mucket. A mucket is someone who has failed miserable, thus far, at sprouting any pubic hair. The joke was a mucket thought he had three hairs until one of them pissed. I could still hear the cruel voices gleefully chanting in the boy’s shower room, “Mucket! Mucket!! Mucket!” (Of course, not at me, mind you).
With this unsettling memory in tow I went downstairs ready to meet my unmaker.
“Are you ready to go?” asked my wife. “What’s wrong?”
“I’m a mucket again,” I mumbled, and for emphasis I showed her. She laughed so hard she went from snorting to sobbing. I ask you, did I laugh when she was in labor four times? Did I laugh at her post-partum depression, at her episiotomy, at her swollen belly and stretch marks? Did I laugh at her mucket?
I was the very picture of compassion. Practically fawned over her, fulfilling her every whim and desire. I spent eight hours as her human fan waving a magazine in front of her to cool her off during her first go at labor for God sakes. We’re talking “Husband of the Year” type stuff here. I had even gone so far as to consent to having this vasectomy just so she would never have to endure the inhumane torture of bearing another child despite the fact she had signed up for five kids when we got married! But I had to admit, as I took another gander at my salamander, it was pretty funny.
“Come on,” I said, “I’m gonna be late for my own damn funeral.”
At the hospital, on the Urology ward, the women in the vasectomy registration room are almost giddy. They appear on the very verge of hysterical laughter. They carry a look of satisfaction fueled by some vicarious sense of revenge and do little to hide it. I saw it on the face of the nurse when she handed me an obviously too small hospital gown and pointed to the changing room.
“Take everything off and put this on.” Her voice cracked a little. “Oh, but you can leave your socks and shoes on. Come back out here to wait once you are changed.” She turned and headed into an office, I’m sure to burst into a fit of laughter.
I only wish I could convey how ridiculous and humiliated I felt standing in that waiting room clad in a hospital gown mini-dress, bare, with no hair, and a pair of black tube socks with red Converse Chuck Taylor high-tops. My faithful wife returned from filling out the forms and in a heartfelt effort to make me feel more at ease broke out laughing again. Didn’t our marriage vows mention something about in sickness and in health?
It was time for me to go, but she didn’t have the composure or decency to say goodbye, good luck, or even good riddance.
“Nurse, give this woman a sedative,” I said as I marched towards my manifest destiny.
Just before I turned the corner I hiked up the back of my petite gown shooting a full moon, deer nuts and all, at the group of woman gathered around my poor wife sharing in her overwhelming concern for my welfare. I may have been a mucket, but at least I still had a few hairs on my ass.
The out of date operating room looked like some mad scientist’s laboratory out of some “B” movie they used to air on Shock Theatre and did little to bolster my confidence. A redheaded nurse snapping on rubber surgical gloves cheerfully instructed me to lie back on the table and put my legs up in the stirrups.
“Not the stirrups!” I meekly protested.
“Yes, the stirrups,” she sang with a gleam in her eye. Clearly she enjoyed her job way too much.
If my wife could see me now, I thought as I climbed onto the cold, stainless steel table. I settled in and was just getting comfortable when an effeminate black man wearing hospital scrubs, gloves, and cap pranced into the room.
“Doc?” I whispered hoarsely at the smiling man.
“Oh no,” said the ginger nurse, “That’s Eugene. He’s going to shave you.”
Suddenly, I was the happiest mucket on the planet.
“Sorry to disappoint you, Eugene, but I beat you to it.” I pulled back my gown to give him a peek and he moved closer to inspect my work.
“Mister, you did a nice job,” he said with sweet remorse. He bent his arm to his chest and flopped his hand at me with obvious disappointment, shrugged, giggled, and pranced back out of the room.
My sigh of relief was cut short as my doctor powered into the operating room. Apparently he had a tee-time that afternoon and didn’t have a lot of time for chitchat. The next thing I knew he was between my legs with a very long needle in one hand and my balls in the other. My bare ass was up in the air, exposed to the world, and all I could see were the elated eyes of the two masked nurses watching over the doctor’s shoulders. Before I could protest or even talk about things, maybe slow this process down a little, the man got at his business.
His first words to me were, “You’re going to feel some pressure down here.” He hadn’t even bothered to look up. If you’ve been around long enough you know the word “pressure” is a medical euphemism for excruciating pain. I knew right then I was in serious trouble.
I tensed and let out a little yelp. To say I felt pressure would be a gross understatement. In fact, it felt like somebody had just stuck a needle into my scrotum…
Thankfully, the local anesthetic worked quickly and my lower body felt detached, almost as if it was a completely separate entity. It was as if I had become a spectator of a procedure being done on some other poor schmuck’s razor-burned junk.
Everything seemed to be going along fine as the doctor set aside his scalpel, but then I noticed the nurse holding up what looked like some sort of electric cattle prod. Get along little doggies!
“Whoa! Hold on a sec,” I said. “What is that and exactly what do you intend to do with it?”
She pushed the button at the bottom of this modern magic wand, sporting an evil grin. Was that malice in her eyes?
“It’s a cauterizer. We have to cauterize each end of the vas deferens after cutting out an inch or so, so those little ends don’t grow back together. We wouldn’t want that now, would we?” she said sweetly.
Goodness gracious no! We can’t have that. God forbid I ever be whole again and function like a real man. Wait! I changed my mind – I don’t want to do this. I want my inch back!
But it was too late and before you could say, “Holy Testicle Tuesday,” the unnerving zap of the cauterizer filled the air with the smoke from my singed entrails. I damn near passed out.
Thankfully, however, it was quick work and much to my relief it was over before I lost consciousness. The good doctor began to stitch me back up. I had survived! Just as I was thinking, “Hell, it wasn’t all that bad,” the doc picked the scalpel back up and leaned in between my legs which were still elevated in the stirrups. It suddenly dawned on me – balls come in pairs. In my euphoric relief I had completely forgotten about old Lefty.
They repeated the procedure, cutting another vital inch from my body, this time from poor Lefty. Seemingly it went quicker and smoother than the first round, and before I knew it I was instructed to get off the table and head back to the changing room. It really was over this time.
The good Doctor strode for the door without so much as a word. Geez, this guy really needed to work on his bedside manner! Was he just going to stiff me after all we had been through together? I don’t think so.
“Hey, Doc,” I called after him. He wheeled around and looked at me with the black, lifeless eyes of a shark. “What do you think? How did it go?”
“Balls will be balls,” he said, and turned and marched out of the room.
What? Balls will be balls? Are you kidding me? What does that even mean???
Stunned and trying to grasp for some deeper meaning to his words, I hobbled gingerly to the changing room where my wife was patiently awaiting. Finally, for the first time since this ordeal had begun, she showed a look of genuine concern. Man, I must have looked pretty bad off.
“You look really pale,” she said. “Are you all right?”
Am I all right? Are you kidding me? No! I’m not all right. I just had two inches removed from my life! It felt like somebody had just wrapped barbed wire around my cajones, ran it down my leg, and tacked it to the floor.
“Yeah,” I replied stoically, taking the high road. “I’m just peachy. Let’s go home and do it.”
“Uh, uh, uh,” said the smiley nurse from behind me. “There will be none of that, mister. At least not for a month. You have to deliver two negative samples or you risk the chance of pregnancy and this entire exercise would be all for naught. Generally it takes two to six weeks.”
A smile traced my lips as I gave my wife a knowing, leering look. Her sympathy vanished and she recoiled, almost in disgust.
“Don’t get any ideas,” she warned, “You stay away from me – four kids are enough!”
After several days I was finally able to get out of bed and make it down the stairs. They had completely undersold the amount of pain I would have to endure when conning me into this enterprise. I had been told stories of guys going back to work the same day they had undergone this “minor” procedure. As if. Had I known the truth, we would not be having this conversation. Yet, through sheer will and determination, I made it through the recovery.
Four weeks later my wife reminded me I had to go produce what would hopefully be my final sample for the doctor the next morning. Earlier in the week I had supplied such a sample and passed my first test with flying colors. The nurse had delightedly informed me I had shot a load of blanks. The Missus and I had been intimate several times in the past couple of weeks but she had made me wear a condom each time. What, was I a sailor visiting her port?
But that night she was into her cups a little bit, having polished off nearly an entire bottle of her favorite wine. My baby was feeling a little amorous! After the kids were all in bed she sashayed into my office in nothing but a robe. As I tugged at her belt she grabbed my wrist.
“Uh-uh, mister,” she semi-slurred. “You are going to need this.” She pulled a Trojan out of the front pocket of her robe and waived it teasingly in my face. Apparently, she wasn’t quite ready to let my horses run free. I snatched it out of her hand and tossed it on the desk.
“You know you hate those things as much as I do,” I smoothed. “Hell, I already passed one of their stupid tests and it’s been four weeks. We don’t need that damn thing.” I yanked the belt and her robe fell to the floor. Not another word was spoken.
I supplied my sample as directed the following morning and the results were in. I was officially neutered. Empty. Shooting blanks, as it were. To be honest it was one of the saddest days of my life.
But then something amazing happened. Over the next couple of weeks my wife wasn’t feeling well. She made her own doctor’s appointment and I decided to go with her. Hey, that’s the kind of supportive, doting husband I am.
The doctor examined her and seemed a bit mystified so he ordered a couple quick tests. We were sitting together, holding hands, slightly concerned, when he knocked on the door and reentered the examination room. He was smiling broadly, which gave us immediate relief. Although we still didn’t know what was up.
“Congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. Bentley,” he said. “You are going to have another baby. You are pregnant!”
We were stunned! Then both of us began to cry. My tears were of pure, unadulterated joy. In spite of my ordeal, I was getting my fifth child after all. On the other hand, my wife’s tears where born of misery. She was going to have her fifth child in eight years. She looked at me accusingly and all I could think of to say were likely the only words of wisdom my urologist had ever uttered.
“Balls will be balls, honey. Balls will be balls.”
Miraculously, I had taken her down with my last live load! The final bullet in my chamber. Shooting blanks my ass! I guess you can’t keep a good man down.
Author’s note: After what was undoubtedly the longest eight and a half months of my life, we had a beautiful baby girl who shares an uncanny resemblance to me, not only physically but in manner and attitude – my baby girl. Even my wife will tell you our family would not have been complete without our youngest little bundle of joy!